Although most laptops now feature built in web cameras and microphones, they often produce mediocre results. Those components might be great for video chat, but not for producing semi-professional content. For the audio portion, a new market has introduced USB-based microphones, that produce surprisingly good recordings. The California-based company, Blue Microphones (Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics), produces many high quality retro-looking audio products. The one I’m taking a look at today is the Snowball. It’s quite affordable, easy to setup, and produces great results.
Hardware: 5/5 stars
Blue Microphones includes all the essentials to get started with podcasting or recording audio. The box includes the baseball-shaped microphone, a tripod stand, and a USB cable. The tripod extends upwards, rotates a complete 360 degrees, and even allows tilting the head back and fort. Rubber tips on the legs of the tripod are a neat addition as they offer a strong grip and reduce vibrations. The unit also has a standard threaded connector, so it can attached onto any standard microphone stand. There’s a red LED indicator on the front and the USB port resides right below the mode setting switch on the back. The unit stands sturdy and has a unique retro look that catches glances.
Compatibility: 5/5 stars
Starting with Windows 7, the Snowball was detected and automatically configured in seconds. Windows Vista was also able to recognize and setup the device instantly. Windows XP with Service Pack 3 took a bit longer, it required contact Windows Update before it worked. Mac OS X Snow Leopard also detected the device right out of the box. To use the external microphone, I had to either set it as the default device in the control panel or manually choose the device from within an application such as Audacity.
Sound Quality: 3/5 stars
There’s no question that the Snowball is a huge jump up from just about any integrated laptop microphone or cheap auxiliary jack one. It will definitely make podcast recordings, audio chat, and voice overs sound a lot better. In fact a co-worker and I used Snowball microphone to create a screen cast to show off Six Apart’s Movable Type last year. The microphone works great, but it’s still not on par with decent condenser microphones. There are three modes on the Snowball: Cardioid, Cardioid with -10dB to filter loud sounds, and Omni Capsule. There’s a switch on the back to choose between the three modes. If you aren’t too tech-savvy, the manual even has suggestions for which mode to use in which environment. The device does a great job of filtering out unwanted static, wind, and background sounds. Regrettably during the process, I also noticed that vocal sound also seems to be a bit lower. I found myself having to speak close up to the unit and even adjusting levels afterward in my audio recording program. But despite that, for the price it goes for, it’s satisfying.
The Snowball is a great semi-professional microphone for anyone interested in podcasting or producing better quality audio. It’s also a great tool for video and audio conferencing in for casual and business users. As demonstrated in our video and emphasized by Blue Microphones, it has also been designed to record instruments such as Drums, Guitars, Saxophones, or the Piano in our case. Plus, one of these is available for as low as $70 if you shop around. And it’s an all-in-one solution as well, no other components other than a computer’s required. A decent condenser microphone and mixer will easily cost at least 2-3 times as much. If you are interested in doing any of the mentioned audio related activities, the Snowball USB microphone is a great place to start.
Buy: Blue Snowball for $70
Links: BlueMic.com Snowball
I would disagree with the reviewer’s statement that the Blue Snowball is 100% compatible with Windows 7. Yes i does get recognized by Windows 7, but in the past month I have had this mic, it has caused no end of grief in the mic device driver failing with usb “error code 10” failures. The only solution I have found is to open up the hardware properties, uninstall the driver, unplug the mic, wait a minute, then plug the mic back in and HOPE that windows allows the driver to successfully install. Looking at the blogs in the internet, this seems to be a very common problem for the Blue Snowball.
Vendor Support for the product is basically non-exsistent! No support from them at all. This error code 10 could be a bug in the device’s USB code or the vendor not working with Microsoft to fix the bug in Windows for their driver.
Sadly, as much as I love the mic for its amazing quality of sound when I do get it working, my satisfaction with this mic is hugely marred by its instability to work with Windows and the vendor’s zero support for the product.
I have been sitting here trying to get this mic to work forever! Im so glad i came across this site i also have windows 7 which really sucks right now. I really need this mic for my music and im not sure what to do. Is it easy to put xp on my computer?
Using this microphone on a Windows 7 machine should be easy as plugging it in. The drivers will automatically install without any action necessary on your part.
I’ve tried it on a Win 7, Win Vista, and Win XP with no issues. I’ve used it on a desktop, laptop, and a netbook as well. Really astonished that there are issues.
Please provide me with some more details if possible. I have some contacts at Blue Microphones, I’ll let them know about this thread. Hopefully they will help out.
Has anyone found a way to use their blue snowball with windows 7? I’m in a world of hurt if I can’t find a driver. Help!
Same as Libby and Perry. Anyone found a solution. BTW: I tried installing the highgain vista driver but that doesn’t work either if you were considering that.
UPDATE: Sledgehammer to crack a nut solution!
Recap: I am running windows 7 professional v. 6.1 build 7600. As with others – I simply cannot get the Snowball to install.
This is a ridiculously long workaround – but did the trick for me. I downloaded MS Windows Virtual PC software, which allows you to run Windows XP within windows 7. I then attached the Snowball and in XP mode it installs. You can then use it in whatever software you want (in either XP or 7 environment.)
Health warning: The virtual xp software is 512MB, takes half an hour to download and install, and you need administrator rights to do it. You also have to install a version of the Genuine Advantage software and get your windows software verified as genuine BEFORE you can download the virtual software.
As I say – it’s a stupidly long-winded way to get the snowball to work – but I needed to get it working!
But I can’t install this mic even I open mc virtual xp. What drivers did you install?
I was trying to figure out why it wasn’t working… I was lead here and in the process I realized that I inserted the square USB in the back of the snowball upside down. It will turn on and be picked up as an unknown device but it won’t be recognized. You might want to check that out.
Windows 7. Worked for first few days. Didn’t work all these days and I did not even know until I started troubleshooting skype echo. Found out that the snowball was coming as unrecognized usb device. After reading this, I turned the connector upside down and it picked up immediately. Thank you. Very simple, but very hard to figure out.
o_o It won’t even enter upside down.
I was able to speak to a service person at Blue right away and learned that Snowballs manufactured before July 2007 (or some such date) are not Windows 7 compatible. They will ship a replacement unit for 60% of the retail price.
Well I would not find it shocking at all that the Blue Snowball default driver within windows 7 is NOT windows 7 compatible. All these error code 10 failures clearly point to an outdated or poorly written USB driver for the mic.
BUT… I just bought my mic this year so either Amazon sold me a mic that was in inventory for 3 years or the current driver supplied with windows 7 is not good for any blue snowball mic.
Sadly, Blue has a terrible customer support group and it seems they are more marketing oriented then tech support and engineering oriented.
lol i was gonna say…. u cant plug a USB port in any way but one.
Well I just helped a friend with the same problem, and her usb plug on the backof the mike WAS upside down! It does go in both ways, and if its in wrong, the little red light on the mike even comes on. Once I flipped it over the right way, windows recognized and installed it right away, and it actually still works! :)
sahas, it should be as easy as plugging it into a windows 7 machine and it does work – for a while – but many owners of this mic – including me – have been noticing that its very finicky and drops off. Often gets an error code 10. Have to unplug it and replug it in often. My has days with no hassles then it decides to disable with an error.
There is some kind of poorly written or outdated usb code being used in the driver of the mic that makes the snowball unstable on windows 7.
It has been reported to the mftr… but they keep shrugging and saying there is nothing wrong.
Ok. So i have a brand new laptop Toshiba L655 and it shows the snowball mic under devices and printers but it says, needs trouble shooting. So i click trouble shoot and it says there is a problem with the driver for usb audio device then it says reinstalling the driver might fix this problem so i click apply this fix Then it says USB audio has a driver problem Not fixed..
I installed the driver in Win 7 without any problem. But it just wouldn’t let me install the highgain driver (even with administrative control). Any suggestions?
In the device manger, go uninstall the existing driver for the Snowball device. Once removed, you can install it again. Let me know if that doesn’t work. But yeah, I’m astonished that people are having issues. Worked on my old iMac OS X Leopard, Windows Vista, and Windows 7 with just plug and play. No issues to date.
Just catching up with this thread.
“I’m astonished that people are having issues” – Sahas – you must have a newer version of the snowball – that has been designed to work under 7 – or you are not running 64-bit.
For the avoidance of any doubt – older versions of this mic DO NOT WORK FOR WINDOWS 64-BIT – and they’re support does not care.
Avoid older versions of this mic (i.e. check the age of stock) would be my advice.
I don’t know what version snowball I have. But I do run Windows 7 64-bit. I am not denying that there are many people having issues, otherwise it wouldn’t have come up so many times. However, I just got lucky with the unit I received.
Hey i just called Blue and for all the people that say they have shitty tech support Well they dont any more! They said mine was defective and sent me a new mic right away!!!! So stoked!!!!!
Mine is sn #29xxx and it also has the Windows 7 not found error. Works well enough in OSX 10.66.
btw, the Win_snowball update langauge_high.exe file fails to properly install even when using administrative account. this is seriously buggered up.
The Snowball update only ran for me on my windows XP machine. The Mic works on my XP box and does a good job. It does a flash of the prom on the mic. Even after flash I still am having major driver issues in Windows 7 Pro. The mic just never comes up as an option… It is an older mic.., SS 0447**
I was able to run the update software which flashes the mic… it did not help on my main windows 7 machine… constant “code 10” errors… same as before. Some other sites suggested that this would fix the problem but it did not on my Mic. It works great on all my XP machines. It sound very nice using audacity too.
Windows 7 just does not “talk” to this older Blue snowball
I have spent about three weeks trying to get my blue snowball to work correctly. I have an hp envy laptop with the beats audio (windows 7 home edition)soundcard… so it should be working like a charm. I’m not having any problems with errors or drivers failing to install..the mic sounds beautiful. My problem is latency. There’s about a half a second delay on the mic and I have tried just about everything possible to make it work. The only time it worked wiothout latency is when I installed the asio4all driver… the mic worked perfect… but none of the midi would work. I uninstalled the asio4alldriver and tried it again with the directx fullduplex driver. It still had the latency so I tried to download the asio4all again…… but this time it wouldnt work at all. I’m so frustrated with this thing I’m ready to take it to the pawnshop and push my troubles off on someone else. Any suggestions?
This is why Blue put a sound card and headphone jack inside the Yeti mic, because the Latency issue with a mic in the computer is just difficult to deal with. It makes it just about impossible to over dub. I gave my older but perfectly good snowball away, and use my edirol digital recorded… it just works better