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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blue Dragonfly

Float to the high frequences on the Blue Dragonfly

Up front, I'm not going to hype you. I like Blue Microphones. I like the look and feel of all the Blue products. Yes, I even like how that massive Blue Robbie mic preamp looks even though I've never used one. To me, Blue is to microphones what Apple is to computers. They make interesting looking products. The look and feel of the mics seems to be to be part Bauhaus (the design movement, not the band) with a wink to Salvador Dali. And, like Apple Computers, Blue makes mics that look so good that you want to use them.

I think the biggest compliment I can give a product is to buy it. Blue's former PR person called me up over a year ago and talked me into just trying out a Blue Dragonfly. Two things happened. First. I liked the mic so much I sent Blue a check for it. Second, I sold a certain Chinese made mic that I'd kept around as my "bright" mic. After I heard the Dragonfly, my old "bright" mic just sounded plain tooth rattling brittle. I would not call the Dragonfly a bright mic even though it's got an accentuated high end. It's got this top end sheen to it. It's not just a bump. It's a complex flavor that's a lot more than just simply bright.

It's funny that even though it's so sculpted that it works like a charm with acoustic guitar. A few months after I sent Blue my check, one of my friends was in town. He's a session guitarist out of Nashville. We were talking about mics. I was telling him about how much I was digging the Blue Dragonfly on acoustic and he agreed that he loved it as well.

In the looks department, the mic sort of reminds me of the eyeball costume used by the Residents. In essence, it's a bulb head resting on a thin stem. The stem is not rounded but is rather a long, thin rectangle. On top of the stem is the pivoting bulbous head that houses the diaphragm capsule. The mic features an integrated shockmount that helps isolate the mic from the stand. When you put the mic away for the night it goes in the box with the shockmount. When I say integrated I do mean integrated. The mic and the shockmount are one.

The mic features solid state discrete Class A amplifier with transformerless output, a pressure gradient transducer, a cardioid pattern, 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, and max SPL handling of 132 dB. To my ears, I've never heard any self noise, missing frequencies or distortion from the Dragonfly. Oh yeah, this is a condenser microphone and it does require 48 volts of phantom power to operate.

In my time with the Dragonfly, I've used it in several settings. I've used it with several mic preamps such as the Great River MP-2NV, the A Designs MP-2 and on evaluations of the Sebatron vmp-2000e and the Digidesign Mbox. In all that time, the only problem I had was with the Sebatron. It zapped the Dragonfly's complex high end and made the mic a little boomy. To fix things, I had to hit the Sebatron's pad and gang stage the Dragonfly through both channels. And, viola, I got some interesting musical tones.

I particularly liked vocals with the Dragonfly patched through the A Designs MP-2. I liked the Dragonfly with male vocals and lower pitched female vocals. I did not try to push strident sources through it as I've got other mics for those chores. I found the mic more often hits than misses. But, that's usually the case with any quality mic.

As noted above, I also liked the Dragonfly on acoustic guitar. I am a trained guitarist. I studied with a Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame member. I also studied at one of the big name music schools. I set impossibly high standards for guitar sounds. I like a shimmery steel-stringed acoustic sound. The Dragonfly puts across this sound perhaps better than any other mic I've used. Yet, with some positioning changes, it can also put across a woodsy sound. In getting the mic into position, the integrated shockmount along with the pivoting mic head make it easy to get fast mic placements.

I know one engineer who touts it for overhead duties. He also says there is no other mic like it. In essence, it's an original. And, he thinks it a shame many pro studios do not have these in their mic cabinets.

Blue also issued a limited run of a mic designated as the Blue Dragonfly Deluxe. It contains a different capsule and sounds different from the standard issue Blue Dragonfly reviewed here.

The Bottom Line: I particularly like it on many male vocals and acoustic guitar. It's my favorite mic on drum overheads. Highly recommended.

--Steven Langer

Blue Microphones

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