The Snowball iCE USB microphone has a distinctive design intended for recording, streaming, and podcasting. The Snowball iCE is a plug-and-play microphone that claims to be the quickest and most straightforward way to get high-quality sound into your computer.
This microphone appears to be of high quality. What does it sound like, though? And how does it stack up against the rest of the USB mics available? Not sure if this is the microphone for you?
Read on and find out!
The orb-shaped Snowball iCE comes in black or white and measures 12.7 inches in circumference (about 4.2 inches in diameter). It has a plastic cover that exposes a metallic grille at the front of the mic, where the Blue logo is, and on the opposite end.
A status LED on the top front face illuminates when the accompanying USB cable is connected to both the mic and a recording source. A pressure gradient-style condenser with a cardioid pattern is used within the Snowball iCE.
The mic screws into the tripod mount and can be tilted upward or downward once it’s secure. However, a noticeable drawback is that the mic’s diaphragm does not properly line up with the speaker’s mouth with the tripod that comes with the package.
While this can effectively suppress plosives with a rambunctious vocalist, those with good mic technique will most likely need to crouch down to align their mouths with the diaphragm. The farther the speaker is from the mic, the less of a problem it is.
Nonetheless, this is a straightforward problem to address, as a taller desktop or your own microphone stand can be used.
The Snowball uses a USB type B, or most commonly known as a cord associated with printers. So, it’s easy to find a replacement should you need it. The USB port is located on the back of the mic. When you’re hooked in, a red light displays on the microphone.
The computer provides all essential power rather than requiring a separate power source. The Snowball is also class-compliant, which means it will work with both Windows and Mac computers without the need for additional driver downloads.
The Snowball iCE requires USB 1.1/2.0 (or newer) and 64MB of RAM and is compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10 and Mac OS 10.4.11 and higher (or better). It’s a plug-and-play option that many recording apps, such as GarageBand will recognize right away.
Suppose you want to utilize the Snowball iCE (or any USB mic) with some pro-level software, like Pro Tools. In that case, you’ll need to find a workaround—google “aggregate device USB mic ProTools” for instructions.
The Snowball iCE, thanks to its design, has a built-in screen behind the grille, does an excellent job of eliminating plosives. Many mics benefit from a pop filter, and the Blue Snowball is no exception.
There’s a three-way switch on the back of the mic that lets you choose between Snowball’s three pickup patterns. Cardioid focuses the microphone’s attention on the area directly in front of it – that is, you – and excludes noise off its axis.
Second, a cardioid variant with a 10 dB pad lessens the mic’s sensitivity and allows you to go closer to powerful sound sources like guitars or singing. Finally, omnidirectional mode pulls up sound from all directions around the mic.
This is ideal for round-table recording sessions or rushed band practices. The Snowball doesn’t have the most comprehensive frequency range, ranging from 40Hz to 18kHz. But for the price, you wouldn’t expect anything more, and for the great majority of users, this would be enough.
The mic appears right away in GarageBand. This is where you can modify your recording levels because the device lacks gain knobs and headphone connections, which is typical of an XLR mic but less so for USB mics. The Snowball iCE produces clean, sharp sounds once you’ve chosen a solid level.
When you address the mic dead-on from about a foot away, it picks up a lot of room sound, which can be troublesome if the space isn’t acoustically treated. If used in an acoustically treated room, you may find that a foot away is too far for a clear and crisp recording.
Moving closer to six to eight inches resulted in a cleaner recording with less ambient noise and crisper highs. On the other hand, the mic tended to sound better when approached from a closer distance. This could be an issue for the untrained vocalist, but the seasoned pro can find a workaround.
The mic also works well from a distance of around five to six inches, although with its base set up, the user or vocalist would have to adjust quite a bit to get comfortable usage out of the mic.
You’ll still get crisp highs, little (if any) ambient sound, and fewer plosives from unskilled vocalists in this circumstance. Of course, you can use a pop filter to absorb the plosives that even the best vocalists can add to a recording.
But suppose you don’t want to spend the money on another accessory or make one yourself (it’s doable with coat hanger wire and nylon). In that case, the off-axis approach is a safe bet.
The Snowball iCE from Blue stands out among the USB mics on the market, costing $100 or more. It’s a very affordable alternative from a brand known for high-quality pro-level mics, and it’s only $49.99.
The Snowball iCE is a cardioid-only option, while the normal Snowball costs roughly $20 more and has numerous mic pickup patterns to record with.
Given that the fixed-pattern condenser is one of the most common forms of mic pattern for recording vocals, many users will see the worth of saving a little money.
The Snowball iCE is unquestionably a tough and reliable big diaphragm condenser mic. It’s simple to set up and can produce CD-quality recordings and live streams for YouTube, SoundCloud, and other platforms.
If you use the iCE instead of your computer’s built-in mic on Skype, Twitch, FaceTime, or any other voice software, you will notice a considerable improvement in audio quality.
Making podcasts and adding narration to home footage is also simple. You may even record instruments, singers, and full bands with sufficient audio quality.
The Blue Snowball iCE is suited for a wide range of projects in the hands of an absolute beginner, a budding podcaster, an experienced engineer, or a musician with solid mic technique.
As previously stated, there are a plethora of different options available from well-known manufacturers, so anyone seeking a high-quality, easy-to-use USB mic is spoiled for choice.
What Snowball does really well is cram in enough of the features that will be genuinely beneficial to the average user – switchable pickup patterns, ease of use – and package it in a sleek, user-friendly design that provides excellent value for money.
The Snowball was designed with emerging podcast producers in mind when it was first released.
But in 2021, we can see it being equally well received by Twitch streamers and YouTubers, not to mention the instant upgrade it would provide for the never-ending barrage of Teams and Zoom calls we’ve all grown accustomed to.
Despite its diminutive size, this Snowball is a force to be reckoned with.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.