Smartphones are behind for professional-grade equipment, even though we’re using them more and more for just about everything. So what happens? The quality of our content drops. Convenience always trumps usability, quality, and experience. If it isn’t easy to use, if it isn’t perfectly available and at hand when we need it, then we aren’t going to use it. That’s why smartphones are now the most used cameras in the world; the best camera is the one you keep on you.
Then again, not everything requires the on-the-go mentality that smartphones provide. Sometimes we just have to sit down and do. Recording audio is a mixed bag; sometimes you need to record an interview, podcast, or voiceover. The quality should be good, and you shouldn’t be limited by the device you use. That’s where the BlueMic Spark Digital makes it’s debut.
The Spark Digital is one of the first microphones that connects to both iOS and Android devices, as well as any computer. Through additional cables with MicroUSB or Lightning (there’s also a 30-pin version for iPhone 4/4S and iPad owners), owners can record very crisp, clear audio from a professional-grade microphone without many of the typical worries that recording on a smartphone brings. Like tapping on a table slightly sounding like an earthquake. Each of the cables also supports connecting headphones via 3.5mm RCA to hear the audio in real time.
Instead of following the typical microphone design, or even BlueMic’s other microphone designs (such as the excellent Yeti Pro, one of my personal favorites), the Spark Digital is a front+rear facing microphone built on a cloth-bound stand with basic pivot movement. The cloth helps to eliminate reverb against the surface, like tapping on the table, picking the phone up off the surface and putting it back, and even tapping on the mic’s stand. Sure, some of these sounds are audible on the Spark, but the cloth muffles them significantly compared to other microphones, where the mic is directly connected by metal or plastic that carries the sound through.
It’s a small but powerful design that’s made specifically for the mobile-friendly device. Then again, I’ve used the Spark with my desktop to record notes and still picked up and dropped my phone on the same table. We live in an active world, and most microphones aren’t compatible with such noise.
Aside from looking really slick — and it does, with a very strong blue trunk and chrome grill — the Spark is powered completely by the connected device. It can be disconnected from the base, though the layout of the mic isn’t really suited for carrying around, so I don’t know that it would make sense to carry around for street interviews or the like.
Then again, the average audio quality is so good, maybe it is. Voices and sounds are recorded with an incredible level of precision, the kind that makes all but trained actors listen and think, “wow, I sound like that?” Audio gain is adjustable right on the mic, plus there’s a mute button so you don’t have to fiddle with your device’s software for a moment’s repose.
As mobile-friendly as the Spark Digital is, it’s still a high-quality precision microphone. It doesn’t have the flexibility or size to, say, fit in your pocket. It’s not going to replace your phone’s basic microphone for voice memos. The convenience is in not being forced to use a computer with the mic, and that’s phenomenal. I recorded a podcast at my office with the Spark and my iPhone, and it was great. I’ve used it for documentation and got pitch-perfect recordings. It’s the kind that you would expect to hear inside a studio. I’ll be using it for some of our future video reviews, and have already tested and found that it’s perfect for exactly that.
The travel bag and carrying equipment isn’t great. Three different cables (for iOS, Android, and USB) are excessive; I’d rather see one that works for all three instead. Most people don’t own an iOS and Android device that they’d use for recording, but in the world of mobile, you don’t always use your own phone or tablet. Carrying around three different cables is very inconvenient.
Further, the bag is pretty thin and doesn’t provide the level of protection I’d expect to see for such a powerful mic. I tried carrying the mic and stand, plus cables, in the carrying bag both standalone and in my messenger bag, and neither felt comfortable. I’d almost rather see a hard-shelled carrying case, though obviously that would take more space. Then again, if you planned on going mobile with your pro-grade recording equipment, a serious case is practically a necessity.
Blue did an excellent job with the Spark Digital. Excellent sound recording, a great design of both the microphone and base, and stunning design absolutely make it worth the $200 price tag.
Excellent sound quality. Great design for both computer and mobile users. Easy to use.
A bit pricey for mobile users. Stand and cords aren't travel friendly.
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.