I’ve noticed a common denominator in some of the netbooks I’ve seen of late: the integrated microphone is sub-par. And while many folks don’t use a netbook for audio recording or voice communications, I’ve found that the form factor makes for a great little Skype machine. If only the microphone worked as well as the camera. That’s why I was interested in the Snowflake USB microphone from Blue. The folks at Blue sent over a review unit and I’ve had a few weeks to give it a go.
The Snowflake works with both PC and Mac computers without any drivers needed. I tested it on both a PC and my Mac; since to the computer it’s simply a USB microphone, you just plug and play. Does it meet my requirement for better sound on a netbook? Absolutely, but then again you couldn’t get much worse. I find that I need to sit just a few inches away from the integrated mic on the Wind in order to be heard.
Here’s a very short, sample audio track from the Snowflake when clipped to my display. I looked for the option to make me sound like Josh Groban, but couldn’t find it. ;)
So there’s no question that the Snowflake is an improvement over the integrated solution I’ve been struggling to use. Other features make it a nice add-on as well:
- The Snowflake slides into a plastic base so you it can easily "stand-up" on its own.
- The base doubles as storage for the included USB cable.
- Conversely, you can slide it out of the base to expose a hanging-clamp mechanism. This lets you attach it to a display.
- The microphone itself swivels 360-degrees on the clamp.
- It’s simple to use: just plug in the included USB cable to your computer.
Why might it not be a good choice for some? While the audio quality is very good, it’s not as mobile of a solution as I’d prefer, mainly due to the weight and size. The white base is a light plastic, but the hanging-clamp is metal. Size-wise, it can also seem to overpower smaller screened devices.
In the end, I think I’m better off with a USB or Bluetooth headset for voice on a netbook. For anything bigger, the Snowflake is a definite contender. Expect to pay around $60 for this high-quality USB microphone.