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Hands-On: Blue's Blackout Spark SL Mic

If you’re familiar with the world of prosumer microphones, you probably know Blue. The company has been synonymous for years with entry- to mid-level microphones for podcast hosts and streamers thanks to USB microphones like the Snowball and the Yeti.

With their latest Blackout Spark SL, Blue is targeting those who want to step up from the Snowball or the Yeti to a more professional studio sound, without paying studio prices.

You can pick up the Blackout Spark SL for $199.

Design

From the moment you open the Blackout Spark SL’s box, Blue wants to make you feel like a pro. The microphone comes in a sleek wooden box – I felt like I was opening up a box of fine cigars rather than a microphone.

The Blackout Spark also comes with a really nice, high-quality shock mount that you can attach to a scissor arm stand you already own. You can also use the shock mount as a makeshift stand, though I doubt this was Blue’s intent, as it’s a little wobbly. Still, it works if you’re in a pinch, and the inclusion is very much appreciated.

From a design standpoint, the Blackout Spark SL is simple and gorgeous. The all-black matte surface just oozes style and panache, and the Blackout Spark looked stunning on my desk. It’s minimalist beauty at its finest, and it’s obvious Blue has put a ton of love and care into the aesthetics of the Blackout Spark SL.

Also, in case you own the original Spark or were just curious, the difference between the Blackout Spark and the original Spark are purely cosmetic. If you don’t like the black look for whatever reason, you can pick up the Spark SL without feeling like you’re missing something.

The Blackout Spark is a cardioid microphone, meaning it’s designed to pick up sound from sources directly in front of it. As such, it’s meant to only record one audio source at a time.

Straightforward Quality

The Blackout Spark doesn’t offer a ton of features, but it has everything you’d need and expect from a quality XLR mic in this price range. There’s a high pass filter that you can switch on to eliminate some bassy rumbles from your audio source and lower-pitched background noise. There’s also a -20 dB pad that will cut the recording volume by twenty decibels. This gives you a bit more headroom, allowing your audio source to be louder before you start experiencing audio distortion and clipping.

It’s especially helpful for recording higher volume sources like drums, or a big, booming voice.

The Blackout Spark is a cardioid microphone, meaning it’s designed to pick up sound from sources directly in front of it. As such, it’s meant to only record one audio source at a time. People looking to record big group podcasts or streams should probably look elsewhere. Also, since this is an XLR microphone, so make sure you have a mixing board or a USB to XLR adapter before you purchase the Blackout Spark.

The sound on the Spark is very warm and full, and did a great job capturing my lower voice as well as some of my higher-pitched friends. Lower frequencies felt clear and round, and the mid range had a good, dynamic punch to it. You don’t get a lot of that hiss or hum you sometimes hear on lower-quality mics with the Spark, and I can’t imagine most content producers needing to spend a ton of extra time on post-processing if they’re just looking to get clear and audible vocals.

Judging from Blue’s website, it’s obvious they designed this microphone for streamers, podcasters, and YouTubers, and it’s absolutely fabulous at capturing the variances of the human voice. The difference between the Blackout Spark and a lower-quality microphone is night and day – it’s like listening to something underwater and then lifting your head out. It’s truly a dream to use and to listen to.

A Spark In The Dark

It’s not entry-level priced, but you’re getting a better looking mic and a sturdy shock mount for your dollar. This is a pretty clear case of getting what you pay for.

The Blackout Spark SL is one of the best microphones I’ve used in this price range, and provided that coveted professional polish on every project I used it for. If you’re just getting into the world of prosumer microphones though, you might be better off getting a USB microphone to save some money and figure out if the quality is good enough for your needs.

If this isn’t your first mic, and you’re looking to really step up the production values on your podcast, streams, or videos, the Blackout Spark is tremendous, and is just about as good as you can get before venturing into studio microphone territory.