People often recommend USB microphones because of their ease of use. There’s no need to spend a bunch of extra money on a mixing board that’ll connect with the XLR cable of a traditional microphone – you just plug your mic into your computer’s USB port and you’re ready to go. But portability is the hidden and, I’d argue, most important benefit of a USB mic. Since you don’t need to lug a board around, you can take your USB mic everywhere and plug it into anything, theoretically. So why are some USB microphones designed to live solely on the desktop? Or worse, why are some designed to be just as bulky and unwieldy as their XLR counterparts? With the Raspberry, Blue set out to make the ultimate portable USB microphone, one that you might even forget you have in your bag.
Make no bones about it – the Raspberry is extremely portable, in large part due to the foldable stand. In a smart bit of engineering, the metal stand folds right into the microphone, and there are no extra parts other than the USB wire. The whole unit is very small, no bigger than my iPhone 7. It’s light, too, weighing in at just 9.6 ounces. For comparison, the iPhone 7 is around 4.7 ounces. To make the Raspberry even more versatile, you can even remove the stand and screw the Raspberry into another microphone stand of your choosing.
No Bells, Few Whistles
Feature-wise, the Raspberry is pretty lean and mean. An LED light on the front lights up green when you’re recording and red when the mic is muted. There are also two volume knobs – one for the microphone and one for the headphone jack, which allows for monitoring. I do wish the volume knobs were a little more user friendly; there’s no label telling you whether the volume is all the way up or all the way down on either knob. It’s not the most painful bit of guesswork, but it’s annoying that I can’t tell at a glance how sensitive the microphone is or how loud my headphones will be.
There’s another reason I’m comparing to the Raspberry to the iPhone, and it’s because of its Lightening compatibility. The Raspberry is a USB and Lightning microphone, designed to work with both connections, with their respective cables included in the box. This is a much bigger deal than it sounds, and is probably the biggest selling point of the Raspberry. Why? Lightening compatibility means you can plug the Raspberry into your iPhone or iPad. You don’t even have to lug your laptop around to record now – you just need your phone and the Raspberry. Having a quality microphone that works with iOS products is a real game changer, one that could radically simplify the recording process and open up tons of possibilities. A musician on the road can whip out her phone and record a quick demo, or a voiceover artist can send an audition in while he’s stuck in the airport. If that’s not you (it’s not me, either), you can still easily make a YouTube video or record a quick podcast on the go.
Make Some Noise
But how does it sound? The Raspberry can record at 24-bit depth and 48 kHz, adding a lot more depth and dynamism to your audio. While it never sounded as good as my desktop XLR microphone, I was still impressed with the clarity. Even at the highest levels of sensitivity, there wasn’t any distortion, and background noise was kept at a minimum. I certainly would feel comfortable releasing anything I recorded on the Raspberry as a podcast. And in case you were wondering, I tried the Raspberry out on both my laptop via USB and on my iPhone via Lightning, and found that the sound quality was identical.
At the end of the day, if portability matters to you, you can’t do much better than the Blue Raspberry. If you’re constantly finding yourself traveling with a microphone and you use an iOS device as part of your workflow, this is the microphone you’ve been dreaming of.