Blue Microphones Nessie Review. The Nessie is a USB desktop microphone for the consumer market that works with the PC, Mac, and iOS devices via Garageband. The sound quality is good although the price feels a little too high in comparison to the Yeti.
Having been a leading innovator in the professional audio sector for many years, Blue Microphones is an established brand that has become synonymous for striking personified designs, technology that is easy to use, and superb sound quality. In fact today we shall be exploring Blue’s latest microphone release; the Nessie – an adaptive USB desktop cardioid condenser microphone that works with both Windows and Mac operating systems primarily for vocal performances.
Unboxing, Overview, and Build Quality
When the package arrives in your hands the outer box design is certainly slick and will more than adequately protect the Nessie during transit. Once you get inside you will find that the package is quite simple, coming only with a short yet detailed manual, a one-meter USB to Mini USB cable, and the microphone itself. If you are an owner of a standard USB to 30-Pin or Lightning connector, as all of you will if you are an iPhone or iPad user, you can use this to connect the Nessie to the respected devices.
As you have probably guessed, the aesthetics of the ‘Nessie’ have been modelled on the mythical Loch-Ness Monster. Whether the format is accurate is anyone’s guess, but we have found the design to be a marmite scenario; you either love it, or hate it. However, the end result appears to be highly polished in terms of finish, weight, and finally build quality. Overall we could not distinguish any inherent issues on the surface, but we all felt very sure that this is a microphone that can last a long time and is more than fit for purpose on a desktop without any tipping or taking up a large footprint.
Although upon first glance the Nessie appears to be a rather simple device, it actually hides some great features that are incorporated right into the design. As previously mentioned, the base is sufficiently weighty to inhibit any movement when left idle or when in use. Located on this base is a circular digital gain dial, which discreetly wraps around the circumference. It is great that Blue have included a visual representation of the gain input so that users can remember approximates for various recording applications, but we would have liked to have seen a real-time gain readout on the body for when a user is focused on a performance into the microphone and not looking at the recording application (or DAW). As there is already an ambient blue LED effect in the base, this could have been more practical if it included this functionality, even better if this was located higher up the ‘serpentine head’.
Situated on top of the base plate, two red switches are seated into the design and labelled appropriately; one is used for quick muting the input signal (which cuts the output completely and is visually shown by the blue LED changing to a red pulsating cue), and the other is for the engagement of what Blue Microphones lucidly label as ‘Focus’. Referring to the latter, the ‘Focus’ feature is adaptive to three separate contexts. Strongly featured within the marketing of the Nessie, Blue want the end users of this item to be focused on the creative process and not the recording, yet the ‘Focus’ does have some common variables that allow an amateur to quickly settle on an adaptive tone for the instruments that they wish to record. In its common state (‘Focus’ off) the microphone behaves without any signal processing before it is passed into the recording application; this is known as a dry signal. In this state the microphone characteristics are uncomplicated, nude, or what you could call ‘neutral’, and will best suit a user who prefers to create a tone ‘in the box’. Visually defined by three circles is the ‘voice mode’, this ‘focus’ selection appears to apply a fixed vocal equalisation curve, de-esser, and subtle compression but, if the music note is selected, this all changes to best suit acoustic instruments and provides an increased level of detail through an apparent high-frequency equalisation boost. With three separate variables to choose from the Nessie almost becomes three microphones built into one. Each mode appears to be fit for purpose, and we feel that the Nessie is highly desirable to a novice user or indeed a more experience field semi-professional. When this feature is combined with the zero latency headphone output, a user will be able to listen to a signal that is free from any delay that can result in frustrating time tracking errors.
Making our way up nearer the microphone capsule now we are attracted to the serpentine head. What is nice about this design is that Blue have allowed to capsule to be directed to the sound source with a quick vertical adjustment. In use this feature is very useful. Likewise, it is much preferable to a fixed position that would veto any direct signal path, yet we still would have liked to see a touch more flexibility here. In terms of the capsule itself, Blue has brilliantly integrated both an effective shock mount and a pop shield eliminating the need for a user to spend time setting up, or forgetting, a moderately complicated rig that can easily confuse, delay, or distract those Einstein moments. Essentially the musician is connected to their rig in the shortest time possible and even phantom power (48v) does not need to be thought about as the Nessie automatically engages this when connected as an USB microphone input.
Blue Microphones Nessie Sound Quality
Buried within the head, or capsule, is a small diaphragm cardiod condenser capsule which is perfectly acceptable for most acoustic instrument applications. In conjunction with the various ‘focus’ settings we have found that there can be a great deal of flexibility in this design to allow for an acceptable tone that requires minimal mixing. However, it is important to understand that these inbuilt presets are a catchall affair and sadly cannot be adjusted by the user, as there is no software application available. If Blue created an application that tapped into the firmware then this would have pushed this microphone into better territory.
In its most basic ‘neutral’ setting, the Nessie sounds a little lacklustre and limp on vocals primarily as a result of an unclear focus to the very slightly gristly top end and indistinct midrange. In essence vocal performances were lacking character and the ambient noise rejection was near forgotten. Sadly untamed plosives on vocals (common with self-taught musicians) appeared uncontrolled despite the inclusion of an inbuilt pop shield especially when close-mic recording. Switching the ‘focus’ to the vocal setting did alleviate some of the frequency response issues, but these plosives seemed to have an increased presence unless you placed yourself further away from this microphone. If we move on to music mode (defined by a single quaver) the performance seemed to be adequate on acoustic guitars and did add an air of sparkle that allows the instrument to cut through the mix well whilst leaving vocal lines balanced and to the fore. Don’t get me wrong, this microphone is a serious step up from recording with inbuilt microphones or cheaper upgrades and it will offer a much better platform to the bedroom musician, although the Nessie is not ‘studio quality’ per se, but if a user is searching for a friendly upgrade which is simple and acceptable then the Nessie will certainly fill those boots well. What is theoretically very good about the Nessie is the serpentine head; it is just about flexible to help vocalists experiment with upper or lower microphone direction with a simple tilt mechanism, although this function has proven to be susceptible to failure after just a few uses.
On the surface, the Blue Microphones ‘Nessie’ is a well-constructed package that enables a bedroom musician to easily experiment with recording. Whilst it is quick and exceptionally easy to set up, the Nessie sadly falls short for users who would like to take their recordings to the next level. Saying this we do still love the Nessie as a tool for jotting ideas… However, we feel as though we have to reluctantly award it with a three and a half star rating.