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View Full Version : Review - Blue Icicle XLR to USB preamp



spots
11-27-2009, 02:20 PM
Mods, I didn't know the best place to post this so feel free to move it to where you feel is best.

Recently I came across a very good internet price on Blue's Icicle XLR to USB mic preamp. I found a local brick and mortar shop which matched the price.

I thought I'd write up a mini-review of my experience. This is not a professional review, just a quick overview of what I experienced. It would be appreciated if other people could add their experience with this device to the thread.

I am using a dynamic mic. The Icicle is supposed to work with both dynamic and condenser mics. When used with a condenser mic the Icicle provides 48v of phantom power. The unit has a gain control knob. There is no headphone jack for live listening.

The Icicle has a female 3 pin XLR connection on one end, and a mini-usb on the other. It comes with a mini-usb cable. It can record at 44.1kHz/16 bit.

There are no drivers for the Icicle. When I plugged it into my Windows XP Pro machine (with all recent updates) the device was immediately recognized by the OS. I did not need to install drivers. Under the sound settings it was seen as a recording device labeled "Icicle" and has it's own input volume control.

Audacity recognized it as a USB input device.

The first recording I did with Audacity was filled with electrical pops and clicks - even when recording silence. After about five minutes the light on the Icicle unit started to pulse and additional electrical wave forms, and corresponding sounds, started to show up on recordings.

I called Blue's customer service and they arranged for an exchange to be made via FedEx at Blue's expense. They wanted their engineering department to look at the issues the unit was having. They shipped a unit out to me once my unit entered FedEx' tracking system.

The second unit arrived and there were no electronic pops and clicks. However, when recording I found the level of hiss to be so great that it made the device useless. No amount of adjusting the various input levels eliminated the hiss. The hiss could be minimized, but I was never able to eliminate it. When the hiss was at it's lowest level the gain on the mic was so weak that I could barely hear the uke or my voice on recordings. A gain high enough to have the uke and my voice to be heard created a tremendous amount of hiss. At this point I decided the Blue Icicle wasn't up to the task and returned the unit to the store.

Keep in mind that I am using a dynamic mic. I have not tested this with a condenser mic. But for the price of the Icicle and a condensor mic you have a choice of a number of dedicated USB mics that are known to work well.

I use this same dynamic mic to make recordings with a minidisc player that is roughly eight years old and is powered by a single AA battery. The minidisc is smaller than the Icicle. The MD's mic line-in preamp does not generate any hiss with this mic, and the recordings are crystal clear. The MD's auto gain control does a wonderful job of finding a level that balances vocals and instrument. The manual gain control allows the mic to be sensative enough that quiet whispers, the rustle of clothes, the creak of a leather belt, etc. can be picked up clearly and loudly 10-12 feet away. I usually record make recordings with the uke a couple feet from the mic and don't have any issues with recording volume.

For me the experience with Blue's XLR to USB preamp was very disappointing. I expected much better performance given the state of today's technology and Blue's reputation.