Since 1995, Blue has been making a name for themselves with their great-sounding studio and usb microphones. They also produce a line of microphones designed especially for use on the road called en-CORE that seeks to bring studio sound to the stage. We found them to be very interesting and competitive with some of the best stage mics out there.
En-CORE 100 – This is Blue’s basic on stage microphone for vocalists. It’s a low-impedance (250ohms) dynamic mic with a 50Hz-15kHz frequency response. For non-techies, that means it a standard stage mic that uses an XLR microphone cable and can reproduce a wide range of sounds making it good for singers. Pulling the microphone from its box, the first thing to notice about all the en-CORE mics is their solid and roadworthy feel. The 100 has some weight to it with a nice grip and balanced feel for singers who like to take the mic out of the stand. None of that matters, of course, if the mic doesn’t sound great. So, we put the 100 to the test in some different situations to see how it would perform.
First, I used the 100 with an acoustic trio in a small room and it sounded great with both male and female singers, requiring very little equalization to sound good in a mix with other vocals and guitars. I also packed the 100 along for the lead vocals on a rock gig where it had to compete with prominent bass and drums and it did very well (read on to see how the other Blue models can help singers who need to deal with high stage volumes). Finally, I used the 100 for vocals in a piano jazz trio and was pleasantly surprised at how well it compared to other microphones for an up-close solo performer. Most importantly, in all the test situations, the 100 sounded very realistic capturing the full range of the singer’s voice and sounding very realistic with little need for equalization and no tendency to feed back.
The microphone to compare any stage vocal mic with is the industry standard, Shure model SM58. So, I did an A/B comparison of the SM58 and the 100, finding that while both mics sounded great there were significant differences that could make a vocalist go one way or the other. In every situation, the 100 seemed to provide more clear top end, giving the microphone a more realistic sound. If your singer’s voice is flattered by more high-end presence, they will like the way it sounds using the 100 through good sound system. On a relatively quiet stage, like solo piano or acoustic guitar situations, you can really hear the difference. That said, the 100s could be a bit more tricky than SM58s to mix in on a loud, lively stage. Like other popular dynamic vocal mics, the 100 has a cardioid pick up pattern that helps reject sounds not directly in front of the mic, helping to avoid feed back situations. With a street price about the same as the SM58 ($99.), you should definitely consider trying the 100 to see if it’s a good match for your voice.
En-CORE 100i – Designed very specifically for mic’ing instruments, the 100i is also a dynamic microphone. Its custom-tuned diaphragm makes for a tighter polar pattern perfect for picking up sources like guitar amps or drums that benefit from high isolation. A custom circuit with transformer optimizes frequency response for use with drums and amplified instruments, but vocalists could use this mic as well. Because this mic was made with instruments in mind, the 100i has a specially-designed grille that is less ball-shaped and provides protection from instrument strikes and makes it easier to mount in tight spaces. It’s designed to operate well with sound pressure levels up to 154dB, meaning that it can take being close to very loud sources.
We used the 100i on guitar amps and snare drum and found it to be very comparable with other popular instrument mics. It produced a very clean sound that we could easily equalize to cut through the mix on stage. With headphones at the board, this mic really sounded more like a recording mic than many instrument mics we’ve used. We even used it to mic up acoustic guitars and got a clean, full-range sound. At a street price of $89.99, this versatile microphone is hard to beat.
En-CORE 200 – This is an active dynamic mic, meaning that it has circuitry built-in that uses phantom power (generally supplied by a mixer). As a result, the 200 can deliver natural vocals with great detail and clarity, also with remarkably high gain. Blue claims that this mic can be used used not only for live performance, but studio and broadcasting applications, as well. We found that no matter where we plugged it in, it gave us consistent tone, high output and low noise, as advertised. With higher gain and lower noise, this was very much like having a recording microphone on stage. We liked this microphone for situations where you need to get the vocal ‘out in front’ of the mix, but especially for quieter moments, perhaps in a ballad where you want all the nuance of a singer’s voice. A street price of $149.00, puts this great microphone in everyone’s budget and a good choice if you want a microphone that can do ‘double duty’ as a mic for stage and studio.
En-CORE 300 – This is a true condenser mic with a wide frequency response (40Hz-20kHz) and a cardioid pattern that Blue has ‘hardened’ for use on stage. A custom-designed phantom power circuit, makes this mic a good choice when you need high recording-quality output on stage or powerful vocals. Like Blue’s studio condenser mics, the 300’s condenser capsule is tuned for an open, detailed sound that shined where we used it for vocals or mic’ing acoustic instruments. The 300’s chassis design provides rugged protection and mounts the capsule for optimal performance and isolation from handling noise. If there is such a thing as a rugged condenser microphone, this is it. The 300’s $199.99 street price gets you the clean sound of a condenser in a tough outer casing.
With the en-CORE line, Blue has produced some great microphones for stage use that are both affordable and can bring your sound one step closer to studio quality.