BLUE's flagship solid-state microphone combines their trademark distinctive styling with exceptional sonics.
I have in recent years reviewed a couple of BLUE mics in the pages of SOS, both towards the bottom of the range — the Baby Bottle and the Dragonfly. However, the BLUE Kiwi that is subject of this review is at the opposite end of the product line, being the top-of-the-range solid-state model. It is also a multi-pattern mic, one of only two in the range, and the only one which is phantom powered.
The microphone has a fairly traditional appearance not that dissimilar to the BLUE Bottle mic, with an enormous cylindrical body finished in an appropriate shade of Kiwi green and measuring 60mm in diameter by about 220 in length. The BLUE logo identifies the front of the microphone. Perched on the top of the bottle is a substantial capsule enclosure 60mm in diameter, extending the overall length of the mic to a huge 285mm. The front of the capsule grille is highly polished, while the rear has a dull finish. Despite the large size of the microphone, it is not as heavy as it looks, although still needing a strong stand to accommodate its 880g without drooping.
The spec sheet is very respectable, as you would expect. The sensitivity is slightly lower than the norm at 19mV/Pa, but the signal-to-noise ratio and self noise are fine at 87dBA and 8dBA respectively (both measured to the DIN/IEC 651 standard). The maximum SPL for 0.5 percent distortion is 133dB.
The capsule design is derived from the B6 capsule used in the Bottle mic. Instead of using a single dual-diaphragm capsule, the Kiwi employs a matched pair of single diaphragm devices mounted back-to-back — which explains the very deep capsule housing. Like the other models in the BLUE range, the microphone is shipped with three brass screws to secure the capsule and prevent it bouncing in its internal vibration mount. The microphone will not work until these screws are removed, and the handbook recommends replacing them if the mic has to be transported.
The impedance converter electronics are solid state, all discrete and Class A, with a transformerless output stage. Other than the polar pattern switch, there are no other facilities — no pads or high-pass filters — to disturb the high-quality minimalist signal path. Since there is no rumble-filter facility and this is a pressure-gradient microphone, proximity effect and LF vibrations could both cause problems. The latter is ameliorated by the included shockmount — an impressive elasticated cradle with two inner padded clamping rings to support the mic. A chunky 'paddle' enables the knuckle joint in the stand adaptor to be secured firmly.
The polar pattern of the Kiwi is controlled by a rotary switch on the rear of the microphone. Positions are marked for omni at the anticlockwise end, figure of eight at the clockwise end, and cardioid in the middle. There are also three intermediate positions between the cardioid and each end, so there is a high degree of precision and variation available here, with three subcardioid and three hypercardioid patterns in addition to the primary trio.
As with most multi-pattern mics, the frequency response varies slightly with different settings, as a result of combining the two capsule outputs. Most manufacturers gloss over this detail, but BLUE have made a point of explaining it in the handbook. The omni position has the flattest frequency response, with the more directional patterns losing a little top end, as well as incorporating a degree of bass boost through the proximity effect (depending on how close the microphone is to the sound source). In its omni mode, the mic has a very subtle slope to its response, rising gradually across the entire bandwidth such that the high end is 2-3dB higher than the level at 100Hz. The response is typically 2dB down at 20Hz and there are two very gentle presence peaks, one centred at about 2kHz (rising to +1.5dB) and a second centred around 12-14kHz (and peaking to about +3dB).
The Kiwi was designed for recording vocals, but its very wide frequency response and smooth larger-than-life sound make it ideal for all manner of acoustic instruments and percussion. You'll need a pop shield for recording vocals, which may detract from the Kiwi's good looks, so (for those with bottomless pockets!) BLUE offer a very expensive pop shield as an optional extra. It has a retro look which complements the mic itself. The handbook provides a lot of very practical advice on positioning the microphone for recording voices, acoustic guitars, piano, woodwind, brass, drums, and percussion. I tried it on a variety of sources, but mainly voices and a saxophone — and it was never less than sublime.
While it is usually the low end that differentiates mic preamps, it is always the high end that marks out a supreme microphone. The Kiwi is as smooth as silk — never harsh or aggressive — yet it is precisely detailed and has a very fast, accurate transient response. Whereas many mics have substantial presence peaks, the Kiwi's HF lift is very subtle and, as a result, I found the mic worked equally well on both male and female voices, combining a beautiful warmth with a clear airy top end, and lots of clarity in diction. It all translates to getting the sound right at source, and I found I didn't need to EQ the mic at all — any minor tonal changes could be effected by moving and pointing the mic, or by changing the polar pattern a couple of clicks.
It's easy to see why this is BLUE's solid-state flagship model — I can't fault it at all. However, its UK price puts it in the aspirational category for most of us. It's nice to dream though...