Blue Baby Bottle, May 2002

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Every microphone created by Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics
(BLUE) is a work of art, visually as well as sonically, so it's hardly
surprising that the company prefers designations such as Dragonfly,
Kiwi, Cactus and Bottle, rather than model numbers.

BLUE's latest is the silver and sparkly black-colored Baby Bottle.
Billed as a smaller and less sophisticated version of the company's
flagship, multi-capsule, tube Bottle, the Baby Bottle does look like a
diminutive version of its parent, but the two are actually quite
different. For starters, the Baby Bottle is not a tube mic; it employs
solid-state, Class-A discrete circuitry with a transformerless output.
The Baby Bottle has a fixed-cardioid pickup pattern and significantly
greater sensitivity than the Bottle.

The Baby Bottle uses an edge-terminated, single-membrane,
large-diaphragm capsule. The hand-built and hand-tuned capsule is
constructed using a 6-micron mylar film, sputtered with a combination
of (99% pure) 24-carat gold and aluminum, tensioned to a custom brass
backplate. As with the Bottle, the capsule is enclosed within a
lollipop spherical grille. Optional are a Baby Shock shockmount and a
Baby Pop metal-mesh windscreen. The mic includes a velvet pouch and a
classy cherry-wood box. As an added bonus, the manual is well-written
and full of useful information.

I used the Baby Bottle on several sessions, usually with an Aphex
Dual 1100 discrete Class-A tube preamp, but also with the pre's in my
Yamaha 03D digital mixer for comparison. JBL LSR28P near-fields were
used to monitor the direct signal and playback (ADAT and Digital

The first thing I noticed was that the Baby Bottle is extremely
quiet. (Self-noise is rated at 5.5 dB, A-weighted.) The next thing was
the mic's very high output level, considerably hotter than a typical
large-diaphragm condenser, providing lots of additional headroom.
Sonically, the Baby Bottle has a very full, rich sound, with a little
bump (at approximately 2 kHz) that slightly emphasizes upper mids. The
pickup pattern is fairly wide, with a very gradual loss of level as you
get further off-axis.

I used the Baby Bottle to record two female vocalists. The first

voice was not particularly rich or resonant, and though the mic sounded
very natural, it emphasized the already too prominent upper mids. On
the second richer voice, the Baby Bottle sounded considerably beefier,
delivering a warm but clear sound that made the vocalist sit up and
take notice. The Baby Bottle sounded even better on male vocals,
picking up the most subtle articulations and textural nuances, while
simultaneously delivering a full and well-balanced sound. However, the
proximity effect increases significantly at around
1 inch from the grille, so deeper voices need to be careful when
working close-in.

Next, I recorded several acoustic instruments. The Baby Bottle
sounded great on both steel and nylon-stringed acoustic guitars,
particularly when placed slightly off-axis and a few inches away from
the sound hole. The steel-string sounded especially nice, with an ideal
balance of lows and high mids, and just the right amount of finger
sound that adds presence and realism. The mic also sounded quite good
on autoharp and nickleharpa (an Eastern European bowed instrument that
uses levers to fret its many strings), both of which can be difficult
to record because of their complex harmonics.

The Baby Bottle also handled a variety of hand percussion
instruments quite well. One instrument in particular—a ceramic
doumbek with an unusual combination of high rim sounds and a massive
bottom end—was captured wonderfully, with both sounds blended in
perfect proportion. Last, but not least, the Baby Bottle did a fine job
on electric guitar. When placed against the grille of a Rivera R-112,
it performed equally well on both clean and distorted settings, and
placed about a foot back, it sounded fantastic, with just the right
blend of air and punch.

At $649, the Blue Baby Bottle is a tremendous value. It is an
extremely versatile and beautifully made microphone that's built to
last, and sounds as good as large-diaphragm condensers that cost much
more. If you are unfamiliar with BLUE microphones, then check out the
entire line to hear what all the fuss is about — and you might as
well begin with the Baby Blue.