BLUE Dragonfly, October 2000

CONDENSER MICROPHONE
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In recent years, BLUE (Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics) has
achieved recognition as a manufacturer of high-quality, handcrafted
microphones.

BLUE's latest offering, the Dragonfly, has a unique appearance and a
very functional architecture, consisting of a round, pivoting enclosure
housing the capsule. This enclosure rests on an integrated,
shockmounted cradle (with mic stand adapter) attached to its stem.

The Dragonfly is a pressure-gradient, cardioidcondenser design with a hand-crafted, 1-inch
diaphragm capsule with a single layer of 6-micron Mylar film sputtered
with a formulation of aluminum and pure gold. The electronics are Class
A discrete, with transformerless output. The mic's specs include a
sensitivity level rated at 21mV/Pa (1 kHz into 1 kOhm), while its max
SPL handling is a respectable 132 dB. The microphone has a 20 to 20k Hz frequency
response, a signal to noise ratio of 87 dB (DIN/IEC 651, A-weighted)
and self-noise of 7 dBA.

I checked out a pair of black-stemmed "standard issue" Dragonflies
and two of BLUE's 20-foot "Cranberry" high-definition cables. The
optional Cranberry cable employs a two-conductor, twisted-pair design
that rejects electro-magnetic interference. Gold-plated connectors
round out the feature set.

BLUE also markets an upgraded green-stemmed, matched pair of
Dragonfly mics on special order; these incorporate higher-grade
electronics, a slightly denser capsule backplate on the capsule and a
wood box. Unfortunately, the upgraded version of the mic can only be
purchased as a pair ($2,800). I'm confident many recording
professionals would gladly pay the difference for a single upgraded
"Dragonfly LE," if such a unit could be obtained.

Oddly, the "standard issue" Dragonfly does not use a gold-plated XLR connector, though the upgraded version does.
While this may not significantly impact signal quality, I can't help
but wonder why BLUE opted not to provide a connector on par with those
of the recommended cable.

IN SESSION
Setting up the Dragonfly requires removing two brass set screws from
the solid metal ring surrounding the grille. The screws secure the
capsule during shipment to help prevent damage, and you are encouraged
to replace them whenever the mic is stored.

The Dragonfly has a cardioid response and should be positioned so
the grille's shiny side faces the desired sound source.

The Dragonfly's horizontally pivoting capsule, combined with the
integrated shockmount support, allows the mic to be placed in an almost
infinite number of positions and is, without a doubt, one of its best
features. Inside the circular grille, a finely woven inner screen
protects the capsule from foreign elements and saliva.

I connected the Dragonfly through a Millennia HV-3B preamp and began
working on a dialog session. The Dragonfly is quite sensitive to the
letter "P" and other plosive sounds. For close proximity dialog work, a
sheer nylon pop filter is essential.

The ability to angle the capsule works wonders for this application.
After a bit of experimentation, the mic delivered outstanding takes
with plenty of depth and definition, while relatively free of any
undesired sibilance.

For vocal work, I followed the recommendation of the Dragonfly's
user guide. With the talent positioned roughly five inches directly in
front of the mic, a slight upward angle of the capsule captured greater
dynamic contrast during those "belting" portions of the hook. The
Dragonfly has a fairly broad on-axis range, enabling one to position
sound sources at various degrees off-center. This can help compensate
for an understated midrange response; but more on that in a moment.
With both dialog and vocal work, the Dragonfly was terrific at
reproducing the articulation, and playback was every bit as easy to
understand as the original performance.

The Dragonfly is not entirely transparent—there is a definite
coloration to its sound. The mic delivers a very full, rich bottom end
with a high end that borders on the bright side. There's a low-end bump
around 90 Hz and another bump about 14 kHz. The midrange, while not
bland, is not as emphasized as the high- and low-frequency ranges.

I had a pair of Dragonflies and was eager to try them as drum
overheads. The mics' emphasized low- and high-frequency ranges make
these exceptional for this application, yielding a detailed drum sound
with plenty of low-end kick and high-end cymbal character. Further, the
stereo imaging was another pleasant surprise. As the drummer played
across multiple tom-toms, I could gain a sense of movement through the
stereo field.

Given its ability to handle relatively high SPLs, I also tried the
Dragonfly on a snare drum and a bongo drum. The sharp attack transients
of these instruments can push a mic to the brink of distortion, but the
Dragonflies offered ample headroom and their sound was dead-on
accurate.

I also recorded electric and acoustic guitars, but with mixed
results. With the electric guitar, the mic was exceptional. Placed
approximately 15 inches directly in front of the speaker cabinet, but
at a slight angle, the Dragonfly delivered all the nuances and
aggressiveness of the guitarist's rock performance. Further, the entire
recording had a wonderful sheen to it.

However, for acoustic guitar, the Dragonfly would not be my first
choice. Due to the accentuated low and high end, the acoustic guitar
was unnaturally big at the low end. While the mic's brightness didn't
bother me with higher-pitched notes, the guitar's overtones lacked the
subtlety of the original performance.

THOROUGHLY MODERN MIC
Despite the Dragonfly's unorthodox appearance, this is a thoroughly
modern microphone capable of delivering stellar results - but be
prepared to experiment with positioning. While useful results may not
come as easily as with other designs, the ability to position the
capsule at so many angles relative to a sound source opens up a world
of sonic opportunity.

All things considered—and even without a gold-plated XLR
output—the BLUE Dragonfly is an exceptional mic exhibiting
outstanding workmanship and capable of producing superb results. Though
not particularly transparent, Dragonfly is great for pop/rock/R&B
vocals, dialog work and recording percussion or other instruments with
high SPLs. Priced at $1,199, Dragonfly is well within the financial
reach of project and commercial studios seeking a truly professional,
versatile microphone.

BLUE Microphones, www.bluemic.com