Baltic Latvian Universal Electronics (B.L.U.E.) is now shipping its
Kiwi multipattern studio condenser mic. B.L.U.E.'s top-of-the-line,
solid-state microphone, Kiwi retails at $2,299 and comes complete with
“The Shock,” a robust shock-mount that resembles an
optional $400 unit designed for certain high-end European mics, and a
wooden storage box. However, this is no copycat product: Kiwi offers
world-class performance yet has a distinctive character all its own.
And it looks like no other mic.
True to their name, B.L.U.E. mics are hand-built in Riga, Latvia.
Kiwi's attractive green body houses modern, transformer-less
electronics—a Class-A, all-discrete design (no ICs here!), using
high-quality components such as metal film resistors. The approach is
minimalist; the signal path has no attenuation pads or low-cut filters that could
compromise the signal.
The capsule is modeled after the B6 capsule that's included in
B.L.U.E.'s high-end Bottle microphone but in a multipattern version
using that same large-diaphragm, dual-backplate design. A switch on the
backside of the mic body provides settings for cardioid, omni or figure-8, as well as three
intermediate settings between each, for a total of nine patterns. In
addition to the outboard shock-mount, Kiwi's capsule is mounted on a
rubber stem, providing near-total isolation from external vibration and
rumblings. This internal mount allows so much flex that the mic
includes three hold-down screws to protect the capsule by locking it in
place during shipping.
Although useful for various studio tasks, Kiwi is designed with
vocals in mind. Both the cardioid and the figure-8 patterns are
well-defined and fairly tight, and in most vocal applications, a click
or two away from these end positions on the pattern wheel provided a
wider splay for singers that move around while performing.
While tracking lead vocals in cardioid or figure-8, I found the proximity effect added a round fullness up close,
but the capsule is extremely sensitive to vocal pops. Here, either a
stocking-type screen or the way-cool “The Pop” optional
($200!) stainless steel clip-on pop filter is essential. Once you find
the exact sweet spot for a full sound without breath noise, the Kiwi is
sweet. The mic has a wide, smooth presence boost that starts about at
6.5 kHz with a +3dB peak around 12 kHz that's particularly nice on
male lead vocals; this boost also adds a nice airiness to male and
female background tracks. Kiwi's far from flat, but it adds punch,
clarity and a low-end warmth on both spoken and singing tracks—a
trait that both male and female vocalists liked. I had to agree.
This same upper presence bump that I liked on vocals gave a nice
emphasis to tenor sax, although it was too much on clarinet—here,
a ribbon mic was a better choice. Overall, the mic
is fairly bright, and when recording acoustic guitar, some
experimentation with placement is necessary. On a Gibson J-160E
acoustic, positioning the mic between the bridge and the soundhole
seemed to work the best on solo work, while moving toward the neck
offered a brighter sound that kept the guitar from getting lost in a
Kiwi was ideal on all kinds of percussion (assuming the drummer is
under control) and delivers tons of transients and punch on timbales,
while offering a clean, detailed sound on a brushed snare. I only had
one mic to test, but given the top-end response, I think two Kiwis
would be really nice as an overhead pair. In omni, this detail makes
Kiwi a great choice as a room mic, as it captures nuances with less
coloration than the other patterns.
I used a variety of preamps—both stock console and
outboard—with Kiwi, but I preferred it with the Aphex Model 1100,
a tube model with a phenomenal -135dBu EIN spec that really lets you know if the mic
electronics are clean or not. Kiwi passed this test without any
problems; in fact, its low-noise (8dBa) performance was perfect for
recording low-SPL sources like acoustic guitar harmonic grace notes.
This, with its impressive ability for detail and multipattern
versatility, makes Kiwi a natural choice for Foley applications. I
could definitely find space in my mic locker for a Kiwi or two!
B.L.U.E. Microphones, www.bluemic.com