Building Microphones is like writing songs. You have an idea and direction and then you get started. Sometimes it happens very quickly and other times you labor to get through it. I have found merit in both, but it all comes from the place as that you have something to say.
I was once on a panel of so called audio experts, which included several from other microphones companies. One of the experts was keen on pointing out that his company microphones could record the sound of a Stradivarius accurately. He then pointed out that Blue did not follow this process as we created different sonic signatures for our products that were not flat or uncolored in engineering terms. I thought about this for a moment and then asked the 400 or so people in the audience to raise their hand if anyone owned a Stradivarius Violin. No hands went up. I then asked if anyone knew someone that owned one, no hands. I then asked if anyone knew what a Stradivarius Violin was, a dozen or so hands.
Alright I said, who owns an Acoustic Guitar? Allot of hands, went up. “we make a microphone tailored for that sound” Who owns a Piano? A lot more hands, “we make a mic tailored for that too, Who owns a Drum set? again more hands, We also make mics tailored to this as well. I then looked over at the audio expert and explained that I have no doubt that if replicating the exact sound of a Stradivarius is your need your companies product would be a great choice, but we at Blue will continue to create products for the majority of people in the room.
Sound is an opinion. What is good for others may not be good for you. However what I found to be the path of success is when 9 out o 10 people say I like what you are doing. I will take those odds any day.
The Microphone capsule is the most important element creating the sound of the microphone. In the studio I was having issue with getting the individual recorded tracks to sit well to together for a final mix. This is the process where you take all your recorded information and render it down to a stereo recording for Album or CD playback. If I had to EQ to the track to get what I was looking for it created phase problems which resulted in a individual track that fought with other tracks.
When film was the key element to a camera, the photographer would often manipulate the analogue film to create a larger than life image. This could be done as an example by manipulating the aperture settings. Of course there were many others ways to color
the image to create a vision that was unique, different and pleasing. The same is true with film used on on a microphone capsule. If stretched or sputtered with different alloys you can create a sonic image that is pure and unique. But most of all pleasing to the ear minus the annoying phase issues that can occur when over processing.
Martins Saulespurens my partner and co-founder created a capsule design that allowed us to tension and tune the film on the fly. This was based on us one day discussing a drum called the Roto Tom. Martins too is a musician like me and plays the drums. He was all to familiar with this product which appeared in the market during the 1970’s. The Roto Tom if turned clockwise or counter clock wise would loosen or tight the skin of the drum creating new tunings. We found this coupled with choice of film and other technical designs of the capsule back-plate we could create an endless array of sonic signatures. These timbres were designed to bring out the best in signal sources such as voice and instruments. We would set up the mic on the signal source and tension one the capsule till we found the so called “Sweet Spot” where the source/instrument became alive. We then would document this tuning and it’s qualities with the use of a sophisticated computer program. From this we were able to create a line of products representing various sonic signatures like a palate of colors an artist would paint with. Our goal was to create the tools necessary to help the artist of engineer achieve their vision
I believe In my life time I will not see the value of microphones being diminished any time soon. They are unique analogue devices, devoid of the ever changing digital technologies of today. Of course if some figures out how to plug a USB cable in to your larynx, well then.
Blue Microphones has always been about solving problems. In the studio Martins witnessed the difficulties we were having just to get set up to record. As an example the drummer would always arrive ahead of the other musicians at the start of a a session. After setting up his kit, which takes time we would then place microphones on all the drums and cymbals and start to get sound. This involved the drummer having to bang on his kick drum for 10 minutes or so as the engineer would equalize the microphone to get the exact sound we were looking for. This would then continue to all the other drums such as the snare, upper toms, floor toms, cymbal overheads etc. By the time this process was completed the poor guy was exhausted and still needed to be able to be his best for the actual recording.
Our goal at Blue was to minimize this experience so that set up was quick and the musician could concentrate on his or her performance which in the long run is what really mattered. We created a series of microphones that once put up quickly required little or no time to process and timbre was what we wanted. Well it turned out we weren’t the only ones facing these issues experienced by the success of the products and the foundation of Blue was then solidified. To this day it seems endless, just like writing songs how many problems can be solved in audio with a well thought-out microphone, and the look of the product. Look you may ask….
Well, were all unique in our own way, you look like you, I look like me and a Blue Microphone looks like Blue Microphone. It was and will and always be important that we are true to the image of the product. Ken Niles our Art Czar” who has been with us since the beginning has helped forged a path through his marketing creativity. Along with my sense of design from the Art Deco era and all the influences Martins brings from his European Latvian heritage, we have created a company that is quite different from all others in the microphone design and manufacturing arena. When we release a new product I love the fact that everyone in our industry seems to know it’s from us. This is a tribute to all the hard working people at Blue that have contributed to the unique brand identity that is Blue Microphones today.