15 April 2013

REVIEW: Blue Tiki USB Microphone

Tiki look at this

Everybody has a podcast these days. If you are so compelled you can tune into and download a range of programmes from DIY advice, pet care, sci-fi theories and high altitude knitting. If you’ve got something you’re passionate about the chances are there will be someone out there that shares your interest and will subscribe. But if you want to stand out from the crowd with a high quality recording, while chatting to your neighbour about extreme knitting, you really ought to use the Tiki USB microphone from Blue.

Granted, everyone has a microphone. Most modern laptops come complete with a built-in mic, usually right next to the webcam. Although these are fine for quick chats over Skype they usually don’t have the muscle or capabilities to process prolonged and rich sounding vocals or speech. External Microphones have been available for computers for years now, but the Tiki seemed genuinely impressive - which is why we jumped at the chance to record ourselves making fart noises and listening back to them.

Out of the box the Tiki is small, sleek and very solidly built. Simply put it feels like you have purchased a quality product; from the tough metal grill of the Microphone itself, to the packaging that doubles as a carry case. Included along with the Tiki is a USB extender wire (presumably for use with desktop computers and awkward USB ports) and documentation.

Set up was as simple as plug and play - thankfully on both PC and Mac - and all the sound recording programmes we had discovered the Tiki immediately and offered us the chance to set the Mic as primarily input device. We think it looks rather attractive, with a subtle retro stylings, poking out the side of our laptops.

There are two modes by which the Tiki functions; natural recording mode and intelligent speech mode. Obviously natural mode is where the Mic just picks up everything it can hear and plows that sound into your programme to a very high quality. Intelligent speech mode is cleverer and we had some fun trying to catch it out. In this mode the Tiki will mute all recording when it cannot detect a human voice, and the sole LED on the Mic will intuitively change from blue (listening) to red (ignoring) as you speak.

We were extremely impressed with this handy function, especially how the Mic seemed to know when we were about to speak. This would be very useful during Skype conversations, as the Tiki would simply cut out when you or your partner were not speaking, removing the distracting hiss and whine you often get with internet chats. More the better to tell the random guy you've met over Chat-roulette to keep his pants on.

Changing modes on the Tiki is as easy as pressing the back part of the Mic, although we found it needed more than a simple 'touch' that the instructions suggest. Do be careful not to press too hard as we predict a slight risk of putting strain on the USB connector itself.

Using Audacity to test the Tiki on a PC - and also good old Garageband on a Mac - we found the sound quality captured was of a superb and extremely crisp quality. Not being musicians (although give us a pair of spoons and prepare to be amazed) we could only test the Mic with our voice boxes, but all speech recorded was clear, sharp, and in a room with several people speaking, easy to work out who was who.

Voice and video calling also came up trumps, with the Tiki performing incredibly on Skype, Yahoo Messenger and several online chat rooms. The headline is: it completely outstrips all built-in microphones.

So if you are precious about how you come across, be it in a pre-recorded podcast or a conversation over the internet (such as job interview, maybe), the Blue Tiki USB microphone should definitely be a consideration.

Around £40-50

© The Test Pit

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