Anyone who owns a computer and has a relatively soundproof place to play is well on the way to making slick home recordings. You’ve got a digital recorder with plenty of space to store components. Applications that allow you to overdub tracks and mix sound levels are inexpensive (or even free, as in the case of GarageBand, which comes packaged with many Apple devices). The only stumbling block has been getting your sound onto the hard drive through those tinny, built-in microphones that equip most desk- and laptops.
An eminent solution for self-recording pop star wannabes and underfunded podcasters is the Nessie, an adaptive USB microphone from Blue Microphones. This hot piece of equipment for the cool price of a hundred bucks takes your raw sound and automatically applies professional studio processing to create levels and nuances for all your recording needs. The Nessie, apparently so-named because its silhouette resembles popular renderings of the Loch Ness monster’s head sticking out of the water, starts with the professional quality recording capabilities of the Blue’s other mics, such as the Yeti and the Snowball, and adds a completely plug-and-play experience, with driverless installation on Mac or PC (even iPads with a camera adapter, sold separately) and compatibility with most recording software.
The studio processing for which you would otherwise need to manually adapt levels happens automatically when you choose voice or music mode. The company likens the experience to using a camera that automatically eliminates red-eye and adjusts focus. It applies the most commonly used professional enhancements. In voice mode, it adapts to the dynamics of the subjects whether loud and forceful or subtle, and the equalizer is fixed in something called “big vocal,” which enhances presence even with non-professional voices. A de-esser reduces harsh noises. Switch to the music mode and the equalizer opens up to a larger frequency and the de-esser is shut off in favor of a harmonic exciter. Similar to voice, the mode also adapts to loud and soft passages.
A third option, raw, allows the self-styled, home audio engineer to do all the adjusting himself. But, let’s face it, in this writer’s case, that’s a button that’s unlikely to ever be touched.
As much as real-time sound processing is a dream come true for the not-so-technically savvy, the hardware itself is some pretty formidable stuff. With sturdy stance and a hefty base, this mic is a solid piece of equipment. It includes a professional-grade pop filter and an internal shock mount. Switches and dials on the Nessie are also very easily adjustable by minute levels. And there’s an input for headphones, so you can play along with other tracks as you overdub and a six-foot USB cable.
Now all I need is some talent.