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To truly take advantage of computer-based communications such as VoIP and Skype, you'll eventually want to invest in a decent USB microphone. Unlike those cheap microphones that plug into your desktop computer's mic input, or the noisy microphone built into your laptop, a quality USB microphone like the Snowflake ($79) can make you sound like a million bucks.
It's easy to find USB microphones that are a better value than the Blue Microphones Snowflake, but what makes the Snowflake something special is its luxurious and portable design that looks like it fell from the pages of Dick Tracy. The Snowflake can be positioned in two ways: loosely hung over a laptop screen or resting on a tabletop. In either orientation, an included 3-foot USB cable runs from the back of the microphone to your computer. Beneath the Snowflake's metal J-shaped stand lies a detachable hollow plastic base used to store the USB cable when not in use. The Snowflake's microphone capsule swivels 360 degrees on its base, and can collapse into a portable 3-inch by 2-inch block.
The Snowflake's opulent design lies in stark contrast to the bare bones simplicity of its features. There are no settings to adjust on the Snowflake, no software control panels, and no drivers to install. To use the Snowflake, all you need to do is plug it into your computer's USB port, designate it as an audio input in your system preferences, and you're ready to record or stream audio to whatever application you prefer (none are included with the microphone). The Snowflake is universally compatible with both Mac and PC computers and records at a maximum resolution of 44.1kHz at 16-bits.
The Snowflake's microphone is fixed in a mono-cardioid recording pattern that works best with audio sources placed no more than arm's length in front of it. Although the limited throw of the Snowflake's microphone produces relatively clean and noise-free recordings, those of you who prefer to pace the room while you talk are better off investing in a noise-canceling microphone or Bluetooth headset.
During testing, using the Snowflake over Skype produced noticeably better voice quality than our MacBook's built-in microphone. The Snowflake's superior voice quality is characterized by a smoother sound with a significantly reduced noise floor. Musicians interested in a computer recording solution won't be blown away by the Snowflake's fidelity when held up to a more sonically flexible, non-USB microphone, such as the Sony ECM-MS907. On-the-go musicians, however, might value the Snowflake's portability, style, and ruggedness in spite of its modest recording quality.