Snowball iCE

The Snowball ICE is a stripped down version of the earlier released Snowball.

Although the Snowball is very affordable it includes features many solo podcasters and gamers will rarely if ever use. Blue recognized this and released ICE to shave down the MSRP.

If you’re a musician the choice is easy. The Snowball has an omnidirectional cardioid setting that allows you to pick up everything surrounding the mic, not just sounds in front of it. This can be used creatively to record room ambiance or to capture several instruments at once. Additionally it has a cardioid with -10dB pad setting so you can record loud guitars, drums, etc. These features are absent from the ICE.

For podcasters who want to do interviews or record commentary with more than one person speaking, the original Snowball is still the way to go since it has omnidirectional capability.

Gamers opting to ditch their headset are the only audience I recommend the Snowball ICE to. The original Snowball’s switching features are useless in this application.

Even if you hardly use omnidirectional mode or the -10dB pad, it’s well worth the small premium. Plus it will give you room to grow, as you never know if a friend might want to join in or if you’ll become interested in new recording methods as you gain experience.

Snowball and Snowball ICE sound the same and record at the same bit rate, 16-bit, 44.1kHz. For more detail on sound quality and features common to both USB microphones, read my review of the Snowball.

Oddly, Amazon.com is doing its own thing and has priced the ICE above the Snowball, at least at the moment. Unless the ICE is at least $10 cheaper, there’s no reason even those with the most basic needs should choose it over the Snowball.

Budding podcasters and musicians often have a tough time choosing between the Blue Yeti and its smaller cousin the Snowball. It’s a strange phenomenon because these mics couldn’t be more different in terms of design. The Yeti is a heavy, butt-kicking USB microphone while the Snowball looks like a prop in an old science fiction flick. Regardless, let the games begin.

Recording Settings

First off, the Yeti and Snowball are more flexible than any other USB mics released yet (beside the Yeti Pro). This is because they offer a number of recording modes while others merely have a cardioid pattern that accepts sound from up front.

With the Yeti you have four settings you can switch between: stereo, cardioid, omnidirectional and bidirectional. This opens up a lot possibilities for recording. You can do everything from record a one-on-one interview with just one mic or capture all the sounds in the room in 360 degrees; for full descriptions of what each recording mode does, read my Blue Yeti review.

The Snowball has three settings: cardioid, cardioid with a -10db PAD (for recording loud drums or guitars), plus omnidirectional. I describe these in more detail in my Blue Snowball review.

So in terms of flexibility the Yeti wins but the Snowball is certainly no slouch. If you only plan on recording your voice head-on, all this may be gravy. So you might be leaning toward the Snowball if you don’t plan on getting fancy.

Design and Functionality

Design-wise the Snowball is very neat looking an innovative. However, practicality suffers. There is a certain degree of awkwardness in speaking into a globe the size of a softball. The stand it comes with is fairly cheap and it can be difficult to make height adjustments stay up. On the plus side I like reaching for the Snowball for recording guitar cabinets. You need a boom stand to do this properly anyway.

The Yeti is absolutely tops for voice-overs and podcasting from your desk. It might now look quite as quirky as the Snowball but it is definitely more functional in terms of ergonomics. It includes a very heavy, nice quality desk stand that is highly usable. It’s nice to have physical knobs to tweak right on the mic. However I wish they weren’t so loose feeling.

Sound Quality

The Snowball is a good-sounding USB microphone with some flaws. Firstly, it can be a challenge to pull the gain up when you have a speaker (or singer) that is very quiet. Secondly, turning up the gain on the device results in a fair bit of background noise. To be fair software updates have improved the gain limitations but performance is still mediocre.

The Yeti sounds similar to the Snowball without the excessive noise. Pumping up the gain isn’t a problem with the Yeti. Blue definitely used better electronics and it shows in the details. Sample rate is limited to 16-bit/48 kHz. It would be nice if it could go up to 24-bit recording. Sadly, you have to step up to the Yeti Pro to get that.

Review Verdict

Overall the Yeti is the better mic. It has more recording options, is more practical for vocals, voice-overs etc and it is better constructed. Most importantly there is less noise when recording. Out of the box it excels as a broadcast style mic because the included stand rocks.

The Snowball is way cool but it strikes me as a novelty product. There is no functional reason for it to look like an orb. It’s design for the sake of design. The sound is good but not quite at the level of the Yeti due to noise issues. Gain limitations are fine for recording instruments and loud guitar cabinets but not ideal for voices. Grab it up if you are short on cash.