Once known solely for their studio condenser microphones, BLUE has since spread out into other areas of the audio and video industry. Their enCORE products, for example, are bringing BLUE's solid reputation to the handheld stage microphone market.
This enCore 200 mic sits comfortably between the enCORE 100, a standard dynamic microphone, and the enCORE 300, a handheld condenser microphone. The 200 stands out from its brethren in that it is a dynamic microphone with active circuitry. As such, it requires 48V phantom power, so make sure your mixer or PA system supports this. If not, a standalone phantom power supply can be used. Why would a dynamic microphone have active circuitry? According to BLUE, it provides a more consistent sound over a typical dynamic mic, with a more favorable signal to noise ratio (SNR). BLUE's specs for the enCORE 200 also indicate an added 4 dB of output over it's passive sibling.
If you've used any of BLUE's studio condenser microphones, you
Mic In Hand
Pulling the enCORE 200 out of the box, it echoes the design standard of most handheld dynamic microphones. The woven metal grille is surrounded by a protective band to shield the capsule if the mic is dropped. The body of the mic is tapered to fit the hand comfortably. An orange indicator LED lights up when phantom power is applied. The box also contained the ubiquitous soft pouch and a flexible mic clip that is easily mounted on any mic stand. Unlike the more rigid mic clips I'm used to using, this one grips the enCORE 200 much tighter than I care for. It took some effort to unseat the mic once it was in there. It's definitely secure, but if you're a vocalist and you plan to pull the mic out of the clip during a performance, I can imagine this throwing you off your game. The problem was remedied in short order, as I always have some spare mic clips around, and the enCORE 200 interfaced adequately with one of those.
BLUE's specs show the enCORE 200 as weighing under one pound, but it felt very substantial in my hand. The tapered body is milled with a grooved texture, presumably to provide some extra traction during a sweaty performance. I didn't feel there was any danger in this mic slipping out of my hand, but I did find those grooves to be a potential source of handling noise if the performer is careless with the grip.
Check, One Two
While the enCORE 200 is designed for live performance, I felt a more controlled environment would provide a more accurate impression of this mic's capabilities. I simulated a typical live setup in my studio, free from any additional EQ or dynamics processing to establish an accurate baseline. First, I ran both the enCORE 200 and my go-to Shure SM58 into a dual-channel preamp to keep the signal paths as similar as I could (with the exception of the phantom power, of course). On a side by side vocal test (both male and female vocalists were used), I liked the enCORE 200 better. The higher frequencies were more articulate with the 200, and the overall response was much smoother. The proximity effect was easily controlled, lending a round, creamy richness to the bottom end. In the SM58's defense, it sounded very good as it always does. In fact, it's internal pop filter scored some points over the BLUE mic; I had to add an external pop shield to the enCORE 200 because the plosives were really prominent.
With the EQ flat, sibilance was a slight problem on both microphones. I added a de-esser across both mic channels and while both signals improved, I felt the enCORE mic responded to the processing in a more transparent way. With the Shure mic, the "S"-sound sizzle was reduced, but a vaguely metallic wheeze remained. I recorded this "flat" take, and after adding some EQ and dynamics back in, I was pretty happy with the sound. I'd have no problem using the enCORE 200 to record studio vocals.
Dynamic mics are often tasked to handle a variety of instrument sources both on stage and in studio. I tried the enCORE 200 on a guitar cabinet as well as some acoustic percussion and brass instruments, and got very useable results. Like an SM57 or a Beta 58, you'd do well to have a few 200's on hand in your mic locker for additional reinforcement. I paired it up with a BLUE BlueBird condenser mic, and got a really nice blend on a solo acoustic guitar. Soloing the tracks, either one on its own would have been usable, but the combination produced a complex character that I felt was greater than the sum of its parts.
Is the active circuitry, 1 kHz extension to the frequency response, and the few extra dB of gain worth the extra outlay of cash over the all-dynamic enCORE 100? I suppose it depends on your needs. For basic sound reinforcement, scratch vocal tracks, and other workmanlike audio tasks, the enCORE 100 is plenty sufficient. Still, I felt the slightly increased frequency range made a difference in many of the tests I ran, and the active circuitry has an added benefit of letting you use longer cable runs than you normally would with a standard dynamic mic. If I was beefing up my mic locker, I'd probably add a few of each.