In-depth Comparison of Snowball vs. Snowball iCE

In-depth Comparison of Snowball vs. Snowball iCE

Are you a podcaster or video content creator looking to make your first microphone purchase?

Are you lost in the sea of differences between affordable microphones such as the closely-related Blue Snowball and Blue Snowball iCE?

I don’t blame you. For those who don’t know much about microphones and sound recording, finding the right microphone at the right price can be tricky.

I’ve seen this over and over again in my 20+ years as a musician. Even when you manage to narrow it down to the Blue Snowball and the Blue Snowball iCE, you still may be unsure about which one you should get.

It sounds like you need a Blue Snowball Vs. Blue Snowball iCE in-depth comparison. Don’t worry, I’m here to help!

Read on for direct comparisons, explanation of features, and overview of each microphone.

Main Differences

In this section, we will go over the differences between the two microphones and how these differences can be applied to their usage.  We’ll explain for you all these complicated features in real-world applications and in a way anyone can understand even without a degree in sound engineering.

Pros And Cons

Here is a quick table containing the pros and cons of each product. This chart can be used as a summary of everything we’ll discuss in detail.

Blue Snowball
Blue Snowball USB Microphone (Gloss Black)
Snowball iCE
Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid - Black
Pros
Pros

1. Nice sound quality

2. Easy to use with Mac or Windows

3. Small, light, and portable

4. 3 polar pattern selections

5. Affordable

1. Nice sound quality

2. Easy to use with Mac or Windows

3. Small, light, and portable

4. VERY Affordable

Cons
Cons

1. Doesn’t handle louder sounds well

2. Plastic is tough, but not compared to metal

1. Doesn’t handle medium-loud sounds well

2. Plastic is tough, but not compared to metal

3. No pattern selection

Blue Snowball
Blue Snowball USB Microphone (Gloss Black)
Pros

1. Nice sound quality

2. Easy to use with Mac or Windows

3. Small, light, and portable

4. 3 polar pattern selections

5. Affordable

Cons

1. Doesn’t handle louder sounds well

2. Plastic is tough, but not compared to metal

Snowball iCE
Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid - Black
Pros

1. Nice sound quality

2. Easy to use with Mac or Windows

3. Small, light, and portable

4. VERY Affordable

Cons

1. Doesn’t handle medium-loud sounds well

2. Plastic is tough, but not compared to metal

3. No pattern selection

You can see from the pros and cons that the two microphones are extremely similar. That’s because the iCE is a stripped-down version of the Snowball proper.

Blue markets the Snowball as an affordable professional microphone and the Snowball iCE is marketed as the amateur option for the Snowball.

Difference In Features

In this section, we dig into the details of the features and specifications for each microphone. The pros and cons were pulled from these specs and from the user experience.

We’ll start with a quick comparison chart of the two products and their features.

Note: Including in the table are some hints for how the features affect the use of the microphones. These are in parentheses below the spec.

For more details on what the specs entail, read the section following this table.

FeaturesBlue SnowballBlue Snowball iCE
Sample Rate44.1 kHz

(How often it gathers sound information)
44.1 kHz

Polar PatternsCardioid, Cardioid with -10dB, Omnidirectional

(More choices for where to collect sound from)

Cardioid


Frequency Response 40Hz – 18kHz


How high and low the pitch the mic will pick up)
40HZ – 18kHz
Dimensions w/ stand 325 mm sphere


(Small shape, easily portable)
325 mm sphere
Weight460 g


(Lightweight, easily portable)
460 g
CompatibleMac, Windows (7,8,10)

(Works with all newer operating systems)
Mac, Windows (7,8,10)

Material
High-quality plastic

(More prone to breaking when dropped)
High-quality plastic
CostLow- Medium
Low


(More Affordable)
Ports/Output USB mini B, USB 2.0 (3.0 backwards)



(How you connect to computer)
USB 2.0, (3.0 backwards)
SelectorsPolar Pattern

(More control and fine-tuning sound)
None


Microphone Type Condenser

(Common for studio microphones)
Condenser
Bit Rate 16-bit


(Most Effective Bit Rate)
16-bit


Max SPL 120dB

(How loud the sound can be before the microphone is peaked or distorts)
120 dB

Note: You’ll notice a lot of the features are the same, but that’s because the Blue Snowball iCE is a more affordable and stripped-down version of the Blue Snowball.

Features Explained

In this section, we explain what each of these features is and how they may affect the use of the microphone. For those who don’t want to learn more about microphones in general, feel free to skip to the overview sections for details on each microphone.

Sample Rate

When talking about sample rate, you’re referring to how often per second a sound is sampled. As a generalization, the higher a sample rate, the more clear the sound.

This is, of course, with all other features being equal.

In this instance, both Snowball and iCE have the same sample rate, so you would expect the sound quality to be close to the same.

Polar Patterns

In the sound world, polar patterns are how microphones pick up sound. Not all microphones pick up sound from every direction, and polar patterns tell how you from which directions they do.

The more polar patterns available, the more versatile a microphone is.

The most common type of polar pattern is the cardioid pattern. This pattern picks up all sound from the front of the microphone.

For more details, take a look at the Blue Snowball overview below.

It’s here the Snowball really shines over the iCE. The iCE is locked in at cardioid, but Snowball has three different options.

Frequency Response

The frequency response of a microphone is a range of pitches. Pitch refers to high and low (not loud and soft), so a large frequency response range means the microphone can capture more sounds.

It also picks up any sympathetic vibrations inside the range as well. For example, the bass may be playing low pitches, but due to the way sound works, it’s also putting out unhearable vibrations at higher pitches that still add to the quality of the sound.

In layman’s terms, a wider frequency response captures the sound closer to how it would sound in person. More depth and better quality come from a wider frequency range.

For these microphones, the ranges are identical and in-line with professional-grade microphones.

Dimensions w/ stand

It is important to consider the size of the microphone. This feature isn’t a deal-breaker when all things are considered, but it may be enough to tip the scales in favor of one mic.

However, with these two microphones, they’re the exact same size and design. These microphones are quite small and compact which makes them great as a travel mic for the podcaster on the go.

Weight

Similar to dimensions, weight impacts the portability of a microphone. Both of these microphones weigh the same, and they’re very lightweight.

This makes them great, again, for traveling.

Compatible

With the advent of the computer age, the microphone has kept pace right along with it. However, not every microphone is equally compatible with every operating system.

But these Blue microphones are both completely compatible with any modern Mac or Windows operating system.

Even better, both microphones are “plug and go.” This means you don’t need to download anything at all to use them.

Material

Microphones are often made of plastic or metal to some degree.

Metal microphones are tougher and usually considered to record sound with better quality than plastic. On the downside, they tend to cost more than plastic.

Plastic microphones, in general, are cheaper and may have more selection options but sacrifice some sound quality and durability.

Both the Blue Snowball and Snowball iCE are made from reinforced plastic. They’re definitely a step above in plastic design, but they will break if dropped a lot.

Cost

In this area, there’s a big difference between the microphones.

For those on a budget, keep in mind what you’re willing to spend. If you don’t have a lot of needs, it’s OK to buy the cheaper option.

However, if you like to tweak the sound, go for something a bit more pricey.

Both Snowball and iCE are affordable, but the iCE is a good amount cheaper (unless one’s on sale, so make sure to check that price on Amazon).

Ports/Output

Ports/Output on a microphone can also be really important to its use. In the case of these two microphones, however, their output is exactly the same.

Both of these products use the USB 2.0 connection to computers (the 3.0 is also compatible by ways of backward compatibility.)

USB microphones have a reputation for being very easy to use but may cost some sound quality at the end of the day when compared to other outputs such as the 3-pin XLRM.

Selectors

Having more selectors on a microphone means that you have more control in the sound and how it’s recorded. Selectors can include many different things including these common items:

  • Volume
  • Mute
  • Gain
  • Polar Pattern Selection
  • On/off
  • Channel

Selectors won’t make or break a microphone, but the more choices you have the more expensive they tend to be.

The Blue Snowball offers one selector to control the polar patterns. The Snowball iCE as nothing.

Microphone Type

Microphone types come in two varieties: condenser and dynamic.

Dynamic microphones are most common for live performances and don’t always focus on recording sound quality, but they would rather focus on projection of sound.

Both of the Snowball microphones are condenser types. These are favorites for studio recordings.

In general, condenser microphones have a larger frequency response, better ability to record loud sounds in small spaces, and delicate machinery and options.

Bit Rate

Both Snowball and Snowball iCE are 16-bit microphones. In one second, they sample the sound 65,536 times.

There is a higher bit rate (24-bit is the highest currently), but, as of the time of this writing, 16-bit is considered the most effective.

The reasoning behind this is that the technology we use to listen to music can’t handle 24-bit sound. So even if something went through the more expensive effort of recording at 24-bit, it would be condensed into 16-bit.

Why do all that work if it’s just going to be wasted? Current industry standards just stick to 16-bit.

Max SPL

Sound pressure level (SPL) is the highest decibel amount a single mic can record before the recording is distorted.

If the max SPL is higher, this means the microphone can handle louder sounds. Both Snowball and iCE match in this category.

If there was one weakness in the Snowball line, it would be this one. For those of you planning on recording louder sounds (such as a band), you may want to try a different microphone.

For a comparison of the two microphones side by side and their quality, check out this video by a podcaster.

 

Overview Of The Blue Snowball

Sale
Blue Snowball USB Microphone (Gloss Black)
  • Transducer type: Condenser, pressure gradient with USB digital output
  • Polar patterns: Omndirectional or cardioid
  • Frequency response: Position 1-3: 40-18kHz
  • Sample/Word rate: 44.1kHz/16-bit
  • Weight: 460g; Dimensions: 325mm (circumference); Gloss black finish

The Blue Snowball is Blue’s entry-level professional recording microphone. Its strengths are good sound quality recording, portable design, and entry level selector options at an affordable price.

In this section, we’ll breakdown the Blue Snowball and offer suggestions as to who should consider buying it.

Materials/Design

The Snowball is made of plastic, but it still is a durable model. The plastic is reinforced and the spherical design helps it absorb impact from accidental drops.

However, the tripod stand is really short. You may find yourself bending over to put your mouth near the microphone if recording a podcast.

But the tripod legs are durable and adjustable. This helps the mic balance properly on most surfaces.

On the front of the microphone is a decorative “Blue” label, which actually helps give the mic a real classy look.

But the strongest aspect of the design is its portability. As a sphere of small size, it fits safely in most bags and is very light to carry around on trips.

Ports/Output

The Snowball connects directly to computers through a USB 2.0 port. This makes it simple to use with any sound recording program (no adapters needed).

Other than that, there aren’t any other port options on this model.

Note: USB 3.0 also works because of backward compatibility.

Selectors/Options

The only selector option available on the Snowball is a 3 polar pattern selector. This selector is labeled “1,2,3” which refers to three options it offers.

The three polar pattern options for the Blue Snowball are:

  • Cardioid – In this pattern, the sound is picked up from in front of the microphone. This is the general best polar pattern for pretty much everything.
  • Cardioid with -10db – In this option, you still pick up all sounds from in front of the microphone, but it limits the volume level it’s picking up. In other words, this option adapts louder sounds to record without peaking or distorting.
  • Omnidirectional – With this pattern, the sound is recorded from every direction. If you podcast with guests or record meetings with several people, the omnidirectional choice works well for a single mic in the middle of a round table discussion.

 

This is the biggest difference between the Blue Snowball and the Blue Snowball iCE. While the Snowball offers three good choices for polar patterns, the iCE offers nothing.

Computer Compatibility

The Blue Snowball works with Mac and Windows 7,8, and 10. It’s a plug and go microphone, so no downloaded drivers are needed.

It’s been reported that some of the other versions of Windows besides those three do work but have occasional glitches.

Sound Quality

For sound quality, the Blue Snowball does a great job recording the quality of someone’s voice well. Though the microphone may not compare to some higher-end products from Blue, you won’t notice a huge difference in the sound of your voice or a single (quieter instrument).

You can record middle-sized groups with decent sound if choosing the Cardioid – 10db option for polar patterns.

The biggest of the microphone’s sound quality is going to be recording louder sounds without peaking.

However, all in all, it’s considered status as the entry professional-level mic is well-deserved.

Who’s This Mic For?

This microphone can be used by all, but you may find the most success in the following situations:

  • Podcasters
  • YouTube creators focused on voice recording
  • Podcaster in groups
  • Single instrument recordings
  • Recording meetings

Overview Of The Blue Snowball iCE

Sale
Blue Snowball iCE Condenser Microphone, Cardioid - Black
  • Custom condenser capsule offers crystal clear audio for Skype, Messages and FaceTime
  • Record vocals, create podcasts, and add narration to your home movies
  • Add crystal clear audio to recordings for YouTube. Frequency Response: 40 –18 kHz
  • Easy plug and play directly to your Mac or PC-no drivers to install
  • Snowball iCE is a USB 2.0 device (USB 3.0 compatible as per USB 3.0 backward compatibility specification).Sample/word Rate: 44.1 kHz/16 bit

The Blue Snowball iCE is similar in many ways to the Blue Snowball. While the Snowball is marketed as the entry-level professional microphone, the iCE is the step-down version of this model.

As such, it’s much cheaper but misses one important feature. Use this breakdown to help you decide if the iCE is right for your situation.

Materials/Design

Although plastic has a reputation for being more breakable, the reinforced plastic of the iCE and spherical give it some durability, especially from accidental drops.

The short tripod the mic stands on may be difficult to reach naturally if your table is low. But the legs are quite tough.

Each leg is adjustable to fit different spaces you may have to use it with securely. This does prevent some chances of bumping and dropping.

As far as style goes, the iCE is a small, spherical shape with a sleek “Blue” label on the front.

Its best design feature is its portability. The sphere microphone is small and easy to store. On top of this, it’s very light and can be carried quite easily.

Ports/Output

Similar to the Snowball, the iCE also uses the USB 2.0 port. When it comes to simple plugging into the microphone, it doesn’t get any easier.

Other than this, there aren’t any other ports on the Blue Snowball iCE.

Note: USB 3.0 also works because of backward compatibility.

Selectors/Options

This is the main area of difference between the Snowball and the Snowball iCE.

While the Snowball has a selector with three polar pattern options, the iCE doesn’t have any selectors available. What you see is what you get.

As such, the microphone is locked in with the cardioid polar pattern. The pattern picks up sound from in front of the microphone.

As a recording microphone, this is the generally accepted most effective pattern for most scenarios.

However, other pattern options would help in different situations and pick more precisely the sound you’re looking for.

On the plus side, the absence of any selectors strips some of the needed hardware from the microphone making it cheaper to produce and cheaper to buy.

In fact, if you aren’t planning on using any kind of polar pattern selection at all, the iCE is by far the better choice because of the money you’ll save.

On the other hand, if you want these options, the iCE may disappoint you.

Computer Compatibility

As with the Snowball, the iCE is compatible with Mac and Windows 7, 8, and 10.

The microphone requires no drivers to be downloaded. All you need to do is plug it in, and it works.

Despite what Blue claims though, users have reported some glitches when using this microphone with Window operating systems outside the three listed above.

Sound Quality

The Blue Snowball iCE shines well when recording someone’s voice or a quieter solo instrument.

The frequency range and sample rate are solid and up to many professional industry standards. You’ll be surprised at the quality for the price you’ll pay.

It may not compare as well with higher-end microphones, but you’ll also be paying a lot less.

Where this iCE struggles for sound quality is from louder groups or sounds. Without the option to choose a different polar pattern and a lower Max SPL, the microphone is going to peak much quicker than the Snowball.

All in all, for what many amateurs and some cheaper professional microphones do, this affordable mic hangs in there with the best of them.

Who’s This Mic For?

Anyone can use this microphone, but it may work best in these specific kinds of situations:

  • Amateur podcasters
  • Travel microphone
  • Podcaster with one guest
  • Amateur YouTube creators focused on voice recording
  • Single instrument recordings
  • Amateur sound engineering in general

The Verdict

I hope you found this Blue Snowball Vs. Blue Snowball iCE in-depth comparison helpful.

When it comes to actual sound recording, their quality is about the same. The biggest difference comes down to price and polar pattern selections.

For those who want a little more from a mic, pay the extra cash to get the Blue Snowball. For this extra money, you get a selection of three different polar patterns.

If you’re an amateur or just getting into sound recording, the Blue Blue Snowball iCE is the “step-down” model without pattern selection.

Here are some related article you may be interested in:

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