For the last couple of years, I've been hearing good things about the Audix Fireball microphone from players such as Damien Masterson, Mike Stevens and Richard Hunter, so I was quite excited to get the opportunity to test the Audix Fireball V. I was not disappointed!
Like the original Fireball, the Fireball V looks like rather like an SM58 that has had most of the body chopped off, making it more comfortable to use than a regular vocal mic. In fact, it came about as a result of feedback from players who loved the Audix OM2, but wanted something a little easier to hold. It measures about four inches long, two inches in diameter at the business end and weighs about five ounces (140g). It is a low impedance dynamic mic with a cardioid pick-up pattern and a frequency range of 50Hz - 16kHz. Most impressively of all, it is designed to handle sound pressure levels of more than 140dB. Output is via a standard male XLR connector. The "V" in this model's name designates the presence of a volume control, something the original Fireball didn't have, plus it also has an improved bass response compared with the original model and weighs a little less. Better still, it is slightly cheaper than the original Fireball.
This is an extremely versatile microphone that is comfortable to hold and produces a clear, full sound with chromatics and diatonics in all ranges. It perhaps might not be the best choice of microphone for a hardcore Chicago blues player, but for jazz or country it would be perfect and I am not surprised to learn that legendary session man Tommy Morgan and Willie Nelson's harp player Mickey Raphael are both fans of the Fireball. That said, it is also capable of producing a respectably crunchy tone and as Charlie Musselwhite has been using one of the original Fireballs for some time now, I think that its blues credibility has been securely established. The tone is somewhat similar to an SM58, but it lacks the distinctive upper midrange peak that makes the SM58 sound so good for vocals, but which can sometimes cause feedback problems for harp players. In fact, the Fireball is amazingly resistant to feedback, perhaps more so than any other microphone I've tested - I only wish I'd had one of these back when I used to work with really loud bands. Also notable is the fact that it has very little proximity effect, ie. it sounds pretty much the same at twelve inches away from the harmonica as it does at half an inch. Depending on how you play, this could be a good thing or a bad thing. Many blues players rely on proximity effect to shape their tone, but speaking for myself, if I need to do that I'll probably just use my Green Bullet instead.
Although it is being marketed as a harmonica and beatbox microphone, the Fireball will also handle vocals very comfortably, making it an ideal choice for someone who doubles on both voice and harp, particularly with the volume control allowing the player to adjust levels quickly and easily. It's also described as being suitable for other wind instruments, but given its low end response and its ability to handle high sound pressure levels, I'd be willing to bet that you could even use it to mic up a bass drum!
I think the Fireball V would be a great microphone to bring to jam sessions - just plug it straight into the PA and you can be confident that you will get a good sound without feedback. If you wish to use it directly into a guitar amp, you'll need an impedance matching transformer (Audix make a good quality one, but there are many others on the market), but with one of those in place you should find there is more than enough drive to make your tubes sizzle. I also tested it through my effects system and it quickly became my first choice for that application. I'm not sure that it is the only microphone you will ever need, but it an extremely useful one to have around. I really can't say enough good things about it, so let me cut a long story short and tell you that after testing the review sample, I had to go out and buy one for myself!
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