BLUE is best known for their studio quality condenser microphones, but they're quickly making a name for themselves in the consumer electronics field as well. Their inexpensive Snowflake and Snowball USB microphones are big sellers, and their gadgety Mikey is a cool little add-on mic for the iPhone and iPod. Their latest USB microphone, the Yeti, is poised to bridge the pro-sumer gap. It offers a professional feature set with the same ease of use demanded by the average non-technical consumer.
Beyond the distinctive design, one of the most noticeable features of the Yeti is its multi-pattern operation. Like some of the best (and significantly more expensive) professional mics on the market, the Yeti contains three discrete 1/2-inch capsules. These capsules are used both on their own and in combination to deliver a total of four selectable polar patterns. Choose from Cardioid, Omnidirectional, Figure Eight, and Stereo. The onboard gain control ensures a strong signal without h
When I first heard mention of the Yeti, I was expecting some sort of gimmicky computer toy, but upon taking the demo model out of the box I was pleasantly surprised to find a solid, useable piece of gear. BLUE touts the Yeti as being portable, and maybe it is, but I find it to be a little over-represented in their literature compared to what I saw in practice. Fitted in its beefy swivel mount, the Yeti stands about a foot tall, weighing in at around 3.5 pounds. You can carry it around if you need to, but you're probably not going to carry it around in your pocket.
The control layout is smart, with the headphone volume and the mute button on the front for easy access, and the pattern selector and input gain on the back where they're unlikely to be nudged by accident. The control knobs for both the input gain and the headphone volume felt a little sloppy; I was expecting a little tighter tolerance there.
Way Down South
Tilt the mic on its swivel, and you'll discover all the access points. This is where you plug in the USB cable and headphones. You'll also find a threaded socket on the bottom. This allows you to mount the Yeti on a mic stand if need be.
As with most USB microphones, setup is fairly straightforward. I connected a USB cable from my laptop to the Yeti (both USB 1.1 and 2.0 ports are supported), and pointed my recording software to the Yeti as the input device. Once I set the input gain for optimum signal strength, I was ready to record. Keep in mind, the Yeti is bus-powered, so it's better to run it straight to a dedicated USB port as opposed to connecting through some sort of USB hub.
Check, One, Two...
I tested the Yeti with a few different audio applications, including GarageBand, Audacity, and Digital Performer. Mic recognition and input selection went off without a hitch, and I was recording right away. The Yeti's included swivel stand provided a stable base for recording, and was easy to position on my desk.
I started with the pickup pattern set to Cardioid to simulate a voice-over project, with the capsule positioned about a foot away from my mouth. The audio was very full-sounding, with some added richness at the low end due to the proximity effect.
Next up, I invited a few friends over to simulate a podcast panel discussion. The Yeti was set to Figure Eight for a one-on-one interview, and both voices were clear, even, and sounded natural. Switching to Omni mode for a round table discussion, everyone spaced themselves roughly equidistant from the Yeti. All voices were equally represented, with a nice blend of the sound. I had boosted the input gain a bit here, and noticed a bit of unwanted ambience vibrating up through the table and into the swivel mount. Some extra padding under the mount solved the problem.
After that, I popped the lid on my acoustic guitar case and put the Yeti in stereo mode. You need to dedicate two input channels in your recording application for this, by the way. Stereo mode is designed to place your sound source in 2-dimensional space, simulating how your ears perceive the audio. Normally I would set up a pair of condenser mics, run them into a tube preamp, then route that out to an audio interface to achieve the same kind of effect, so being able to accomplish all that with a single USB mic was a time-saver. That said, the recorded tracks were a bit lopsided, with good character in the lows and low mids, but less definition and detail up top. Still, for under $150 it did a pretty good job compared to the time and money spent with my usual method. After a bit of fiddling with the EQ in post, I was able to get something I could live with.
Scooching in a bit closer, I tried a close-mic technique with the Yeti in Figure Eight mode. This provided a satisfying blend of tones, with the close-up richness of the acoustic in the front and some extra airiness from the room sound at the back of the Figure Eight pattern.
The Yeti Is No Myth
All in all, the Yeti is a great sounding microphone with pro-quality features at a fantastic price. I've not seen any other USB mic out there that delivers this kind of performance-to-price upside.