Hands-on review: Yeti USB-powered microphone

Hands-on review: Yeti USB-powered microphone

Summary: A few months back, Blue Microphones unveiled the Yeti, a USB-connected microphone intended for professional recording. I've managed to get my hands on a copy, and here's the review.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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A few months back, Blue Microphones unveiled the Yeti, a USB-connected microphone intended for professional recording. I've managed to get my hands on a copy, and here's the review.

DESIGN

The Yeti is a beautiful device, inside and out. Let's start with the outside and that glorious silvery retro-design. The microphone swivels backwards and forwards within its stand, and the side screws can be tightened to lock the Yeti into the most convenient position for the speaker.

Up front, you have the volume control and the mute button. The mute is actually slightly tricky at first. There is only one light color: red. When there is a continuous red light, that means it is plugged in and ready to receive audio. When pressed again, the light will flash and that means the mute is turned on. You don't want to accidentally record something you don't want others to hear. On the reverse side of the Yeti are the recording pattern settings (I'll touch on this later) and the gain control. On the bottom, you'll find a headphones jack and the USB port, which is the only way you'll need to power this device.

You'll also see that the Yeti can be mounted to a standard threaded studio mount. Users just need to unscrew the microphone from the stand and then thread it on to the mount. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only other way to move the Yeti around. In other words, it's not the most portable device. While it can fit in most large messenger bags (with the right padding since you don't want to scratch the steel-esque exterior), the Yeti always has to be connected to a computer to work, and it's slightly heavier that one might imagine.

SET-UP

The Yeti is a definite plug-and-play device. No drivers are necessary, and it is compatible with Windows Vista and XP, as well as Mac OS 10.4.11 and higher. The included user's guide details the set-up instructions for each operating system, but for your knowledge, I set mine up using a Macbook running 10.5.8.

While the user's guide only specifies going into System Preferences to adjust the sound input and output settings, you'll actually have to do this for the programs you're using too. For example, I had to readjust the settings in both Garageband and Skype when trying to talk into the Yeti, only to realize that nothing was recording. You'll also need to adjust the volume settings depending on what you're recording. For example, an actual garage band is going to be much louder than a person recording for a podcast, so you don't want to the sound to be overly scratchy.

Users will also need to adjust the pattern settings on the reverse side of the microphone depending on the application as well. There are four recording modes: stereo, cardioid, omnidirectional, bidirectional. More on this in the next section...

USE

To continue on with the recording modes, there is a diagram within the user's guide (with some adorable looking abominable snowman icons) that identifies which mode to use for which purpose. For example cardioid is best for podcasts. I found it also to be the best for Skype, at least based on the feedback from the recipient of my phone call, who said that it was the clearest and loudest of all four modes on the telephone.

Instruments falls under three recording modes, but larger bands should be recorded under omnidirectional. You'll probably need to do some testing of your own based on the instrument and the acoustics of your recording studio.

The Yeti is very good at picking up sounds from far away and close up. Note that you never want to speak to the Yeti too close, even if it does look like a microphone that Billie Holiday would have crooned into closely. If you speak too closely, there will be a raspy noise added to the audio input. Also, if you want background noise for special effects, the Yeti is good at picking up that up too, as I could still decipher the television show in the background when testing. This might not be so good if you don't want background noise, so keep that in mind. Even the faintest whisper is traceable on this device.

Overall, the audio quality is stellar and sound. Despite a few quirks in the set-up (mainly just adjusting preferences), everything about the Yeti works smoothly and is easy to figure out. The box might say "for professional recording," but even amateurs could play around with the Yeti and give themselves a professional-sounding edge.

AVAILABILITY

If all of this seemed to work for you, then you'll be happy to know that the Yeti is available for purchase now for $149.99. That may seem expensive to anyone looking for a standard microphone, but this is no standard accessory and definitely worth the price tag.

Topic: Hardware

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5 comments
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  • So Rachel...

    Did any of the testing or functions for the microphone include voice recognition (oh yeah, you're still smokin') ?
    One of the reasons that I stopped trying to use voice recognition tools, is that the input quality, into the software, never seemed to be good enough to get accuracy that would make it worthwhile.
    Steve@...
  • I Scored!

    I'm a long-time Blue mic user (also have 2 Snowball's and a rack full of bottles and encores). I received a special offer for the Yeti when it first shipped and got mine for $90. It's now replaced one of the Snowballs on my desk and is a great mic for notes, Skype, iChat, and recording voice-over stuff for tutorial videos.

    @steve - this thing is a phenom. If you're looking for great input, it will be a pleasure to use. But I will admit that while the Yeti works well with "Naturally Speaking", my Audio-Technica ATR-COMC headset mic ($15) has been the best tool I've used for dictation.
    Timpraetor
    • Thanks Tim !

      @Timpraetor
      It's great to get helpful input on one of these blogs. I've spent 10s of thousands of dollars on equipment that eventually proved to be not so good (to be kind).
      I'm also thinking of doing some voice over on some video or DVD slide shows, so the more input the better, and not to be too korny, the better the input, the more there will be.
      Steve@...
  • RE: Hands-on review: Yeti USB-powered microphone

    Interesting review of an interesting product. Question: why does it have to spread out over 4 pages? This is really annoying. I'm willing to accept two pages so you all get more opportunities to push ads but four is way too many. Please don't do this!
    tmeadow@...
  • Looks good

    I do a lot of voice-over and currently have a studio mic from the booth going through a mixer and then into a computer. I'll have to check this one out.
    tonymcs@...