Review: The Yeti USB Microphone
Microphones that offer professional levels of recording can be expensive, very expensive, which is why I was quite surprised to see the price of the “The Yeti” which is described on its box as the “Ultimate USB microphone for professional recording”. So, in this review we will be taking a closer look at “The Yeti” USB Microphone from Blue Microphones to see if it lives up to expectations.
On a side note Blue Microphones is an official sponsor of the Best Urban Act category of the 2012 Online Music Awards, a scheme that offers a platform for unsigned artists to showcase their talents; this years winners will be announced in October 2012.
When you hold the box that contains “The Yeti” there is a very real sense that something serious is lurking on the inside and it seems there is. The Yeti is a multi-pattern USB microphone which includes a triple capsule array (three proprietary 14mm condenser capsules) which allows for recording in stereo and a further choice of three unique polar patterns including cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional.
The advantage of offering this range of polar patterns is that the microphone should be able to support multiple sources without needing multiple microphones.
In The Box: The Yeti
Inside the weighty Yeti box you get the microphone itself, complete with a substantial and sturdy desktop stand (including adjustable set screws), a lengthy micro USB cable, a brief getting started guide, and surprisingly no installation or setup CD.
According to the manual “There are no drivers to install – simply plug the Yeti into your PC or Mac…” and this did indeed seem to be the case; the Yeti was tested on Windows 7 Home Premium on a Packard Bell All-in-One, and also on a 13” Macbook Air running Mac OS X 10.7.3 (Lion) and both recognised the microphone first time.
As the Yeti is USB based the recommendation is to use a powered USB port and to avoid connecting using USB hubs or “other USB multipliers.”
When placed in the desktop stand the unit stands at around 11.5 inches. The microphone itself can be detached from the stand and mounted to a standard microphone studio mount via a standard thread mount in the base of the microphone (situated between the USB port and headphone jack).
The actual microphone feels solid and quite chunky, very chunky in fact, and a lot bigger than a typical microphone. Whether this is simply a design feature or due to the space needs of the triple capsule array is anyone’s guess but in operation, I have been testing it for my regular podcast “Just the Tech”, it provides an almost nostalgic sense of broadcasting to the nation – and I like it.
The digital audio sample rate is 48 kHz with a 16-bit bitrate and 20Hz – 20kHz frequency response range.
As the Yeti receives its power from a powered USB port some very useful controls are included on the microphone itself which include a headphones volume dial and microphone mute button on the front side of the microphone (the side with the Blue Microphones logo) whilst a microphone gain dial and pattern selection dial are situated on the rear of the microphone.
The pattern selection dial is coded with icons which are easily referenced on the box and in the user guide (just remember that Cardioid is the heart shaped symbol and the rest are pretty obvious). If the choice of recording patterns seems confusing there is a helpful section in the quick start guide which illustrates typical activities and recommends an appropriate setting, although you should also try each of the various patterns to see which works most effectively in any given scenario.
For example, for a typical one-person podcast the recommendation is to use the cardioid pattern which limits the sound capture to an area immediately in front of the microphone, whilst a multi-person vocal or ensemble may benefit from the stereo pattern.
On the base of the Yeti are the micro USB connector, a standard thread mount, and a 3.5mm headphone output jack with built-in amplifier for “zero-latency monitoring” something that will be welcomed if quick turnaround, and monitoring of recordings, is important for you. The quick response of the headphones can also be useful for making quick gain adjustments and testing the various patterns.
In Operation: The Yeti
Software applications used for testing the Yeti include Adobe Audition CS5.5 and Audacity 1.3 (Beta) and both responded well to the Yeti and in actual fact the Yeti is the first USB microphone I have managed to get decent performance out of when used in conjunction with Audition on a Windows 7 based computer. The Yeti was used on a number of “Just the Tech” podcasts, available via iTunes and iPadio, so you can compare the quality for yourself (The Yeti was used on episode 66 and 67) to previous episodes when a mobile EDIROL based unit was used.
The chrome like grille at the recording end of the microphone is pretty impressive although it’s unfortunate a pop filter isn’t included so you may have to mind those Ps and Qs – although this obviously won’t affect everyone, depending on your diction control and, besides, a decent pop filter isn’t very expensive. Also, the one thing I didn’t realise when I first tested the microphone is that the Yeti is a side address microphone so the microphone should be upright and you should address the side of the microphone rather than speak directly into the end. Once I realised this and adjusted things the audio captured was pretty impressive.
In Summary: The Yeti
At the outset of this review we aimed to see if the Yeti lives up to expectations and I can say that it certainly does.
The Yeti feels really substantial which is a bonus for a desktop microphone but it is in its simplicity (i.e. no drivers and intuitive controls) together with the multi-pattern settings that really make the Yeti stand out.
The triple capsule array allows the Yeti to be as flexible as is needed for capturing the optimum recording as, for example, it picked up audio for a podcast very well and a two person conversation, using the bi-directional settings, also worked surprisingly well.
The Yeti supports both Macintosh (Mac OS X 10.4.11+) and Windows (Windows 7, Vista, XP Pro and Home), via a USB connection, and both versions require 64 MB of memory as minimum.
The Yeti, from Blue Microphones, is currently available from Amazon for around £84.00 (price checked 28th March 2012), together with a number of other stockists, for further information head over to the Blue Microphones Website: Yeti.