Imagine a beer can with a bouffant and you have an idea of the size and shape of Blue Microphones’ $150 Yeti USB mic. The thing is enormous and made larger still by a bulky and heavy metal base (you can remove the mic from this base and attach it to a microphone stand thanks to threads on the bottom of the mic). This THX-certified, triple-capsule (recording element) condensor microphone is versatile and offers good-for-the-price—though not outstanding—sound.
Versatility comes in the form of a four-position pattern switch, gain control, headphone port, headphone volume control, and mute switch. The pattern switch is one of the features Blue touts specifically, so it’s worth a closer look.
The Yeti can record using four patterns—stereo, cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional. The Stereo setting captures sound in front and to the sides of the mic. Sounds recorded with this setting reflect their position in relationship to the front of the mic—louder in the right channel if the source is to the right side of the mic, for example. The Cardioid setting is for recording a source directly in front of the microphone—a person speaking or singing, for example. Omnidirectional is for capturing everything around the mic. And Bidirectional is designed to record equally on both sides of the mic.
The Stereo settings works as advertised. When I spoke off-axis my recording reflected my position in the stereo field. The Cardioid setting produced good sound for a microphone in this price range—the professional AKG microphone I normally use sounds better, but at a much higher cost. I have a low voice and the mic missed some of the sonority that a professional microphone picks up. But the resulting sound was far fuller than sound recorded by Blue’s popular $100 Snowball microphone.
The Omnidirectional setting didn’t produce equal sound from all sides—as the front of the mic was hotter than the back and sides. Similarly, the Bidirectional settings produced a good signal from the front of the mic but the back was definitely weaker.
The Yeti has loads of gain. Even with the Gain knob cranked only halfway up, I got a good signal while speaking from nine-or-so inches away. The Mute switch does its job—shutting off the mic when you toggle it. The Volume knob controls the headphone volume adequately but its construction—like the Gain knob—feels cheap. The knobs are plastic and they wiggle around a fair bit. I’d be concerned about either breaking off the Volume knob or breaking its internal connection if the mic was severely bumped.
This would be of particular concern if you were packing the Yeti for a remote recording. Fortunately (or not, depending on your perspective) the Yeti is so bulky that it’s not a mic you’ll want to take with you. There are slimmer USB microphones of equal or lesser cost that sound every bit as good (though without the multiple pattern option) that would be easier to take on the road.
One additional note: The Yeti, along with Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit, is compatible with the iPad. Not all mics I’ve tested are (as they demand too much power).
While I wish the mic were slimmer, the knobs heartier, and the sound more balanced when recording from the front and back of the mic, the Yeti sounds good, packs plenty of gain, and offers a lot of value and versatility in a $150 USB mic.