Yeti: excellent sub-$100 microphone

A podcast with poor acoustics is exhausting to listen to. As a podcast listener, I’ve dropped several otherwise excellent podcasts because they sound like recordings made with two tin cans and a string.

As a podcast producer, I strive to produce shows with good sound quality. Many things affect sound quality: room acoustics, audio editing methods, Internet speed (when you have guests joining you over Skype, for instance), and recording equipment. The easiest variable to lock down is the microphone. After years of trying different sub-$100 USB microphones, I’ve finally found one that does almost everything I want: the Yeti, by Blue. This retro-looking desktop microphone has several features that make it vastly superior to the one I used to use — the slightly less expensive Snowball (also by Blue).

The best thing about the Yeti is the built-in headphone amp, which allows me to monitor my voice in real time. Now that I can hear what I sound like, my delivery style has changed from near-shouting to a more laid-back, Ira Glass way of speaking. (One listener tweeted that I sounded much calmer on my podcasts and wondered why.) The headphone monitor also has its own volume control.

The Yeti has a microphone gain knob, which makes it easy to quickly adjust the sensitivity without having to fiddle with the recording software’s sound preferences. The mute button is nice addition that I use when a guest is talking and airplanes are passing over my house or I need to clear my throat. The recording pattern knob has symbols to indicate stereo, omni, cardioid, and bi-directional modes (the Snowball’s three-way switch unhelpfully reads 1, 2, and 3!).

Two things prevent the the Yeti from being perfect: 1) Two of the controls are on the front of the mic and two are on the back, forcing me to crane my neck to adjust the gain or change the recording pattern. 2) Vibrations from my computer’s keyboard, fan, and hard drive pass through the foam rubber lining on the base of the microphone stand, causing a rumble sound. My workaround is to set the microphone on a rubber iPhone case, which does a great job of damping the noise. (I might end up cutting the iPhone case to fit the Yeti’s base and glue it on.) -- Mark Frauenfelder

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone


  1. I agree on the Yeti Blue Mark.  While not a podcaster, I record quite a few demos, and voice is everything.  With headphones on, and cheap pop filter in front (highly advised) I can give a cool smooth FM voice when delivering demos.  It’s very ideal – and the Yeti Blue delivers in spades.

  2. We bought a couple of these for our remote teams at work, since we’re constantly having Google Hangouts and other kinds of teleconferences. Extremely good investment.

  3. One of the best ways to decouple the mic from table/floor vibrations (aside from using a specialized shock-mount)  is to use blue-tak poster putty or Sugru.  Make 3-5 little 1/2″ balls of putty and apply them to the microphone base as feet. Just don’t smoosh them too hard on the table, let the feet lightly rest so the plasticity of the material can dampen the vibration.  Also, use a high-pass filter set to around 80Hz in your recording software to eliminate rumble.

  4. I bought one to do radio ads for a local non-profit and it’s really as good as they say.  Even better than my Roland USB interface with an XLR mic.  I assume it’s because the Blue Yeti is specifically designed for voice.

    I got this pop filter with it and it clamps on perfectly and makes a noticeable difference with plosives.

  5. I still love a RE20 or SM7 + a decent preamp for voice work, but that combo is a lot more $$$ than a Yeti. having a multi-pattern option could come in handy for a guest mic in a pinch, and Blue makes mighty fine mics in general.

  6. If you’re serious about recording audio, you will always use input and output devices that share  a single sample “clock”. This can be done by using a single A/D-D/A converter unit (which defines the clocks for conversions in both directions), or by sending the clock from one device to the other (e.g. using word clock or the S/PDIF clock signal).

    These USB devices generally do not permit this, and I thus deem them to be useful, often elegant, but fundamentally amateur.

    Stop relying on your computer audio system to resample – starting sharing your sample clock. Sync wants to be free!

    1. Could you go into a bit more detail? If you’re just recording yourself speaking, what is it meant to be syncing *with*?

      1. It is certainly true that if all you do is record, without a monitor path through the computer, then the sync issue doesn’t matter at all.

        But most people don’t only do this, and so …

    2.  For the price of a dedicated A/D-D/A converter, you can get a high-quality audio interface with good mic pre-amps (Presonus AudioBox, Native Instruments Komplete, M-Audio M-Track, etc.) that will have a dedicated headphone output, mic boost, multiple in/out combinations, etc.

      1.  such a device would constitute a “dedicated A/D-D/A unit” for the purposes i was describing above. what matters is the single sample clock inside the device, rather than different clocks for input and output.

  7. I’ve used the Yeti for telecommuting connections and for connecting the a class to a remotely-located professor. I can’t endorse these enough!

  8. The Yeti sure is a step up to most consumer grade mics in use, specially thinking of all those who use the video chat cam’s mic. But there are some other USB mics available from more experienced producers with much better recording quality: the AKG Perception 120 USB, Audio Technica AT 2020, Shure PG 27 (the AKG and AT do not cost much more than the Yeti). I do not recommend the Samson C03U or C01U, they are too noisy.

  9. Please put in a word or two about bit rates;  I’ve dropped a couple of podcasts over the years because their creator used a bit rate so low it not only sounded like a tin can but not even a very *good* tin can.

    Worse than listening to AM radio on the earphone of a 60’s transistor radio.

    1. Totally agree!  Bitrate for a vocal-oriented podcast should never be below 96K.  You can hear artifacts being introduced at that bitrate, but below that it’s insufferable. 128 is better and doesn’t eat up bandwidth (generally, 1 minute = 1MB mp3 @128K)

        1.  Recorded in professional studios using compression, EQ, ducking, and high-end dithering algorithms to re-encode them from .wav to mp3 or aiff. They have massive bandwidth considerations that have to be balanced against quality recording. I can’t think of a reason why a podcast on Gweek’s level shouldn’t be 128k.

          1. Bitrate for a vocal-oriented podcast should never be below 96K.

            So I guess there’s an exception to “never” then?

            Regarding Gweek, I can think of several reasons. First of all, I doubt it would make a difference to 95% of listeners if it was encoded in 64k or 128k (and if you feel there are sound problems with Gweek, they won’t be solved by a higher bitrate). Also, longer unnecessary download times, unnecessarily larger files, more bandwidth usage.

  10. Mark, you have a lot of room echo & resonance in your recordings. If you can’t afford sound baffles & deadeners (decent ones are expensive), hanging blankets on walls and reflective surfaces still improves things drastically. There are a lot of articles online about sound-treating for home recording.

    The S-E Electronic Reflexion Filter is a terrific solution as well.  It attaches to your mic and acts as a kind of portable sound booth for deadening the audio. I use the Pro with terrific results.

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