Yeti 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  

Yeti USB Microphone
$127

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Blue Microphones