Review: Blue Yeti “Blackout Edition” USB Microphone

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Product: Blue Yeti “Blackout Edition” USB Microphone
Release Date: November 5, 2014
Manufacturer: Blue Microphones
Original MSRP: $129.99
This product was provided by the manufacturer for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 430 of the podcast.

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I’m far from being anything even close to an audio expert but since we started the podcast over eight years ago I’ve dealt with many different types and models of microphones with mixed results. My focus for this review will obviously be aimed squarely at two specific use cases, podcasting and live streaming, both of which I have a deep level of experience with.

Blue came onto my radar a few years ago when I was looking at all different types of microphones for recording our podcast, and even though I’d already had some pretty bad experiences with USB mics, I was able to borrow one of Blue’s “Snowball” microphones to try out. At the time, it just wasn’t what I was looking for though, specifically since I couldn’t find a usable way to mount it at my desk. I also had a lot of trouble reducing the Gain enough to not be able to hear two people eating lunch in China. As I’ve learned over the years, USB microphones usually run extremely “hot”, which means that they’re incredibly sensitive. For musicians this high level of sensitivity is sought after, but recording a podcast in an area not filled with audio dampers etc., the end result just wasn’t acceptable.

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Fast-forward to E3 2015. I was able to set an appointment up to talk about a couple of the products that Blue had to offer in our space, one being their Yeti microphone. I voiced my concerns before we even got started and they quickly worked to dispel what I expected. After a few minutes I was chomping at the bit to try one out in a venue a bit less noisy than the South Hall of the LA Convention Center and Blue wasted no time in getting one in my hands. I had it connected in minutes for some livestreaming action. Without even placing it directly in front of me, using a pop-filter, or even using a shock mount, I just ran with it. After I uploaded the replay to our YouTube channel I started watching and even more importantly, listening to the result and I was instantly impressed.

 

The audio quality is quite good, and even more since this is a condenser microphone, it picks a lot more voice detail up, even if I lean back on the couch. The placement was actually on my coffee table which lifts up and toward me, so the mic was actually up pretty high. You can obviously hear when I lean back, but even then, voice clarity is sustained throughout the stream. Again, I barely did anything in terms of tweaking etc., except for adjusting the Gain, which is made quite easy due to Blue including a physical dial on the back of the microphone. Having controls like this, and some other design choices are what initially interested me in the Yeti, so the next step was to start working even further with those controls and options.

Let’s take a closer look at the options, especially since this is what excited me so much. First, the microphone actually arrives already mounted in its own stand and it’s very nice. A screw on either side allows you to adjust the angle of the microphone within the stand, or you can remove both to take the mic out. It’s not really one that you’d want to hold in your hands while recording, but since it has a standard connector for hardware like a swing arm or shock mount connecting it to anything like that is effortless. They even offer a shock mount made specifically for this microphone with a $69 MSRP.

… many setups don’t offer this simple solution …
On the front you’ll find a dial to adjust the headphone volume, which I’ll discuss more in a minute, and a Mute button with a red LED indicator. As you can hear on Episode 429 of our podcast, where I used the Yeti for the entire episode, the Mute button shouldn’t really be considered as it can be heard quite easily when un-muting the mic, which is my only complaint about this device (spoiler).

On the back of the microphone are two more dials, one for adjusting the Gain and another to switch the mic between four available Pattern Modes, made possible by the fact that there are three dedicated capsules inside of it. The four modes available are Stereo, Cardioid, Omnidirectional, and Bidirectional, offering an incredible amount of diversity for a single device.

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On the bottom are the aforementioned mounting connector, a standard Mini-USB connector, and a headphone jack. The headphone jack is really what sets this device apart from a lot of other options, and what makes the Yeti so versatile for recording and livestreaming. First, when you plug headphones in, the Yeti provides a “Return Channel”, which means you can hear yourself with no perceivable latency. Having this function is key to how effective the Yeti can be, because when you have both ears covered, your speech has a very high potential to become slurred or you may stutter and stop too many times. Your speech relies heavily on being able to hear what’s coming out of your mouth and many setups don’t offer this simple solution, even those that can cost MUCH more than you’ll spend on this.

… the Yeti microphone is an incredible value …
Even better though is that since the Yeti is a standard USB device, you can set it up on Windows or a Mac as both the input and output, allowing any audio from that machine to also come through to your headphones via the Yeti. So, in our case where we record via Skype, I can hear both my voice and Josh’s in the headphones, something I usually accomplish by taking the headphone cup off of my right ear, which can be quite cumbersome at times. Also, you’ll need no additional or special software to use this on PC or Mac. It simply works with the built-in drivers and can be set up in minutes.

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Now, the good part for PS4 owners. This can also be plugged into the PS4 via a front USB port and can be used as a microphone and audio return just like if you’re using an earbud on the DualShock 4. For those that use PlayStation Share to livestream you now have an awesome option to not only have a MUCH better microphone, but you also won’t have to use some weird configuration with a separate microphone and headphones, because this handles everything that you’ll need.

This is definitely the way that I’ll be setting my streams up from now on and the fact that it’s so quick and easy to setup just makes it even nicer to use. Just make sure you don’t plug anything into the port on the bottom of the DualShock 4 since that overrides any other audio devices. Here’s another livestream replay of me using the Yeti in the configuration I just described, so you can make your own judgement about the quality it produces.

 

Conclusion:
I’m pretty certain that you can tell from what you’ve read that I’m truly impressed with the Blue Yeti. The version that I’ve been using, the “Blackout Edition” is an Amazon exclusive, but what you’re reading also directly applies to the Silver and Platinum editions as well.

At $129 (the price at the time of this review), the Yeti microphone is an incredible value, offering a fantastic amount of versatility while also offering excellent recording quality. The inclusion of actual hardware controls for gain, volume, and for switching recording modes makes things so much easier than messing with controls on your PC or Mac, but my favorite feature is the inline headphone jack. Acting as a return channel in every use and being able to act as a standard USB output makes you wonder why things can’t be this easy in more recording situations.

For streamers these features make setup a breeze, especially since no additional drivers are needed. The fact that it will act just as the port on your DualShock 4 does for headphone and microphone use, but at the same time offering much better quality and control is even better. If they can fix the loud mute button on the front I wouldn’t be able to complain about anything and that’s quite impressive. Blue has convinced me that a USB microphone can be taken seriously and that’s something that I never thought would happen.

Score:
9.5

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  • John Montegudo

    Hmm. I kinda wat one now,