Nothing is worse then watching a TV show in standard definition when you know that the high definition version exists — granted you have to find the channel first. Likewise listening to audio in mono, instead of stereo is equally as annoying. Or listening to your favorite song being piped through your laptop speakers instead of through your $300 Bose headphones. Or having to make do with a non-retina display iPhone — blurry text is no fun.
When you know there is something better out there, it becomes very difficult to sit back a deal with subpar things, especially when the better version is within your grasp.
Recently I posted a list of podcasts that I love to listen to, and what should be clear to most is that I really like podcasts that have great production quality. Quality matters.
Occasionally a podcast, or a guest on a podcast, will be saddled with a pretty cheesy microphone — perhaps the one built into their computer, or the headphones that came with the iPhone, or a cheap USB headset bought to be used with Skype. You can hear the difference.
Mike Vardy contacted me and asked me to be interviewed for the WorkAwesome podcast and I graciously accepted. I knew that I needed better audio fidelity and fast (I didn’t want to be that guy). I swung in and exchanged something at the Apple store for the Blue Snowball microphone. I was immediately unhappy with this microphone — it was just too ugly looking and I couldn’t find ideal sound.
As most of you are aware now, Shawn Blanc and I started The B&B Podcast. We started the podcast by recording a few trial runs and the first try was recorded with me on the Snowball. Not having pro mixers for the audio, my levels ended up being massively lower than Shawn’s and everything sounded like amateur hour. Not our forte.
I quickly exchanged the Snowball for the Yeti so that I could get gain control on the mic and Shawn bought the same.
The Yeti is a damn fine microphone.
It is big. It is heavy. It is sexy looking.
I tested recording on the Yeti against recordings from the built-in Air’s, the Jawbone Jambox, the iPhone headset, and the Blue Snowball’s microphones. The Snowball is a nice mic, but the Yeti is an excellent mic.
With the Yeti you get:
- Gain Control: allows you to adjust how loud your output is.
- Passthrough Audio: you can plug headphones into the bottom of the Mic so you can hear your audio and the audio coming out of your Mac.
- Patterns: decide which type of mic sensitivity is right for you.
- 2 People One Mic: the Yeti is actually packed with three microphones arranged in a manner that you can set the Yeti in the middle of a table with two people facing each other, so they can use that same mic.
- Volume: you can also control the output volume on the mic for your headphones.
- Mute: you may never use the mute button, but it’s nice to know that you can.
- Price: $150 might sound expensive to most, but it is far more costly to sound crappy in audio recordings. You can also find the same microphone on Amazon for $99 (affiliate link if you would be so kind).
My biggest complaint about the Yeti is that it is too good at times. To get the audio levels to a good point the microphone needs to be turned up a bit and with that comes the pick-up of a lot of background noise. Especially any noise from clicking and tapping on the desk. The foam on the bottom of the Yeti’s stand is not sufficient to muffle that sound. I solved this problem by using a piece of foam cloth material I had kicking around my camera bag and Shawn solved it with a hand towel under the stand.
The best solution of course is to get a boom arm with a shockmount, but the shockmount that fits the Yeti costs more than the microphone itself — a none starter.
The Yeti does a decent job blocking out background noise in the room, but you are still going to hear it if the noise gets loud enough for you to hear through your monitor headphones — which is precisely why you want the monitor headphones.
Overall I am incredibly happy with what the Yeti does and does not pick up, unless you are in a studio you can’t expect perfection. With the Yeti I have found that it is perfectly manageable to sit in my living room and record a podcast.
The Sound of You
I have never been happy with the way my voice sounds when it is recorded. To me the sound never sounded like me — I am told this is because of the way we hear our own voice, compared to how others hear us.1 My voice always sounded too deep or deep tinny when I heard it, but now with the Yeti I am very happy to say that my voice sounds pretty close to how I hear it — my wife agrees.
I think this is the most important factor for whether you are happy with a microphone or not: you need to be happy with the way you sound. It doesn’t matter as much to other people because they are likely to not know the difference between you in person and you on compressed audio being served up from a remote Amazon server somewhere presumable in the Amazon.
Even if the Yeti gets barely used I am very pleased to have it sitting on my desk. The Yeti is a truly great looking product and a great feeling one (it weighs a lot). I love the way it makes me sound and the way it looks. For $99 from Amazon you really can’t go wrong.
However I think that you can get decent sound out of cheaper microphones with a little more work and planning. The Yeti offers me the sweet spot of less editing and less planning for equally great (and often better) sound. I would be lying though if I didn’t acknowledge that the look of the microphone plays a huge role in just how happy I am with it.
After using the Yeti for quite some time here are a few tips that I have found useful:
- Put the Yeti on something padded and tape the USB cable coming into it down. This keeps a lot of noise from bumping and tapping the desk down, ditto with the cable as a slight jostle there can cause a nice audio pop in the Yeti.
- If you have the Yeti on your desk with your Laptop and mouse do yourself a favor and find a way to deaden the tapping sound coming out of your computing activities. I rest my Air on a Rain Design stand when we record for B&B, that allows me to type without the listener hearing it. To solve the problem on my Magic trackpad I set tap-to-click to on and try to remember to only tap on it.
- I position my Yeti between me and the keyboard when I am recording. This is not ergonomic or comfortable, but it puts the Yeti right where I need it to get good vocals. I try to stay between 10-12 inches from the mic.
- Recording audio is a lot like taking a picture — you just can’t rely on Photoshop to make your pictures look great. Same with recording, if you don’t want to spend all day editing the audio tracks then you really need to take the time getting the setup correct. That means that if you have two people you need to adjust your levels until you are both pretty equal.
- Controlling your voice is key — if you notice how singers will back away from the microphone when they belt out a word, the same is true with speaking. You don’t have to be monotone, but you should be aware that a loud outburst should be followed by leaning back from the Yeti.
Well, at least that’s my experience so far.
Has something to do with our bones and how they pick up sound when we speak versus when we listen. ↩