A proper desktop microphone doesn't have to cost a fortune, a fact Blue Microphones proves to be true with its Yeti Blackout Edition, which delivers everything an amateur or pro would want in a USB mic for about $190.
While it's a niche product, in many ways, Blue doesn't necessarily target the Yeti to a niche consumer. The Yeti Blackout is just as useful for recording the audio in a video game live stream as it is in a studio recording a podcast or jam session.
The technology is fairly straightforward, yet also indicative of how versatile the mic is. It offers professional-level outputs with a tri-capsule array and four different pattern settings that can record just about anything. These include cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional and stereo. The terms might confuse a layman, and it helps that Blue explains for what purpose each is ideally suited.
For instance, cardioid is best for podcasts or voicing over video and live streams because it focuses on sound coming directly in front of it. Stereo is the polar opposite, utilizing both left and right channels to listen for sound coming from all directions. Bidirectional records from both the front and rear, which is great for in-person interviews. Omnidirectional is the most ambient, capturing sound equally from every direction - making it the most sensitive of the four.
The settings may not impress sound professionals, but they are nonetheless easy to appreciate for everyone else because they take the guesswork out of knowing what will work best in any given recording scenario. The quality of the recordings takes that to another level. A built-in 3.5mm headphone jack lets you listen to your voice or instrument in real-time.
A gain control dial and a mute button are great tools to use in real-time because they are easy to handle. This way, if you were raising your voice in the midst of a recording, you could lower the gain to maintain a consistent balance for listeners. Same with the mute button, which can be great for those live moments when an inadvertent cough might creep up or while an interviewee is talking at length.
The plug-and-play setup is perfectly executed. All I had to do was plug it into my iMac (it works the same way with Windows), select it from whatever app I was using to record my voice, like iMovie or Adobe Premiere, and that was it. There were no drivers to install, nothing else to configure. It was as simple as plugging it in via the included mini-USB cable.
Once up and running, which takes mere minutes, the quality the Yeti Blackout can produce is impressive - almost to a fault. The mic is highly sensitive, making higher gain susceptible to capturing slight ambient sounds you wouldn't want in your recording. We're talking about a text message alert from a phone in the next room, or a computer fan running high and loud.
Doing voiceovers for videos using this mic was not only simple to accomplish, but it required no real adjustment afterward, either. I would talk into the mic, software would record it, and it ended up sounding great. In fact, I used this on a Skype chat as an experiment and the person I spoke to marveled at how clean my voice sounded.
Unlike the Yeti Pro, however, the Blackout doesn't do professional recording via analog XLR, nor can it reach a maximum resolution of 192kHz/24-bit. It maxes out at 48kHz/16-bit instead. This means the Blackout won't be good enough for musicians who want to record at the highest possible fidelity, though it certainly isn't a slouch.
There is some modularity here that might also come in handy. The desktop stand attaches to the mic using hinges on either side, both of which are removable so that the mic can be attached to a regular stand. The hinges can be tightened as well, in case you want to angle the mic a certain way.
The whole unit is relatively heavy: it's mobile, but not especially portable. But if I was doing some kind of podcasting circuit on the road, I could comfortably bring it along with a laptop: other than a laptop and the USB cable, there's nothing else needed to get it to work.
It is a shame that the Yeti isn't compatible with smartphones and tablets, as that would be infinitely useful on the road.
The Yeti Blackout, as noted, sells for about $190. It's well worth the money if you're in need of a dependable microphone with little fuss and great sound quality.