Chances are you’ve seen the Blue Yeti before. Maybe it’s been in the foreground of a YouTube video, hovering somewhere on a Twitch stream, or maybe up alongside other desktop microphones at a convention somewhere. The Yeti has been enormously successful, paving the way for a generation of content creators looking for a plug-and-play USB microphone.
Now, Blue has a sequel: the Blue Yeti X, a USB-only mic targeted at gamers looking to venture into streaming and bits of content creation. But for that audience, the original Yeti is still a compelling option.
The Yeti X in Australia retails from $289, placing it comfortably in the upper tier of the microphone market. Those cheaper options include the original Yeti for under $200, in practically any colour you want. And there’s the cheaper Yeti Nano, which supports 24bit recording and the two most popular recording modes, cardioid and omnidirectional, from $149.
I’m leading with the price because, ultimately, it’s the biggest factor that users have to consider. There’s some upgrades if you’re comparing the Yeti X against its predecessor, like the ability to record in 24bit, an extra condenser mic capsule, and the finer controls for adjusting noise reduction, compression and EQs through the Logitech G-Hub software.
And while that’s definitely helpful, and I’ll explain more in a bit, none of these options can have as big an impact as a shock mount, a boom arm, or a quick trip to Clark Rubber to get some foam for the walls. Those are the tools that will always correct the biggest sources of terrible sound, which are almost always traced back to a mic sitting in a desktop stand, picking up every vibration or nudge of a desk or mechanical keyboard, a hideous echo caused by a high ceiling or hard surfaces all around you, someone recording next to a busy street, or even just not having a pop filter or something as simple as a sock.
Some of those options cost money – a good boom arm and shock mount combo might be a couple of hundred dollars – while others are immutable things about the environment around your microphone that can’t be changed.
None of this is to say, by any means, that the Yeti X isn’t excellent at what it does. It is, after all, built on much of the same tech that made the Yeti one of the most popular microphones amongst gamers, streamers, YouTubers and content creators of all stripes. But the Yeti became popular in a time where most microphones were either the ones attached to a gaming headset, or something you had left over from more “serious” audio equipment.
Today, gaming microphones are a market unto themselves. More gamers know how to use basic mixers, although the Yeti X tries to subvert the cost and need of those through some handy tricks. One of those is a multi-function dial on the front, with LED lights showcasing your audio levels in real-time, although it can also adjust the microphone gain, output from the headphone monitoring jack, and the blend of computer audio to microphone audio.
The rear of the microphone has the some polar patterns as the older Yeti, although most people will stick to cardioid. What’s mostly changed here is softer buttons that are more flush in the microphone chassis, instead of the rigid dial that required a little degree of force to turn. There’s no difference in functionality, but the Yeti X’s buttons are easier to press.
Beyond that, not much of the chassis has changed. The stand is almost identical in terms of design, although the side screws have changed slightly. It’s still connects via microUSB and there’s no XLR input, which is unfortunate if you wanted to use the mic with a more advanced audio setup down the track.
The most intriguing feature is the software customisation through either the Logitech G-Hub software or Blue Sherpa, Blue’s companion app. Most gamers will probably download G-Hub, which didn’t have a great 2019. Logitech users complained for months about driver issues and incompatibilities that were beyond perplexing, coming from years of using Logitech’s older software suite with no issues.
It makes sense why Logitech forced the upgrade on everyone, of course: G-Hub is built to scale, to support keyboards, headsets, speakers, and more lately, integration with streaming services. Blue’s incorporation into the Logitech conglomerate means you can sync up the lighting between a mouse and the peak levels on the front of the Yeti X, but it’ll be the ability to control compression, noise gates, and other digital sound processing bits and pieces completely on the software side that are worth calling out.
If most of these words mean nothing to you, there’s a string of presets within the software that you can trial to get a sense of the sound, like AM Radio, multiple “Broadcaster” offerings or a string of presets from Logitech-sponsored esports pros. There’s a nice bonus in that you can apply a profile and exit the G-Hub software, and it’ll still be applied when you go into other recording suites like Audacity. And that’s the Yeti X’s biggest strength, and one that’s audiophiles and people with mixing experience will appreciate the most. Being able to lock the settings in and have them consistent across multiple apps – you can test, and set, a noise gate and high-pass filter in the G-Hub software and not have to worry about whether it’ll work in OBS or Streamlabs, for instance – is a huge timesaver.
The difference voice presets do add some extra functionality, but don’t get confused thinking the software suite is some kind of voice changer. You can add some reverb and compression to provide the illusion of a ‘70s radio presenter, but it’s still your voice coming through, plus everything else in your environment.
Still, the biggest impact on your sound is as much about isolating things like ambient noise from a computer fan, vibrations from slamming the keyboard, or reverb from the room you’re in as much as it is from the microphone itself. That’s not to say the Yeti X doesn’t have a characteristically nice sound for speech or recording, and you can hear that below in some test recordings I’ve done with the Yeti X, original Yeti and a Rode NT-USB Mini. Note that I haven’t done any processing, so you’re getting the raw noise straight from the mic, small bits of noise, breath and so on included.
I haven’t customised the Yeti X for this recording either, but you can tell there’s a little more mid-bass with the Yeti X compared to the original Yeti, and especially the RODE NT-USB Mini. The RODE didn’t have as much presence as either Yeti, but it also picked up the least background noise. You can boost that a little by upping the RODE’s recording volume, but it’s something you have to adjust in Windows, your mixer or whatever recording/streaming software you’re using, so that’s definitely a quality of life thing to consider.
My main issue with the Yeti X is really one of value. Most of its features are largely inconsequential for the gaming audience, many of whom will be aware of the Yeti and looking to get into streaming or recording, or who grabbed the Yeti as their first microphone. For that crowd, they don’t need four different polar patterns: they’re never going to use them. That target audience will always get a better deal with the original Yeti or a cheaper condenser mic, with the difference in cash going towards accessories.
Some mics are even shipping with the accessories, or building them in. The HyperX Quadcast comes with a shock mount and pop filter as standard for $189, and the NT-USB Mini has an in-built pop filter for about the same price. Some retailers will do bundles where you can get a microphone and shock mount together. Even some dynamic microphones, like the ATR2100-USB, can be picked up for less than $100, although the final price will be a little more once you factor in other accessories.
None of this is to say that the Yeti X isn’t excellent at what it does. It’s just that it’s not excellent value for what most gamers need. Much of what makes good, crisp sound isn’t just the microphone, but isolating your voice from everything else.
It’s hard to adjust how much presence your voice has in a recording if you’re also transmitting the machinegun-like sound of constant typing, or the whirr of a fan that constantly spins up and down. You can make some serious improvements with the de-esser, limiter, noise gates and some EQ settings, but you’ll lose a lot of that mid-bass that gives the Yeti X its characteristic warmth.
So the real question with the Yeti X is just how much you’re willing to pay for ease of use. It’s certainly a capable microphone. But if you’re starting from scratch and you have to shell out another $120 for a boom arm, and an extra $20 or $30 for a pop filter – although nice woolly sock works well – then it’s a completely different argument. If you’re not afraid to spend some time dabbling with some free software, you might find it hard to go past the original Yeti, or any of the other sub-$200 mics on the market.
The Yeti X faces competition at the top end too. Not having an XLR input makes it a less ideal purchase for someone who wants to upgrade to a setup with a mixing board, preamps or separate compressors. Some of this functionality is available through G-Hub, but you have to access the app to customise it all. That’s not as useful as having a control centre on your desk that can be adjusted on the fly without disturbing gameplay.
Understandably, many will still enjoy the sound of the Yeti X because of the depth it adds through the extra mid bass. And if you have a good environment with minimal external noise, and money’s not a concern, then there’s definitely a use case. But only your budget can determine whether that luxury is worth it.