Blue Microphones Yeti Pro review

USB microphones have come a long way in the past decade. We still remember our first experiences with them. Was it the 90's? It was the 90's, and it was a debacle: getting your drivers in line, wondering if the crappy plastic casing was going to snap off in your hand, and trying to figure out if you were going to be able to hear the audio through your Sound Blaster in the end anyway. We're happy to live in a 2011 that has the Yeti Pro, a seriously serious smooth operator that's likely to tickle grandma's fancy just as much as it will a jaded studio engineer's. Read on for the account of our engagement with the 3.4-pound beast.

Like all Blue products, the Yeti Pro is a looker. While attached to the included stand, it looms at almost a foot tall. Handsome textured black and silver metal encloses the body, and the massive grill and Blue logo up top gleam in a pleasing way. This guy would feel right at home on-camera.

But where some of Blue's lighter microphones left us wanting in the performance department, we've got no such issues with the Yeti Pro. It handled sampling rates all the way up to 24-bit / 192kHz with ease. We suspect that most folks who buy in this price range ($250) will be confused where they might be able to find a device that's even capable of playing back audio at that resolution. Smartly, Blue has answered that question in the form of a built-in 1/8" headphone output on the bottom of the mic. It lives a double life as a zero-latency monitoring device and a CoreAudio output (on a Mac; a custom driver will power I/O on a PC).

While it may seem silly to use a microphone as a headphone output (it is!), we now say don't knock it til ya tried it. Whatever's going on in the Yeti Pro's D/A department is super-slick: completely noiseless, utterly flat, and still somehow sweeter than even M-Audio's best offerings. We've been using it as a primary out for some time now, and switching back to our built-in Macbook headphone jack is a noticeable disappointment.

Underneath that grill is an array of three 14mm condenser capsules. What that means for the user is a choice of four switchable pickup patterns: stereo, cardioid, omni, and side-cancelling bidirectional that will probably handiest for interviews or two-person podcasting.

If you're looking to bypass the computer, you can also plug directly into any preamp that provides 48v phantom power via the included stereo XLR breakout cable. Once you remove the stand from the equation, the mic itself will only set you back 1.2 pounds, so it attaches easily to any standard threaded mount.

So. How does it it sound? It sounds awesome. In a variety of settings. Vocals with the cardioid: smooth, full-range, accurate, more Neumann than Shure. Instruments gathered loosely around the mic and captured in omni mode sounded great, and we can imagine this becoming a popular tool for documenting casual performances. The heavy stand not only makes for a great visual effect -- it also does a good job dampening vibration (thick foam insulation coats the bottom).

With such a reasonable price, we're imagining this will be a case where users have much more on their hands than they're used to, or capable of, testing the limits of. Sure, it didn't have the depth and tone of some single-use broadcast mics we've encountered, but that's not really the point.

Blue is on to something here, definitely, and we continue to wish them well. If consumers spent a little more money up front than they're used to for a standard Plantronics-style joint and had the Yeti Pro sitting around for casual recordings, we think the world might actually become a better place. Well, at least it will sound a little nicer, and that's something, right?

The Yeti Pro is out now at Apple stores, and will hit other shelves at the end of the month.