Following up on the Blue Yeti, the undisputed king of prosumer USB microphones, is not an easy task. When it seems every podcaster and streamer on the planet has one, how will Blue convince you to buy it again?
The answer is by making small but appreciable refinements to the beloved formula. The Yeti X streamlines the formula that made the original so fantastic, with new features that make it even easier for novices to make great recordings. Interface tweaks and a handy live level readout are the biggest improvements, but the new software is a welcome addition, too.
There might not be enough here to demand an upgrade if you’re happy with your original Yeti, but the Yeti X has surpassed the original and ensures that Blue holds onto its crown for years to come.
I’ve Heard This Song Before
If you’re familiar with the original Yeti, the new Yeti X won’t seem like a revolutionary change. It’s still a big, beefy, and oh-so-satisfying microphone, covered in steel with a handsome and sturdy stand. The unit we were sent is all black with a dark chrome finish beneath the mic element and on the bottom of the base. It seems Blue is switching from its default grey finish to a matte black—it makes sense, given the focus on streamers over podcasters. Almost all of these elements have carried over from the smaller Yeti Nano.
The cylindrical body of the Yeti has been squared off a bit; this is technically called a “squircle,” if you can bring yourself to say it without cringing. Beneath the prominent Blue logo (that’s the company, not the color—the logo is black), the volume dial and mute button have been combined into a single dial with a built-in button. When you plug the microphone in, you’ll see that the ring around this dial has some LED elements. More on that later.
Around back you’ll see that the recording mode dial has been replaced with a single button, which is easy to pick out without looking. It has the same four recording modes, indicated with a new LED light: cardioid, stereo, omnidirectional and bidirectional. Tilt the mic up on its stand, and you’ll see the same headphone jack and power/data port the original Yeti used. Only now, since it’s 2019, the MiniUSB port has been replaced with USB-C.
Haha, just kidding. It’s MicroUSB. And it’s bull. Complete, utter bull that this microphone revision that’s years in the making is using a cheap, outdated cable. Appropriately, I had trouble with the included MicroUSB cable, which I had to immediately replace with one of my own to keep it reliably connected to my PC. It’s really the only sour spot in the physical design. Seriously, Blue, why the hell would you—
[Editor’s note: at this point, the reviewer ranted for several hundred words about how much he hates seeing MicroUSB ports on new products. We’ve tactfully removed this section, and direct you to his nearly identical editorial if you want to read that sort of thing.]
Dial It Up
Remember when Apple condensed the inner and outer buttons on the original iPod into a streamlined, all-in-one design on the iPod Mini? Blue has done something similar with the physical controls of the Yeti X. Only better.
On the original Yeti, the front volume dial controls the output of the headphone jack on the bottom of the mic itself (which can be either a direct monitor audio for the microphone or both an audio monitor and your PC’s main audio-out). It was useful, but once it was set, you never really had to touch it again.
On the Yeti X, this dial now controls the gain, a setting that was on the back of the original design. And in addition to a very satisfying wheel, you get a live readout of the input levels via a circle of LEDs. So you turn the gain dial, and the blue LEDs show you the level at which it’s currently set. Then after a couple of seconds, the LEDs become green, showing your input level, shading to yellow and red at the top of the range.
This is, frankly, brilliant. It shows you immediately how you sound, and how much louder or softer, you need to be to get your ideal audio level. If you’re shouting or you’re not close enough to the mic, it tells you so, instantly and continuously. This probably doesn’t mean much to you if you’re an audio pro—you have that data coming to you on your screen somewhere. But for the casual podcaster or streamer (the primary audience for the USB-only Yeti series), it’s a fantastic way to get immediate and incredibly helpful info, no setup required.
There’s a second circle of LED light on the dial itself (the inner green circle in the photo below). It’s green when the mic is live, and red when it’s muted. Press the dial in to activate mute or switch it off. Simple, effective, just about perfect. Oh, and one last detail: the gain dial has eleven levels. Naturally.
Will It Work With My Stuff?
The Yeti X is about the same size and weight as the original Yeti, but a few changes to the layout means that you might need to buy some new accessories if you’ve built your recording setup around the latter. The power/data ports and headphone jacks have switched spots, which was just enough of a change to make it incompatible with the shock mount I’ve been using. I couldn’t physically plug in the MicroUSB cable.
But the mounting thread is the same universal size, and though the head of the mic is a little boxier, it works fine with the pop filter I bought with the original Yeti. Unless you rely on accessories specifically made for the body of the Yeti that require unobstructed access to the bottom, you can probably keep using the same hardware with the Yeti X.
Logitech’s New Software is Surprisingly Useful
The Yeti X is aimed first and foremost at game streamers. To that end, Blue’s new corporate daddy Logitech is pairing it up with the G Hub software suite, the same program that manages its gaming-branded G series mice, keyboards, and headsets.
While the idea behind the original Yeti was plug-and-play, no adjustment necessary, the new partnership with Logitech allows for some interesting extras. Some of these are worth checking out, some less so. The microphone’s gain and recording pattern can now be adjusted in software if for some reason you don’t want to use the physical controls. You can also change the headphone output, adjusting the balance between a mic monitor and the PC’s audio output, and applying an equalizer to that audio.
The lighting can be adjusted a bit, too, very much like Logitech’s gaming keyboards and mice. I didn’t see any reason to mess with those settings; the defaults are perfectly functional and obvious.
The big headline feature of the software is Blue Vo!ce [sic], which is essentially a bunch of vocal filters. Not the kind of goofy thing you’d find on a smartphone app: serious filters meant to make different voices in different environments work better on the recording medium. And they work! It’s simple stuff, basically accounting for the pitch and tone of your particular voice. But if you want to even things out or maybe give yourself a little more timbre, you can, in just a couple of clicks.
If you do want the cartoon voices, you can activate the manual controls and adjust the settings yourself, saving and recalling custom presets. But admitting that I’m no professional, I didn’t see any need to do this. Note that, because these settings are exclusive to the G Hub app, you won’t be able to use them on any hardware except Windows and macOS.
Overall, I’d say that the software additions are a natural extension of the Yeti’s basic selling point: making you sound good with little to no technical knowledge. It’s a solid play for the streaming market, but any casual user should be able to get at least some benefit out of these settings if they don’t mind the somewhat marginal G Hub interface.
A Worthy Encore
The Yeti is a great USB microphone. The Yeti X is an even better one. It’s a bit more expensive with a retail price of $170, but I think the usability and software upgrades are worth it if you’re in the market for a new one.
The choice to go with the older, more fragile MicroUSB port is frustrating, but it’s the only point of contention in this design. Those who already have a Yeti microphone don’t need to rush out for an upgrade (especially since these are often found at a significant discount). But anyone else, who wants to sound good with as little effort as possible, will be extremely pleased with the Yeti X.
Here’s What We Like
- Simplified, streamlined design
- Gain dial and lights are brilliant
- New Software is Useful
And What We Don't
- Won't Work with Some Accessories
- FREAKIN' MicroUSB ARE YOU KIDDING ME