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New Blue Yeti Pro Mic stalking audio enthusiasts

Blue Microphones makes outstanding mics for musicians, podcasters and anyone else who needs to capture or transmit audio with great clarity and range. After using one of Blue's Yeti USB mics at Macworld Expo 2010, I bought one to improve my audio on TUAW TV Live and the TUAW Talkcast. That same mic has also been used for recording voiceovers, screencasts and a commemorative video, and it never fails to amaze me just how good the sound quality is.

For many musicians, however, the Yeti just didn't do the job since it only had a USB connection. Now Blue has updated the Yeti with a new model, unsurprisingly called the Yeti Pro ($249.95 suggested retail price, available for less through some online sources). The Pro will make audio professionals happy, as it adds analog XLR output, an A-D converter chip, and a separate analog circuit path so it can be used with pro mixers and preamps.

As with the existing Yeti, the Yeti Pro can be used in both studio and desktop environments. The four-position pattern selector knob is still on the mic's tubular body, providing a way to switch between stereo, cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional pickup patterns. There's still a mute button, gain control, and volume knob, and the base still has a standard threaded mic stand mount.

Build and Features

From the outside, the Yeti Pro looks a bit different from the original mic. Rather than a smooth aluminum exterior, the Pro features a nicely pebbled black finish that really makes the shiny metal cover over the mic capsules stand out. The dimensions of the mic are identical to the USB-only Yeti, and it still comes with a nice desk mount with a rubber isolation pad on the bottom. You can remove the Pro from the desk mount to put it on a microphone arm or even a standard mic stand, as there is a threaded fitting on the bottom.

As noted earlier, the big external addition to the Yeti Pro is the XLR connector. It's located on the bottom of the mic -- while the microphone stand fitting was centered on the original Yeti, it's offset to accommodate the XLR plug. Blue Mics includes an XLR Y-cable and a 3 meter long USB cable with the Yeti Pro. Internally, the biggest change is the new A-to-D converter that provides the separate analog path needed to move your audio to studio mixers and preamps.

Using the Yeti Pro

Since I'm not a musician, except for my dabbling with GarageBand and other music apps, I did not have a way to test the Pro's analog output. The Yeti and Yeti Pro both have power requirements that make them impossible to use with the iPad, so that wasn't an option for testing. The Yeti Pro takes advantage of USB Audio Class 2.0, so you'll need to be running Mac OS X 10.6.4 or later to make sure that you can optimize your digital input.

To use the Yeti Pro in analog mode, the Y-cable is plugged into the XLR 5 pin connector. For stereo recording, the Y-cable ends plug into two matched mic preamps or a two channel preamp.

The specs of the Yeti Pro are impressive compared to the original model. The sample rate for the Pro is 192 kHz with a 24-bit bit depth, while the original model tops out at 48 kHz and a 16-bit bit depth. The frequency response for both of the mics is the same (20 Hz to 20 kHz), as is the sensitivity (4.5 mV/Pa @ 1 kHz).

How do you set the sample rate and bit depth? It's done through the cleverly hidden Audio Utility found in your Utilities folder. The Yeti appears as both a sound input source (microphone) and as an output device, as there is a headphone jack on the bottom of the device. The Yeti Pro allows for no-lag monitoring of whatever you're recording through that headphone jack, which I found to be a plus while doing vocal recording.

So what do all of these specs mean to someone who just wants to do some recording? It means that the sound quality is amazing. I recorded a short podcast using both mics and found the Yeti Pro recording to sound more "warm" and realistic. The Yeti Pro was also more sensitive at the same gain setting, which in my noisy studio meant that I picked up more of the sounds of a conference call going on, as well as the wood chipper and chain saws that were cutting down a tree on my block.

You'll want to have a very quiet studio if you plan on doing recording with the Yeti Pro -- it's that sensitive. In the recording I can not only hear the occasional squeak of my office chair and the background noises down the street, but also the sound of the Drobo Pro rumbling under my desk.

Conclusion

If you're a musician, podcaster, or broadcaster who wants the flexibility of doing digital recording through a high-end USB mic as well as being able to use the mic with your analog gear, then the Yeti Pro is going to make you very happy. The Yeti Pro's older brother, the Yeti, is still a worthy and less expensive ($149.95 suggested retail price) USB-only Mic, but for those who want the best possible sound quality from a combo digital / analog mic, you can't do better than the Yeti Pro.

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