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Updated Dec 28, 2022 5:44 PM
Way before there were dozens of companies making hundreds of USB microphones, Blue Microphones introduced the Yeti in 2009 and it held a legitimate claim to being among the best USB podcast microphone for some time. With increasing competition, the Blue Yeti had to evolve, and the latest iteration, the Yeti X, can claim to be more expressive … for a price. But just how wide is this generation gap? If you’re searching for the best microphone for whatever your project is and you’ve narrowed it down to Blue Yeti mics, chances are you’re comparing the classic to the new hotness, so here’s our Yeti vs. Yeti X primer to help you decide.
Is something wrong with the original Blue Yeti mic? Why another version?
The Blue Yeti USB microphone ($109.99) was originally launched as a “premium” USB microphone aimed at pro, semi-pro, and aspiring broadcasters, singers, and musicians. At that time, many USB mics looked like novelty designs and lacked professional features and audio quality of broadcaster standards like the Shure SM7B. They did have the benefit of not requiring an external audio interface, however, and soon caught on and caught up. The Yeti raised the bar for USB microphone quality and became one of the most popular models worldwide for years and a common feature on many podcaster’s desks.
Since then, however, the USB mic landscape has exploded with professional options matching or exceeding the Yeti. Blue has kept pace by introducing a series of Yeti USB mics for various needs. The sub-$100 Yeti Nano, for example, is a smaller mic with fewer options. At the same time, the $249.99 Yeti Pro adds musician-focused features such as an XLR audio connection and 24-bit/192kHz studio-grade audio resolution.
While those are targeted for specific use cases, the $169.99 Yeti X is the closest thing to an updated version of the Blue Yeti USB microphone, adding several small but noticeable improvements to the still-capable original. The Yeti X improves the audio quality, updates the design, and adds some extra features while keeping the same basic operational and connectivity features as the Yeti. But the original Yeti is still a great, user-friendly option for a new streamer or podcaster who wants a plug-and-play, reliable USB microphone with a proven sound. There’s nothing wrong with the original, so the pertinent questions for potential buyers are whether they want the Yeti X’s extra features and, if so, are they worth the extra $60? Let’s discuss …
Yeti vs. Yeti X microphones: What are the differences?
Blue won critical acclaim when it introduced the Yeti X in 2020, as the update adds a little bump to everything its best-selling predecessor does. The Yeti X steps up its digital audio resolution to 24-bit/48kHz, compared to 16-bit/48kHz for the Yeti. In theory, that higher bit depth represents a massive increase in captured digital data to recreate sounds more accurately. In practice, many people may not notice the difference in the audio quality, and many users may not even need or use the extra audio resolution in their streams, podcasts, and other broadcasts.
However, the Yeti X has another trick up its sleeve: a fourth condenser capsule, compared to the Yeti’s three condensers. The condenser capsules in microphones convert sound waves into the mic’s signal, so having four instead of three condensers can contribute to greater audio clarity. At comparable prices, many other USB mics use four condensers to capture audio.
Aesthetically, the Yeti X looks sleeker in its design and has shinier finishing elements to the microphone and its stand base. The flatter microphone head contributes to Yeti X’s retro-futuristic appeal. The Yeti X is also slightly smaller than the Yeti but weighs a bit more; including the microphone and the stand, the Yeti X weighs 2.8 pounds, compared to 2.2 pounds for the Yeti and its stand.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference visual is the multicolor, multifunction LED ring around the Yeti X’s level encoder/mute button on its front. By default, these LEDs show the mic’s input level meter in green, yellow, and red, so you can see immediately if your levels are too hot. The encoder also controls the levels for the microphone input, headphone volume, and monitoring balance between the mic volume and computer volume. Holding the mute button switches between level modes and the LEDs show the levels as you turn the encoder. This Yeti X functionality gives you all your level controls in front, whereas the Yeti has a headphone volume knob in front and a microphone input level knob in back. Besides looking cooler, the Yeti X’s LED ring gives you the extra monitoring balance function, which the Yeti doesn’t have.
Finally, the Yeti X gives you extra options when paired with the included Logitech G Hub desktop software. Using G Hub you can customize the Yeti X’s LED ring colors, and apply “Blue VO!CE” vocal effects, which are EQ settings for treating your voice with presets—including “Warm and Vintage,” “Crisp and Modern,” and “AM Radio”—or dialing in your settings.
Cool, then how are the Yeti and Yeti X similar?
Both mics are USB-powered and can detach from their stands to be mounted on standard mic stands or boom arms. Detaching the Yeti from its stand can send several small, easily lost washers in all directions, and those parts also make reattaching the Yeti to its stand somewhat of a hassle. Thankfully, the Yeti X’s design doesn’t use any of those washers, so detaching and reattaching it to and from its stand makes for a better experience.
Both mics are also very sensitive in picking up sounds and have the same four pickup patterns—internal settings that focus the mic’s audio capture to specific areas in front, behind, or all around it. These four patterns are: cardioid (in front), most common for a single person talking or singing; omnidirectional (360 degrees), best for representing the entire ambiance of a space; bi-directional (front and back), ideal for two people sitting across from each other; and stereo, which creates a wide audio image and is well suited to recording instruments or multiple sound sources in front of the mic. On the Yeti, the Pattern control for choosing these pickup patterns (a dial) is a bit stiff to switch, but the Yeti X employs a better button switch with LED icons for showing the active pattern.
Once set up, the original Yeti earned its esteemed reputation for combining crisp, strong, detailed sound with a sturdy and durable metal design and professional looks. For any streamers who like to keep their mics in sight of the camera, the standard Yeti comes in a variety of colors—including blue, silver, teal, red, and black—while the Yeti for The Aurora Collection edition adds Pink Dawn and White Mist. It also has a headphone output, which lets you monitor the mic’s input with no latency while listening to your computer’s audio—an excellent and very handy feature. The Yeti X has all those traits as well, with the aforementioned audio-quality boosts.
Is the improved sound quality of the Yeti X really noticeable?
When comparing 16-bit/48kHz recordings from the Yeti to 24-bit/48kHz recordings from the Yeti X, there is a noticeable difference in the fidelity of the Yeti vs. Yeti X. The Yeti sounds slightly harsher for “esses” and other consonant sounds, as well as breath sounds. Spoken words are clearer and musical instruments ring just a little more textured and resonant on the Yeti X. Even when comparing recordings at 16-bit/48kHz resolution from both mics, there was a smaller, but still noticeable difference in the clarity coming from the Yeti X.
Note: If you want the full audio resolution from the Yeti X, you may have to dig into your recording software or streaming software settings to use the 24-bit/48kHz resolution.
That said, untrained listeners frequently do not notice the difference between 16-bit audio and high-resolution (higher than 16-bit) audio. And millions of people listen to podcasts and livestreams every day in compressed audio formats like MP3, so using a microphone with 24-bit or 16-bit audio would not really make a difference.
If I’m just recording myself talking, why would I want the Yeti X?
While the practical need for 24-bit audio is not currently essential to many podcasters and streamers, the Yeti X still has an edge in clarity over the Yeti due to its fourth condenser. And suppose you are starting a podcast or other type of show in 2021. In that case, there is currently a push toward lossless audio on streaming services, so it may not hurt to “futureproof” your setup with a 24-bit audio USB mic that would stay relevant if audio quality expectations continue to go up over time. For example, 24-bit/48kHz audio (or higher) is already the preferred choice for recording music so that it can be delivered to high-definition formats.
Besides its audio, the Yeti X may be more appealing to those thinking about the on-camera appearance of their mic for their videos on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and so on. Whether you think the Yeti or the Yeti X looks better is a subjective matter, but having the LED level meter with customizable colors is certainly a way to stand out, and the Yeti X is at least much less common (for now). In contrast, Blue claims there are millions of the original Yeti in use.
So, is the original Yeti still good enough?
There are plenty of people using the Blue Microphones Yeti today for a podcast, a Twitch stream, a YouTube channel, etc. Their shows probably don’t suffer at all for using the Yeti instead of the Yeti X. So, if you really want to save money or if you just prefer the silver or blue Yeti colors that aren’t available for the Yeti X, which just comes in black or white, you will get one of the best USB microphones for the money in the original Yeti.
On the other hand, you would also get a considerable amount of improvements for the extra $60 for the Yeti X, which upgrades the Yeti in almost every conceivable way. The Yeti X offers a clearer, richer sound from its additional condenser capsule and digital audio resolution, additional hands-on audio controls, a customizable multicolor LED level meter ring, voice EQ settings through software, and a slicker design that offers a cleaner experience for detaching and reattaching the mic to its stand.
Regardless of the model you choose, the Blue Yeti vs. Yeti X debate features USB mics that have deserved reputations as two of the best for the price. There are new challengers in the USB mic market what feels like almost daily—such as the AKG Ara or MSI Immerse GV60—but the Yetis remain strong in build yet sensitive to sound. They are an accurate, reliable, and easy-to-operate plug-and-play option for computer- and smart device-based broadcasting.