The Born Freelancer Says All I Want for Christmas… Is a USB Microphone

This series of posts by the Born Freelancer shares personal experiences and thoughts on issues relevant to freelancers. Have something to add to the conversation? Your input is welcome in the comments.



Tis the season of giving and getting. 

So I could not be given a better opportunity to look into what I would really like to get.

Number one on my list of freelancing gear needing an upgrade…

The microphone

The working freelancer needs a good, reliable microphone. For radio or podcasting that’s obvious. But even print freelancers should record all interviews in best quality possible – for accuracy, for clarity and for possible repurposing at a later date.

I can’t begin to count the interviews I have conducted for one medium that ended up being repurposed for another. That I was successfully able to do so was because I had initially recorded in broadcast quality.

I had always been taught to get the best quality microphone I could afford. Garbage in = garbage out, as computer mavens say, so to get the best results coming out you need the best equipment going in. I have always used conventional analog microphones to get the best sound for my buck, and still do so when appropriate. They have always provided me with high quality audio.

I’ve written about my favourites in the past on this site. These were ideal when recording on old-school recorders with analog inputs – or when recording on a laptop with a built in sound card – or when using an external interface between analog mic and laptop USB port. (Note: Analog mics will not work directly with most laptops running digital recording apps unless plugged into an external analog-to-USB converter.)

But today most of my recording is done on a laptop. And there is a new generation of microphones, USB microphones, that plug directly into a laptop without an additional interface device. This seemed to me to be a positive step forward because every extra piece of gear is something else you have to carry that can fail, get broken, stolen or lost. 

So I decided to get my first USB microphone.

The search

I spent weeks scouring reviews online. I went into top music/audio brick and mortar shops, noting specifications and soliciting advice from knowledgeable staff. I even consulted a local voice artist. D-Day was Black Friday when I knew I would find a deal. 

The two key questions: (1) What are my requirements, and, (2) What model would best serve those needs with fewest drawbacks?

My wish list

I wanted a USB microphone that would…

* Provide me with acceptable broadcast quality sound;

* Be portable for location recording;

* Be flexible in studio for multiple applications;

* Be affordable within my limited budget (approximately $200 CDN);

* Be compatible with any laptop or digital recorder;

* Be easy to use (ideally, just plug and play); and

* Be well made (no point having a microphone that falls apart.)

There are quite a number of USB mics out there today. Each has advantages and drawbacks that I carefully weighed and pondered. But in the end I chose…

The Yeti USB microphone by Blue.



* To my ear, it produces a good clean sound, certainly good enough for most broadcast or podcast applications. (You’d have to pay a lot more to get much better and/or go back to an analog mic with interface).

* It is “portable” (although in a restricted context – more on this in a moment).

* It is perfect for use in my home studio or on location where there is a table between me and my subject upon which to rest it. It actually has four directional settings – more on this in a moment.

* It plugs directly into any laptop USB port and needs only minor tweaking. It has its own output gain which is useful in controlling output volume to the laptop. It also has a headphone jack so you can hear in real time what you are recording without listening through your laptop (which can result in a slightly delayed sound).

* It seems well constructed (although mostly made of rugged plastic I still would not want to drop it).

* It cost $140 CDN plus tax (on sale from $180 CDN) during Black Friday here in Canada. If you look around there may still be better deals. Certainly there were better deals online but I like to examine any gear in person before I buy. You can only do that in a brick and mortar. 

Added benefits

I really like that this mic has four different directional settings. So if I’m recording solo, it has a setting that will reject sound from every other direction. If I’m recording a one on one interview, it has a “figure of eight” setting which will record both me and my subject opposite and across it but not any distracting sounds from either side. If I’m recording multiple subjects around the table it has an “omni” setting that records 360 degrees. It also has a “stereo” setting useful, for example, if recording a band. 

I have never encountered any other microphone with so many built-in directional capabilities.

Coolness factor

To my jaded eye it looks really cool. I appreciate that this is entirely subjective but I like its stylish retro look. I hope it might even create a suitable mood in an interview subject with its professional appearance as I set it up.


This is not a hand-held mic for use in the street. This is a somewhat bulky and comparatively heavy capsule shaped mic complete with its own detachable table base (although it can be adapted to a conventional floor or desk mic stand too.) It is portable enough to carefully store and carry in your gear bag but once on location it will need a table top or stable surface upon which to place it. Of course, being so positioned it should produce rustle-free recordings, always the bane of any hand-held mic. 

Given its numerous advantages I readily accepted this minor departure from my wish list.  

The takeaway

The Blue Yeti USB microphone is my first (and to date, only) choice within the competitive USB microphone market. I may still need to buy a more portable USB mic to do streeters but traditionally most freelancers have always had several analog mics for different purposes too. (I know I still do.)

This USB mic appears to offer me the majority of features I require plus a number of useful advantages I had not actually considered. And all for under $200 CDN. 

It turned out to be all I really wanted for Christmas (even if I had to buy it for myself!)

May your holiday season be a happy and healthy one and filled with what you really want, too. Hope to see you here again in 2016!


Disclaimer: I receive no compensation or remuneration from the manufacturer nor the brick and mortar store I bought it in for writing this review. It is based upon my research leading to its purchase and first impressions out of the box. I hope to offer updates on its performance in future.


Posted on December 16, 2015 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , , , ,

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