Newcomers to content creation often settle with built-in headset mics for starters. They do the job, and they’re inexpensive and convenient. But we’re all due for an upgrade some time. When things start to pick up, you’d want to level up your microphone game and make a turn for the pro path. A brand that’s become commonplace among the seasoned and amateurs alike is Blue. From their USB mic series, you have two choices: the Blue Yeti or Snowball.
We’ll put the base model from each line head-to-head to see which one best fits your needs. But first, a crash course on one of the most important qualities you should look for when choosing a mic.
What Are Polar Patterns?
A polar pattern is the directional sensitivity of a microphone—how it picks up sound relative to the position of the source. There are at least nine different polar patterns. But for this comparison between Yeti and Snowball, we’ll define just the four below.
- Stereo - Records sound through the left and right channels. Best for acoustic music or ASMR recordings.
- Omnidirectional - Covers the area around the microphone equally. It’s good for conference calls, picking up ambient sounds, or podcasts with more than two participants. The sound quality is usually diminished when using omnidirectional mics.
- Cardioid - Picks sound sources from the front of the mic mostly. This is what many solo streamers, broadcasters, and recording artists use. The directed coverage allows the most microphones to deliver their best performance.
- Bidirectional - It’s a pickup pattern focused on the two opposite sides of the microphone. Two-person interviews and duet recordings benefit the most from this polar pattern.
Yeti and Snowball Prices, Requirements, and Technical Specs
For the gearheads among you, here are the technical specifications and requirements according to the manufacturer.
Year Released: 2009
Price: From US$99
Operating System: Windows 10 or higher; macOS 10.13 or later
Required Power: 5V
Power Consumption: 150mA
Sample Rate: 48 kHz
Bit Rate: 16-bit
Condenser Capsules: Three 14mm capsules (Blue-proprietary)
Polar Patterns: Cardioid, Bidirectional, Omnidirectional, Stereo
Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
Max SPL: 120dB (THD: 0.5% 1kHz)
Dimensions (extended in stand): 4.72” (12cm) x 4.92”(12.5cm) x 11.61”(29.5cm)
Weight (microphone): 1.2 lbs (.55 kg)
Weight (stand): 2.2 lbs (1 kg)
Available Colors: Blackout, White, Silver, Midnight and Light Blue, Teal, Red, Slate
Headphone Amplifier Specifications:
Impedance: 16 ohms
Power Output (RMS): 130 mW
Frequency Response: 15 Hz - 22 kHz
Signal to Noise: 100dB
Year Released: 2005
Price: From US$60
Operating System: Windows 10 or higher; macOS 10.13 or later
Boom (Transducer) Type: Condenser, Pressure Gradient with USB digital output
Polar Patterns: Cardioid (position 1); Cardioid with -10dB pad (position 2); Omnidirectional (position 3)
Frequency Response: Position 1-3: 40 –18 kHz
Sample Rate: 44.1 kHz
Bit Rate: 16-bit
Condenser Capsules: Two
Weight: 1 lb (460g)
Dimensions: 325mm (circumference)
Available Colors: Brushed aluminum, Gloss Black, Textured White
Blue Yeti vs Snowball
Now it’s time for the mic fight. We based this head-to-head on four main factors: build, aesthetics, performance, and features. We’ll tackle the not-so-obvious differences between the Snowball and Yeti mics on top of the more evident ones. Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Build and Aesthetics
Yeti’s main microphone unit is all-metal. At 1.2 lbs, it’s pretty substantial for a USB mic, which means you’ll need a hardy boom arm to keep things from going limp mid-use. The stand is high-quality plastic with a weighted, non-slip base.
At the bottom of the mic, you have the USB and headphone ports as well as the standard ⅝-inch threaded mounting hole
The headphone volume knob and mute button are at the front together with the textured Blue logo. The mute button doubles as a power light, which remains static when the mic is active. It blinks when pressed, indicating the mic isn’t receiving audio.
The gain control and polar pattern selection knobs are at the back.
Everything about the Yeti’s build feels premium, even the plastic stand. The knobs have just enough tensity and don’t wobble, which are huge improvements over earlier generations. The older versions’ knobs flip-flopped between too stiff and too loose. Blue has finally hit the sweet spot with the current-gen Yeti.
The Yeti is one of the most recognizable microphones used by content creators today. It’s right up there with the Shures and the Rodes. It looks classy however you look at it. The versatile motif fits any use. It’ll be at home at a game streaming, podcast, musical performance, or any other setup. It achieves full pro-level visual glory when mounted on the included desk stand.
We also appreciate that Blue has yet to splash the Yeti with outrageous color choices, which may diminish its otherwise stately appeal. Though nothing stops you from slapping a bunch of K-pop decals all over it.
On the Snowball’s side of things, we have an outer casing that’s made of plastic entirely. The mesh grill is metal and so is the large Blue logo. There’s a red power indicator light. The tripod mount is coated steel with anti-slip ball feet.
At the back, we have the USB interface and the polar pattern switch. And just like the Yeti, the Snowball uses ⅝-inch threading at the bottom.
The Snowball’s plastic body feels a bit cheap. The slots that expose the inner wire mesh don’t do it any favors in terms of durability. It feels like a two-foot drop can cause shards to fly off the main body.
As far as looks go, Blue has never been one to shy away from unconventional designs. Their XLR lines have some pretty interesting entries from an aesthetic point of view. The Snowball is the eccentric cousin in their USB mic family. It pre-dates the Yeti by a few years. You can say that Blue’s USB mics got “weird” before they became sort of more composed.
Making the entire microphone unit a sphere is an interesting choice. We can’t fault it for not being an eye-catcher. The Snowball is reminiscent of 50s sci-fi with a hint of art deco. It’s something straight out of a Fallout game. It looks fun and adds a bit more personality to your scenes other than being an audio peripheral.
But interesting and practical are two different things. The Snowball is, well, a ball, and balls roll. Lay it down on a table unplugged and unmounted, and you just might find yourself chasing the Snowball as it joyfully makes its way to the edge.
The Yeti gets the win for build and design. The durable overall makeup and timeless form make it a mic that you’ll hold on to for many years. Meanwhile, the Snowball’s look may be an acquired taste, and it’s mostly made of plastic. It’s not a hard choice.
However, we recognize that many content creators may like the Snowball for streaming games and other “not-too-serious” content types for its unusual design.
Performance Battle: The Yeti Mic vs The Snowball Mic
The Yeti has three condenser capsules that Blue developed in-house. Off the bat, Yeti is already vastly superior to most USB mics for having four polar pattern options (cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, and stereo). Its 20Hz - 20kHz frequency response range depends on the selected polar pattern.
On the stereo, cardioid, and bidirectional settings, we recorded a pretty flat frequency response, which is a good thing. There are no harsh dips and peaks. The omnidirectional function also gave a good output—no dead spots. The three-capsule setup does good work for this setting.
The Yeti takes in high, mid, and low frequencies from various sources pretty well. Spoken words are clear and crisp. For musical performances (instrumental and vocal), the mic held on to sustained notes quite well. An acoustic guitar piece recorded from a 2-feet distance sounds detailed.
However, the Yeti is a 16-bit mic, so you will never get the rich, full-bodied sound quality you get from mics with a higher bit rate. If you’re a pro musician or sound technician, you’re better off getting an XLR.
For the plosive and sibilance tests, the Yeti gives positive results mostly. From a “hang ten” distance—the length between the tips of the thumb and pinky when they’re stretched out fully—the P-pops, S, and Z sounds don’t hardly register. What little harshness the Yeti can’t reject is easily remedied by a pop filter, post or real-time processing, or proper mic use techniques.
The Yeti also does well at rejecting vibrations from tapping the desk, boom arm, and its main body even without a shock mount. The tight metal build plays a large part in warding off resonant frequencies.
When speaking super close to the microphone with the lips nearly touching the grill, the Yeti handled extreme sound source proximity well. Clarity is retained while distortion is at a minimum without a windscreen. However, the proximity effect doesn’t yield a very defined bass sound, but most users will find it acceptable.
The Yeti is a side-address microphone. The canister shape might indicate that this is a front-address, like a dynamic handheld or a shotgun. But the user manual does state that sound sources must come from the sides.
Moving on to the Snowball, we get two polar patterns: cardioid and omnidirectional as well as cardioid with -10dB. The frequency response is the same with all three positions. Sound recorded on the cardioid setting is fine albeit a bit dry. The -10dB function does make everything noticeably quieter. On the omni, there are a few slight dips in the frequency response, which are still within the acceptable range. However, it sounded excessively boosted in a few spots.
Normal speech sounds a touch nasally, dampened, and kind of boxed in. For music, the Snowball gives an acceptable mid-table performance. And by that, we also mean that it thrives in mid-level frequencies. The way it handles the lows and highs is unremarkable. With normal gain levels, high frequencies don’t crack and sizzle. But as a whole, the Snowball gravitates toward middle frequencies even outside of musical applications.
Equalizing through software will offset the Snowball’s shortcomings with the lows and highs. But better and cheaper mics, which dispense with this complicated step, are out there.
As for plosives and sibilance, the Snowball’s rejection is noticeably inferior to the Yeti. It does have a built-in filter but a secondary one or post-processing will benefit this round boy immensely. Speaking of round boys and pop filters, the Snowball’s unusual shape means you can’t use just any wraparound filters or muffs. You can get them from third-party manufacturers, but otherwise, you’re stuck with mounted shields.
The Snowball also pales in comparison to the Yeti in the taps-and-bumps test. Its plastic casing and spacious insides cause a good amount of resonance, especially when tapping the body directly. From the results of this test, the Snowball seems like a case of form over performance.
Both the Yeti and the Snowball are very sensitive. They pick up background noise at about the same degree. And they pick up a lot of it. The Yeti’s gain control knob and the Snowball’s -10DB mode serve them well particularly in an untreated or non-soundproofed room. Expect to pick up keyboard typing sounds or air conditioner hums at middle gain levels.
If you use them in an untreated environment and you live next to a busy road, you will take in traffic noise. Noise cancellation software is a must in this case.
Overall, the Yeti gets another huge victory over the Snowball in the performance area. To be fair, the dual-capsuled Snowball will always be at a technical disadvantage against the Yeti’s three-capsule setup. That said, the Snowball gave a valiant fight.
Yeti Mic vs Snowball Mic: The Features
The Yeti has a total of three adjustment knobs and a mute button. You can control the gain, polar pattern, and audio output volume as well as mute the mic on the fly. You’d be hard-pressed to find this number of hardware-based tinkering options even among the more recent crop of USB microphones.
Normally, you’d need an audio interface or a sound card. Without external controllers, you’d have to modify your mic through software. A decent XLR/TRS interface would set you back a couple of hundred bucks, making the Yeti an economical choice for the cost-conscious.
All of the Yeti’s built-in controls are extremely useful in both live streaming and recording. Digital audio software can be overwhelming to the untrained, and many features are buried deep within the settings. It’s incredibly convenient to have quick access to major adjustment features. The tactile aspect is also a plus. It’s more satisfying than dragging sliders with a mouse.
But perhaps the onboard functionality that we like the most is the 3.5mm audio out jack, which helps you monitor your mic and even your entire setup’s sound quality. You might say, “But headsets also do that. I don’t need to have a more expensive and complex recording system.”
What the Yeti offers is zero-latency audio monitoring. Most USB mics pass audio through the computer before sending it to the output device. The whole process causes sound delay. Most professionals, such as musicians and sound engineers, use interfaces or mixers for delay-free audio from their microphones. If you’re not very technically adept, this feature of the Yeti will make it easier for you to check if your levels and effects are in order in real-time.
The audio out port also allows you to hook the Yeti up to standalone video recording devices, like DSLR cameras. For power, you’d need a power block that suits the mic’s energy requirements exactly. It will also just draw power from a computer while connected to another device. Through USB and using specialty adapters, the Yeti also works with mobile phones and tablets. It’s not what we’d call a simple process but it’s possible.
Blue has released a voice editing software called Blue VO!CE, which is exclusive to the Yeti line. VO!CE is an audio enhancement program that allows you to add effects and filters to your voice for live broadcasts and recordings.
You can also use presets or customize your sound using the equalizer and other quality-of-life modifications. Our favorite is the limiter, which hard-locks your mic’s volume to prevent clipping. It’s great for multiplayer or horror game live streams where things often get a little too exciting. VO!CE is 100% free but requires you to have Logitech’s G HUB software, which also doesn’t cost anything.
The Snowball’s features are meager compared to the Yeti’s. It has a sliding switch, which controls the polar patterns, which are just cardioid and omnidirectional.
The -10DB setting is just for the cardioid position. But it’s very useful for all intents and purposes. As mentioned, the Snowball is very sensitive. Lowering the gain in an instant through the back switch is a significant advantage over other mics that rely on software entirely.
The Snowball isn’t compatible with Blue VO!CE sadly. What it does work with is the Blue SHERPA, which is a software that grants access to a few basic modification options. SHERPA also recognizes the Yeti but you’d want VO!CE to get the most out of it.
The old grapefruit plays well with any digital audio editing software. It handles advanced customizations competently. You can get professional-sounding quality recordings and broadcasts with the Snowball if you know what you’re doing.
There’s no doubt about who’s the victor of this round. The Snowball’s arguably limited features simply don’t stand up against Yeti’s hearty built-in functionalities and much more robust companion software.
Setting up the Blue Yeti and Snowball Mics
Both units use a mini-USB socket. That’s right, mini and not the more robust and widely available micro or USB-C. The earliest non-XLR version of the Snowball used USB-B—the port and plug that’s usually associated with printers. This means that Blue did update their mics’ hardware interface since launch. Why they stopped at mini-USB is anyone’s guess.
The manufacturer does provide a mini-to-USB-A cable in the box. And it’s still easy to find online today. We can go into the plug cycles or the number of insertions that a mini and micro-USB port and plug can handle in their lifetime (the micro wins). But these mics aren’t meant for frequent connecting and disconnecting.
Setting the Yeti and Snowball up couldn’t be easier since both are plug-and-play devices. Just connect them to your PC or Mac and they’ll get detected as audio input devices automatically—no driver necessary.
Nitpicking on the Blue Yeti and Blue Snowball
Both models are great microphones in their own right. But we’ve already put our Karen wigs on. They’re warmed up and raring to go.
We’d very much like to talk to the manager regarding the following:
- Knob positions - The polar pattern selection and gain knobs are at the back. They’re a tad inconvenient to get to when adjusting the gain on a whim. We understand that there’s only so much space at the front where all the controls should be ideally. A good compromise is if the gain and earphone volume knobs are switched as we think most users will use the former more than the latter more often.
- Optional stand - We said that the Yeti looks great mounted on the desk stand and we stand by it. However, we believe users will affix the Yeti on a boom arm for the majority of the time. The included stand is very high quality and making it an optional accessory may slash a considerable amount from the total cost.
- Wide tripod - The Snowball’s tripod eats up a lot of desk real-estate—about a foot in diameter. We get that it’s round and has an uneven center of gravity, hence the need for such a wide base. But we think this issue could have been resolved by a weightier stand that doesn’t spread out quite as much.
- Needs more slots - We think that Blue Snowball’s reception on the omni pattern is uneven because it doesn’t have any openings on the middle outline of the ball. More slots around that area may solve this problem probably.
Blue Yeti and Blue Snowball Pros and Cons
Before we lay down our final recommendation, let’s take a look at the Cliffs Notes version of the good and bad points of the Yeti and the Snowball.
Blue Yeti Pros
- Excellent build and design
- Four unique polar patterns
- Good quality for spoken word, music, and ambient sounds
- Good resonant frequency rejection
- Built-in adjustment controls
- On-board zero-latency earphone monitoring
- Blue VO!CE compatibility
- Usable with a variety of broadcasting and recording devices
Blue Yeti Cons
- Heavy and chunky
- Subpar bass on proximity effect
- Low noise suppression
- Noticeable plosive and sibilance pickup
Blue Snowball Pros
- Interesting design
- Easy to use
- Good sound quality on cardioid
- Useful -10DB function
- Good handling of middle frequencies
- Usable with a variety of broadcasting and recording devices
Blue Snowball Cons
- Hollow plastic build
- Inconsistent sound quality on omnidirectional
- Not compatible with Blue VO!CE
- Mediocre handling of low and high frequencies
- Poor plosive and sibilance rejection
- Limited on-board functionality and software support
- May require equalizing for more professional-sounding results
The Bottom Line
Is it the Blue Yeti or the Blue Snowball? The Yeti gets the gold clearly, and it’s the one you should get. It’s hard to believe that it’s a USB microphone for how much flexibility and the number of quick-access features it offers.
The Blue Yeti is a beast for the hundred-dollar price point. And for something that debuted in 2009, it’s impressive how it’s managed to maintain its position as one of the top USB mics in the market today. Even though Blue has since released a better (and pricier) upgrade to the Yeti family, the Yeti X (from US$230) and the Yeti Pro (from US$250), the vanilla model still holds up and sells in the millions.
But let’s give credit where it’s due. When the Snowball first came rolling out of the production line in 2005, it wiped the courts with its contemporaries. Many outlets consider the Snowball to be one of the OGs of premium USB microphones and we share the same sentiment.
Unfortunately, age has caught up with the veteran. As previously mentioned, there are a lot of other similarly priced USB mics out there that can outperform the Snowball by leaps and bounds and with the added benefit of having better quality constructions.
It’s a sad thought but we think Blue should retire the Snowball so it can truly rest in its rightful place within the hall of fame of USB microphones.
Photo: Marco Verch | Flickr