Earth Notes: Metacast 1: Blue Yeti, Shy Eurasian Footwear (2020-04)Updated 2022-10-15.
Hi, I'm Damon Hart-Davis, and this is an Earth Notes metacast for 10th April 2020.I've been happy recording for this podcast with my MacBook Air's built-in mic. But as I accidentally discovered for my Sign-off for 2019 with my cheap mobile headset, I can do significantly worse. Given repeated prompts from some musician friends, I'm trying to up my game!
I hummed and hawed and then lashed out on a Logitech Blue Yeti USB Microphone which seemed widely recommended, if maybe more money than I necessarily wanted to spend (£88 including VAT and P&P) on a podcast with maybe less than one listener!
(Separately, to help deal with the inflated number of Skype and other calls provoked by lockdown, on the same day I bought a Jabra headset. Quite spendy for me.)
I'm quickly testing all four microphones available to me and that are candidates for recording future episodes. Though if I'm not at home I'm quite likely to revert to the zero-equipment zero-hassle MBA built-in mic for simplicity! We'll see.
For a test recording snippet I want something that exercises the gamut of my spoken language, ie English RP (Received Pronunciation). I was sorely tempted to use one of the diction exercises from the film "My Fair Lady" (based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion) such asIn Hertford, Hereford, and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen.But a phonetic pangram should be better.
Also, because people have complained about my sibilance and harshly suggested a "de-essing" filter, I can use a famous sound-check test phrase too.
My two-part test phrase is thus:
- Testing: 1, 2, 3.
- Are those shy Eurasian footwear, cowboy chaps, or jolly earthmoving headgear?
Listen to the sample text captured with each of the mics:
- The mobile headset ...
- The Jabra Evolve 40 Stereo headset ...
- The MacBook Air built-in ...
- The Blue Yeti ...
All are sampled at 44.1kHz, and captured and normalised in Audacity. All are stereo, except the Jabra.
I'd say that the cheapo [Leap] mobile headset mic is clearly the least good. I didn't even know that the headset had a mic when I bought it, so the mic was effectively a free bonus!
Next best is the new (mono) Jabra. I may not be doing it justice since the level seemed a bit low, making the normalisation work hard.
The MacBook Air's built-in (stereo) mic is clearly the best of the first three. It's done a good job so far for Skype, podcasts, and so on.
The Yeti sound has taken a bit of getting used to, and is less 'bright' to my ear than the Mac's, but is richer and warmer and better overall I think. (The sample is probably a bit harsh and even clipped.)
This brief episode is brought to you courtesy of the Blue Yeti. I think that it'll take a bit of effort to use well, eg getting gain and positioning right for my desk, and finding space to store it when not in use. But so far I'm happy with it.
Look in the show notes on this episode's page for the earlier samples, and a bonus sample or two when I get the opportunity to put the Yeti through its paces.
There's more on my "Earth Notes" Web site at
The mobile headset (£5!) in all its glory, a bit like listening through a hissy cardboard tube... But, it does work.
The Jabra Evolve 40 Stereo headset (mono mic, nominal 100Hz to 10kHz).
The MacBook Air (6,2, ~2013) built-in mic, as all but one of the episodes to date have been recorded with.
Here is the first Blue Yeti sample, once the background hiss stopped... 48kHz sample rate (mic nominal 20Hz to 20kHz) first attempt in "cardioid" (forward-facing) mode, analogue gain minimum and digital gain cranked up, after it had "warmed up" a little and background noise levels dropped markedly
The second Blue Yeti sample. 44.1kHz sample rate, analogue gain slightly up.
16WW ambient garden sounds Blue Yeti sample, Good Friday lockdown afternoon. 44.1kHz sample rate, analogue gain at max, omnidirectional mode.
16WW ambient garden sounds Blue Yeti sample, Saturday lockdown morning. 44.1kHz sample rate, analogue gain at max, omnidirectional mode.
16WW ambient garden sounds Blue Yeti sample, Sunday lockdown just before 3am. 44.1kHz sample rate, analogue gain at max, omnidirectional mode. The normalisation is doing a lot of work here as the non-normalised signal is essentially inaudible.
Sunday lockdown just before 3am, not normalised.
2021-12-26: Replacement: SC 165
My Jabra headset broke (one earpad and the mic boom snapped off) ~18 months in. The original Amazon Jabra supplier kindly sent me a direct substitute EPOS / Sennheiser SC 165 USB (MPC 508317, UPC 615104318038).
Nominal microphone response is 100Hz to 10kHz (cf headphones 20Hz to 20kHz).
I have been having what I take to be software issues with the audio volume from the mic dropping to inaudible levels for others on a call. Simply selecting a different audio source and then switching back immediately, with no fiddling around with cables etc, makes the audio come back.
The audio is more sibilant than the Jabra — here is a sample:
Interestingly it was impossible to find anything about this SC 165 device on the Sennheiser site. (The EPOS search was bad also though.) Reporting the drop-out issue I received this in a response holding email:
Please note: Sennheiser Communications A/S, the joint venture between Demant A/S and Sennheiser electronic GmbH & Co. KG, has previously announced that it will evolve in new set-ups. Enterprise Solutions and Gaming headsets will evolve as a new independent company, EPOS, under the global audio and hearing technology group Demant. Going forward, EPOS will manufacture and sell the existing Sennheiser Communications portfolio for Enterprises and Gaming co-branded as EPOS | SENNHEISER products, while also introducing a new EPOS branded portfolio.
EPOS support called me on the morning of the 27th and suggested downloading their "EPOS Connect" app to update firmware on the headphones (from 44.05.18.18 to 44.05.31.31), and/or to use the 3.5mm jack directly.
EPOS support called me again shortly after I replied to them to see if there had been any improvement. I gently reminded the caller that it is still Christmas holidays here so I won't get a chance to test the fix(es) until Wednesday!
As of Thursday (30th) afternoon I have had a couple of workdays including various lengths of Skype and Teams calls using the SC 165. No signs of audio drop-out from the mic over USB — maybe it's fixed? (EPOS tried to call me again during one of those long Teams calls!)
I subsequently removed the huge (getting on for 1GB IIRC!) app.
Tomasz said on Twitter on the 11th:
Hey @EarthOrgUK, I'm sure you have more than one listener of your podcast! The quality improvement with the Yeti is fantastic, please don't use the built-in mic in your MacBook Air ever again ;)