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Looking for a USB mic?
Then there’s a good chance you’re interested in recording.
It could be that you don’t need anything overly sophisticated and just need to be able to capture sound. After all, USB mics tend to be plug and play and quite user friendly, so if you want to get up and running fast, they make it easy to do so.
It could also be that you’re looking for a more long-term solution but are on a tight budget and heard about USB mics.
Whatever the case, a USB mic can be a nice addition to your mic locker. In this guide, we pit the Blue Yeti against the AT2020, which are often mentioned in the same breath – read on to find out which one comes out as the winner.
Blue Yeti USB Microphone Review – Often Recommended To Podcasters
In one corner, we have the Blue Yeti USB microphone.
Blue microphones are often recommended to podcasters because they are convenient, easy to use and set up, and relatively portable too. The Snowball is a popular option, but so is the more feature-rich Yeti, which is what we’re going to be looking at.
The Blue Yeti is a professional multi-pattern USB mic for recording and streaming. Blue claims it is the world’s top USB microphone, and many users seem to agree.
The built-in tri-capsule technology helps you capture quality sound, while the four polar pattern settings give you access to more tonal possibilities suited to music, podcasting, Twitch streaming, YouTube videos or otherwise.
The Yeti is also affordable, given what you get for the price. It’s available in different colors too.
Features & Technical Specifications
There is plenty of information available on the Blue Yeti’s technical specifications. Which is good news, since it helps us flesh out its attributes.
First, here’s an overview of the microphone and performance:
- Power required/consumption: 5V 150mA
- Sample rate: 48kHz
- Bit rate: 16-bit
- Capsules: three Blue 14mm condenser capsules
- Polar patterns: cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional, stereo
- Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Max SPL: 120dB (THD: 0.5% 1kHz)
- Microphone weight: 1.2 lbs. (0.55 kg)
- Stand weight: 2.2 lbs. (1 kg)
The Blue Yeti also has an onboard headphone amplifier (one of the things that makes it so convenient to use), and its specifications are as follows:
- Impedance: 16 ohms
- Power output (RMS): 130 mW
- THD: 0.009%
- Frequency response: 15Hz – 22kHz
- Signal to noise: 100dB
Though the Yeti is plug and play as well as being Mac and PC compatible, your computer must meet certain system requirements. They are as follows:
- PC: Windows 7, 8.1, or 10 with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0
- Mac: macOS 10.10 or higher with USB 1.1/2.0/3.0
In terms of its features, this is what stands out most:
- Tri-capsule array
- Multiple pattern selection
- Gain control, mute button (not found on most mics), and a zero-latency headphone output
- Ideal for vocals, instruments, podcasting, voice overs, interview, gaming, field recordings, conference calls, and more
What’s Great About The Yeti
The Blue Yeti has long been touted as the best USB microphone. We feel it would be more accurate to say it’s the best USB microphone in its price range, because we know of a few mics we would put in a different class altogether.
Yet, the “best” sentiment still holds true in many regards, and many users seem to agree with it.
True to form, the Yeti is a plug and play microphone with great sound quality. You will need to play with the gain and polar patterns for best results, but no matter what mic you choose, you will need to fiddle with settings for optimum performance.
There are better sounding mics to be sure. What you need to keep in mind, though, is you will be spending considerably more for those. The Yeti is a standout option in its class.
You don’t need any software or drivers to get started with the Yeti, and once plugged in, you can begin recording with your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) immediately.
The Yeti comes mounted on its own stand. Though you can remove the mic from the stand and use your own stand, in most cases, you probably won’t need to. The stand makes it incredibly convenient, as most mics don’t come with stands, and if they do, they often aren’t high quality.
Plus, the stand extends to a height that should be highly usable for most, assuming the desk you’re using is at a reasonable height.
The Blue Yeti comes with a USB cable and that’s all you need to get started. If you were using a conventional XLR mic, you would need an audio interface, USB cable, and XLR cable at minimum (though this can have its advantages too).
With the headphone amplifier, you get real-time monitoring, so you can check to ensure your voice isn’t crackling, peaking, distorting or otherwise before you begin recording.
Finally, the four polar patterns make the mic incredibly attractive, especially if you intend to use it in a variety of ways.
Here’s an overview of the polar patterns:
- Cardioid. Perfect for solo podcasting, streaming, voiceovers, and instruments. In this mode, the mic will only pick up the sound sources directly in front of it.
- Stereo. In this mode, you can move from side to side, and the mic will capture the left and right channels for a realistic sound image. Can be used for choir and acoustic guitar, though it can often be heard used in ASMR videos.
- Omnidirectional. Use this mode to pick up the “sound of the room.” If you want to record a live performance or a meeting involving several people, this would be the mode to use. It can be useful for recording some instruments as well.
- Bidirectional. In this mode, you can pick up what’s in front of the mic and what’s behind the mic. Ideal for two-way conversations.
Blue Yeti – What Could Be Better
There’s a lot to like about the Yeti. But that isn’t to suggest it’s perfect.
The Yeti is foldable (you can retract it in the stand), but it is not compact, and it will still take up quite a bit of space in your backpack or travel bag. So, if you’re going to take it with you, be sure to plan.
At a combined 3.3 lbs. (mic and stand inclusive), it also has quite a bit of weight to it.
We also feel it’s not the best at picking up instruments. They come out sounding a little lifeless. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it for instruments though.
Aside from that, we can’t pin any major downsides on the Yeti.
Other Things Of Note
The Yeti comes from the fast-growing line of the Yeti family of mics.
In addition to the Yeti, there’s also the:
- Yeti Pro
- Yeti Nano
- Yeti X
- Yeti X World of Warcraft Edition
Except for the Yeti Nano, these mics all cost more than the standard Yeti. Still, they are worth a look depending on what you want in a mic.
We won’t be covering the Yeti family in anymore depth here, but you’re welcome to do more looking around.
Blue Yeti For Vocalists
The Yeti works great for rapping, especially by the time you’ve added your favorite effects like EQ to your voice in post.
It also sounds great for vocals.
So, overall, vocalists should enjoy the Yeti and be able to achieve good results with it.
Blue Yeti For Instrumentalists
The Yeti seems to pick up the “true” sound of the instrument. I find the raw, unprocessed audio to be a bit lifeless though.
You’ll also need to play with the mic positioning, gain, and polar pattern settings for ideal results (remember – different settings for different instruments!). This is normal, but it’s something you should be aware of if you’re planning to get the most out of your recording sessions.
Still, you can capture good quality audio, and by the time you’ve mixed it, you should be able to get solid results.
C-Threep Music on YouTube made an entire song using the Blue Yeti to record guitars, vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, and bass. It’s quite intriguing! Have a listen for yourself:
Blue Yeti For Podcasters
The Blue Yeti is a great mic for podcasters. By no means is it the “best,” and there are plenty of options available, both cheaper and more expensive.
That said, it is hard to find a better choice in its price range, with its convenient stand and headphone amplifier, which allows for real-time monitoring.
Even as a podcaster, the four polar patterns could be of some use if you’re recording two or more voices at once.
And best of all, you will sound like a pro without having to spend an arm and a leg thanks to its quality audio.
Blue Yeti, Bottom Line
The Blue Yeti delivers in every regard and even lives up to its reputation – which is a rare quality in any product these days.
It sounds good. It’s easy to use. It’s convenient.
And yes, you might end up having to do some fiddling around to achieve optimal sound – especially if you’re recording instruments with it.
But it still does most things well. Voice is what it does best, but it can certainly handle instruments and music too.
And when you consider that the whole point of recording is to start with quality sound sources, you can easily capture layers of quality sound sources using the Yeti. And that makes it usable.
I would not say that it’s the most convenient mic for instrumentalists. But as an all-purpose mic, it still performs more than admirably.
Audio-Technica AT2020 USB Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone Review – A Great Mic For Voice & Other Applications
In the other corner, we have the Audio-Technica AT2020 cardioid condenser USB microphone.
I have personally recommended this microphone to those who were interested in recording voice, and they have always returned to me happy with the results.
And the main reason for that is with the AT2020 USB you get high quality results at a more than reasonable price point.
As with the Blue Yeti, the AT2020 USB is a side-address studio condenser with a USB digital output. It produces a sound that’s highly usable for podcasting, home studio recording, field recording, and voiceover.
It’s like the Yeti, but not the same. Here we’ll look at the AT2020 USB mic in greater depth.
Features & Technical Specifications
Here’s what you should know about the AT2020:
- Element: fixed-charge back plate, permanently polarized condenser
- Polar pattern: cardioid
- Frequency response: 20 – 16,000Hz
- Weight: 13.2 oz (374 g)
- Bit depth: 16 bit
- Sample rate: 44.1 kHz
- Accessories included: pivoting stand mount for 5/8”-27 threaded stands, 5/8”-27 to 3/8”-16 threaded adapter, soft protective pouch, tripod desk stand, 10’ (3.1 m) USB cable
And here are the features that stand out most:
- Windows and Mac compatible
- Plug and play
- Custom-engineered low-mass diaphragm for extended frequency and transient response
- Cardioid polar pattern can cut down on unwanted noise from the sides or rear
- Low self-noise
What’s Great About The Audio-Technica AT2020 USB
The Audio-Techica AT2020 USB offers great sound quality and even records in stereo.
Sometimes, the difference between a standard XLR mix and USB mic is noticeable, but in this case, the mic holds its ground, and might even have higher sensitivity than the XLR equivalent (could be an upside or downside depending on who you ask).
Unlike the Yeti, this mic is compact and portable. It also comes with accessories – pivoting stand mount, protective pouch, and tripod desk stand – all of which are lightweight.
Overall, it’s great bang for buck.
Audio-Technica AT2020 USB – What Could Be Better
The included tripod desk stand is okay, but it could be a lot better. It’s not height adjustable, so unless your desk is at the ideal height, you might need to rest your mic on top of a few books. Although it won’t break unless subjected to weight or force, it still isn’t the most durable piece of kit either.
The mic works best on sources that its close to, and despite its sensitivity and detailed response, it isn’t necessarily designed to pick up the sound of a room. Which could be an upside depending on who you ask.
Onboard controls are available, but they aren’t as good as the Yeti.
Other Things Of Note
Audio-Technica has replaced the AT2020 USB with the AT2020USB+, which is basically the same product with some minor upgrades.
Of course, the original AT2020 (XLR) mic is still available.
Audio-Technica AT2020 USB For Vocalists
As with the Yeti, the AT2020 USB works great for rapping, especially by the time you’ve applied your favorite effects to your voice in post.
Likewise, you can achieve a great sound with vocals, especially if you know what you’re doing with your mix.
Audio-Technica AT2020 USB For Instrumentalists
Instruments sound amazing through the AT2020. Not surprising when you consider that it’s a condenser mic capable of picking up detail and nuance, but still encouraging.
Instrumentalists will also like the fact that you can get up and running fast with the AT2020 USB.
Check out this video to hear how an acoustic guitar and voice sound through the AT2020 USB:
Audio-Technica AT2020 USB For Podcasters
The AT2020 USB should prove more than satisfactory for podcasters looking for quality sound.
It might not give you the smooth, warm tone of a broadcast mic (which generally cost considerably more), but it still sounds great, and there’s a lot you can do in post-production.
At this price point, podcasters should be quite happy with the AT2020 USB.
Audio-Technica AT2020 USB, Bottom Line
The AT2020 USB is a great microphone. It is sometimes overlooked in favor of the Blue Yeti, and that’s understandable, but depending on how you intend to use the mic, you might be better off with the AT2020.
The fact that its sound quality is comparable to its XLR equivalent speaks volume of its overall sound quality.
It’s an affordable, easy to use, high-quality, plug and play mic, and it’s also compact and portable.
It seems to handle all applications well, be it voice, vocals, or instruments. That makes it another all-purpose mic worthy of anyone’s consideration – especially those on a budget.
And The Winner Is…
This is a tough one. And the main reason for that is while both mics are USB mics and have quite a bit in common, they’re also different in several ways.
Now that we’ve looked at both mics in depth, we’re going to compare many aspects of the two offerings to give you a better sense of which is the better mic.
The AT2020 USB is perfect for voice, vocals, and instruments.
The Yeti is great for voice and vocals, but in my opinion, it doesn’t handle instruments as well. You can still capture a great quality sound regardless of source, and if you know what you’re doing in post, you can still create an awesome sounding mix.
But there are some differences in how each mic handles voice as well. In my opinion, you get a little smoother warmth out of the Yeti, and while the AT2020 USB certainly sounds smooth and crisp, I don’t think it offers as much warmth.
The polar patterns are certainly a point of contention and do make the Yeti a little more versatile, and in some cases, more attractive. That said, unless you’re a podcaster/singer/instrumentalist it’s unlikely you’ll be using all the patterns, and stereo mode is generally favored by ASMR artists though it could have some practical use for acoustic guitars.
Again, the AT2020 USB seems to offer more in terms of recording instruments and capturing a more natural sound. The Yeti, for some reason, just sounds sterile when it comes to capturing drums, guitars, or otherwise.
But no matter how you look at it, in terms of sound quality, it’s a bit of a stalemate. The mic you choose will probably depend on what you’re using it for.
The Yeti comes on its own stand, and nothing could be more convenient than that. You can place the mic on your desk, plug it into your computer with a USB cable, and be off to the races.
Likewise, the AT2020 USB is quite convenient and is much lighter than the Yeti, making it more compact and portable too. If you’re going to be heading out on the road or are planning to travel somewhere, you’re probably more likely to reach for the AT2020 USB.
That said, the AT2020 USB comes with a flimsy mic stand. And again, while it’s not going to break without some weight or force, it’s also not adjustable. Unless the desk you’re using is at the perfect height, you’re basically going to be leaning in to use the mic or propping up the mic with books. This is only accentuated by the fact that it’s a side-address mic.
Again, it’s a bit of a stalemate here because there are pros and cons on either side. I’d be inclined to give it to the Yeti if it weren’t as weighty as it is though.
It would be near impossible to do a straight features comparison between the two mics, and anyone who says you should choose a mic based on its features alone is kind of missing the point. Because at the end of the day, it’s a matter of what you can accomplish with the mic, not how great “it’s supposed to be.”
Still, we do need to take this factor into account.
From our perspective, the two mics are almost neck and neck. But overall, the Yeti offers a little more in terms of controls (including the mute button), polar patterns, not to mention a headphone amplifier that doesn’t seem like an afterthought.
In this category, the Yeti wins.
The Yeti and AT2020 USB are basically in the same price range but these days, the AT2020 seems to cost a little more. It could be because Audio-Technica has discontinued the AT2020 and has come out with AT2020USB+ in its place.
Either way, both mics are great bang for buck, but you seem to get a little more for the price with the Yeti.
The Blue Yeti comes out on top, mostly because of its onboard features, as well as the fact that it comes with a better stand than the AT2020 USB. The fact that it costs slightly less doesn’t hurt either, though.
It’s a relatively miniscule difference, but in every battle, there is always a winner. In this case, it just so happens to be the Yeti.
Beyond that, both mics are worth their asking price and you’re quite likely to enjoy your purchase regardless.
Podcasters and vocalists are sure to benefit more from the Yeti. But if you want to record instruments, then you’re probably going to enjoy the AT2020 USB more.
Is There That Much Of A Difference Between USB & XLR Mics?
Obviously, there is a difference in the types of cables used connect to a computer or audio interface.
A USB mic can connect directly to a computer, while an XLR mic will require an audio interface. Audio interfaces, however, can also connect to a computer.
But we know what you’re really asking. You’re asking if there’s a difference in sound quality, right?
And the answer is yes. XLR mics tend to be a step up in terms of quality, and if you’re looking at podcasting or recording professionally, chances are you will put your money into an XLR mic. You will probably end up owning multiple XLR mics in fact!
USB microphones tend to be perfect for hobbyists because they are considerably cheaper. Which isn’t to say you can’t do a lot more with them, because oftentimes you can!
USB microphones are also at an advantage if you’re planning to travel. They are far more portable, because if you wanted to take an XLR mic with you, you’d probably need to take your audio interface with you too.
At the end of the day, there are pros and cons on both sides. But if we’re just looking at sound quality, then yes, XLR mics do tend to be better.
At2020 Vs Blue Yeti, Best USB Microphone, Final Thoughts
When it comes to USB mics, there are plenty of choose from.
As noted, there are both cheaper and more expensive alternatives depending on what you need.
They sound great, they’re easy to use, they’re basically plug and play, and they are both portable to varying degrees.
Whichever you choose, you will probably be happy with your purchase.
Finally, we wish you all the best on your mic buying journey.