The Big Blue Yeti, Soft Phones & Audio Sample Rate

dialpad-windows-desktop-yetiA short while ago friend and telecom luminary Dave Michels contacted me about a problem he was encountering with his Blue Yeti USB microphone. While he appreciates the benefits of a headset, he prefers to not use one when there’s video involved.

Dave uses the Yeti when recording videos and participating in various UC podcasts. He’s recently started to use it with the Dialpad soft phone. That’s the service that provides his home & office phones.

The Yeti is a fine microphone for many purposes. The combination of USB convenience, handy level controls and low-latency monitoring makes it an excellent choice for podcasters. I recently wrote a blog post for ZipDX that describes its use by a professional interpreter in the UK.

In Dave’s case, when using the Yeti with Dailpad others on the call would complain that his volume was very low. So much so that he was forced to switch to his Plantronics Savi headset. They also complained that “he sounded bad.”

To solve these problems the two of us set about a quick investigation. What we found is potentially useful, so I’m sharing it here with y’all.
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Evaluating USB Headsets for Interpreters

This is admittedly a deep dive into a niche topic. It stems from work done for ZipDX, but is more technical than most audiences can stand. Nonetheless, those of you who frequent these waters may find it interesting.

plantronics-blackwire-c320-usb-headset.jpgWhy Do This?

One of the more fascinating aspects of my work at ZipDX involves the interpreters engaged in the use of our multilingual conference capability. These people, who are located all over the globe, are simply fascinating people. They have incredible skills with languages, and finely tuned sensitivity to the nuance of cross-cultural communication. It’s positively inspirational to hear them at work, and very gratifying to support them in their work.

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The LifeSpan Of A Yeti

Last week my Blue Microphones Yeti became completely unresponsive. A USB-connected microphone, when I connected it to my desktop Windows reported that the device was unrecognized. Digging into the device manager on the OS, I found a device connected, but not identified. Since the device was not responding to the OS no driver could be assigned.

I filed a trouble report with Blue Microphones, who responded a day later with a list of questions. They wanted to know if I’d tried a different USB cable, or a difference computer? Of course, I’d done these things. I tried with my desktop, laptop and a Mac Mini…heck, I’d even powered up an old HP 2140 netbook so I could try the Yeti with Windows XP.

No Joy. Beyond being unrecognized by the hosts, the Yeti itself was unresponsive. The microphone mute button was on, and could not be turned off. After a few emails the Blue support team determined that the Yeti was in fact deceased. If I could show proof that it was within the two-year warranty period they’d replace it.

As I recall I received my Yeti as a Christmas gift in 2011. So, he was almost four years of at at the time of his passing. Sadly, beyond the warranty period.

The Yeti had a particular role in my operation. It was the full-bandwidth microphone that I used when recording narration for the tutorial videos that I occasionally create. While I didn’t use it all that often, I do need something to fill that role.

However, I’m not rushing to acquire another Yeti or Yeti Pro. My most recent examination of microphones for telecom, podcasting & production, has me considering something much smaller. Ideally, I’d like to try a headset that features a full-bandwidth microphone element. This has turned out to be a rare bird. Perhaps I’ll revisit stage microphones like the Countryman E6 or the inexpensive Pyle-Pro PMHM2.

Replacing the Yeti will have to wait until after the holidays. Perhaps CES will reveal some new alternative that will prove interesting.

As microphones goes the Yeti is a fearsome creature, but they are apparently short-lived.

P.S. – YouTuber extraordinaire Marques Brownlee recently began a new series on “YouTube Gear” by recommending the Yeti.

A Microphone Deep Dive: Part 1 – Frequency Response

Last week, in response to Chris Koehncke’s blog post, I set about creating a couple of sample recordings to support my belief that a headset trumps a laptop’s built-in microphone. Along the way I came to a couple of realizations, or perhaps I should say remembrances, of things that I hadn’t thought about in a long while. There are numerous subtleties to the matter of microphones.


Microphones, like most things, are built to address specific applications. There are microphones for recording studios. Microphones for stage performers. Microphones for board rooms. Microphones for mobile phones. Even a microphone for that cheesy tape recorder that you bought at Radio Shack back in the 1980’s when it was still a great gadget shop.

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Kranky & Krankier?

“Statler and Waldorf” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Chris Koehncke (aka Chris Kranky) recently posed a question in a blog post. He asked, “How good is your laptop microphone?” He then laid out an experimental series of recordings using different hardware. As an executive summary he offers, “Your current internal laptop mic is probably fine.” As you might imagine, I disagree…but there’s more to it than that.

In truth, it’s not that he’s wrong, but I think that he was asking the wrong question! The question he should have asked is, “How do I best convey my voice when using this laptop?”

The answer to that question is quite simple…use a high-quality headset, preferably one with a boom-mounted microphone. When participating in any kind of conference call, or video conference nothing can touch the quality of sound delivered by using a good headset. This has long been my belief, although I accept that it may not be a widespread.
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Phoenix Audio Beams Up A New SIP Conference Phone

Phoenix Audio at InfoComm2015InfoComm 2015 is next week, which has swayed the nature of press releases filling my in-box. While most are less than interesting, there was one from Phoenix Audio Technologies that piqued my interest. They have introduced an intriguing new device they call the Condor. Condor is not a typical SIP end-point.

Condor is an audio pickup appliance, essentially a microphone array with some sophisticated on-board DSP capability. With an on-board SIP client it’s one component of a huddle room conferencing solution. Add a large HDTV with built-in speakers and you have a complete solution for audio conferencing. You’re also well on your way to video conferencing.

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