Need a mic? Find a Yeti.

In the last few years it’s gotten a bit easier to use a microphone to record audio on your home computer — USB headsets with quality microphones have been available for a while, but only recently have USB desktop microphones oved out of the niche and specialty retailers into the mainstream, driven mostly by the development of podcasting and Garage Band recording systems.

But quality desktop microphones were expensive — the keyword there is were — now we’re seeing a bunch of new, high quality USB desktop microphones in the retailers at a much more reasonable price-point.

The Blue Yeti is one such microphone that has quickly developed a bit of a reputation for itself, in a good way, of course. So let’s take a look at some of the reasons the Yeti is getting some buzz.

All this on a microphone?
First off, the Yeti isn’t just a microphone. Inside the sturdy, heavy, burnished aluminium case is actually 3 condenser microphone capsules, strategically located to provide 4 recording patterns. I’ll get into those in a moment.

And it’s a THX certified microphone:

THX certification is either pass or fail. And product pricing is never a driving factor. If a product meets the THX testing standards, then certification is granted. With all of this testing from THX, the consumer is assured that the TV, receiver or speaker  system they are purchasing meets the highest standards for quality and compatibility right out of the box.

backcontrols.jpgAlso inside the unit all the hardware necessary to translate the analog audio into digital audio, and then pump it out the mini-USB port and into your computer.

This hardware includes a pre-amp (controlled by the Gain knob on the back) and a zero-latency headphone jack so you can monit or the microphone audio without having to plug your headphones into your computer, and  experience that annoying bit of audio lag (latency).

Three, no four mics in one.
Cap_300.jpg You see this neat shot of the three condenser mic capsules? Well the way the Yeti uses them is kinda cool, because these three mics working together give the Yeti the flexibility of four distinct microphone pickup patterns.

The illustration below shows the patterns and their best usages.

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Mobile Recording Studio
One of the other reasons I wanted to take a look at the Yeti was to explore it’s functionality in a highly mobile environment — specifically how it worked when connected to the USB input in Apple’s Camera Connector Kit for the iPad.

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By combining a high-quality microphone with some of the sophisticated digital audio editing software for iPad (such as MultiTrack DAW), a potentially powerful podcasting setup could be created.

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Sweet Sounds
Yep, the Yeti works as a very nice and clean mic in a mobile situation.

I recorded some audio of my wife setting up her acoustic guitar, and while I’m no sound engineer, was quite impressed with the sound! Much better than any of the home / consumer mic’s I’d tried previously.

Stereo Normalized by bgrier

And, of course, I recorded the first paragraph of this blog post to give you an indication of what voice sounds like through the Yeti. The Yeti was connected through an inexpensive USB hub to the iPad, which was running Multitrack DAW. Yeti gain was up a bit, and the mic was set into the Cardioid pattern.

Yeti Mic Test by bgrier

Then Apple Changed Things
Sadly, in the last OS update, Apple changed the way power was supplied through the Camera Connector Kit USB port — and the Yeti stopped working *when connected directly to the iPad*.

The workaround is that you now need to put a powered USB hub between the Yeti and your iPad in order for the system to work again.

Mostly Mobile
So, as things stand, I’ve got a mostly mobile recording and podcast studio.  The one major drawback with the Yeti is it’s heft – it weighs in at 1.85kg.

Add to that the need for a powered USB hub now, and things are a bit more complicated — but not enough that I’d not consider using the Yeti / Hub / iPad combination in a mobile setting.

Need a mic? Find a Yeti.
If you compare prices on similar mics, you’ll find the Yeti extremely inexpensive — considering the number of additional features you get built in (multi-pattern, THX certification, internal Pre-amp, etc), well worth a serious look, or listen.

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Dilemma: Offloading old tech

phonedump_250.jpgOk, so here’s the deal. You want a new computer, or iPad, or BluRay player or whatever. But your old one is still working perfectly fine. Yet, the features of your next technological acquisition are so good, so cool, that really, that new tech item will make your life much better.

Great, so you go out and get it, but what do you do with the old item?

And there’s the rub.

You’ve got the old tech, that still works and you’re comfortable with. And you’ve got your new tech that you’re learning and works and is Jobs-gift-to-humanity.

For me, there’s huge reluctance to get rid of the old stuff. Sure, it’s already been replaced by better stuff — but it still works! It can still do things. So here’s what I do:

1) Resell — this one is pretty obvious, but takes a bit of work. Listing on (competitor) or Kijjiji requires setting up an account and managing the process. If you’ve done everything right, you’ve got a buyer for your tech-stuff and you’re both happy.

Other alternatives that often work are pawn shops. If not, proceed to step 2.

2) Regift — it’s entirely possible you’ve got a very young neice or nephew that could use a ‘first’ computer. Once properly refurbished, your ‘gift’ could meet that need. Of course, you’ll be the first in line for hardware support, but isn’t that what being supportive in a family is all about?

3) Repurpose — Older computers still work well running older operating systems. Given your hardware won’t be your daily desktop box, nothing’s preventing you from giving it new life as a dedicated server, a home security system, or a media centre box.

4) Recycle — this one is actually my favourite. In Edmonton, we have local EcoStations that are set up to take our tech. As well, FutureShop has an amazing Electronics Take-Back program in Alberta and Ontario. What better way to keep your older tech out of the landfill and ensure it (or its component material) is being put back to work.

Obviously, this won’t work for every situation. For example, I’ve got a few old cell phones and  PDAs gathering dust in my closet. I’ve not figured out nor taken time to determine the best ‘end’ for them, yet. Your mileage may vary…in fact, I hope it does! And I hope you share your best ‘tech recycle story below…because frankly, I could use a bit of help 🙂



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


Tablets will be the story this holiday season

The iPad has been out for a bit now, and it’s the tablet that all the others will be compared against as they jockey for position going into the holiday season.

But overall, I think this is the year that tablets finally start to make some headway into the marketplace; a marketplace already crowded with Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks and Data Phones.

So, why consider a tablet? Here’s a few things to think about.

Middleground
Tablets won’t replace your main computer, nor will they replace your laptop. They’re not powerful enough to do a lot of the work those computers do. But, they will fill in the middleground between your smartphone and your computer, simply because they are smaller, yet not too small, and offer a great interactive experience.

Tablets are  great to bring to meetings, light-weight and yet functional enough that looking up calendar conflicts or taking simple notes is a very simple process — and the tablet is much less obvious than a laptop when sitting around the boardroom table.

Oh, and you smartphone jockey’s out there, yes, you can do all that stuff on your handheld Android/BlackBerry/iPhone, but the screen size is kinda limiting when you want/need to share the view.

Cloudbusting
Using some cloud computing applications such as DropBox, any notes you create on your tablet are instantly stored in the cloud account and accessible to your other computers.

And, if you’re in that meeting and need to reference something stored on your desktop, you can use desktop control software such as LogMeIn Ignition (on the iPad / iPhone / Touch) or a VNC client written for your tablet. A couple of quick touchpad strokes and you’re working on your desktop computer as if you were sitting in front of it.

Ok, those are the big reasons that a tablet wins for me. And here’s a few more that are really just icing on the cake:

  • Inherently portable – smaller form factor makes it easier to take everywhere. My iPad is with me daily, whereas my laptop or netbook only came out when I thought I might need it
  • Casual usage – since it’s with me I use it more to jot down notes, surf, etc during otherwise dead time
  • Tactile, friendly, engaging – a tablet seems less imposing than a full-up laptop. People like to share work on a tablet, it’s easy to hand around a meeting and solicit feedback.
  • Portable media – tablets are great for watching movies or videos on the bus or wherever because they’re smaller and sleeker — no huge keyboard to haul around in addition to the screen.

So, in my humble opinion, yes, the tablet will make some serious inroads this holiday season, especially if the price can stay low, the hardware delivers, and the software is developed to live in this new middleground.

So that’s why a tablet appeals to me, how ‘bout you? Are you in or out when it comes to considering a tablet in the near future?



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


Desktop, mobile or web app?

Twitter is in the midst of rolling out it’s new, all-encompassing interface, and I’ve been able to take a look at it in ‘preview’ mode.

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My verdict: quite nice, but it won’t replace desktop twitter apps for me, just yet. Tweetdeck and Seesmic Desktop both offer greater functionality than the new Twitter interface.

Though I’ve not delved into every nook and cranny of the new Twitter look, the one shortfall that immediately came apparent was the way content is presented. I like the multi-pane look of Tweetdeck, and really enjoy being able to scan-at-a-glance all the content coming in through various filtered streams.

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The Twitter web interface just doesn’t offer that. If you’re interested in more of what the new Twitter interface has to offer, read on to the bottom; I’ve inserted the ‘official’ video there for your review :smileyhappy:

Moving to mobile, Twitter certainly has raised the bar on the iPad app — it blows everything else I’ve used on the iPad out of the water!

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For me, the coolest feature is the integrated web view of any website or photo links embedded in tweets. Someone spent some time thinking about how people will want to use Twitter on the iPad. Essential.

But that’s just me. If you’ve got access to the new Twitter interface, what do you think? And how ‘bout mobile? Are you a TweetDeck-everywhere type of user, or do you mix and match? Let us know what and why in the comments!



This post of is one of many I publish weekly at the Future Shop Techblog. Read more of my stuff here.


Damn those are pretty…

Earlier this week NASA release the first series of images from the WISE (Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) project…and they are hot!

Since WISE began its scan of the entire sky in infrared light on Jan. 14, the space telescope has beamed back more than a quarter of a million raw, infrared images. Four new, processed pictures illustrate a sampling of the mission’s targets — a wispy comet, a bursting star-forming cloud, the grand Andromeda galaxy and a faraway cluster of hundreds of galaxies.

Check out the full gallery here – and yes, I’ll likely be making a desktop or two from these — stay tuned.

Cool Desktop: Spectrum of a Tree

My wife has been using this image as a desktop background for about a year now, but recently I took a good look at it.

Initially I thought this was simply a photo of a tree in silhouette, sliced, colourized and laid out as you see it.

But on closer inspection, it seems that these are shots of the tree, at various times and seasons, with different coloured sky in the background. The website doesn’t really have detail on how the image was created.

The photographer also created Spectrum of the Sky — but I like the Tree better.