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!

twitteripad.jpg

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.