Blue have managed to corner the vast majority of the market when it comes to affordable “streaming” mics over the past few years, and it’s easy to see why. Chances are, if you watch a live stream or YouTube video with a “commentary cam”, you’ll see one of two products nestled in the corner. The Blue Snowball was ubiquitous when it was released, for striking a perfect balance between price and performance, and the upgraded “Yeti” was a product that immediately became the go-to for anyone looking to improve the audio quality of their vocals in video content.
Where next then for Blue? Well, the solution is to take a good thing and make it smaller. The Yeti Nano boasts a number of features that the original Yeti had, in a much more compact form factor. Design wise, it looks as though someone’s left the Yeti on a hot wash for a bit too long, with what is essentially the same design but a lot smaller than the hulking original beast. Fortunately, build quality hasn’t been overlooked, as the Nano feels extremely sturdy, with a metal enclosure and metal/plastic stand complementing it perfectly. The stand is weighty enough to ensure no movement on any desk, and is a vast improvement over the old Snowball’s mini tripod design. The stand allows for a full range of pivoting movement, but if you’re after even more flexibility, then you can use any standard threaded microphone stand using the included adapter to attach it.
Of course, a pretty microphone is useless if it sounds naff. Fortunately, Blue have a stellar track record with USB mics, and the Yeti Nano isn’t doing anything to divert them from this course. It won’t challenge £500 AKG studio microphones for quality, but you don’t expect that from this price point. What you do get for the money, however, is a mic that produces a clear, natural sounding recording without any nasty compression artifacts or obvious processing colouring the audio. With two pickup patterns (cardioid and omni-directional) to choose from, some might say that this mic is a bit limited compared to other offerings, but once again, the price dictates the feature set accurately enough. Cardioid gives you a “straight in front of you” pattern that’s perfect for individual recordings, whereas omnidirectional will capture audio from all around the mic, making it a good shout for local podcasting or capturing a general ambience for a room. It would’ve been lovely to see a Figure 8 pattern included with the Nano for 1 to 1 podcast situations (sitting across a table from each other), but I’ve not got too much else to complain about, so this is getting highlighted here.
There’s an audio output featured with the Nano as well, promising latency-free monitoring for whatever you’re listening to (if you use it on a skype call, for example), and I’ve not noticed anything to suggest otherwise. Audio quality is decent, with the dial on the front of the mic controlling the volume coming back through the headphones, which is ideal for Skype calls or remote podcasting. Hitting the button in the middle of the volume dial will mute the mic, with the ring of light changing from green to red when the audio is cut (handy if you suddenly need to sneeze!), but I would’ve liked to have seen a hardware option to adjust the microphone level on the fly like its bigger brother. Fortunately there’s a decent software option in the form of the Blue Sherpa app, allowing you to control everything from within, making it less of an issue. On a personal note, I’d love to see this app integrated with Elgato’s stream deck, making it completely integrated into my own streaming setup, but that’s for someone much smarter than me to figure out and implement! Elsewhere, integration with software is as straightforward as you can imagine. You simply plug in the provided Micro USB cable and it’ll show up in Windows/OS X as a device, then just select it in whichever program you want to use it in and voila!
Overall, I’m really impressed with the Yeti Nano. It’s a perfect midpoint between the Snowball and the big Yeti, with a much better build quality than the former. An easy to use software controller outweighs the lack of hardware adjustments for changing pickup patterns and mic gain, while the in-built headphone jack makes it perfect for use as a podcasting or Skype mic. In terms of streaming or video work, once you’ve found the sweet spot for your voice in the software, it’s as simple as plug and play for whatever software you’re using. Coming in at around £30 cheaper than its heftier namesake, it completes the lineup with a logial price progression as well (£70/£100/£130).