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It was the summer of 2017. I was a few episodes into starting up a new podcast and decided it was time to step up from my dependable but tiny Samson Go Mic in favor of something a little more professional. I had been eyeing the universally beloved $129 Blue Yeti microphone for a while, and as soon as an Amazon Prime Day deal hit, I pulled the trigger without thinking twice. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just made one of my best tech purchases ever.

What I initially bought as a tool to make better podcast recordings eventually turned into one of the centerpieces of my digital life. When I decided to get more into Twitch streaming a few years later, I already had an excellent microphone for laughing and shouting along with my viewers while losing at Mortal Kombat. And when the pandemic forced my colleagues and I into permanent work-from-home life, I was more than well equipped to lead meetings and cut high-quality voice-overs for videos.

Even when I tested more than a dozen alternatives for our best microphone roundup earlier this year, the Yeti still emerged as the most impressive of the bunch — beating out mics that are much newer and flashier. Here’s why the Blue Yeti ($129; bluemic.com) is the best gadget I ever bought, and why it’s still the best overall mic for most people.

Why the Blue Yeti is still so good

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There are a few reasons why the Blue Yeti has stayed in my setup for close to four years, chief of which is that it simply sounds great. Blue’s USB microphone consistently picks up my voice warmly and accurately, producing crisp recordings that are largely free of any fuzzy distortion. Whether I’m streaming on Twitch or recording voice-overs, I’ve found the Yeti to pack the most professional-sounding audio you can find for its price, and it sounds even richer than some rivals that are more expensive, such as the HyperX QuadCast.

There’s also something to be said about the Yeti’s understated design. I opted for the all-black model, which has blended seamlessly into various versions of my home office setup without looking distracting or tacky. And if you want your Blue Yeti to pop more on your desk, there are plenty of attractive two-tone color options out there, including Midnight Blue, Satin Red and the gray-and-black Slate.

The Yeti’s simple controls — a light-up mute button and volume knob up front, and knobs for gain and recording modes in the back — are still some of the best around, and I like that it’s tall enough to get close to my mouth without me needing to buy a separate mic arm. It’s also incredibly well made, with a rubber underside that keeps it from sliding around on my desk and a weighty aluminum build that’s survived many trips in my backpack.

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Part of what makes the Yeti one of the best mics in its class is its four recording modes, which include cardioid (for recording right in front of you), bidirectional (for recording in the front and back at once), stereo (for capturing a wide left-to-right soundstage, especially ideal for music) and omnidirectional (for recording in every direction for things like conference calls).

I admittedly use the Yeti almost exclusively in cardioid mode, since I’m typically streaming, recording or conferencing by myself in my room most of the time. But the Yeti’s bidirectional mode has come in handy on several occasions when I recorded a two-person podcast with a friend, and I’ve taken advantage of stereo mode when playing live acoustic guitar for my Twitch viewers. The fact that the Yeti is equipped for various solo and group scenarios gives it a bit more overall value and versatility than competitors like the Elgato Wave:3 and the Razer Seiren X, which only record in cardioid mode.

The Blue Yeti isn’t without its cons, of course. As a condenser microphone (which are considered more accurate but also more sensitive than dynamic models like the Shure MV7), Blue’s microphone can pick up a fair amount of background noise. As such, I tend to keep it close to my mouth with the gain as low as possible. It’s also a pretty chunky mic at just over 3 pounds and almost a foot tall, so those looking for an especially travel-friendly option may be better off with the smaller (but still great-sounding) $99 Blue Yeti Nano.

The competitors that almost stole me away

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While I still swear by the Blue Yeti to this day, I’ll admit that it hasn’t been my only go-to microphone as of late. In the midst of burying myself in all manner of microphones for work, I developed a fondness for the $169 HyperX QuadCast S, a similarly high-quality mic that features some snazzy RGB lighting. While it just missed making our current list of top picks, it’s become a fixture in my setup for a few noteworthy reasons.

For starters, the QuadCast S just looks cool. While I love the subtlety of the Yeti, I also enjoy having a microphone that can glow every color of the rainbow to match the already shiny Logitech G915 TKL keyboard and Logitech G203 mouse at my desk. But the real killer feature of the QuadCast S is its brilliantly simple muting functionality — all it takes to mute the mic is a gentle tap of the top of the microphone, which will also turn off the RGB lights to let you know the mic is inactive. It’s just a tiny bit more intuitive than the Yeti’s button-based muting, and it’s especially handy for silencing myself during meetings and streams without having to reach for my mouse.

But as much as I love the QuadCast, there are a few reasons I see myself eventually bringing my Yeti back into my setup. Aside from its excellent mute button, I find the QuadCast’s other controls to be a bit lacking — its gain knob isn’t quite as precise as the Yeti’s for controlling how loud your voice is, and its rear-facing ports for power and headphones are a bit of a pain to reach. And while audio quality between the two is comparable, I still think the Yeti sounds slightly brighter and more true to life, which is why I continue to plug it back in whenever I need to record some narration for a video.

Another alternative I’ve grown to really enjoy is the Elgato Wave:3, which is our favorite microphone for streamers. On top of producing extremely clean recordings that are even better at isolating noise than the Yeti, the Wave:3 satisfies its content-creation niche extremely well by offering some of the best companion software we’ve used on a mic.

Elgato’s Wave Link app gives you a central hub for controlling all of your audio sources (such as your game, music and microphone volume), which is the kind of thing you’d typically need an expensive physical mixer for. However, this robustness is also what’s kept me away from the Wave:3 as my daily mic — while you can do a ton with it, the microphone also requires a good amount of manual configuring in order to fully take advantage of its many features.

Bottom line

After a four-year span that’s included hundreds of hours of Twitch streaming, dozens of published podcasts and countless work-from-home meetings, I can confidently say that the Blue Yeti is the best gadget I’ve ever bought. If you’re looking for a great microphone for any of the above use cases (not to mention casual music recording and video voice-overs, just to name a few others), you just might end up feeling the same after nabbing one.

There are plenty of solid alternatives worth considering, as made evident by my recent flirtation with the $159 HyperX QuadCast S. Folks who want something flashier to complement their RGB-laden setup will find a lot to like in HyperX’s mic, while enthusiast streamers willing to get their hands dirty with a robust set of audio tools will probably love the $159 Wave:3. And if you need something smaller for travel, the $99 Yeti Nano offers the same great audio quality within a more compact size with less recording modes.

Still, even after spending significant time with all of these great microphones, I’ll never quite forget my first. Especially when it’s still better than almost anything you can buy right now.