The question I get asked more than anything else is whether to buy the Blue Yeti USB microphone versus the AT2020 from Audio Technica.
The Yeti and the AT2020 occupy the sweet-spot in terms of price, quality, functionality and quality so deciding which is the best USB mic comes down to you personal preference and how you intend to use the mic. Both are mid-priced mics, and both mics plug into the USB port and provide professional quality recording.
The Blue Yeti USB mic is the top-of-the-range offering from Blue microphones. It's massive size gives it a lot of weight which is perfect for desktop or studio use. It stable and sturdy however it cuts down on the portability so if you have to have an easily portable unit to cart around, the yeti mic probably isn't your best option.
The AT2020 from Audio Technica is a smaller unit that's a bit more costly but it's a touch more versatile for road-warriors. Also, you can easily find a shock-mount to fit the AT2020, so you get minimal background noise.
The yeti is professional and robust while the AT2020 is svelte and lightweight. If you want portability, the AT2020 wins every time
Quality of sound
The sound quality is wonderful with both the Yeti and the AT2020. The sound from both mics adds a deep richness to any voice and perfectly captures the warm tones of an acoustic guitar. It is difficult to split the difference in quality of sound although the Yeti has four different recording settings depending on the sound source so just pips the AT2020.
Simplicity of Setup
After I got my blue Yeti, I was recording inside a minute of opening the box.
I simply connected the mini USB and connected it up to my iMac. System preferences opened up and I selected the Yeti for input and output. Boom - ready and recording in 30 seconds!
The AT2020 is also easy to get going but I haven't set one up for myself so it would be unfair of me to comment. So we'll think of it as a draw.
With the AT2020, the sound must be processed by the sound card before being fed back to the monitor headphones so there is a perceptible lag. This echo can be somewhat distracting. There is some premium software to help rectify this though with the Yeti, there is simply no problem. You will find a headphone monitor port directly in the microphone so the monitor is 100% real time. It's such a treat to hear your own voice in your headphones sounding so full and rich.
The Yeti specs are way outstanding on paper. It's the only officially THX certified USB mic on the market and has 4 recording settings to pick up sounds from various directions as needed. When in the omnidirectional setting, it's excellent for recording a live session with a couple of musicians in the room playing alongside one another. The At2020 isn't so versatile with only the cardioid setting available but it's also superb. The Yeti gets another point on this one.
Both microphones come with a stand that has a small footprint so if you're recording a voiceover or podcast on your desktop, then both work well. But If you are recording screencasts or typing while recording, both mics will pick up vibrations from the desk.
That's where the AT2020 can work very well simply because it's much easier to buy a shock mount that fits. The yeti is just too big for any widely available shock mount.
And if you really want to take your recordings to highest level, a freestanding microphone boom is the best solution. Both have standard mounts so you can use any microphone stand, and if you'd like the adjustability of an "anglepoise" swivel style mount like the rode PSA1, then both will work fine. Keep in mind you will want a high tension mount to counterbalance the heavy Yeti.
As with most microphones, both the Yeti and the AT2020 would be improved by adding a pop-filter to remove the popping "p"s. Blue microphones have a pop filter but I'd recommend a plain pop filter which will help you save 10 or 20 dollars.
The AT2020 comes first on accessories because it's easier to buy a shock-mount that fits. But it is a close call and definitely depends upon what you need.
The Final Verdict
We have got a draw with 3 1/2 points each to the Yeti and AT2020.
So it really depends upon what you would like.
If you can handle the lack of portability and you don't need to have a shock mount, I really think that the yeti is the best USB microphone you can get.
If portability is essential than audio flexibility, I suggest the Audio Technica AT2020.