I am not sure if my microphone is broken or if it is how to fix it.

I have a very nice yeti usb microphone like the one that can be seen here http://www.amazon.ca/Blue-Microphones-Yeti-USB-Microphone/dp/B002VA464S

The way I use it most commonly is by plugging in my headset directly to the microphone so I can hear how it sounds when I'm singing and playing guitar. The problem is that lately I am getting a lot of static sound when I am playing a little loud (though not that loud). I think it didn't sound like this when I first got the microphone. Could it be damaged? I was aware speakers could break if they were played too loud, but I'm not sure about the design of a microphone to make any assumptions about it. I've tried playing around with the volume and gain knobs on my microphone and computer (since it has to be plugged into the usb to gain power), but to not much avail. It seems that beyond a certain noise range (a relatively low one) I am getting static.

  1. How can I determine if the microphone is broken?

  2. If it is broken, is it possible to fix?

  3. How do microphones break?


Short answer: send your mic to a technician.

Long answer:

Check if your mic has some maintenance procedures specifically designed to be performed by the user.

Some equipment was designed to be somewhat easy to clean, this might include your microphone. Check if this is the case, and perform said procedures. If it's still not performing as expected, send the mic to a technician.

If this is not the case, if your mic doesn't have explicit maintenance procedures and instructions that can be easily performed by you and are specifically designed to be performed by you, send the mic to a technician.

How can I determine if the microphone is broken?

You can determine if something is wrong with your mic by performing tests like impulse response and frequency response, and then comparing the results with the expected ones.

Here is an example of the frequency response measured and expected in a Shure SM58.

Freq Response

The problem here is that these measurements are not cheap. For not-very-expensive mics chances are that this is not worth it.

And that's the thing. Mics are very complex systems. Determining issues is not a trivial task.

Suppose you think you might be clipping the mic at some level (mechanically in the membrane, electronically in the circuit, whatever), and you also think it is clipping before it should (as it seems to be your case). The max SPL of your mic was measured in very specific, controlled conditions. You need to replicate these conditions to make any useful measurement. You'll need an anechoic chamber, you'll need high fidelity sound sources, you'll need an accurate sonometer, you'll need engineers to run and interpret all that.

That's why my recommendation for that question is to send it to a technician. He will determine what's going on. He knows how to do it fast and clean. Mics tend to have awesome guarantees, some manufacturers have life-long guarantees, so it's worth checking. Even if you are not covered by a guarantee, communicate with the fabricant and ask them what you can do and where you can go.

If it is broken, is it possible to fix?

Maybe. Maybe not. It will depend on what's the problem. It can be something as simple as some dust or humidity in the mic's membranes (condenser mics are very delicate).

Your issue seems to be one that can be fixed, but we won't know for sure until a technician tells you explicitly and with detail what is going on with that mic.

How do microphones break?

It depends on the type of mic. Condensers, like in your case, are very delicate (for better and for worse, since that's what gives them their smooth freq response in the highs, that's also what makes them so sensitive to low amplitudes).

A common issue with condensers is that they start behaving not as expected when they accumulate stuff in the membrane; dust, humidity (which can come from saliva and/or from the environment), smoke, whatever. Fixing this tends to be easy, but not easy enough for you to do. You can easily make it a lot worse. So, again, leave it to the technician.

To avoid this in the future (assuming this is the problem, but even if it's not it is worth doing from now on) always protect your mic when it is not being used: put it in a case, box, or something similar. And while it's being used always use an anti-pop filter (unless you know what you are doing), as they are also awesome anti-saliva walls!

Many other things can go wrong. Maybe you abused a little and went over the max SPL (max volume, max loudness) your mic supports. Condenser mics are very delicate (remember that!) and tend to break with high SPL levels.

To avoid this issue you need to know the limits of your mic. Check its max SPL. It might not be able to support hard-core screaming, or it might not be suitable for percussions, or even for not-so-hardcore screaming (some condensers are ridiculously delicate).

And the list goes on. There are a lot of things that can go wrong mechanically, electrically, and in your case even digitally. The name of the game is the same here. Take it to a technician.

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It seems to be a high end condenser microphone with manual gain control and three independent membranes.

  • One of the membranes may be damaged. Depending on which one, it may be possible to deactivate it by switching into different pattern (the microphone supports cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional and stereo). Check maybe there is a setting where the noise does not occur, or maybe it does not occur in one of the channels in stereo mode). Read the manual on how the pattern could be changed, this is not obvious from the picture.
  • As you only have problems with loud sounds, it could also be the overdrive distortion but you write you have already tried to reduce the gain.
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  • this is not a high-end microphone. – dwoz Aug 27 '15 at 2:23
  • Everything is relative. Well there are mics costing over $5000 like AKG-C-12-VR, this one is probably cheaper ... – h22 Aug 27 '15 at 6:40

There's several possibilities if you're getting random static that correlates to source sound amplitude. First, there's a defective capacitor in the electronics that's leaking. You can't fix that for less than the price of that microphone. Second, you've spit on the capsule (or otherwise soiled it) and it's shorting. You also can't fix that for less than the price of a new mic. Finally, it's possible that you're getting dropouts because your USB port is too busy. Not likely, but possible.

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plug usb from microphone into usb port of computer. down load and bring up skype. Connect to internet. Use Echo/Sound Test on Skype. Follow Skype directions.

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  • My microphone works well enough to do the sound test on Skype, but it doesn't tell me if there is some damage inside the microphone that is causing static when louder sounds are being picked up; i.e. when I am playing a little bit louder or singing a little bit louder. I am not sure what the problem is or if it could perhaps be fixed by adjusting some settings etc. – Klik Jun 15 '14 at 4:20
  • 1
    Skype's test will not detect the majority of things that could go wrong with a mic. – Von Huffman Jun 21 '14 at 20:15

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