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Microphone Selection Guide:  Mid-Level Microphones

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If you plan to use your speech recognition software with some regularity, but aren't depending upon it at work or as you write your novel, you will likely appreciate the increase in accuracy seen with the following relatively inexpensive and higher quality microphones.

Comparison of Mid-Level Headset Microphones:

Microphone MSRP Accuracy Noise Cancellation Durability Warranty Overall Rating
Andrea ANC-700 $69.95 1 year
Andrea ANC-750 $79.95 1-Year
Radio Shack Sennheiser Knock Off $49.95 90-days
VXI TalkPro UC1 $149

2-year
VXI TalkPro UC2 $159 2-year
VXI TalkPro UC3 $155 2-year

The Andrea ANC 700 and 750 microphones are identical except that the ANC-700 is a monaural headset (speaker on just one ear) and the ANC-750 is binaural (speaker for each ear). Both employ an "active noise canceling" process to reduce the influence of ambient noise. As Andrea Electronics puts it "At the heart of the Andrea ANC technology is a pair of matched omni-directional microphone elements positioned to optimize noise cancellation and capitalize upon their directional frequency independent characteristics." Neither include a USB sound adapter. It is important to know that when used with Dragon NaturallySpeaking the signal:noise ratio may be slightly less with these microphones but this is a byproduct of the noise canceling process and is not an indication of reduced performance. To read more about the noise canceling process employed by these Andrea microphones, read Andrea Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) Microphone Technology, a white paper provided by Andrea Electronics. We consider these to be strong performing microphones and very reasonably priced. Added performance may be realized when utilizing them in conjunction with an andrea USB sound adapter rather than your PC's internal sound card.

An important thing to realize about these microphones is that they require a bit more power than most microphones, in order to drive the noise cancelation circuitry. As a result a rare on-board sound card will not provide enough power for these. If this is the case, you can use either the Andrea APS-100 power adapter to boost the voltage, or (preferably) use these microphones with any of the commonly sold external USB sound cards.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1 year

Andrea ANC-700
Andrea ANC-750
Andrea ANC-700
MSRP: $69.95

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Andrea ANC-750
MSRP: $79.95

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VXI TalkPro UC Microphones

VXI released a series of microphones to replace their workhorse TalkPro USB 100 and 200 series microphones. VXI Corp. is known for creating excellent microphones for use with speech recognition and these new microphones are no exception. All three products in this series are Unified Communications (UC) ready, include USB sound cards with digital sound processing (DSP). Being Unified Communications ready means that these mics are intended for use in a variety of settings, including speech recognition, internet telephony, web conferencing, etc.

This series includes the following:

  • TalkPro UC1
  • TalkPro UC2
  • TalkPro UC3

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 2-years

VXI TalkPro UC1VXI TalkPro UC1: This is the simplest of the 3 microphones in this series, but performs identically to the others in all applications.

Features:

  • UC-ready headset with USB connection that plugs directly into a USB port on your computer for clear, natural voice conversations
  • Digital signal processing (DSP)
  • Echo cancellation
  • One-touch answer/end controls allow for quick and easy call adjustments
  • Improved noise-canceling microphone ensures your software application hears precisely what you say, free of extraneous, error-causing information
  • Flexible "stay put" microphone boom stays where put for consistent, optimal voice quality
  • Plug-and-play set-up means no drivers or software to install
  • Compatible with Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000,
  • Macintosh OS 9.1 and higher and Linux operating systems
  • 2-year warranty

VXI TalkPro UC1
MSRP: $149

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VXI TakPro UC2VXI TalkPro UC2

This microphone is similar to the UC1, but includes two speakers.

Features:

  • UC-ready headset with USB connection that plugs directly into a USB port on your computer for clear, natural voice conversations
  • Digital signal processing (DSP)
  • Echo cancellation
  • One-touch answer/end controls allow for quick and easy call adjustments
  • Improved noise-canceling microphone ensures your software application hears precisely what you say, free of extraneous, error-causing information
  • Flexible "stay put" microphone boom stays where put for consistent, optimal voice quality
  • Plug-and-play set-up means no drivers or software to install
  • Compatible with Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000,
  • Macintosh OS 9.1 and higher and Linux operating systems
  • binaural (stereo) speakers
  • 2-year warranty

VXI TalkPro UC2
MSRP: $159


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VXI TalkPro UC3VXI TalkPro UC3: This is similar in function to the TalkPro UC1, but includes 3 wearing styles as shown in the image to the right.

Features:

  • Different Wearing Styles: Over-the-head, over-the-ear, and behind-the-head wearing styles for personalized comfort
  • UC-ready headset with USB connection that plugs directly into a USB port on your computer for clear, natural voice conversations
  • Monaural over-the-head wearing style that is light enough to wear all day long
  • Digital signal processing (DSP)
  • Echo cancellation
  • One-touch answer/end controls allow for quick and easy call adjustments
  • Improved noise-canceling microphone ensures your software application hears precisely what you say, free of extraneous, error-causing information
  • Flexible "stay put" microphone boom stays where put for consistent, optimal voice quality
  • Plug-and-play set-up means no drivers or software to install
  • Compatible with Microsoft Windows 7, Vista, XP, 2000,
  • Macintosh OS 9.1 and higher and Linux operating systems

VXI TalkPro UC3
MSRP: $155


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Radio Shack Sennheiser Knock OffRadio Shack "Sennheiser Knock Off"

This microphone is a somewhat difficult microphone to categorize. The term "Sennheiser Knock Off" is not the Radio Shack term for the microphone, but rather a term coined within the speech recognition community because of its outward similarity to the Sennheiser ME3. This microphone has headband system virtually identical to the Sennheiser ME3 and like the ME3 does not include speakers. While it uses a different microphone element than its namesake, it enjoys surprising good accuracy and noise canceling abilities, almost, but not quite at the level of the considerably more expensive Sennheiser microphone. In our opinion, this microphone is clearly a step above the Andrea and VXI microphones in this category in terms of performance. So what's the problem with this microphone? Here are the issues:

  • The microphone boom (the flexible rod extending from the headband to which the foam covered microphone element is attached), is a bit long and not as simple to keep positioned as the Sennheiser microphone.
  • The foam cover on the microphone element attaches a bit less securely.

On the positive side, this microphone comes with a long cord and is wired ready for use with a PC and does not need to be used in conjunction with a USB sound adapter (a good idea nonetheless but a necessity with the Sennheiser ME3).

Our take on this microphone? For $49 bucks it's a steal. But if you need the performance, you're better off buy the "real thing" - the Sennheiser ME3.

Special Note: Radio shack has changed their source for this microphone. Although it still carries the same product number, it is a different microphone and does not include the high quality element the previous version carried. The version carried at this site and at Knowbrainer.com is the standard, high quality microphone. Be careful about obtaining this microphone from Radio Shack.

Overall rating:
Warranty: 90 days

Radio Shack "Sennheiser Knock-Off"
MSRP: $49.95

Learn more about the Radio Shack "Sennheiser ME3 Knockoff" ...


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