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Headset Microphones for Speech Recognition

Headset microphones come in a variety of configurations, styles, and price ranges. In general, you get what you pay for, but for many casual speech recognition users it simply doesn't make sense to invest in an extremely expensive microphone. We categorize our microphones into three categories as shown below. For more information on specific microphones, please click on the "learn more ..." link.

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Entry Level Microphones
Mid Level Microphones
Microphones for advanced users

ENTRY LEVEL WIRED MICROPHONES

For those new to speech recognition software, particularly the user planning to dabble with this technology but not necessarily use it regularly or in association with his/her occupation, any of the inexpensive entry level microphones should be fine. The difference in accuracy between these "low end" mic's and more expensive microphone is not huge and for the cost savings, these are very effective. And after all, should you decide to upgrade, you have not made a huge investment in that first microphone. Inexpensive microphones that we recommend and carry are shown below.

Comparison of entry level speech recognition microphones:

Microphone Price Accuracy Noise Cancellation Durability Warranty Overall Rating
Andrea NC 181 $ 1 year
Andrea NC-181 VM $ 1 year
Andrea NC-181VM USB $ 1 year
VXI TalkPro Express $ 2-Year
VXI TalkPro $   2-Year

Cyber Acoustics AC101

$ 1-year
Cyber Acoustics AC201 $ 1-year

Andrea NC 181 and 185 Series Microphones: This is a series of microphones released by Andrea to replace its prior NC series. The 181 series has a speaker for one ear and the 185 has a speaker for each ear. Each series comes in 3 versions.

  1. A simple version with simple 3.5 mic and audio plugs (NC-181 and NC-185)
  2. A slightly fancier version with a microphone mute switch and speaker volume control (NC-181VM and NC-185VM)
  3. A higher end version which includes both the mute/volume controls and also a built in Andrea Pure Audio USB sound adapter (NC-181VM-USB and NC-185VM-USB)

For more information on the differences between the microphones in this series, please refer to the comparison table on our Andrea Microphone Page.

This is a series solidly performing microphone series and in the year or so that they been around we have sold many hundreds of these and virtually never get a return or call with a question. Do we consider this microphone series to be worthy of the "5 Dragons" that Nuance provides in their quality evaluation? Not really. Although the native accuracy of this microphone series is quite good, when it comes to noise cancellation (rejection of external noise) they fall short in our opinion. But they are cost-effective work-horse microphones.

The addition of the Andrea Pure Audio Adapter included with the 181VM-USB and 185VM-USB means that you will not be using your on-board sound card, but rather the included USB adapter. This provides a greater level of certainty that the microphone will be compatible with your PC and also offers the theoretical advantage of doing the analog to digital sound conversion in a more "electrically quite" environment (not inside the less "quiet" confines of your desktop or laptop). Again, this is a theoretical advantage.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1 Year
Cost: NC-181: $ , NC-181VM: $ NC181VM-USB: $ , NC-185: $ , NC-185VM: $ , NC-185VM-USB: $

Learn more or order

Andrea NC-181
Andrea NC-181 VM
Andrea NC 181VM-USB
Andrea NC181 Andrea NC181VM Andrea NC181VM USB
Andrea 181
Price: $

Andrea 181VM
Price: $
Andrea 181VM-USB
Price: $

 

Andrea NC-185
Andrea NC-185VM
Andrea NC-185VM-USB
Andrea NC-185 NC-185VM Andrea NC-185VM USB
Andrea 185
Price: $
Andrea 185-VM
Price: $
Andrea 185-VM USB
Price: $

 


VXI TalkPro Express

VXI Talk Pro ExpressThis is another entry level microphone, like the NC 91, which provides very similar results. Like the Andrea NC91, this microphone will give solid performance with typical accuracy levels in the mid 90% range with experienced users (users who enunciate clearly). It does not have any specific qualifications in terms of external noise rejection, so the performance of this microphone will worsen in a loud environment. This microphone has a speaker for only one ear, has standard 3.5 audio jacks (no included USB adapter or translator), and is solidly built and durable. Although more costly than the Andrea NC91, this microphone has twice the warranty

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 2 years
Price: $


Learn more about the VXI Microphone ...


VXI TalkPro

VXI TalkProFrom a distance, this appears identical to the TalkPro Express. The difference is the presence of VXI's "translator". The "Translator" assures a more consistent performance of the microphone in a variety of PC and sound card environments. To learn more about the translator visit the VXI's Microphone Enhancement for Speech Recognition. This is not the same as a USB sound adapter, but does improve performance. This is a solidly performing microphone, although like the others in this "entry level" category does not show the level of accuracy and noise cancellation as microphones in the higher level categories.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 2 years
Cost: $

Learn more about this microphone ....


CyberAcoustics

Although we were reluctant to carry these microphones simply on the basis of their incredibly low cost and sense that "they couldn't be good at that price", we had enough customers tell us they had used these microphones and noted good performance that we had to try them out. Our thoughts? These are perfectly good microphones and for the cost, a great value. The only difference between the two models we carry is the presence of one versus two speakers. The microphone element and performance with speech recognition is identical.

Cyber Acoustics AC-101 Cyber Acoustics AC-201
Cyber Acoustics AC-101 Cyber Acoustics AC-201

Overall Rating:
Warranty: One year
Price: (AC-101): $
Price (AC-201): $

Learn more or order


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WIRED MICROPHONES FOR MID-LEVEL USERS

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 Price Accuracy Noise Cancellation Durability Warranty Overall Rating
Andrea ANC-700 $ 1 year
Andrea ANC-750 $ 1-Year
VXI TalkPro USB-100 $ 2-year
VXI TalkPro USB-200 $ 2-year
Radio Shack Sennheiser Knock Off $ 90-days
VXI TalkPro UC1 $

2-year
VXI TalkPro UC3 $ 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.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1 year
Cost: ANC-700: $ ANC-750: $

Andrea ANC-700
Andrea ANC-750
Andrea ANC-700
Price: $
Andrea ANC-750
Price: $

Learn more about the ANC-700 and 750 ...


VXI TalkPro UC Microphones

VXI recently released a new 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
Cost: TalkPro UC1: $ , TalkPro UC3: $

 

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

Price: $


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

Price: $

Learn more about the TalkPro UC1 and UC3


The VXI TalkPro USB-100 and TalkPro USB-200

These are identical headsets with the exception of the -100 being a monaural headset and the -200 being a binaural headset. Both use the high quality Gentex microphone element. In addition, both include a USB sound adapter so these microphones attach to your PC via the USB port and neither depend upon your PC's internal sound card. It is the presence of this built in USB sound adapter that explains the increased cost of the VXI USB microphones compared with the Andrea microphones. By virtue of the conversion of the analog to digital signal being accomplished outside of your PC, this has the potential advantage of leaving you less susceptible to electrical interference which might affect this process if done by your PC's internal sound card - something that might be an issue in user's of laptops. Overall, we have noticed far less compatibility issue with the VXI TalkPro USB microphones compared with the Andrea ANC mics.

Note: The TalkPro USB 100 is out of production and no longer available.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 2-years
Cost: TalkPro USB 200: $

Learn more about the VXI TalkPro USB-200 ...


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
Price: $

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


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WIRED MICROPHONES FOR ADVANCED USERS

For those that truly depend on speech recognition software and who have the need to absolutely minimize the presence of recognition errors, there are several microphones that we believe to be truly superior for use with speech recognition software. The difference in accuracy and sound cancellation among the microphones in this category is minimal.

Comparison of High Quality Wired Speech Recognition Headset Microphones:

Microphone Price Accuracy Noise Cancellation Durability Warranty Overall Rating
Audio-Technica 8HEmV $ 1-year
Sennheiser ME3 Combo $ 2-year
theBoom V4 $ 1-Year
theBoom "O" $ 1-year
theBoom "C" $ 1-year
theBoom Quiet $ 1-year
Radio Shack Sennheiser Knock Off* $ 90-days


*The Radio Shack "Sennheiser Knock Off" is included in this comparison table since it is very close in quality to the microphones in this category.


Sennheiser ME3

The Sennheiser ME3 is our personal favorite and considered by many to be the best wired microphone for use with speech recognition software. It is highly accurate and uncanny in its ability to reject external noise.

The Sennheiser ME3 is manufactured in Germany and is made for use with their "Evolution Wireless" transmitter and primarily for stage entertainers. Because it is not made for use with PCs, it has a non-standard wiring arrangement and non-standard audio plug. We sell a specially manufactured ME3 which is made with a standard audio plug which is compatible with the USB sound adapters and plugs into standard PC microphone jacks, although it is not compatible with all sound cards. We recommend using the Sennheiser ME3 with either the Andrea USB sound adapter (our first choice) or the Buddy 6G adapter. The Sennheiser ME3 can be used with other sound adapters (Buddy 5G and VXI Two-way adapter) only when used in conjunction with an Andrea P-100 power plug adapter. Attending to the plug issues and when used with an appropriate sound adapter, this is a superb microphone which is truly the leader of the pack in terms of accuracy and ability to ignore extraneous noises.

One thing to keep in mind regarding the Sennheiser ME3 is that it does not include any speakers - it is purely a head-mounted microphone.

The Sennheiser ME3 is highly durable and has been kicking around the back of the author's backpack for nearly four years now and is still going strong! It comes with a 2-year warranty from Sennheiser.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 2-year
Cost: $ (cost includes ME3 microphone, storage bag and Andrea USB adapter)

Learn more about the Sennheiser ME3 ...


Audio-Technica Pro 8HEmV

Audio Technica Pro 8HEmWLike the ME described above, this microphone was actually designed for another application - in this case use with a camcorder. But it turns out to be a superb microphone for use with speech recognition. This is a newer arrival to the speech recognition community and while we are confident that it is the rival of the ME3 in terms of accuracy and external noise rejection, we have not sold it long enough to have a good feel for such things as comfort, durability, and overall user satisfaction.

Unique features about this product include:

  • Outstanding accuracy and external noise rejection
  • Compatibility with all pc sound cards
  • Ability to mount over top of head or behind head

Please note that while the picture seems to show speakers, these are not speakers but rather foam cushioned areas for mounting to the user's head.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1-year
Cost: $

Learn more about the Audio Technica 8HEmV


TheBoom "O"

theBoom "O"is a headset microphone made by UmeVoice. It is light, comfortable and enjoys accuracy and noise canceling qualities extremely similar to the Sennheiser ME3. Because it is designed for use with standard devices, there is not the requirement for use with a sound adapter, although this might be a good idea if you have uncertainties about the quality and shielding of your on-board sound card. We recommend this and other microphones by UmeVoice with any sound adapter except the Buddy 5G and Buddy 6G. In other words if you want to use this with an external sound adapter, we recommend you purchase the Andrea USB adapter or VXI 2-way adapter.

Although we consider the performance from all of the UmeVoice "theBoom" series microphones to be outstanding, they all suffer from the one weakness of being a bit fragile. Don't step on this one or run it over with your desk chair.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1-year
Cost: $

Learn more about the TheBoom "O" ....


TheBoom "C"

This new headset microphone is almost identical to the "O" but includes a speaker for each ear. It offers very high accuracy and noise cancellation. Unlike the other UmeVoice microphones, this particular microphone is compatible with the Buddy 5G and 6G USB adapters, although for those wishing to use it with a USB adapter we have the most confidence in the VXI 2-way adapter for use with UmeVoice microphones in general.

We find this microphone headband to be sized somewhat on the small size, so if you have a large head, you might find it too tight. For individuals with small or medium sized heads this should not be an issue.

Although we consider the performance from all of the UmeVoice "theBoom" series microphones to be outstanding, they all suffer from the one weakness of being a bit fragile. Don't step on this one or run it over with your desk chair.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1-year
Cost: $

Learn more or about the TheBoom "C" ...

 


TheBoom V4

This microphone uses the same accurate and noise canceling microphone element as the "O" model, but is ear-mounted. It is extremely lightweight and comfortable. Please see the note about compatibility with sound adapters described with the "O". We recommend the use of a VXI 2-way USB adapter and not the Andrea or Buddy adapters with this microphone.

Although we consider the performance from all of the UmeVoice "theBoom" series microphones to be outstanding, they all suffer from the one weakness of being a bit fragile. Don't step on this one or run it over with your desk chair.

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1-year
Cost: $

Learn more about the V4 ...


TheBoom Quiet

This is a unique microphone is this category. It is a significantly larger and more expensive microphone that is useful in two ways. First, it employs very comfortable binaural speakers which include an active noise cancellation system, so it is particularly well suited for listening to music. Second, it includes a microphone boom which is essentially identical to the boom used in the V4 and "O", so it doubles for an excellent speech recognition microphone. In addition, this is a beautifully packaged headset microphone that comes with both a hard and soft case. That it has a relatively hefty price tag should not be surprising!

Overall Rating:
Warranty: 1-year
Cost: $

Learn more about the "Quiet" ...


 


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