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Microphone Selection Guide:  USB Adapters

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External Sound Cards:

Traditionally, a PC mic is plugged into the microphone input jack on a computer and the analog signal is sent to the computer sound card where it is converted to a digital signal and then used by your software. On some computers, particularly laptops where the sound conversion circuitry is typically integrated directly onto the motherboard, it is thought that other electrical devices in close proximity of the sound conversion circuitry may lead to interference and degradation of the signal and reduction in accuracy. An external sound adapter accomplishes the analog to digital conversion outside of the computer and imports the signal via an available USB port.

The need for an external sound card is variable and depends upon your equipment, the quality of your PC's sound conversion device (sound card) and the extent of shielding within your PC. In most instances a good sound card will serve you fine and you needn't consider an external device. There are a few exceptions.

First, if you are using a Sennheiser ME3, you are using a microphone that was wired for a different purpose and only a few sound cards can deal with the unusual wiring pattern. We know of only one external sound card which will reliably deal with the unusual wiring of the Sennheiser ME - this is the Andrea USB sound adapter.

The second situation in which an external sound adapter should be considered is if you are not using one and don't feel you are getting the accuracy which would otherwise be expected with your selection of equipment.

When considering an external sound adapter, also consider whether you need a full duplex (sound going in and out) or a monoplex device that simply needs to input your microphone signal into the PC. As an example, if you are using a headset that includes only a microphone (such as the Sennheiser ME3 or Audio-Technica Pro 8HEmV) you are better off with a monoplex adapter such as the Andrea USB adapter which will port sound in via the USB adapter, but leave sound out in the hands of the on-board sound card.

These are the external sound adapter we carry and recommend:

Duplex Usage?
Choice of Normal and Long Range Modes
Andrea Pure Audio Sound Adapter (SA Version)
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Andrea Pure Audio Sound Adapter (MA Version)
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Buddy 7G USB Adapter
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SpeechWare MultiAdapter
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1. The two versions of the Andrea Pure Audio USB sound adapter are extremely similar except that the SA version is duplex (handles sound in and sound out) and the MA version is monoplex and handles only sound in to your computer. They both perform well with speech recognition microphones. The MA version should only be considered if you are using it with a headset or other microphone that does not include speakers, including the Sennheiser ME3, the Audio Technica mics shown on our site, and for use with hand-held microphones such as the Samson Q7, Sennheiser MD431, and the Audix OM2.

2. The 7G is a well performing USB adapter and is an old favorite.

3. The SpeechWare "SpeechMatic MultiAdapter" is the newest USB adapter and is unique in several ways, including employing auto-gain technology (automatically adjusts microphone input volume as the sound changes volume) and also offers the choice of a normal and long-range mode. In the long-range mode it allows much greater distance from any attached microphone and employs a high degree of external noise rejection. Is it worth the fairly high cost? For most users we we say no. But if you are truly striving for perfection in speech recognition accuracy and have no financial constraints, this is the one to choose.


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