DESKTOP MICROPHONES

The Preferred Device
for the
Modern User

There has been quite a revolution in the design of desktop microphones recently. Ever since dictation and voice recognition on personal computers started, people have been complaining about having to wear a headset microphone - the "Biggles" look! Not only do people not want to have anything on their head but they also object to being connected to their computers by a wire.


At first, the answer seemed to be to utilise a headset with a cordless attachment to the computer (almost certainly, by radio). This has turned out to be more difficult to achieve with the proliferation of the use of radio signals plus the additional complication of having to take precautions to prevent jeopardising security.


A simpler solution which gets rid of the headset and the wire problem is to use a desktop microphone which when set up correctly can give comparable results. I am going to discuss three possible solutions, two conventional desktop and an array microphone.

The cheapest option is to use a simple voice cancelling microphone, which means that it filters out unwanted background noise, and which plugs into the soundcard (just like the standard headset which comes with voice recognition software).

One of the best is made by Labtec. It is made out of the usual beige plastic so popular with PC manufacturers, but gives excellent results and costs only about 20.

A more elegant option which costs about 30, and which looks much more expensive in black and silver (but still plastic though) is the USB desktop microphone from Logitech. This utilises one of the USB sockets which all computers have nowadays and bypasses the soundcard which is often the weakest link in voice recognition. This type gives very good results indeed, it is easy to install with a plug and play connection and has effective noise cancellation.
By the way, if you are using all of your USB sockets on your computer for other items, you can buy a powered USB hub for about 15 which makes more sockets available.
The third option is an array microphone. It is called the Voice Tracker Array Microphone and is manufactured by Acoustic Magic in the States. It sits between the keyboard and the monitor because it is quite heavy (about a kilogram). It has eight microphones and is 18 in. long. It automatically locates and electronically steers towards the talker turning its "listening beam" through selectable steering limits of 60 or 180 for speech recognition and teleconferencing modes. It requires power but the converter is included in the price of about 250 , and it plugs into the soundcard, or for an extra 50, the USB socket. This excellent model is the only array microphone certified by both Scansoft (for use with Dragon NaturallySpeaking) and IBM (for use with ViaVoice).

Find out what users think about it in our Reviews Section.

More information about desktop microphones and related products and services can be obtained from Pyxis Computer Services.

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