1Last Update: January 18, 2013Introduction:Attempting to selectthe best headset microphone for speech recogition isnothing short of a daunting task because there are so many excellentchoices. For obvious reasons, this review does not cover every headsetmicrophone that can be used for speech recognition but we have spentseveral years compiling this information from the most popular speechrecognition forums like theKnowBrainer Speech Recognition Forumsandworking directly with numerous microphone manufacturers. The followingreviewconsists of 3 parts:(1) My personal take on the evolution of speech recognitionmicrophones(2) A general consensus of10 speech recognition experts on the prosand cons of what we believe to be the top wired headset speechrecognition microphones(3) My personal assessment of what the numbers meanIf you wish to skip past the brief microphone history, click Pros and Cons. Ifyouwish to skip further ahead to myconclusions,clickrecommendations.Note that while only one of these microphones could achieve the 1stplaceoverall rating, each is still an excellent choice for speech recognition.WIRED HEADSETMICROPHONE FACE-OFF
2Evolution of Speech Recognition MicrophonesWhen we first began using DragonDictate speech recognition software in the1980’s it seemed to be incredibly impressive technology. Never minding thevery deliberate pause after each and every word, we waited with baitedbreath to see another (hopefully correct) word miraculously appear on oursomewhat blurry little screens.It was fun! It was frustrating! It was not verypractical. Back then, the couple of wired headset microphone choicesavailable to us were more than adequate.In 1996, NaturallySpeaking continuous speech recognition was released.Withthe emergence of this new technology, we had a viable tool forprofessional as well as personal use. That being the case, we neededmicrophones designed to better utilize this increasingly more sophisticatedsoftware. Microphone manufacturers responded. Theydesignedwirelesssystems. They designedcombination headset microphones that couldadditionally be usedwith cell phones, landlines and even hydrauliclifterswhichpicked up our handsets for us. While noise canceling andaccuracy continued to improve, ultimately many of usstill were not happywith our headset microphones, finding them to beratherinconvenient and/oruncomfortable. Physicians and other professionals were often forced to donand then remove their headsetsevery few minutes, between patients orclients. Other end users,needing to take verbal notes while talking on thephone, put their callers on hold, which wasbothinefficient andimpolite. Whilehandheld microphones such as the Philips SpeechMike Airnow allowconcurrent use of both a microphone and a telephone, they don’t solve allproblems for all end users. Some of us simply need to keep both hands free.Fortunately, microphone manufacturers have also been busily designing highquality desktop microphones. See our Battle of the TableMikes review if youwould like additional information on table microphones. See our Battle of theHandheld Microphones review for additional information on handheldmicrophones and see our Battle of the Telephone Headsets review foradditional information on speech recognition telephone headsets.
3A wired headset microphone just might be your best option if:You are concerned about broadcasting private informationYou don’t need to be wirelessYou need to keep both hands freeYou want to get the most bang for your buckYou need an extremely reliable and portable microphoneBelow is given a general consensus of 8 speech recognition experts onthe pros and cons of what we believe to be the topheadset microphones,followed by our recommendations.Pros& ConstheBoom Headsets Pros:MSRP: $125 - $299Accuracy: 99%Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10Overall Rating: 9 out of 10Excellent noise cancellationMulti-design use (speech recognition/cell phone, landline)Pro-1 & Pro-2 feature military grade constructionTheBoom Quiet and Pro-3 include high fidelity playback speakersMute button1 year manufacturer warrantytheBoom HeadsetsCons:theBoom "O" microphone has been out of stock for a yearRepair service could use improvement
4Audio-TechnicaPro8HEmW,ATH-COM1&ATH-COM2Pros:MSRP: $50 - $149Accuracy: 100%Noise Cancellation: 10 out of 10Overall Rating: 10 out of 10The New Gold StandardRated #1 in Noise CancelingRated #1 in AccuracyRated #1 in Comfort and flexibility (dual wearing styles)ATH-COM 1 Rated #1 in affordabilityOne of the lowest failure rates in the industry1 year manufacturer warrantyAudio-TechnicaPro8HEmW,ATH-COM1&ATH-COM2Cons:No speakers on Pro HEmWConsumer grade speaker pads can sweat ears on ATH-COM1/2No mute switchSennheiser ME3(speech version)Pros:MSRP: $199Accuracy: 98%Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10Overall Rating: 9 out of 10German engineering (think Mercedes)RuggedVery noise cancelingOne of the lowest failure rates in the industry2 year manufacturer warrantySennheiser ME3 Cons:No speakersNo mute switch
5Nontraditional wearing styleMore expensive than comparable headsetsLimited warranty and availability because this ME3 microphone is not astock item. It is a specialized runthatis controlled by a single resellerSpeechWare FlexyMike SE&DEPros:MSRP: $129 - $179Accuracy: 100%Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10Overall Rating: 9 out of 10Belgium engineeringConstructed of titanium alloy like modern glasses weighing little morethan a postage stamp combining a rigid frame with flexibility where itcountsThe most comfortable microphone we have ever tested2 year manufacturer warrantySpeechWare FlexyMike SE& DECons:No speakersNo mute switchNontraditional wearing styleMore expensive than comparable headsetsKnowBrainer Hands-freePros:MSRP: $40Accuracy: 97%Noise Cancellation: 8 out of 10Overall Rating: 8 out of 10Less than 1/3 of the price of the Sennheiser ME3Sennheiser ME3 knockoff90 day manufacturer warrantyIncludes additional quick disconnect cable
6KnowBrainer Hands-freeCons:90 Day warrantyNot as rugged as the Sennheiser ME3Buddy HeadsetMic DM101Pros:MSRP: $50Accuracy: 97%Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10Overall Rating: 8out of 10Light, rugged and highly accurateIncludesreplacement windscreen and foam ear padInexpensive2 year manufacturer warrantyBuddy HeadsetMic DM101Cons:Not as noise canceling as the VXI or ME3microphonesVXI Tria V-DC, TalkPro USB1-3, UC1-3 & SC1 Pros:MSRP: $85 on upAccuracy: 99%Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10Overall Rating: 9 will out of 10Light, versatile and highly accurateIncludes 1 or 2 speaker optionsTria V, UC3 and USB 3 models include 3 wearing stylesTalkPro UC1-3 includes built-in USB echo canceling soundcard for usewith VoIP applications2 year manufacturer warrantyVXI Tria V-DC, TalkPro USB1-3, UC1-3 & SC1Cons:
7With the exception of the Tria V-DC and TalkPro SC1, all other modelsinclude a proprietary VXI soundcard cord which will prevent the use ofany other brand of USB soundcard.With the exception of the Tria V-DC, all other new TalkPromicrophones include a coiled cable which is great for keeping themicrophone off the floor but can pull slightly against the side of yourhead. We prefer straight cables.Andrea Electronics ANC 700/750Pros:MSRP: $59-$69Accuracy: 95%Noise Cancellation: 8 out of 10Overall Rating: 7 out of 10Patented active noise cancellation1 year manufacturer warrantyIncludes quick disconnect cableAndrea Electronics ANC 700/750Cons:Outdated late 90s technologyConclusionsIn 2004, the Sennheiser ME3 became the gold standard for speechrecognition headset microphones. Although the ME3 is still considered to bea good microphone, it hasnt been improved or redesigned since its inceptionwhile other microphone manufacturers have been looking to knock the ME3off its pedestal. UmeVoice became the 1st company to drop the SennheiserME3 down a notchwhen they introduced the theBoom line of microphoneswhich were less expensive, slightly more accurate and noise canceling.UmeVoice reigned king for several years until VXI revamped their TalkProline of microphones which didnt beat theBoom line of microphones but didmanage to squeak by the Sennheiser ME3 dropping it to 3rd place. Audio-Technica’s Pro 8HEmW dropped the previously mentioned microphones down
8a pegin January of 2012 and the newSpeechWare’sFlexyMike DE andFlexyMike SE justreplaced the Pro 8HEmW as the King of the Hill. Seefollowing Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Audio Check scores:SpeechWare FlexyMikes1stPlaceAudio-Technica Pro 8HEmW 2ndPlaceUmeVoice theBoom “O” 3rdPlaceSennheiser ME3 4thPlaceVXI TalkPro UC3 5thPlace1st Place ~SpeechWare FlexyMike SE/DE(Click to See)It was almost too close to call but in the end, we wound up giving theFlexyMikes a slight edge over the Pro 8HEmW. The FlexyMike DE (nearlyweightless flexible wire frame that goes around the back of the head) andFlexyMike SE (light flexible wire frame that goes around either ear only)produced the best signal-to-noise ratio (as noted above), a significantlylighter frame than any other headset (making it far more comfortable whenhaving to wear it several hours) while producing 100% accuracy in all butthe noisiest of environments. Both models feature the same microphoneelement. Although the titanium alloy wireframe is extremely light (not muchheavier than a postage stamp), the microphone is almost indestructible. Wealso appreciated the manufacturer 2 year warranty over the Pro 8HEmW’s 1year warranty.Only headset microphone, other than the Pro 8HEmW, to produce100% accuracy in a controlled environmentLightest and most comfortable1st microphone to be rated #1 by our in-house and independentmicrophone testers in comfort
9Additional manufacturer information available at www.SpeechWare.com/2nd Place ~ Audio-TechnicaPro8HEmW, ATH-COM1 & 2(Click to See)If you’re looking for a microphone designed for a rough environment (Roadwarrior) that can additionally withstand the highest environmental noise wecould throw at it (like a live concert or construction site), the Pro 8HEmWwould be unquestionably the best choice coming in 1stplace for both noisecancellation and tying with the FlexyMike for accuracy.The ATH-COM1 and ATH-COM2 models are not is well-suited to road warriorsbut include consumer grade high fidelity speakers with the ATH-COM2producing decent high fidelity stereo. The most attractive feature of these 2models is the fact that it includes the high quality Pro 8HEmW microphone ina very affordable consumer housing.Only headset microphone, other than the FlexyMike, to produce 100%accuracy in a controlled environment1st microphone to produce 99% accuracy while listing to music at 85dBThe only hyper-cardioid headset microphone on our website1st microphone to be rated #1 by our in-house and independentmicrophone testers in accuracy and noise cancellationAdditional manufacturer information available at www.audio-technica.com/3rd Place ~ theBoom Headsets(Click to See)For the past 4 years (until we discovered the Pro 8HEmW and FlexyMikes),UmeVoice has managed to hold onto the #1 spot but only marginally beatout VXIs new line of Tria V-DC and TalkPro headsets.From an accuracy andnoise canceling point of view, VXI and UmeVoice tied. We subtracted a fewpoints for UmeVoice’s one-year warranty, slightly higher price and servicedepartment (which we felt could use a little improvement). However, wedisliked VXIs choice to incorporate a coiled telephone like cord (which canpull slightly on the side of your head) and their built-in proprietary USBsoundcard. Additional manufacturer information available athttp://theboom.com/
104th Place ~ VXI Tria V-DC & New TalkPro(Click to See)VXI recently revamped its Tria V-DC/TalkPro line of microphones bybeginning to phase out the classic TalkPro Xpress and TalkPro USB 100/200headsets which are based on an outdated technology that lacks significantnoise cancellation. From an accuracy point of view, theBoom line ofmicrophones narrowly beat the TalkPro microphones. From a noise cancelingpoint of view, the new VXI models tied with theBoom microphones. It shouldbe additionallynoted that VXI added unified communications and echocancellation, to their UC line of microphones, for VoIP use. Besides includinga two-year warrantee, the VXI microphones offer a better bang for the buckcoming in at a slightly lower price than theBoom line of microphones (whenincluding a USB soundcard). Additional manufacturer information available atwww.vxicorp.com/5th Place ~ Sennheiser ME3(Click to See)The ME3 isn’t your average headset.It goes around the back of your headand doesn’t include speakers which can take a little getting used to. The ME3microphone features impressive noise cancellation but we found it to slightlyless accurate thanthe Pro 8HEmW, theBoom and new VXI line ofmicrophones. The ME3 microphone also has a substantially higher price tag.Additional manufacturer information available at www.sennheiserusa.com/6th Place ~ KnowBrainer hands-free (Click to See)You might expect a microphone with the KnowBrainer name to do betterthan 5thplace but the KnowBrainer hands-free microphone is basically aninexpensive knockoff of the Sennheiser ME3. The KnowBrainer microphoneisnt as well constructed as the Sennheiser ME3 but from an accuracy andnoise cancellation point of view, is nearly equal and from a price point ofview,is less than 14 of the price of the ME3 which makes the KnowBrainerhands-free microphone the least expensive professional microphone optionwe have come across in the price has just been dropped. Additionalmanufacturer information available at http://www.knowbrainer.com/7th Place ~ Buddy HeadsetMic DM101(Click to See)The new Buddy HeadsetMic DM101 is the 1stin a line of newInsyncmicrophones, to be introduced on July 4of 2011. Considering that thismicrophone features high accuracy, excellent construction, extrawindscreen,mono speaker and a 2 year warrantee, it’s hard to beat this $50
11bargain. Additional manufacturer information available athttp://www.insyncspeech.com/8thPlace ~ ANC 700/750 (Click to See)The Andrea Electronics ANC line of microphones (Active Noise Cancellation)has been in the top 5 list since the mid-90s and reigned #1 from 1996through 2002.Unfortunately, other than cosmetic designs, the ANC 700 hasseen no improvements since the mid-90s which has left the door open forother, more innovative companies to introduce newer technologies whichresulted in our dropping the ANC 700 to the current 7thplace rating.Additional manufacturer information available athttp://www.andreaelectonics.com/Minimally Acceptable:The following headset microphones are all considered by Nuance to beadequate for speech recognition but none were quite good enough to beincluded in our Microphone Comparison Matrix:Andrea Electronics NC-181, NC-181VM, NC-185VMheadsets, Plantronics DSPline of headsets, Nuance OEM (in the box) headsets and Sennheiser PC lineof headsets.Unacceptable:The following headset microphones were rejected by our testers:All Plantronics wiredheadsets (other than those previously mentioned),allLogitech, all CyberAcousticheadsets, all Bluetooth headsets, all KossandZabaware headsets.
12Previous Reviews:If you would like to see some of our previous reviews check out the following:KnowBrainer TableMike Face-OffKnowBrainer Handheld Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer Headset Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer Telephone Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer Digital Recorder Face-OffKnowBrainer Wireless Microphone Face-OffKnowBrainer USB Soundcard Face-Off (coming soon)Current Gold Standards:The following is a list of microphones that we consider to be #1 in theirmicrophone categories we:Best Wireless Microphone = Samson Airline 77Best Combo Telephone Wireless Microphone = Jabra Pro 9470Best Handheld USB Microphone = Dictaphone PowerMic IIBest USB TableMike =Speechware3-in-1,6-in-1&9-in-1Best Wired Headset Microphone = Audio-Technica Pro 8HEmWBest Bluetooth Wireless Microphone = VXi BlueParrott XpresswayBest Digital Recorder = Olympus DS-7000Best Speech Recognition Application = NaturallySpeaking 12&DMPELunis Orcutt - Developer of KnowBrainer 2012and founder of KnowBrainerSpeech Recognition Forums (the worlds largest speech recognition forum)Chat Live w/a Nuance Gold Certified Speech Recognition SolutionsProvider