The following Guest Post was written by one of my readers, Michael Yurkanin, and it reviews several wireless microphones to address their use with MacSpeech Dictate Legal:
There have been many articles written about the latest version of dictation software by MacSpeech, MacSpeech Dictate Legal. To use the software requires a microphone. The majority of the microphones recommended by MacSpeech are wired and plug directly into a USB port. MacSpeech, however, now endorses two wireless microphones which they sell on their website, the Samson AirLine 77 Wireless USB and the Revolabs xTag USB Wireless Microphone.
These microphones eliminate another set of wires crossing your desk and are also convenient if you have to step away for a moment since you do not have to remove a headset. On the negative side, both of these microphones are quite expensive compared to a wired microphone. Aside from the cost consideration, the two microphones are significantly different from each other. This review will provide you with information to consider before purchasing so that you will choose the wireless microphone best suited for you.
(MacSpeech recently added the Plantronics Calisto Headset + Bluetooth USB Adaptor which is not included in this review. This headset was originally designed by Plantronics for use with the Plantronics Calisto Pro Home Office Phone which is sold online and at office supply stores. I have used the Home Office Phone Bluetooth headset and it works well as a phone. The modified Calisto Headset for dictation will be reviewed in a forthcoming article. One item to note is that the Plantronics Calisto Headset uses Bluetooth technology and will have a much smaller range than the other two units.)
II. Samson AirLine 77 Wireless USB
The first microphone for review is the Samson AirLine 77 Wireless USB. MacSpeech sells the microphone for $349.00 through their online store. The microphone is also sold by other online retailers for slightly less. The Samson wireless microphone is designed as a headset that wraps around the back of the head and sits on both ears. The headset transmits over UHF frequencies to a receiver that is ultimately connected to the computer through a USB sound pod. According to the people at MacSpeech, using UHF frequencies gives the Samson a range up to 300 feet, significantly more than the XTag. The headset itself is very stable, but some find it bulky and uncomfortable.
Strangely enough, this wireless microphone was not made for dictation. This unit was designed for recording artists, performers, and audio professionals. An aerobics instructor using the headset is pictured on the box. (You can find more information about Samson products their website). The AirLine 77 has been adapted for dictation using a USB sound pod that connects between the FM receiver and a USB port on your computer. For general information about USB sound pods see this link, which also discusses the various brands of sound pods available. The MacSpeech store website does not indicate the brand of USB sound pod they use.
The AirLine 77 package comes with the wireless headset, CR 77 Receiver, ¼” x ¼” phone plug with 3.5mm adapter and an AC adapter. The headset requires a AAA battery, but a battery was not included in my package. When ordering from other than MacSpeech, it is important to ensure that you are ordering the AirLine 77 Wireless USB, which should include the USB sound pod. In one instance, I ordered the AirLine 77 Wireless USB from an online retailer and paid for that version, but the seller failed to include the USB sound pod. After a series of emails, I finally received the USB sound pod a week later. Without the USB sound pod, the headset and receiver are of no use. As to setup, the AirLine 77 is a bit more difficult than the XTag, but these instructions will prove helpful. (Note: clicking on this link will cause the instructions to download as a Microsoft Word file).
III. Revolabs xTag USB Wireless Microphone
The other microphone certified by MacSpeech to use with MacDictate is the Revolabs xTag USB Wireless Microphone. This unit is available from MacSpeech for $249.00 and is the less expensive of the two. It ships with a lapel microphone, lanyard for the microphone, charging base, USB cable for the charging base and an earphone for listening to playback. Setup is easy. You plug the base into the USB port, place the microphone into the base and wait for it to charge. Before the first use Revolabs recommends charging the microphone for eight hours.
Revolabs designed the xTag specifically for use by professionals for dictation. The unit is easy to operate and looks right in place sitting on a desk. The microphone is meant to be attached to a shirt or can be worn around the neck on a lanyard. Revolabs says that the microphone has a range of 65 feet from the base. A demonstration of how to use the xTag is available here. More detailed information about the xTag is available at the manufacturer’s website.
Overall, the xTag is much simpler to set up and use. The base unit is small and compact. On the other hand, the AirLine 77 contains the UHF receiver, which most people will not want sitting out in the open, and the separate USB sound pod. In addition, the UHF receiver setup is more difficult and will require a little time to fine tune various settings for optimal performance.
One of the most important considerations between these two microphones is accuracy. The AirLine 77 is more accurate. In fact, one seller I came across stated that the microphone’s accuracy matches that of a corded microphone. My experience has been similar. The AirLine 77 is also more accurate in situations with significant background noise. The xTag, on the other hand, is slightly less accurate. This results from the distance between the mouth and the microphone itself. The accuracy of the xTag drops when used in noisier environments since the added gain necessary to pick up the voice also causes other noises to enter the signal.
In conclusion, voice recognition depends on many factors. These include quality of a persons voice, pronunciation and pacing. In addition, one must consider ambient noise and any electronic noise. Electronic noise may arise if the microphone base is plugged into a powered USB hub. If this problem occurs it can be alleviated by plugging the base unit directly into a USB port on the computer itself. Finally, it is important for the user to correctly position the microphone. This factor is more important when using the xTag. In general, the AirLine 77 is best suited for people with quiet voices or those working in noisy environments. The xTag will work best for people with louder voices, better diction and quiet environments.
Michael Yurkanin is a former Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., and an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana. He currently practices in Billings, Montana and is preparing for the Patent Bar Exam. After admission to the Patent Bar he intends to relocate to Tennessee or Texas, states in which he is also admitted. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.