When we first began using DragonDictate speech recognition software in the 1980’s, it seemed to be incredibly impressive technology. Never minding the very deliberate pause after each and every word, we waited with baited breath to see another (hopefully correct) word miraculously appear on our somewhat blurry little screens. It was fun! It was frustrating! It was not very practical. Back then, the couple of wired analog headset microphone choices available to us were more than adequate.
In 1996, NaturallySpeaking continuous speech recognition was released. With the emergence of this new technology, we had a viable tool for professional as well as personal use. That being the case, we needed microphones and soundcards designed to better utilize this increasingly more sophisticated software. Microphone manufacturers responded, with USB soundcard manufacturers following close behind. The 1st
USB soundcard was a large black plastic contraption, manufactured by Telex. While great in theory, in practice it was actually worse than most integrated soundcards. In 2000, Telex released the H-531 USB headset microphone. This was much smaller but included a substandard (consumer grade) microphone element which was not much bigger than the head of a pin and produced barely acceptable accuracy. While Telex stopped producing USB soundcards before the release of Windows XP, they had at least gotten the ball rolling. Companies like Andrea Electronics and VXI then picked up the slack and additional companies have since jumped on the bandwagon. They’ve come a long way since the 1st USB microphone came out in the late 90s.
Today, a USB soundcard just might be your best option if:
- Your desktop computer doesn’t have a Sound Blaster PCI soundcard
- Your desktop computer is one of the 99.9% of computers that includes an integrated soundcard (which we don’t recommend using)
- You are using a tablet or notebook computer (as they all have integrated soundcards)
- Getting the highest possible accuracy from your speech software is of the utmost importance to you
- You are using a Mac computer
- You are using one of many of the latest notebook computers, which no longer support standard microphone input