Desktop Microphone Face-Off


When we received the SpeechWare 3-in-1 microphones and noted their exceptional performance, it occurred to us that it would be a good time for a "battle of the desktop microphones". There are some excellent contenders out there, so our review focused on the SpeechWare TableMike Family (3-in-1, 6-in-1, and 9-in-1), Sennheiser MD 431 II, Buddy Desktop DSP, Olympus ME 31, and the Audix.


Our review consist of three parts:


  1. Our personal take on the evolution of speech recognition microphones.
  2. A general consensus of twelve of the world's leading speech recognition experts on the pros and cons of what we believe to the the top 5 desktop microphones (table microphones).
  3. Our personal assessment of what the performance numbers mean for users.


If you wish to skip past the brief microphone history, click Pros and Cons. If you wish to skip further ahead to our conclusions, click conclusions.


Please note that, while only one of these microphones could achieve the 1st place overall rating, each microphone is still an excellent choice for speech recognition.


Evolution of Speech Recognition Microphones

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 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 designed to better utilize this increasingly more sophisticated software. Microphone manufacturers responded. They designed wireless systems. They designed combination headset microphones that could additionally be used with cell phones, landlines and even hydraulic lifters which picked up our handsets for us. While noise canceling and accuracy continued to improve, ultimately many of us still were not happy with our headset microphones, finding them to be rather inconvenient and/or uncomfortable. Physicians and other professionals were often forced to don and then remove their headsets every few minutes, between patients or clients. Other end users, needing to take verbal notes while talking on the phone, put their callers on hold, which was both inefficient and impolite. While handheld microphones such as the Philips SpeechMike Air now allow concurrent use of both a microphone and a telephone, they don’t solve all problems for all end users. Some of us simply need to keep both hands free. Fortunately, microphone manufacturers have also been busily designing high quality desktop microphones.


A desktop microphone just might be your best option if:


  • You find headset microphones to be uncomfortable
  • You like to listen to music through high fidelity headphones while working
  • You are physically disabled
  • You are self-conscious about wearing a headset in front of others
  • You don’t need to be wireless
  • You NEED to keep both hands free
  • You dislike having to continuously don and remove your headset
  • You take the time to arrange your hair just the way you like it and THAT IS HOW YOU WANT TO KEEP IT!


Pros and Cons

Here is the general consensus of 12 of the world's top speech recognition experts on the pros and cons of what they believe to be the top 5 desktop microphones, followed by our recommendations (rating them from 1st through 5th place).


SpeechWare 3-in-1 TableMike


MSRP: $279

Accuracy: 100%

Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10

Overall Rating: 10 out of 10



  • 100% Accuracy
  • Belgian engineering (think Mercedes)
  • The most accurate desktop microphone we have tested
  • NEW "De Clicking" algorithm (2nd-generation exclusive) ~ The "De Clicking" algorithm filters out keystroke taps, table thumps etc. (clicking) from reaching NaturallySpeaking
  • Recipient of Nuance's highest (5 Dragon “Best of Class”) rating
  • Detachable microphone boom for easier storage and transport
  • Unusually high noise cancellation for desktop microphone
  • End-user Programmable On/Off/ momentary switch
  • Includes an option to bypass the built-in gooseneck microphone with a headset microphone (for working in noisier environments) which allows you to use the base as a noise filtering USB soundcard.
  • The only desktop microphone that can be preset to turn on when booting your computer. This can be especially important to the physically disabled.
  • Includes headphone jack and volume controls
  • The 1st microphone to include separate specialized settings for speech recognition mode and VoIP/Skype mode
  • Speech recognition mode includes a specialized Adaptive Noise Canceling algorithm
  • 1st desktop microphone to include Automatic Gain Control
  • Only desktop microphone to feature 2 dedicated volume controls for sound playback
  • Only desktop microphone to feature a dedicated mic sensitivity control to reject unwanted background noise
  • Built-in exclusive audio filtering USB soundcard
  • Extremely accurate up to 24 inches (that’s no typo) but can be utilized at even further distances thanks to the built-in Automatic Gain Control feature
  • The upcoming 6-in-1 unit (due to be released in early April of 2012) additionally adds a foot pedal option to toggle the microphone on and off, playback speaker and an extra USB port.
  • The upcoming 9-in-1 unit (due to be released in early May of 2012) additionally adds a 2nd USB port, telescoping (adjustable) gooseneck, SD card reader and a programmable button to control other applications.
  • 2 year manufacturer warranty


  • Slightly more expensive than competitive units

Buddy Desktop DSP


MSRP: $170

Accuracy: 98%

Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

Note: We did not include other types of Buddy microphones, such as the Buddy Gooseneck and Buddy Flamingo, in our testing because they incorporate the same microphone element (without a base).



  • 98% Accuracy with new integrated 7G USB soundcard
  • Built-in noise filtering USB soundcard
  • Includes microphone mute button
  • Accurate up to 8 inches away
  • Excellent price value
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty


  • Currently requires sending the unit to Canada for service and warranty repairs
  • Limited (2 to 5 inch) microphone range (9 to 11 inches with the Buddy Desktop DSP)

Audix USB 12


MSRP: $179

Accuracy: 97%

Noise Cancellation: 6 out of 10

Overall Rating: 6 out of 10



  • Lowest priced USB desktop microphone
  • Headphone jack for optional sound out
  • Similar accuracy to the higher-priced discontinued Buddy Desktop 6G
  • Button can be programmed to work as an on-off switch or push to talk
  • Smallest footprint of any desktop microphone, requiring the least amount of table space
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty


  • Not quite as accurate as the new Buddy 7G which has replaced the 6G
  • We experienced some unwanted pops and plosives when dictating within the limited 2 inch range. We were able to remedy this by
  • speaking off to the side of the microphone.
  • This microphone had a limited 2 inch range, but was actually slightly more accurate from within 1 inch. This concerned us.
  • We found the 12 inch boom to be a little shorter than we would like in some situations.
  • We do not like membrane buttons at all. We prefer a true hardware button with more of a click feel like the other desktop microphones.

Olympus ME31


MSRP: $200

Accuracy: 97%

Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10



  • Perfect for digital recorders when recording seminars
  • Accurate to within 3 feet and can be used from as far away as 4
  • Gun style long-distance directional pickup pattern
  • Very small footprint; similar to the Audix
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty


  • No built-in USB soundcard
  • Slightly high priced for a microphone with no built-in USB soundcard
  • No actual noise cancellation but because this microphone is highly directional, it marginally rejects sound from the sides and back
  • This microphone should only be used in a quiet environment and may occasionally pick up keyboard key clicks

Sennheiser MD 431 II


MSRP: $675

Accuracy: 100%

Noise Cancellation: 10 out of 10

Overall Rating: 10 out of 10

Note: The Sennheiser MD 431 II is not really a desktop microphone but we included it in this comparison because of its popularity and the fact that is commonly used as a desktop speech recognition microphone.



  • 100% Accuracy
  • Stunning noise cancellation (Super cardioid microphone element works great for rejecting unwanted sound)
  • Includes on/off slider switch
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty


  • Roughly triple the price of the competition
  • Limited 2 to 3 inch range
  • This microphone’s unwieldy length makes it difficult to utilize as a desktop microphone because it was primarily designed for vocalists/musicians





1st Place ~ SpeechWare 3-in-1, 6-in-1 and 9-in-1


The 3-in-1 simply blew our socks off (along with the competition) with devastating accuracy from within 21 inches, and was quite usable from as far away as 40 inches! The 3-in-1 introduces several new technologies built into the world's only speech recognition microphone that contains a circuit board with amenities like de-clicking (specialized filters that prevent NaturallySpeaking from hearing chair squeaks, keystrokes, lip smacks and coffee cup clinks) along with specialized NaturallySpeaking 11 algorithms for higher accuracy. This microphone additionally includes a bypass setting so that you can use it for podcasts, VoIP applications or earlier versions of NaturallySpeaking/DragonDictate.


We also fell in love with the additional perks which include the option to add an external headset microphone, headphones, volume controls and a noise filtering USB soundcard. The MD 431 II was unbeatable from 2 to 3 inches but if you spend a significant amount of time dictating, it is all but impossible to comfortably maintain a 2 inch distance from your microphone over any given period of time. Most of us are working with larger monitors, taking phone calls, sorting or referring to papers, and dealing with interruptions and distractions of various sorts. We like to lean back in our chairs. We turn. We fidget. We stretch. Because of the extended range of the 3-in-1 microphone, we have found nothing to match its accuracy when dictating beyond 3 inches. Additional manufacturer information available at


This review was dictated with the SpeechWare 3-in-1 microphone and by the time I finished testing, I made the SpeechWare 3-in-1 my personal microphone of choice. I informed the fine folks at SpeechWare that the only way they would get back their 3-in-1 prototype was if they “pried it from my cold dead fingers” to quote someone, none of us will ever forget... They wisely elected to let me keep it .


2nd Place ~ Sennheiser MD 431 II
This microphone is the measuring stick used against all other microphones. From within 2 inches, no microphone we have ever tested is more accurate or more noise canceling. The Sennheiser was significantly more noise canceling than any other desktop microphone. However, negative aspects include a sticker shock price tag of $500 (MAP pricing), unwieldy length for positioning as a desktop microphone and the limited 2 inch range (requiring users to lock their bodies into one position over long periods of time). You can optionally purchase a swing-arm for this microphone, allowing you to change positions, but that increases the price even more. Although this is the most noise canceling and accurate desktop microphone we've ever tested, the 3 negative aspects dropped it down to 4th place. Additional manufacturer information available at


3rd Place ~ Buddy Desktop 7G DSP
What can we say other than this is the classic desktop microphone that all other manufacturers mimic, and it has recently been improved with the 7G USB soundcard and the introduction of a new process called FilteredAudio (exclusive to the DSP model) . We felt this was a great microphone and continue to carry it on our website because of the price (only slightly higher than the Audix USB 12) and quality. Additional manufacturer information available at


4th Place ~ Olympus ME31
This is a great microphone with good accuracy for long distance dictation of up to 4 feet and quite accurate within 3 feet. If you need long-distance, this is your best choice but the noise canceling aspects and price lower this microphone to 5th place. Additional manufacturer information available at


5th Place ~ Audix USB 12
Although this is a reasonable speech recognition microphone, it is only included in the “top 6” because of the lower price. We personally didn't feel the slightly lower price justified offering it on our website, considering how much better the other units scored. Additional manufacturer information
available at


Current Gold Standards:



A Note On Bluetooth and the Savi 440

The Plantronics Savi 440 is not a Bluetooth microphone but comes seemingly close by emulating the features of a Bluetooth microphone because it includes a completely wireless headset and wireless receiver. We do not recommend any Bluetooth microphones for use with Dragon Medical 11, NaturallySpeaking 11, DragonDictate 2.5 or WSR because Bluetooth microphones are limited to a 4 kHz frequency response while the previously mentioned speech recognition applications can process frequencies as high as 11 kHz. Bluetooth also suffers from syncing issues and that's why we no longer offer or rate Bluetooth microphones.


Reviewed By

Lunis Orcutt - Developer of KnowBrainer 2011 and founder of KnowBrainer Speech Recognition Forums (the world's largest speech recognition forum) Chat Live w/a Nuance Gold Certified Speech Recognition Solutions Provider

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For over 20 years KnowBrainer has been bringing customers the latest and most comprehensive suite of speech recogntion hardware and software, including the entire line of Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking products. We also offer our own KnowBrainer Command software that extends the capabilities of NaturallySpeaking into full PC automation that is capable of controlling nearly everything that you do on your PC using just your voice. To get you the greatest success, KnowBrainer also offers a full line of hardware and support services for your speech recognition requirements.

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