Wireless Headset Microphone Face-Off

Introduction

A decade ago there were only a couple of wireless telephone/speech recognition microphone headsets available on the market. As public demand increased, so did the number of choices. This review is designed to help pare down those choices. There are some excellent contenders out there, so our review focused on the Jabra GN9350e, Sennheiser BW 900, Plantronics CS55, Plantronics CS70N, Jabra Pro 9470, Plantronics Savi 440, Sennheiser OfficeRunner (DW Office), and the VXI V100.

 

Our review consist of three parts:

 

  1. Our personal take on the evolution of speech recognition microphones.
  2. A general consensus of eight speech recognition experts on the pros and cons.
  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.

 

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.

 

A wireless combination telephone/headset just might be your best option if:

 

  • You prefer the economics of using a single wireless microphone for your computer and telephone
  • You enjoy the freedom of being wireless
  • You enjoy the option of remotely answering your phone
  • You like the idea of being able to quickly switch from your telephone to your computer and vice versa

The following sections provide the general consensus of eight speech recognition experts on the pros and cons of what we believe to be the top eight combination telephone/speech recognition headset microphones. Note that in this category, there is no single overall winner. The overall winner depends on your personal needs.

 

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).

 

Jabra Pro 9470

 

Jabra Pro 9470 Wireless HeadsetMSRP: $549

Accuracy: 99%

Noise Cancellation: 8 out of 10

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

 

Pros:

  • 99% Accuracy
  • Works on your cell phone (as long as you are near the base), computer and landline telephone
  • Up to 450 foot range
  • DECT 6 1.9 GHz
  • Built-in USB soundcard
  • The most accurate telephone/headset microphone we have tested to date
  • Includes 2" x 3" VGA touch screen which allows you to instantly switch from your computer to your telephone or mobile phone
  • Magnetic headset to ensure connectivity while charging
  • Very good noise cancellation
  • Up to 11 hour talk time in narrowband or 8 hours in wideband
  • Safe tone technology prevents sound spikes
  • Wideband response for VoIP and speech recognition use
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Built-in battery cannot be hot swapped
  • More expensive than competitive units
  • Only the base station is Bluetooth which means that you cannot use the headset with your cell phone if you're more than 30 feet away from the base station
  • Remote handset lifter is an add-on option (Model GN1000) rather than included

Jabra GN9350e

 

Jabra GN9350e Wireless HeadsetMSRP: $400

Accuracy: 98%

Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10

 

Pros:

  • Reasonably priced
  • DECT 6 1.9 GHz
  • Built-in USB soundcard
  • Includes 3 different wearing styles
  • Bundle includes a hydraulic handset lifter
  • Optional rechargeable hot-swappable batteries
  • Can keep an extra battery fully charged all the time in the base station so that you never run out of juice
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Limited noise cancellation prevents using this microphone in anything but a quiet environment

Sennheiser BW 900

 

MSRP: $390

Accuracy: 99%

Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

 

Pros:

  • 99% accuracy
  • Good noise cancellation
  • Optional rechargeable hot-swappable batteries
  • Can keep an extra battery fully charged all the time in the base station so that you never run out of juice
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Requires an external soundcard
  • Requires additional PC Switch external PC/Phone Switch for speech recognition
  • 1.9 GHz but not DECT 6
  • Soon to be discontinued dated technology
  • Battery only lasts 4.5 hours and 2nd optional battery takes 3 hours to charge
  • Optional hydraulic handset lifter incompatible for speech recognition
  • Manufacturer claims of 300 foot range which we found to be closer to 150 feet

Sennheiser OfficeRunner (DW Office)

 

Sennheiser OfficeRunner (DW Office)MSRP: $449

Accuracy: 99%

Noise Cancellation: 5 out of 10 (unexceptable)

Overall Rating: 6 out of 10 (unexceptable)

 

Pros:

  • 99% accuracy
  • Extremely fast at recharging the built-in battery
  • Built-in USB soundcard
  • Magnetic headset attached to ensure connectivity while charging
  • 2 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Unacceptable noise cancellation even in a very quiet office
  • No hot-swappable battery option
  • Onboard controls somewhat clumsy

Plantronics Savi

 

MSRP: $299

Accuracy: 95%

Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10

Overall Rating: 6 out of 10 (unacceptable)

 

Pros:

  • Includes 3 different wearing styles
  • Lighter than other comparatively similar systems
  • Built-in USB soundcard
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Unacceptable accuracy

 

 


Plantronics CS55

 

Sennheiser OfficeRunner (DW Office)MSRP: $299

Accuracy: 97%

Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

 

Pros:

  • Includes KnowBrainer exclusive windscreen
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Requires additional PC Switch external PC/Phone Switch for speech recognition
  • Dated 1.9 GHz technology, no DECT 6
  • Optional remote handset lifter incompatible for speech recognition

Plantronics CS70N

 

Sennheiser OfficeRunner (DW Office)MSRP: $299

Accuracy: 97%

Noise Cancellation: 9 out of 10

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

 

Pros:

  • Good Noise Reduction
  • Low-profile - won't mess up your hair
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Requires additional PC Switch external PC/Phone Switch for speech recognition
  • Must be worn like a typical Bluetooth microphone with a gel cap inserted in your ear canal
  • Optional hydraulic handset lifter incompatible for speech recognition
  • 1.9 GHz but not DECT 6

VXi Parrott VX100

 

Sennheiser OfficeRunner (DW Office)MSRP: $270

Accuracy: 96%

Noise Cancellation: 7 out of 10

Overall Rating: 6 out of 10 (unacceptable)

 

Pros:

  • Low profile
  • Multiple wearing styles
  • 1.9 GHz DECT 6
  • Supports optional remote headset lifter
  • Built-in USB soundcard
  • 1 year manufacturer warranty

Cons:

  • Frequently fails to pass the NaturallySpeaking Microphone Check

 

 

Conclusions

1st Place Overall ~ Jabra Pro 9470

The Jabra Pro 9470 came in 1st place in several categories including accuracy, features and flexibility. It was also our personal favorite. One of the main reasons for choosing the 9470 as our #1 pick is the fact that it seamlessly supports Bluetooth connectivity to a cell phone; not just speech recognition and standard landline telephone use. It is the only microphone to feature an impressive 2" x 3" VGA touchscreen (which includes all of the unit’s options and settings), very good noise cancellation (only bested by the Sennheiser BW 900), excellent accuracy and overall user friendliness.

 

2nd & 3rd Place Overall Tie ~ Jabra 9350e & Sennheiser BW 900

The BW 900 came in overall first-place for noise cancellation but utilizes an older 1.9 GHz technology that doesn't filter out interference (such as walking within 15 feet of a running microwave). Other than the Jabra Pro 9470, the BW 900 is the only microphone, on this list, to additionally feature Bluetooth but unlike the 9470, the BW 900 utilizes Bluetooth from within the headset so that it can be used with your cell phone beyond the base station. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to switch from 1.9 GHz to Bluetooth when you are within range of the base station. The BW 900 does not include a USB soundcard or work with the optional hydraulic lifter (when used for speech recognition).

 

The original model of the GN Netcom/Jabra 9350, like the Sennheiser DW Office, was not KnowBrainer certified for speech recognition use because it lacked sufficient noise cancellation but the 9350e included just enough additional noise cancellation to make the list. The reason why we believe the 9350e ties for 2nd place is because it features DECT 6, an impressive switching pad, twice the range of the BW 900, built-in USB soundcard, built-in remote handset lifter and isn't effected by microwaves.

 

4th & 5th Place Overall Tie ~ Plantronics CS55 & CS70n

The Plantronics CS50 (900 MHz predecessor to the 1.9 GHz CS55) was the 1st wireless landline headset microphone which KnowBrainer Inc. reintroduced as a combination speech recognition/landline headset with the inclusion of a proprietary PC switch. Although both the CS55 and CS70N utilize 1.9 GHz frequency, it is an older technology that predates DECT 6. The CS55 includes 2 wearing styles but is somewhat inhibited by only being moderately noise canceling. The CS70N is significantly more noise canceling but is functionally limited to an in-your-ear gel design which end-users may not appreciate over a long period of time. Although the accuracy is very good in both microphones, it is not as good as the 9470.

 

You will not find the remaining microphones on our website because they did not meet minimum KnowBrainer speech recognition standards for various reasons. The Sennheiser DW Office came the closest to being acceptable with its high accuracy, built-in USB soundcard and quick charge base. We initially had high hopes for the DW Office as Sennheiser sent us 2 prerelease models before eventually releasing the DW Office, which we also tested. In the end, we simply could not give the DW Office a passing grade because the noise cancellation was unacceptable to the point where NaturallySpeaking was mistaking our breathing and even key clicks as words. The DW Office would've been a very decent speech recognition microphone had it not been for the fact that the noise cancellation simply fell below our minimum acceptability standards.

 

We were intrigued by Plantronics Savi WO 100’s exceptionally lightweight but we felt the accuracy fell below our acceptable speech recognition standards.

 

The VXI Parrott V100 was the worst of the lot and frequently failed to pass the Audio Setup Wizard.

 

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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Contact Us

Knowbrainer, Inc.

718 Rogue Forks Rd.
Bethpage, TN 37022

P.615-884-4558
E.lunis@knowbrainer.com

 

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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