Softnet Systems, Inc. Speech Recognition Specialists

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Microphones

Microphones for Dragon Naturally Speaking (and other audio applications)

Choose Your Microphone Type

There are many different microphones that work well with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The USB headset that comes with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Professional or Legal works OK in a quiet environment. But typically a better microphone results in better accuracy. No headset comes with Dragon Professional Individual (R14),

There is no "BEST" microphone. Your voice, how you use the microphone, your environment, and your PC are a few of the variables that determine what is a good microphone for you.

Sorry, but we can not tell which microphones you will find comfortable, as that is a personal preference, much as trying on shoes. So if you have a local Dragon or microphone reseller who will let you come and see and try various microphones, contact them and buy from them!

Our main goal is to supply our Dragon customers with good and appropriate microphones. We have little interest in these microphones when used for other applications, though many of them are great for Skype, making podcasts, etc.

You'll have a tough time finding these microphones in retail stores. For more information about microphones, see our Microphone Hints.

USB Audio Adapters

The USB Audio Adapters substitute for a high-quality sound card. Many PC's have high-quality sound built-in. These are getting more common, but in our experience no more than 75% of the PC's bought commercially today have such sound cards built-in. Most persons have no idea how to tell the difference, so you may have to try your audio system with NaturallySpeaking (or any other speech recognition product) to determine if it is "good enough". The typical test is to record, then play back and listen to the sound. If it is crystal clear, better than a telephone sound, then it should work OK. OR, buy one of these USB Audio Adapters with your DNS Professional, Medical, or Legal Software and if you decide you don't need it then ship it back and we'll refund the cost of the adapter.

We carry 2 different brands, Andrea and Buddy. VXi makes good adapters too, and we'll sell you theirs if you prefer it for some reason but it may take extra shipping time. The Buddy 7G Audio Adapter has a mute switch. It is a full-duplex Audio Adapter, so both headphone and microphone jacks go into it. It is our preferred adapter. We prefer it to the Buddy 6G USB adapter due to its better noise-filtering capabilities. The Buddy 5G model is good too, unless using the Sennheiser ME3 microphone in which case the 7G, 6G, or the Andrea adapter is required.

If you don't have the physical ability to use the mute switch that is included on the Buddy adapters, then the Andrea adapter may be preferred. But keep in mind that the mute switch can be handy during training or other sessions with someone who may be able to use the mute switch. It is microphone-only which pairs nicely with the Sennheiser ME3, the SpeechWare FlexyMike's, and other headsets which do not have an earphone.

Other USB Adapters: Andrea full-duplex, VXi full-duplex adapters. Some Sennheiser headsets come with a Sennheiser USB adapter.

Microphones for Best Accuracy

Microphone accuracy varies based on many factors. The following are ordered based on our perceived accuracy of these microphones when used with suitable sound cards or USB Audio Adapters.

  • Sennheiser ME3 (modified for computer usage) -- a headset, no earphones, approximately $200 including an appropriate USB adapter
  • SpeechWare FlexyMike Dual-Ear Cardoid -- a headset, no earphones, approximately $225 including an appropriate USB adapter
  • Audio Technica Pro 8HEMW headset microphone, no earphones, approximately $130 including an appropriate USB adapter
  • Various boom-mounted/handheld vocal microphones such as the Sennheiser MD-431, generally expensive ($400+ for the MD-431) but long-lasting
  • Philips SpeechMike Premium -- handheld microphone
  • Buddy HeadsetMic 7G -- headset with 3 programmable buttons


Most Portable Microphones

Many people must transport microphones, either from room to room or pack them up into laptop bags. These microphones are relatively easy to transport. The Buddy Stylus is by far the lightest of these microphones and is aimed at the Tablet-PC market.

The Philips LFH3500 SpeechMike Premium is the best of these in moderate noise environments based upon our preliminary testing in September 2012. It has many other features justifying the higher pricing, including an excellent trackball mouse and programmable buttons. It can be set so the microphone turns off when you put the microphone down and the microphone turns on when you pick it up, saving precious seconds.


Other microphones that can be easily transported include the Buddy Flamingo series of microphones and the Nuance PowerMic II. Lightweight headsets may be lighter than some of the above microphones.

The SpeechWare FlexyMike is a very lightweight ear-mounted headset that has a case and is easily transported.

Most Commonly Used Microphones

Headset microphones are most commonly used. Many use them because they came with the product. You'll find lots of material on the web about how horrible the microphones are that come with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Historically those comments were generally correct. But since 2013 Nuance has put credible microphones in their Professional, Legal, and Medical products. The USB microphones sometimes included with Premium seem to work OK. The analog (2-jack, one for speaker, one for microphone) microphones included with Home and some boxes of Premium are inexpensive but often work reasonably well.

That is largely because with newer PC's, the audio systems are usually OK. They may not be great for audiophiles, but for speech recognition the audio systems function well. This in turn means that most headsets work for Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Most headsets that you might find at chain retailers will work OK in quiet environments. With noise, better headsets aimed at noise reduction pay off in better accuracy with Dragon.

Because of these changes in audio systems and the wider availability of all sorts of headsets, this web site will no longer sell very many headsets. We will continue to sell the Sennheiser ME3, adapted for computer use, because it handles a high volume of background noise and the version we sell with modifications for computer use is not available in normal retail settings. As of spring 2015 there are other headsets which we will be closing out, those can be identified by the "while supplies last" notation. From time to time we may sell other headsets that fulfill special purposes.

For general dictation purposes, we find that headsets from VXi, SpeechWare, Andrea, Sennheiser are generally good. Addasound is new to the US market and seems to be delivering respectable headsets. One notable feature that makes a difference for speech recognition is the microphone boom length. Short booms almost always result in substandard performance.

Our regular customers may continue to order their favorite headsets so long as the manufacturers continue them. For our Phoenix-area customers, we'll continue to have replacement headsets for most types we have sold over the past 10 years.

Wireless Microphones

If you want a wireless microphone, beware! There are good, expensive (hundreds of dollars) ones with fixed base stations. If you are just looking for one of these, talk to one of the companies that only sells microphones as they will serve you better. Several of these work well, but all are more difficult to set up than wired microphones. There are models with fixed base stations (receivers, with antennas) which work fine and produce quality audio. If you will have multiple users, beware as some of them suffer from interference once you have multiple people in an office using these. The better ones can handle multiple users simultaneously.

Bluetooth microphones can be obtained. If you are moving a PC from place to place several times per day, the convenience of a Bluetooth microphone is attractive. (If your computer stays at the same place all the time, by all means look at conventional wireless microphones before even thinking about Bluetooth!) The best of breed of the Bluetooth microphones today seems to come from Sennheiser, in 2007 the best seemed to come from VXi, but neither is solid enough that we choose to sell it, except under the condition that YOU will deal with problems, YOU will deal with the vendor for resolving problems, etc. Some people report they work fine, so if you have a high value for being wireless, it may be fine for you. We'll advise you to order two of them so you'll have a spare while the other is being repaired. You'll have to ask us via email to supply these.

The inexpensive (under $100) Bluetooth microphones that are used for cell phones DO NOT WORK WELL FOR SPEECH RECOGNITION! That is, unless you consider 80% accuracy "well" in which case your standards are low enough that you could consider them. I've tracked Internet newsgroups every day for years waiting for someone to find such a microphone and it hasn't happened yet.

I strongly urge you to think about why you want to get rid of the wires. Are you allergic to wires? Do you just want to look cool? Do you trip on the wires? Are the wires too heavy to carry? Do you have your own audio engineer on the payroll who needs something to do? Unless you have a strong reason to go wireless, I'd advise against it. Look at it this way -- go into a recording studio and ask what wireless equipment they have. They will likely laugh and tell you that wireless is for stage/performance usage, not for usage where quality is of utmost importance.

Desktop Microphones

Late 2011/early 2012 has brought us several new desktop microphone models that work well with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and Dragon Medical. These Buddy and SpeechWare microphones add to our options for dictation.

Most are microphones that sit on a desk, ready to be used. They work best in very quiet settings. Many lawyers, doctors, and those working at home have such quiet settings. If debating between these and wireless microphones, we recommend desktop microphones as they are more reliable. All but the Buddy Gooseneck microphone have buttons for turning the microphone on/off.


The Buddy Desktop 7G is a larger (longer boom) and sturdier microphone with a heavier base that will "stay put" on a desk. As such it is better for persons who have limited use of their hands.

The last of the traditional desktop microphones is the SpeechWare 3-in-1. This microphone has an equalizer built-in so that your distance from the microphone element isn't as important as with most microphones. As you move away, it increases the volume to compensate. $279, I special order these when appropriate. There are closely-related models as well, a 6-in-1 and a 9-in-1 at higher prices. For most adults, my recommendation is the 6-in-1 because its boom is longer, making it easier to position the microphone properly. Persons who sit very close to a desk are more likely to find the 3-in-1 boom long enough. The 9-in-1 boom is the longest and is well suited for those who are tall, sit away from their desks, or may be in a wheelchair and can't get very close to a desk.


The next one, the Buddy Gooseneck microphone, clamps on a desk or table. It has a longer gooseneck boom (32 inches) and is commonly used where one needs to be using the microphone while seated at a wheelchair.

We now offer only the USB model from the website. This essentially uses a Buddy 7G USB adapter with a long cable.,


Special situations sometimes demand a different clamping mechanism. While I don't stock them, Buddy Gooseneck microphones are available without the clamp in both 18" and 30" lengths. Be prepared to attach your own clamp to fit your needs.


Low-Cost Microphones that work well with Dragon NaturallySpeaking

Cost is often a factor. Some microphones are used in environments where they get damaged faster than normal (e.g. schools). Others are used where infection control is a factor (e.g. dentistry) so the microphones need replacement often. Whatever the reason, some need to consider cost first and get a good microphone at low cost instead of paying for a better microphone at a higher cost.

These microphones work well in quiet environments. They may be the best for the money for some applications.

If in doubt, choose the USB microphone if this is for speech recognition. As for the Andrea ANC-181VM vs. the Buddy HeadsetMic Mono, we can not tell you which will be more comfortable. If used with a quality sound card they both work OK.


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