^.^ My New Voice Recognition Software, As If I Weren't Already Lazy Enough ^.^
Recommend this product?
In this day and age, with all of these technological innovations we have, mankind just keeps getting lazier and lazier. Computers happen to be a major part of that. I, alone, spend about six to eight hours on the computer daily. A couple months ago, I came across this program called Dragon Naturally Speaking 7.0 when a customer asked me for it [I had no idea what it was]. So he tells me that it was a highly accurate voice recognition program that can type up to 160 wpm, about the speed of average speech. Awesome, I thought, as if I weren't already lazy enough, now I don't have to move my fingers. So I get myself a copy, and WOW! It was very accurate, even with the $4 mini notebook microphone the stuck out the front of my laptop.
But I needed better accuracy than that. Due to electrical fuzz from the onboard audio card, as with many laptops, I opted for a USB headset. Secondly, considering the environment around me, I needed noise-canceling technology as well. I started my search at STAPLES, which is where I just so happen to have worked. I didn't have much money on hand, but I did have my $15 Staples Rewards Check. Back on the headset wall, with a clearance sticker pasted across it, I found the Cyber Acoustics AC-850 Noise-Canceling USB Headset. $11.50, it stated. Who could beat that kind of deal? Other models with those specs were several times more. So I bought it, went home, and tried 'er out. And our little adventure begins
Why A USB Headset Instead Of A Regular 3.5mm Stereo Jack Set?
There are several reasons why one may consider USB over the standard stereo jacks. In my case, it is because I have a laptop. Many laptops have crappy sound cards that produce and electrical fuzz, or static, sound when plugged in. A USB headset uses its own set of drivers and sound chip. On a desktop, however, someone may have speakers connected to the stereo jack with no other jacks for headphones. And the most important reason would be because USB ports are abundant these days. With Windows XP, along with Vista, most USB peripherals are Plug-N-Play. I use that term loosely, however. Unplugging this headset doesn't crash Windows in any manner, but will crash certain programs, such as Winamp.
In my opinion, this design of this headset isn't too appealing. When their not on your head, they look like any other headset. But when on, they make your head look fatter, something my head does on its own. As long as no one is around to see you, they are perfect. They are very comfortable, however, and feel feather-light. The whole thing is constructed of flexible plastic of silver and black. The headband, at its widest, is about one and a quarter inch. You really can't feel the band like you would with a metal strip band. Both sides pull down from the headband to fit most any head. Each one extends about one and quarter inch. I noticed that there aren't any real intervals [notches] that they lock on, just wherever you leave them.
Unlike regular headphones, thankfully, the cord only comes out of the left headphone. It's thin, but seems stronger than most headphone wires. About a foot and a half down the cord is a small volume control dial. It can drastically up-the-volume. A microphone muting switch is located on it to disable the mic when not in use (as if that weren't obvious enough). There is a small, black spring-loaded clip that you can use to hold the volume control in a quick-accessible location top of your shirt, whatever
. That covers the top 18" of the cord. Next item down the cord is the audio chip [I guess it's called]. On it is a purty blue LED that shows that it's cranking out the processing power, basically. There is about five feet of cord between the volume dial and that. From the other end of the audio case id a thicker cord that leads to the USB port. It's about four times thicker. Overall, you have a generous amount of cord, seven feet to be exact. If all you use it for is a laptop, you may want to wind up some of the five-foot section and twisty-tie it.
The phones are thick with padding. They swivel in all directions slightly to make fitting more comfortable. I think they're great. Unlike headphones, you don't have to worry about losing the pads, or phone covers. Unfortunately, these phones fail to keep the sound inside the, to where only you can hear it. If you are listening to music, chances are that people around you can hear it as well. No problem for me, though. I couldn't care less about what others thought. I'm mean and vicious.
I almost forgot about the microphone, the important part. The microphone resides on the left side of the headset, given my setup. The mic is ambidextrous, letting you wear the headset either way, having the mic on the left or right. This has nothing to do with you being left or right-handed, but just a personal preference. Wherever you feel you want the mic, go for it, and that will be the side that the cord comes out. The mic is about half a foot long and half of it is a flexible 'worm' pole. You can bend it in almost any shape and it will maintain that. I have it point toward the floor with the tip bent up so that I can't see it out of the corner of my eye. The mic head has one of those black foam things you see on news caster mics. There is a little red dot on it to show you where the underlying mic hole is, for proper positioning.
Fixing That Annoying Issue Mentioned In Other Reviews:
In the first review written for this headset, the author mentioned quite a perplexing issue that would drive anyone nuts. When using the mic, he would have to literally scream to get any input from it. I read that review before opening my package and had second thoughts about it, but then remembered the 14-day hassle free return policy. So I went ahead and opened it and plugged it into the nearest USB port [every side of my notebook. lol]. And I'll be dÅmned, the same problem. I tampered with all of the settings in control panel and in the volume properties, but to no avail. The headphones worked great, but the microphone seemed to be deaf. I had to yell into it just to get a small rise in the spectrum analyzer I used to test it. Before packing it back up and returning it, I Googled the issue to find a resolution. In the depths of a tech forum, my answer awaited.
To fix this annoying issue, and to save this product from a horrible one-star rating, you need to leave the headset plugged in. Without touching anything, run WINDOWS UPDATE and let it download all files that it presents you. Shouldn't take too long with broadband. After the updating, there was a new item in the 'audio devices' hardware, in control panel, called "C-Media USB Sound Device". Since then, the AC-850 has worked like a dream. Now, when I plug it in, a new volume panel opens when I double-click the volume icon.
As I write this section, I am listening to my Winamp playlist, for accurate details. While most people would probably use this headset for VoIP, my only use for the headphones would be music. For Internet conversations, the quality is more than acceptable. When using this headset, I prefer to set the computer volume at maximum and control the volume from the control wheel on the cord.
The only reason I bought this headset was for the microphone, so the only use I get for the headphones is music. Once again, the audio quality meets my needs. The bass response is excellent for a cheap headset. The background music doesnt sound drowned out or overpowered by treble, which irritates me to no end. I really like the volume control on the cord itself, as it can immensely override the maximum output level. The phones seem to have a high tolerance for input, too. If I take them off and crank the volume all the way up, you can hear them the whole way across the room clearly, with NO CRACKING sounds [static, etc]. My final decision: It is worth the $11.50 for these, even if they were only used for music. This is, of course, after you perform a Windows Update, if applicable. Some computers wont download the file in the update, but they may already have it.
When using voice-recognition software, a decent quality mic is a must. While I did get a fair result while using my $4 mini mic, environmental noise played a harsh factor. For best results with voice-rek, you really want to get a mic with noise-canceling technology, which disregards non-human sounds [basically]. As for the sound quality, such as VoIP applications
.My test host: SKYPEout. My first test involved calling a landline phone, since SKYPE has free US/Canadian PC-to-Phone calling for now. The sound heard from the other end was perfect, youdve never known that I was on a computer. Sometimes the quality surpasses that of a phone. My next test, with SKYPE PC-to-PC: same great result. The PC on the other end was connected to the home theater so everyone could hear my voice, including myself [both computers in the same room. My voice and the reproduction on the home theater were half a second apart, my voice probably traveling 15,000 miles over the Web to go ten feet. In my opinion, I sounded a lot better on the other end than in person, as in, this mic makes me sound better.
I used Skype for those tests, but the real test for me was whether or not voice-rek software could improve accuracy using this headset. Unlike humans, computers cant just understand what we are saying, which is why it is important to have a crystal clear audio input stream to interpret. The mic has noise-canceling technology which reduces environmental noises aside from your voice, which gives the computer a better chance of not screwing up. While I didnt perform any percentage tests on the different mics of mine, I can say that the
accuracy with voice-to-text has improved significantly. I can say an entire paragraph with no more than one mistake, sometimes no mistakes. I make more mistakes than that when I type.
The mic is a major complaint of many users for the fact that they are missing needed drivers. At the start of my experience with this, I failed to get barely any response from the mic. I had it positioned perfectly and everything. But when I Googled the issue, someone mentioned performing a Windows Update while having them plugged in. My update found a driver and installed it, call C-Media, like I mentioned earlier in the review. From then, it worked great, and still does. So try out this troubleshoot remedy before returning it to the store or negatively reviewing it.
In the end, I am glad that I found the AC-850 headset, and for a mere $11.50. The USB feature lets me listen to music without that annoying static form the laptop audio card. It is a great choice for situations ranging from VoIP internet chatting to voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, which types everything while you just talk. The beginning was a bit sketchy, but with patience, the problem was fixed. You get an abundant amount of cord that gives you plenty of room for moving around, a volume dial on the cord and an adjustable mic that can be on the left or the right of your head.
^_^ Shippo225 © 2006 Ron Miller
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