Best PC Microphones - How to Choose
Wired versus wireless PC mics
First of all we shall take a look at wired and wireless microphones. Wireless microphones have one major advantage over wired microphones and that is freedom of movement. Since a wireless microphone is not connected by any cable you're not restricted by the cable's length. You can avoid cable problems which frequently occur with wired microphones because of constant movement and stressing of the wire.
The disadvantage of a wireless microphone is its limited operation due to low battery life. Also, there is a possibility of interference with other radio equipment.
Maybe you want to operate your microphone and not be seated at your PC. Maybe you want to be able to do your chores while talking to someone on the other end via Skype, Yahoo Messenger or Google Talk. In that case a wireless microphone would be the better choice. But if your conversations or let's say your recordings are being done while seated at your PC, a wired microphone will work just fine.
Omnidirectional versus unidirectional PC microphones
Another decision you will have to make when choosing the best PC mic for you is whether to buy one that is omnidirectional or unidirectional. An omnidirectional microphone picks up sounds from virtually any direction, while unidirectional microphones pick up sounds aimed directly to their centers. If you're only looking to mike yourself as opposed to a group of persons, for the best voice clarity, you should get a microphone that is unidirectional. Such a microphone will only pick up your voice and sounds close to it. On the other hand, if you choose an omnidirectional microphone, it can pick up sounds from all over the room, rustling papers, sounds in the rest of the house, barking dogs and sirens outside your house. If you're looking for the perfect microphone for miking a conference or meeting, an omnidirectional microphone would be the better choice.
What if you want to communicate while not being directly at your PC or laptop computer? In that case, get an omnidirectional microphone. The only problem is you won't get great voice clarity.
If you're looking to buy a PC microphone for use with speech recognition software, you certainly need to buy one that is unidirectional. Otherwise the software won't be able to decipher exactly what you're saying.
Desktop versus headset PC microphones
Desktop microphones usually come with new computers. They're often used for chatting over the Internet or while using a web cam. They are OK for these purposes, but if you're looking for great sound clarity these are a no-no. If you're thinking of doing a podcast and looking to create professional sound, stay away from desktop microphones. They create a "speakerphone effect" and won't do your voice any justice. The problem with desktop microphones is the fact that they are omnidirectional. So in addition to picking up your voice they pick up sounds all over, as we've already seen.
If you want top quality sound your best bet would be a headset. These are similar to those used by telephone operators. Headsets are usually unidirectional and will pick up the sound of your voice more clearly. Another advantage of a headset is that no matter where you move or shift your head you will always be "on mic'. Most headsets come with noise canceling features and are great for speech recognition. A headset can really free you up. It encourages proper posture since you won't have to bend to reach the microphone.
USB versus "non-USB" PC microphones
My top recommendation as far as a computer microphone is concerned is a headset. But even after deciding on a headset you will have to choose between a USB or non-USB (analog) headset. Non-USB models connect to your computer via 3.5mm plugs. One plug is for the microphone and the other is for the headphones. On the other hand, a USB headset ends in a single USB plug which goes into a USB jack on your computer. You can use a USB microphone on both PCs and Macs.
The good thing about a USB connection is that you do not need a sound card to record audio. Since they record in audio format, they record more clearly. USB microphones are a little pricier than analog ones.
One disadvantage of an analog microphone is that they distort sound more than their USB counterparts. On the other hand, they are cheaper than USB microphones.
PCs usually come with several USB jacks while many have only one analog jack. This is one reason I prefer USB headsets over analog headsets. If one USB jack goes bad you can always plug your PC microphone into another.
To choose the best PC mic, you need to first of all know your intended use, and the devices with which it will be used. Your budget is another important factor. As long as you're clear about these, it shouldn't be hard to buy the PC microphone that is right for you.
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