Miscellaneous Ramblings

MacMice MicFlex USB, a Great Microphone for Music or Dictation

Charles Moore - 2005.03.28 - Tip Jar

Since I started using dictation software on a regular basis to reduce typing stress on my arms and hands several years ago, I've become a more than casual user of microphones as well. I am not really a big fan of headset microphones, although I have several of them, and the PlainTalk iParrott iP ST Stereo Multimedia Headset I use with my Pismo PowerBook is the best mic I've ever used for dictation accuracy.

However, newer Macs like my my 700 MHz G3 iBook don't support PlainTalk amplified devices. In the early 90s, Apple tried to push everyone to switch to USB audio technology, a strategy from which they have partly retreated. High-end Macs have analog sound-in ports again these days, but the iBooks and 12" PowerBook regrettably do not - and the analog ports on machines that do have them are no longer PlainTalk but support PC-style unamplified mics.

Consequently, I'm obliged to use a USB microphone with my iBook for dictation, such as the Andrea AK5370 headset mic that came with IBM ViaVoice X - and which also works well with MacSpeech's iListen dictation software.

MicFlex USB MicrophoneDVForge now offers a USB mic that dispenses with the tethered discomfort and hassle of headsets.

The DVForge MacMice MicFlex USB microphone system is a USB microphone that works as both a desktop and a portable microphone solution. Inspired by DVForge's cool SightFlex stand for the Apple iSight webcam, the MicFlex's entire USB mic assembly is enclosed in a small, cylindrical aluminum pod at the end of an 18" long satin polished flexible metal tube stalk similar to those used with classic gooseneck desk lamps.

MicFlex USB MicrophoneAs the DVForge/MacMice folks put it: "MicFlex can be twisted, yanked, snatched, pulled, tugged, and otherwise deformed into pretty much any shape you can imagine to help you find just the right position. . . . Use it beside a display, peeking over a display or PowerBook, peeking around a display or PowerBook, squished down in a coil, twisted in a knot, or even sneakily peeking out from under an Apple Cinema or Studio LCD display."

The company's design goal for the MicFlex is "to build a desktop microphone that connects by USB and is good enough and flexible enough to serve as the perfect all-around mic for any desktop media application. Make it convertible, to work as a desk or a portable microphone. And make it match the aluminum appearance of Apple's professional products." The metallic construction and appearance theme of the MicFlex does harmonize especially well with the metal PowerBooks and the G5 Power Macs.

MicFlex USB MicrophoneThe stalk can be inserted into a weighted and stable desktop base or plugged directly into a PowerBook, iBook, or desktop Mac's USB port. MicFlex is plug-and-play with all Macs with a USB port running Mac OS 9.1 or higher. It is also plug-and-play compatible with USB equipped Windows 98Se, 2000, or XP machines.

The MicFlex's base is a silver-colored, weighted hemisphere about 3" in diameter with a smooth, non-marring contact surface, and the mic and its stalk are quite stable and secure when inserted. I do have some concern about whether the USB port in a laptop might be vulnerable to damage from inadvertent impacts with the MicFlex stalk or even stress from the cantilevered weight of the MicFlex unit itself, but it's certainly a lot more convenient to tuck into a laptop case than a headset with its bulky shape and tangle-prone cable.

The MicFlex base is essentially a USB port extender with a generous 5' long cable attached, and it can be used as a conveniently accessible USB port for other USB devices such as flash drives and digital cameras when the MicFlex stalk is removed.

DVForge says that best results will be obtained with the MicFlex or its base plugged directly into a USB port on your computer rather than a USB Hub

MicFlex USB MicrophoneHow well does the MicFlex work? Very well indeed. With MicFlex's better than CD-quality USB audio conversion circuit with 16-bit 48 KHz resolution and 20 HZ to 20 KHz response, it is suitable for most any sort of computer recording or dictation, from music to voice. MicFlex is, of course, usable with iChat AV or AIM audio chat, OS X's speech command functions, and - according to MacMice - also ideal for recording vocals and acoustic instruments with GarageBand.

As noted, my principal interest was how well it would work with dictation software - specifically MacSpeech's iListen. In my experience, ViaVoice has not been a happy camper with mics other than its own bundled Andrea unit, and MicFlex proved no exception. Despite some fiddling, I couldn't get ViaVoice to recognize input from the MicFlex.

On the other hand, MacSpeech have officially certified the MicFlex USB microphone for use by with their iListen speech recognition software, making it the only desktop USB microphone currently certified for use with MacSpeech products.

"The MicFlex is a wonderful product," commented MacSpeech CEO and Founder Andrew Taylor. "It combines the superb design one would expect from a Macintosh product with an excellent microphone for speech recognition."

"We knew we were building a terrific microphone with the MicFlex," agrees DVForge President and CEO, Jack Campbell. "It is a real joy for us to be the only desktop microphone on the market to meet the rigorous certification requirements for MacSpeech's exciting iListen product."

I found that iListen 1.6.6 recognized the MicFlex with no difficulty, and all that was necessary to run the program's "Set Up My Mic" utility to calibrate my voice profile to the MicFlex's characteristics - which takes about five minutes. iListen declared the MicFlex's signal quality to be suitable for dictation, and it does a good job.

I couldn't really find much of anything not to like about the MicFlex. It's a good, solid, functional and cleverly innovative product.

The MicFlex is priced at $39.99 and is available from the DVForge website.

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS news feed

Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

Links for the Day

Recent Content

About LEM Support Usage Privacy Contact

Follow Low End Mac on Twitter
Join Low End Mac on Facebook

Favorite Sites

Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Deal Brothers
Mac Driver Museum
JAG's House
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ


The iTunes Store
PC Connection Express
Macgo Blu-ray Player
Parallels Desktop for Mac

Low End Mac's Amazon.com store


Open Link