As some of you have no doubt read, the audio quality coming out of the built-in Fujitsu T4215 microphone is bad at best. There is frequently a lot of noise even at low recording levels and the "Intellisonic speech enhancement" is completely useless, turning all speech into something that sounds like it’s been recorded underwater. I finally gave up trying to make it work and bought an inexpensive external mic and was still getting too much distortion and the mic sensitivity was too low so I decided to give the SP-USB-MIC-1 microphone from The Sound Professionals a try. I’d seen one recommendation for it on the web but it appeared that people weren’t gushing about it. It actually seemed like not many people were using what some people call "external sound cards". Either that, or they just weren’t talking about it.
Price-wise the SP-USB-MIC-1 looked good and the features sounded
like just what I needed. Very sensitive, small package, built in mic
with monitor plug. The extra mic input was not something I expected to
Essentially a high-quality microphone I could use for
recording meetings and possibly for voice recognition and a bit of
receiving it I proceeded to follow the instructions included and
plugged it into a free USB slot. Windows XP went through its detection
tango and I ended up with another sound device in the control panel.
microphone is very basic. It has a built-in microphone on the top of
the device, headphone output and an aux mic input which can be used to
extend coverage if really needed. The aux input is automatically
blended with the normal mic input.
I had the option
to install the drivers from Sound Professionals but first wanted to see
what I could do with the default install. As it turns out, SP says
that their drivers don’t offer any additional functionality. It’s a
shame because I’d like more control over the automatic gain. But I get
ahead of myself.
I initially had trouble selecting
the device as XP appeared to be a bit confused about what device I
wanted to use when changing the volume of the mic input. A reboot took
care of that problem and I consistently had the "C-Media USB Headphone
Set" device available in the control panel.
microphone can easily be set up as the default device in the Windows
control panel and when it’s plugged in becomes the active "sound card"
for the computer. When removed the system goes back to using the
built-in Sigmatel hardware.
To use the microphone
it’s a simple matter of plugging it in, starting up your favorite
recording program and starting to record. By hooking up headphones to
the output jack on the microphone you can actively monitor the incoming
I’ve been using the microphone and Audacity
for several weeks in various meetings and have been very pleased with
the results. Sound quality has been consistently very clean and the
microphone is incredibly sensitive. It also supports an automatic gain
setting that I found was best left on since there aren’t any fine
controls on the final gain.
I’ve tried a bit more speech
recognition and while it generally worked better than with the built-in
microphone I don’t see myself using speech recognition as no space I
work in is sufficiently private that I’d be willing to talk to my
computer with any regularity.
If you’re looking for a microphone with high sensitivity and clean recording ability you won’t go wrong with the SP-USB-MIC-1.