Revolabs xTag Wireless Microphone Review

I’ve been using voice recognition software for a number of years. Back in my Windows days I used Dragon NaturallySpeaking Speaking. I started with Version 8 and the accuracy improved through my use of Version 9.5. (Version 10 has just been released and it promises to be even better!) When I made the move to Mac a little bit over a year ago I went searching for voice recognition software. I found and purchased iListen from MacSpeech. It worked well enough but was a far cry from the power and accuracy of Dragon. A few months ago MacSpeech updated iListen, (or more actually reinvented the software) and introduced MacSpeech Dictate. This was a giant leap forward, particularly because the new software employs the same voice recognition engine as Dragon. It works quite well.

There are two main components that impact the accuracy of creating text to voice.
The first is the quality of your speech. If you speak in a smooth, consistent manner, using, as the software suggests “a newscaster’s voice” you will have much better results than if you speak the way you would to a friend.

The second, and perhaps more important, is the quality of the microphone. A better microphone will cancel background noise and significantly improve your results.The best option I found was my Fujitsu Stylistic Tablet PC. It had array mics built in which filtered out noise quite well. As a result I was able to sit with the tablet on my lap and simply speak in order to write with tremendous accuracy. When I was using a desktop or laptop, however, the lack of a dual array mic meant that I needed to use a headset. My headset of choice was a noise canceling Andrea USB headset. For about $90 it worked incredibly well. It was, however, cumbersome, slightly uncomfortable, more than slightly inconvenient, and it made me look like a phone operator. But it worked.

A few months ago I noticed that a new wireless microphone had been released by Revolabs. The ex-tag microphone, while rather pricey at $250, promised excellent accuracy while cutting the cord. Mine came today and it is a small wonder.

Setup was simple.
In the box and there are just a few pieces. There’s the base station, a USB cord with a standard USB plug for the computer and a mini USB plug for the base station. The microphone itself is about the size of a large lipstick tube and it comes with a neck lanyard (it also has a shirt clip built in) and an earpiece that can be used if you so choose.

I plugged the USB cord into my iMac and the base station, I charged the microphone for short period of time and I fired up MacSpeech Dictate. Since voice-recognition software currently requires a different user profile for each individual and, most of the time, for each kind of microphone that individual uses, I spent a few moments training the software using the new microphone. It took only about seven minutes before the profile was created. From there, I fired up the software, created a new document by uttering the words, “open text edit” and I was off and running.

How well does the move allows ex-tag microphone work? Well, I only began using the microphone about 25 minutes ago and I wrote this review with it. So I would say… it works pretty well!

I love the fact that I’m sitting back in my chair and simply speaking to my computer as the words appear on the screen. The convenience, the comfort, and the accuracy of the microphone are amazing. And while I suspect that the accuracy will be reduced when I’m using it in a noisy environment, if I’m dictating text in my home study or at the office (both of which tend to be relatively quiet) this document proves that it will work just fine.

What I like: small in size, incredibly accurate, remarkably convenient

What needs improvement: I wish I didn’t need to use the base as it makes transporting the microphone less convenient. Expensive (but if you do a lot of voice-recognition well worth the price)

The zTag michrophone is available from MacSpeech or directly from Revolabs for a retail price of $249.

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