New microphone invented for speech recognition

Guest blog: Colin Hughes

Colin is a former BBC producer who campaigns for greater access and affordability of technology for disabled people. Colin is a regular contributor to Aestumanda.

Colin has provided an update to his blog due to significant positive developments to the technology discussed within the article.

Updated February 2024:

Two years on from the launch of the KeyboardMike, SpeechWare is releasing a new second-generation KeyboardMike, called the KeyboardMike Plus.

It boasts an update to the company’s USB MultiAdapter with a new proprietary VoiceMatic chipset inside delivering improved performance under short range blue and long range green LED dictation settings. SpeechWare kindly sent me a demo unit, which I have been trying it out using Apple’s Voice Control and Dragon Professional 16 voice dictation software on my laptop.

Using the KeyboardMike Plus with Apple Voice Control, my dictation is now delivered with even better accuracy! It’s incredible to experience an application that previously disappointed perform almost perfectly with the KeyboardMike Plus. I feel more energised, make fewer corrections, and experience heightened productivity using the KeyboardMike Plus as my daily driver for voice dictation. 

The KeyboardMike Plus will be available for order on the SpeechWare website starting February 2024.

Original article:

As many who have tried and failed to get to grips with speech recognition will tell you, achieving high levels of accuracy in the words you dictate into a website text box or document on a computer screen is no easy feat.

Microphones for accuracy

Developers of speech recognition apps like Apple’s Voice Control, Microsoft’s Voice Typing tool, and Nuance’s Dragon Professional don't manufacture microphones for speech recognition and will have you believe all the magic happens in their apps. They have little to say about mics suggesting that the internal microphones on computers, or even wireless earbuds, are all you need for accurate voice dictation.

However, the situation is more complicated and hardware, especially the quality of the mic and sound card you use, play a significant role in producing accurate voice dictation.

The strength and clarity of your voice can also have an influence on accuracy as does the level of background noise in the room you are working in.

It is also the case that the better the audio signal coming through the microphone the faster and more accurate the transcription is.

Speech recognition for daily tasks

I have been using speech recognition as my only means of emailing, chatting online, posting to social media, and writing documents for the past five years. I have muscular dystrophy, a muscle wasting condition affecting my upper limbs, which means I do not have a plan B when it comes to typing on a computer.

When I use my voice to type, I need the highest accuracy possible because if there is a recognition error, I cannot take to the keyboard to put things right. 

Find out more about voice recognition in our useful factsheet


There is another reason I need accurate voice dictation. Whilst my speech is not significantly affected by my disability, other than a softer voice, my breathing is compromised so I need to ration my spoken words to preserve energy. I cannot be wasting what for me is a scarce resource clearing up dictation mistakes by inefficient voice dictation performance.

TravelMike hardware

Having burned through quite a few microphones over the years, trying to find a good one for speech recognition, in recent times I have turned to a Belgian company called SpeechWare, who have a great reputation in the speech recognition industry for high quality microphones made especially for voice dictation. Most other mics on the market are made for vocals and singing.

My daily driver, for dictating emails, documents and chatting on WhatsApp in a browser on my laptop, has been the company's TravelMike. It is a mini-USB microphone that takes up little desk space and plugs into the USB port on the side of my laptop.

SpeechWare hardware attached to a laptop USB

Whilst I have been happy with the TravelMike I have been finding that because my voice is softer due to compromised breathing, my mouth is just a little bit too far from the microphone capsule to pick up my dictated words clearly, and for phone and video calls. The TravelMike comes with a short 3-inch (7.5 cm) pivoting, detachable snub-nosed microphone.

With this specific issue in mind, I approached SpeechWare last year asking them if they would be willing to make a longer flexible microphone boom to use with their TravelMike, to help bring the microphone capsule closer to my mouth when dictating.

I must admit at the time I did not think the idea had much chance. How many manufacturers are willing to disrupt established product lines, marketing messages, and manufacturing processes to meet the needs of one consumer.

However, to my pleasant surprise my idea got a positive response from SpeechWare’s managing director Jesús María Boccio. He explained that he needed time for some research and development on how, among other things, to adapt their existing microphone capsules into an all flexible 7 mm and 20 cm long boom, able to withstand constant bending and manipulation.

Microphone innovation

I left my idea with him and several months went by. Last October the company sent me a pre-release test unit, which included my requested 20 cm long all flexible microphone boom, and said they would be bringing my idea to market and calling the new product the KeyboardMike.

SpeechWare were planning to sell the KeyboardMike working in two modes: attached to the back of a laptop or desktop monitor or attached to the back of a desktop computer keyboard.

Through using the demo unit in October and November, I quickly identified an ideal third mounting position for the KeyboardMike that SpeechWare had not thought of: plugged into the side of a laptop with their proprietary USB male to female 90 degrees fixed angle connector to keep the USB Adapter in an upright position.

SpeechWare Mic attached to USB drive on laptop

I like this position because it enables the microphone capsule to be as close to my mouth as possible without sticking directly into my face, which can be distracting. This optimum position also has the added benefit of not obscuring the laptop screen in any way, something which cannot be said for the other two methods of positioning the KeyboardMike.

It is great that SpeechWare has understood the benefits of this idea, not just for me, but for many of their customers, and they are offering this special USB connector bundled with the new KeyboardMike.

As a disabled consumer it has been great to experience a company listening so attentively to the needs of a user and going on to create a product that will be useful for anyone who does a lot of dictation on their Mac or PC.

Inclusive design

At the heart of this story is the idea of inclusive design, something that starts with meeting the needs of a disabled person and broadens out to be of benefit to everyone. As a consumer I am impressed, flattered even, that a manufacturer has taken on board my feedback and produced a new product as a result. I wish more companies engaged with disabled people in this way. It often leads to better products for everyone.

Flatteringly, SpeechWare call me the “father of the KeyboardMike” with my probing showing there are other ways to manufacture things.

Thanks to the company’s willingness to engage with my idea I have a fantastic new microphone transforming the accuracy of my speech recognition and making my life easier and more productive every day.

Using the right microphone can significantly improve the experience of dictating on a Mac or PC. The result of my collaboration with SpeechWare in developing the KeyboardMike is the best mic I have ever found for speech recognition.

More broadly, it is an interesting time for people who use their voices to type on their devices. Microsoft has bought the leading speech recognition company Nuance and its Dragon product for Windows computers and is putting its new acquisition to work immediately with its new Voice Access app currently undergoing user testing in the Windows Insider Program.


Google has improved speech recognition on the new Pixel 6 phones with the Tensor chip which uses machine learning to drastically improve the natural language processing for speech-to-text. Hopefully, the company will bring the same tech to its Pixelbooks.

Faced with such competition Apple really needs to improve speech recognition on Mac computers. No mic I have tried has ever played well with dictation in the company’s bug ridden Voice Control application, which means for speech recognition I have to use Dragon Professional in Windows on a virtual machine on my Mac. However, the KeyboardMike is transforming Voice Control dictation accuracy in ways I have not seen before. It is almost productive now! Nonetheless, it would still be good to see the Californian tech giant improve Voice Control on the Mac in 2022.

I have not reinvented the wheel with my contributions towards the development of the KeyboardMike, and there are other good and cheaper microphones on the market such as the Yeti Blue. However, with my lightbulb moment I am yet to come across a better speech recognition microphone that ticks so many boxes – accuracy, compact size taking up little desk real estate, and good for Zoom and phone calls.

The KeyboardMike is for anyone who has tried and given up on long form voice dictation on a Mac or PC because of too many recognition errors. It is not cheap At €229 EUR including VAT, but accurate speech recognition is about small margins and the advantage this microphone gives me makes it worth the investment.

The KeyboardMike can be ordered from the SpeechWare website.


This article was written by Colin Hughes. Colin Hughes is not employed by SpeechWare and has received no payment from them. All views are his own freely expressed opinions. Colin is a former BBC producer who campaigns for greater access and affordability of technology for disabled people. Colin is a regular contributor to Aestumanda.

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