Talon Wiki

Hardware

Contents:
  1. Microphones
    1. Model Recommendations
    2. Can this mic maybe work?
    3. Correctly setting up a microphone
  2. Eye Tracker
    1. Windows Login plus Talon

Microphones

In case of doubt: Check out the #hardware channel in Slack.

Speech recognition will be vastly improved with a better microphone. Compared to webcams and cheap headsets, a good microphone for speech recognition picks up less background noise (improving your experience whenever you’re not alone in a silent room) and record a naturally sounding voice.

Model Recommendations

These are models that Talon community members regularly recommend:

Blue Yeti Nano (USB 3): desktop, affordable and pretty good recognition. Can be attached to an arm. Useful if you’re trying out speech recognition for the first time and don’t want to spend a lot.

DPA d:fine 4188 or 4288 with a DPA d:vice interface: expensive, but highly recommended for full time use. It’s likely the best in wearing comfort, audio quality and voice isolation (see this impressive demo from the manufacturer)

Stenomask: useful for open plan offices as it covers your mouth.

XLR Microphones and USB XLR Audio interfaces as a budget-minded alternative to the DPA combo:

  • AKG C 520 (or the C 520L plus the AKG MPA VL Male adapter); compared to the DPA you have to give up significant amount of voice isolation and some wearing comfort and audio quality (a demo from a singing drummer).
  • Audio-Technica Pro 8 HEx; a long-standing recommendation from 2shea’s intro post; even cheaper still, you lose some more audio quality again, but it is perfectly suitable for use with Talon.
  • Suitable audio interfaces are for instance Sure X2U (rather compact), Focusrite Scarlett Solo (very popular) or the Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 (a great budget option).
  • There are a ton more of brands and models, and many will work just fine.

Plug-In powered mics

The Speechrecsolutions selection guide lists options at several price-points. We don’t know about each and every model, but you can ask on #hardware for some experience report.

Can this mic maybe work?

Many microphones used by studio professionals and ambitious podcasters will likely work well, but gaming and call-center headsets can be hit or miss. But beware: While technical specs may suggest issues, on their own they cannot guarantee success! Generally speaking:

  • The mic should have a good frequency response over at least 150 Hz to 16 kHz.
  • An omnidirectional microphone will be acceptable in a room without competing voices (other people or media playback). In other cases, you will likely need a microphone with good background rejection (a cardioid polar pattern is helpful, but not every cardioid mic is the same).
  • It should sound good. If you can, listen to samples. If it sounds bad or muffled or metallic or anything unnatural to you, avoid it. (The online store Thomann provides samples for many mics.)
  • A USB connection is strongly recommended over Bluetooth. Bluetooth introduces compression artifacts and latency. Compression reduces the recognition accuracy, and latency will make your computer slow to react. BT AptX LowLatency is reported by some to work, but usually requires a separate dongle.

Some people do report success with much cheaper microphones, but many also do not. If you already have one, just try it out, but if not, think twice before buying cheap.

Correctly setting up a microphone

  1. Check that Talon and the OS are using the correct microphone!
  2. Ensure that the microphone is pointed at the mouth: This points the axis of maximum sensitivity towards your mouth for best voice isolation (reducing background noise). Some microphones require a much more careful placement than others. Be sure to find the sweet spot!
  3. Place it a consistent distance away from your mouth. For headset microphones, most speech recognition documentation recommends that you place the boom of the microphone approximately one inch from your face, pointed at a side corner of your mouth. For table microphones, somewhere between six and twelve inches works best (unlike a radio moderator, you do not need to eat the mic). A proper placement eliminates wind noises from breathing and loud sounds.
  4. Your loudest speech voice must neither clip nor be distorted, but should be recorded as loudly as possible. To get your mic gain into the right ballpark:
    1. Install and start Audacity,
    2. set the correct microphone, and
    3. press Record, utter an upbeat “Hello there!”, and stop the recording.
    4. Listen to the playback: Your voice should sound clear and as loud as a Gaming Youtube channel (i.e. obnoxiously loud). If it’s too low, increase the gain, if it’s distorted, reduce it.
  5. If Talon triggers too eagerly, try reducing the gain a bit.
  6. If Talon cuts you off mid-sentence or mid-word, try increasing the gain a bit.

Each mic, and each mic pre-amp, will have a different personality. Because of that, trust your ears more than the dB reading or the graph of Audacity, and be ready to experiment for a few minutes with Talon.

Eye Tracker

Check out the #eye-tracking channel in Slack, and the Tobii 4c Tips page.

  • Tobii 4C is the most commonly used and recommended eye tracker. Talon also supports the Tobii PCEye Mini. Support for most 4th gen Tobii devices can be trivially added.
  • Tobii 5 works, but expect improvements in the coming weeks and months. This one might require a one-time initialization on a Windows PC with the Tobii software installed. Check out the dedicated Tobii 5 page.

Windows Login plus Talon

Talon and Tobii software clash a bit. But you can keep the Tobii driver installed, and only disable the Tobii service, you can keep using the Tobii as a Windows Hello device (login via facial recognition), even while having the Tobii available for Talon.