Jan 3, 2019

Using analog microphones with newer iPhones

Microphone quality makes a great difference in the quality of speech recognition results. And although the microphones integrated in iOS devices are generally good and give decent results, positioning the device in a way that is ergonomically viable for efficient dictated translation - and concurrent keyboard use - is not always so easy. This is a potential barrier to the effective use of Hey memoQ speech recognition.

So a good external microphone may be needed. But with recent iPhone models lacking a separate microphone jack and using the lightning port for both charging and microphone input, connecting that external microphone might not be as simple as one assumes. Especially not someone like me, who is rather ignorant of the different kinds of 3.5 mm audio connections. I have had a few failures so far trying to link my good headset to the iPhone 7.

Colleague Jim Wardell is not only the most experienced speech recognition expert for translation whom I am privileged to know; he is also a musician with extensive experience in microphones of all kinds and their connections. And recently he was kind enough to share the video below with me to clear up some misunderstandings about how to connect some good analog equipment to use with Hey memoQ on an iPhone 7 or later:

1 comment:

  1. Meanwhile, being dreadfully curious to see how Hey memoQ works on my system, I headed out to a local electronics shop and armed myself with an Apple, Inc. "Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter" (10 euros). I plugged my FlexyMike DE boom mic into the female connector of this adapter, then plugged the adapter into my iPhone XR and got good results with the Hey memoQ app and the current version of the memoQ desktop software. This surprised me because the connector on my FlexyMike is TWO-POLE (i.e. there are two connection surfaces separated by a SINGLE insulating ring). I believe that the iPhone normally expects to see a FOUR-POLE connector (3 black rings). The fact that the adapter could handle a 2-pole correction is justification alone for buying the official Apple adapter and not a 3rd-party product. (Maybe that's why it's called an adapter and not merely a splitter.) I was also surprised because the output from this mic (or at least the early model that I have) is rather weak.
    I also bought an official Apple "Lightning to USB 3 CAMERA Adapter" (45 euros). This has two connectors on the side that does not plug into the iPhone. I could have bought a "Lightning to USB Camera Adapter" (with only a USB female port on the outer end, but it was not in stock, and for a few euros more, I figured there might be a good reason to have that extra female Lightning port on the outer end). Anyway, I was able to plug my ancient VXI "Parrot" sound pod into the USB port (with the Flexymike plugged into the pod), and that got good results as well. Mind you, with this setup the sound pod is powered off the phone's battery, which is not a problem if one uses the extra Lightning port on the USB 3 Camera Adapter to charge the iPhone while working. (Hah! I knew there was a good reason to spend the extra euros!)
    As a third experiment, I connected my FlexyMike back into my TableMike unit (https://www.tablemike.com/) and connected my iPhone to one of my computer's USB ports using the Apple Lightning-to-USB adapter that comes with the phone. With the TableMike connected directly to the back of my computer, the setup did not have enough power to operate, but when I connected the USB plug from my iPhone to a standard POWERED USB hub and connected the TableMike USB output to that hub as well, I got enough power and everything worked well. The names of these Apple adapters are confusing. The "headphone jack" adapter also works with microphones, the assumption being that some headphones include boom mics. You need the "camera" adapter to connect to USB, even though you don't have a camera, the assumption being that a camera produces all kinds of signals and probably flavors thereof, so such an adapter can handle all kinds of tasks.
    Moral of the story: Buy the genuine Apple ADAPTERS and probably avoid a lot of grief.
    Reminder to anyone getting into speech recognition (dictation): Using the Hey memoQ app only makes sense if you are translating into a language that can NOT be input into memoQ using Nuance's professional desktop dictation software.


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