With a stylish and compact design, the Logitech USB Desktop Microphone looks like minimalist sculpture. Rather than being a mere desk ornament, though, the noise-cancelling, adjustable-angle microphone records vocal tracks that sound rich and full--when played back through a computer. We were less than impressed by the sound quality when we recorded vocal tracks for a DVD narration, and the mic's performance with speech-recognition software left a bit to be desired. For anyone looking to get started in podcasting or voice chatting, though, the $30 Logitech USB Desktop Microphone provides good sound quality and easy setup for a remarkably low price.
Featuring Logitech's signature silver-and-black color scheme, the USB Desktop Microphone will blend in gracefully with other accessories on your computer desk. The base, 3.5 inches square, takes up minimal space; the microphone itself stands 8 inches from the base and about 9 inches from the desk surface. A single large on/off button glows green when recording, creating your own "on air" light. Unfortunately, there is no mute button to let you discreetly duck out of voice chats--your only option is the on/off button, which has an audible click.
Setting up and using the Logitech USB Desktop Microphone is beyond easy: no software installation is necessary; just plug the microphone into a USB port and turn it on. We were able to immediately use the mic with Sound Recorder on Windows XP and Windows Vista, as well as with GarageBand on a Mac. We like that you can adjust the microphone's angle, pointing it toward you or away to pick up the sound of another speaker in the room. Unfortunately, angle adjustments must be made carefully if you're in the midst of recording, otherwise the mic picks up the movement.
In fact, the Logitech USB Desktop Microphone proved sensitive enough to clearly pick up our quiet speech from 10 to 12 inches away--which means it also was sensitive enough to record our mouse clicking and our PC fan. (Moving the computer under the desk solved the fan problem, and the microphone's lengthy cable easily accommodated the move.) Noise-cancelling features on the microphone minimized, without completely canceling, such outside noises as a neighbor's leaf blower--a helpful feature for home users who lack a soundproof studio.
To test the microphone's sound quality, we recorded a snippet of narration for a home movie as well as some of the more conversational speech typical of podcasts; we also tested it with Windows Vista's speech recognition software. In the recorded samples, our voice sounded full and clear through headphones and through our laptop's speakers, making the Logitech USB Desktop Microphone a great choice for beginning podcasters or voice chatters. However, the movie narration suffered when we transferred the movie to a DVD--the vocals sounded much more canned when played through a DVD player and a home theater system--so we can't recommend the mic for serious home movie makers. Likewise, the microphone proved less than ideal for use with Windows Vista's built-in voice commands and speech recognition; it took multiple tries to get the computer to "hear" our voice, and we had to repeat ourselves often. (Microsoft recommends using a headset with the Vista speech recognition tools.)
Logitech backs the USB Desktop Microphone with an industry-standard, one-year limited warranty. The company's support Web site offers user forums, a knowledge base, and an e-mail form to contact the company.