While I love Echo, I still hope to have a voice controlled smart home solution that doesn’t rely on Cloud. So far, I have experimented with Snips and Mycroft (Picroft). Both are DIY approach where I need to supply a Raspberry Pi 3, a microphone and a speaker. During my experiment, I have tested a few combination of microphone and speaker. Here are my conclusion and reviews for what I have tested so far.
The best but most expensive: Jabra SPEAK 410
So far, this has the best microphone I have tested. It manages to capture my voice from a distance in a quiet room almost as good as Echo Dot but I feel it still cannot match the superiority of the mics on Echo Dot. Almost there but not yet there.
Another thing I like about this is it has a speaker built-in which sounds loud and nice for TTS. That means, I don’t have to buy a separate speaker and plug into the lousy RPi’s 3.5mm output. The sound that came out from RPi 3.5mm output has a lot of noise and sound worse than those that came out from USB output.
If that is not good enough, I can plug in a better speaker to the 3.5mm output jack on the Jabra 410; just like Echo Dot.
Other small details which I really love about Jabra 410 is the mute button and the volume LED lights around the speaker grill. Just like Echo Dot, I can press the mute button and it will stop listening to me with LED lights around the speaker grill turn to red.
If I change the speaker volume via command line, e.g.
amixer set PCM - 90% -q, the white volume LED lights around the speaker grill will dial to the correct position; again just like Echo Dot.
However, this is the costliest among the options I have tested. It costs $74.49 on Amazon at the time of writing. Considering the price of Echo Dot is around $50, it doesn’t seem wise to spend more on something that I need put effort to build it and yet doesn’t sound as good or work as smart as an Echo. I guess this is the premium I need to pay for a customisable solution.
The cheapest with acceptable range: PS3 Eye
This one is the cheapest options I have tested with acceptable range. However, I still feel Jabra 410 is better than this in terms of the microphone and other functionalities. Please bear in mind that it doesn’t come with a speaker, so you might need to buy a speaker. So the final cost and sound quality is still depend on what speaker you get.
Another issue I faced with the microphone is that it doesn’t support mixer. So
alsamixer command doesn’t work on this and that means I cannot adjust the microphone sensitivity level.
If you are on a tight budget, get this. Otherwise splurge a little bit on the Jabra 410.
The worst: mVox USB Speakerphone
This is the worst option I have tested. Even though it is USB powered mic and speaker, the mic range is very weak and the speaker sounds distorted. I had to put my mouth inches away from the microphone for it to hear me making it unsuitable as Echo Dot alternative.
If you have other suggestions, please share it here. Thanks!