As workplaces slowly begin to fill up once again, conferencing in the new normal has a different look. Whether it’s a conference room, workspace, or home office, speakerphones need to be flexible for the hybrid age and accommodate both the remote and in-person employee.
The meeting space itself has also changed. “I think our mindset has changed so much to automatically select larger distances from people and that’s a part of COVID that will stay with us,” said Holger Stoltze, senior director of technical sales and marketing for Yamaha Unified Communication. “And that means the open meeting space is growing. The whole audio and noise problem becomes a completely new one in that environment.”
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Having the right speakerphone with high-quality audio for those present and connected to the call is imperative—but that doesn’t mean manufacturers had to reinvent the wheel. “It’s not so much new technology as it is leveraging a familiar tool in new ways,” said Lauren Simmen, director of product marketing for Crestron. “Having a phone that allows for a conversation that’s separated from the laptop you’re using to take notes or adjust that critical PowerPoint can be a really efficient means of communication.”
When researching which speakerphone is best, it is important to be mindful of the use cases. The space and location are obviously a priority, but there is a wide array of other factors.
“IT professionals should consider devices that allow users to join conference calls without all the logistical hassles,” said Tonya Brilon, senior product marketing manager at Logitech. “This can be done by prioritizing audio, ease of use, and connectivity.” Some of those considerations include mute control, one-touch meeting controls, enterprise-grade audio with noise cancelling microphones, connection points, and ease of use and management.
In today’s world of videoconferencing, there is another key component to look for: certification. From Microsoft Teams to Zoom, having a certified device helps avoid a lot of hassle in the long run. “People are looking for the certification for a lot of reasons,” Stoltze said. “Going with and through the certification ensures to the end users that the product will be working.”
“Having that ‘seal of approval’ from leading cloud providers gives IT teams that extra confidence that they are providing the right tools to keep their workers productive,” Brilon added.
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Of course, different speakerphones offer different features, technologies, and certifications. Here are some current speakerphone offerings from several manufacturers.
Atlona’s new speakerphone is part of its Captivate family, designed as a high-performance videoconferencing solution. With Bluetooth, USB, and analog connectivity, it is easy to connect to any device. All voices are heard clearly with 360-degree coverage and six-element microphones that capture voices as far as 16 feet away. Innovative acoustic echo cancellation and noise reduction help to provide a crystal-clear experience in the meeting room or home office. Add eight hours of battery life for a busy day on the go.
Biamp Parlé TTM-X
The TTM-X Tabletop low-profile, 16-element digital array microphone joined the Parlé family in 2019 for use in the Tesira systems. The AVB-enabled microphone is just 4.3 inches in diameter, making it portable and able to affix atop any desk or tabletop without causing clutter. Biamp’s Beamtracking technology brings crystal-clear audio to the meeting room by intelligently tracking and mixing voices, and four 90-degree zones provide full 360-degree coverage, so the entire meeting space can be heard. To provide further clarity and more efficient processing, each microphone uses one channel of acoustic echo cancellation.
ClearOne CHAT 170/CHATAttach 170
The CHAT 170 and CHATAttach 170 are ideal for meeting areas ranging in size from a huddle space to conference room. Powered by ClearOne’s HDConference and Distributed Echo Cancellation technology, the CHAT 170 produces clear, natural-sounding audio thanks to advanced audio processing and noise cancellation features. Three built-in microphones paired with 360-degree audio pickup ensures anyone within 10 feet can be heard—but its intelligent first-mic priority activates the microphone closest to the participant speaking, which helps to eliminate amplification of surrounding noises. Perfect for in-person or remote conferencing, the group USB speakerphone is fully compatible with Skype for Business as well as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, and more.
Crestron Flex Mini Tabletop
With many of the considerations available—such as one-touch connectivity, enterprise-grade security, and brilliant audio clarity—the Flex Mini Tabletop is perfect for the home, office, or many hybrid environments like rotating desks and huddle rooms. Its quad mic system offers a 10-foot range in all directions. Available as audio only or with an integrated camera (150-degree viewing angle) for videoconferencing, the Flex Mini Tabletop includes a 7-inch touchscreen that allows users to start, join, or manage a meeting with one touch.
EPOS EXPAND 40
EPOS’ newest offering, the mobile EXPAND 40, enables seamless collaboration on the go or in the conference room. With 18 hours of battery life and multiple connection options, the portable speakerphone is ideal for personal use in remote environments as well as small to medium-sized meeting rooms, with capabilities for up to eight people. The wireless Bluetooth speakerphone—which also offers USB-C cable connectivity—is easy to set up and plug-and-play ready for participants to join calls from anywhere without sacrificing exceptional audio quality on either end of the call. The EXPAND 40 has three beamforming microphones designed to isolate and deter reverb or ambient noise, providing top-notch audio.
Jabra Speak 750
Jabra speakerphones come in many shapes and sizes, such as the Speak 810, which can support meetings with up to 15 people. However, the Jabra Speak 750 is small, portable, and connects easily to laptops and smartphones. Its Bluetooth capabilities extend up to 98 feet and can accommodate up to six people with connectivity options for two devices, allowing for clear audio with its 360-degree, omnidirectional microphone design. The Jabra Speak 750 is Microsoft Teams, Teams Rooms, and Skype for Business certified as well as certified for United Communications platforms like Cisco. Plus, it includes a carrying case for transport.
Logitech Logi Dock
Logi Dock is an all-in-one docking station that was designed for home offices and personal workspaces, but has also become a popular choice for focus rooms and “phone booth” rooms. The device has six beamforming microphones and a built-in speakerphone that clearly captures voices and works to eliminate background noise. Logi Dock is small and connects to and powers multiple devices to avoid desktop clutter. It is also multifunctional—despite being compact, it delivers powerful sound allowing for an immersive and stereophonic experience to enjoy music.
MAXHUB UC BM21
This compact, circular Bluetooth speakerphone is ideal for a wide array of uses, whether working from home or conducting online trainings. The 360-degree omnidirectional voice pickup allows for high-quality calls thanks to high-performance, built-in speakers. Its six microphone arrays and intelligent noise reduction and echo cancellation ensure that the presenter or meeting participant speaking is clearly heard from as far as 16 feet away. Setup is quick and easy for this plug-and-play speakerphone, and the UC BM21 can connect to as many as three devices via Bluetooth, USB or audio cable. It has a durable battery, with up to eight hours of playback on a single charge.
Poly Sync 20
The Poly Sync 20 is designed for a life on the go. With 20 hours of portable use on a full charge, the Poly Sync 20 is a USB/Bluetooth smart speakerphone that can serve as your music source just as easily as your connection to a meeting. Its three-microphone steerable array helps to reduce echo and outside noise, and its full duplex audio design enables multiple people to talk simultaneously and still be heard. Ideal for huddle and meeting rooms as large as 13x13 feet, its multiple microphones have a pickup range of 7 feet. Calls are clearer with the Sync 20’s bass reflex system with dual passive radiators for a natural sound with deep bass.
Shure Stem Table
Part of the Stem Ecosystem, the Table is ideal for videoconferencing and is compatible with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others. PoE simplifies connectivity and eliminates clutter. The Stem Table’s downward-facing speaker separates it from the microphone, ensuring participants are heard clearly without distractions. Paired with nine beamforming microphones, Stem Table’s innovative technology offers full duplex capabilities to limit attenuation from a maximized negotiation between microphone and speaker. Stem Table is optimal for tabletops and flat surfaces—and has been chosen for classrooms as well as conference rooms, with its microphones able to pick up voices in appropriate socially distanced spaces.
The YVC-330 helps adjust to life outside of conference rooms with its innovative SoundCap technology. What makes SoundCap unique is that while many speakerphones focus on the capture of audio, Yamaha’s technology limits the noises outside the conversation, making this speakerphone ideal for the open workspace. With its Far Field Noise Reduction and Human Voice Activity Detection, the YVC-330 can identify human voices and home in on them, eliminating the outside noise of an open workspace. With Bluetooth and USB connectivity, the compact YVC-330 is an ideal option inside or outside the conference room.