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Overview of Portable USB Speakerphones

For the past few years a little USB speakerphone has been a constant fixture on my desk. This fact was initially driven by my UK-based coworkers who have a habit of using Skype. Most of the Skype traffic was simply IM, but once in a while it would escalate to a voice call. In those cases I needed a suitable audio device, but it wasn’t routine enough to merit keeping a headset immediately available.


Over time I started to see increasing value in using other soft phones as well. At first it was for the convenience of being able to effectively turn any PC I happened to be working on into a phone. The scope of this sometimes goes beyond telephony. For example, I’ve used a USB audio device to record screencast training movies. Since server class motherboards often don’t have built-in audio interfaces, using a USB attached device makes it possible to record the narrative of the training on the host system along with the screencast.

As I found that soft phones were becoming increasingly useful, I eventually put a small USB speakerphone into my traveling kit. When earlier this year Counterpath released a version of Eyebeam supporting G.722 based wideband audio it further entrenched my use of soft phones, both with headsets and USB speakerphones as appropriate.

Like most things VoIP, over time I’ve used a number of these devices. I thought that there could be some value is sharing my notes on the various models that I’ve tried.

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  1. My wife is a road warrior who totes a Sony Vaio. Given the fact that the Vaio was built for audio/visual, I quested whether these devices would significantly increase the quality of the audio. Because she winds up with many ad hoc conference calls in foreign countries, I decided to buy her one of these units. Call me surprised!

    While there was some improvement in the output, the input was hugely better. She can actually set up her laptop on a conference room table and hold a business conference call VOIP without any problems. It was money well spent, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get her company to reimubrse it.

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