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Overview of Portable USB Speakerphones

ClearOne Chat 50

chat50splashOf the five USB attached speakerphones that I’ve tried the ClearOne Chat 50 is the most recent. I’ve only had it a few weeks. It fills the gap left when I gave my Polycom C100 to my parents.

Thus far I think the Chat 50 is pretty good. When paired with a wideband capable soft phone it’s been more than satisfactory. I’ve used it with Skype and Eyebeam v1.5 on G.722 encoded calls. In fact, I’m also using it for listening to podcasts and find it more that satisfactory in that role.

One of the nice things about good USB speakerphones is that they provide a button to mute the microphone. The Chat 50 has just such a button. This one feature makes it a great deal easier for me to use a soft phone. It saves me having to fish around on the desktop to get to the soft phone GUI every time I need to toggle the mic mute state. Anyone who spends considerable time on conference calls should be self-muting as a matter of good conference etiquette. The Chat 50 also provides physical buttons for volume up/down.

The device connects to the PC with a standard USB cable, which is provided. The connection at the device is a micro USB style. The Chat 50 is 3.75″ x 4.0″ x 1.0″ and weighs only a few ounces. It’s small enough to slip into my bag, but not as the kind of thing that I’d carry around all the time. It is small enough to sit unobtrusively on my desk, directly under my LCD monitor, taking up essentially no space.

There is also a 3.5mm stereo jack providing an analog audio interface. When used with a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm audio cable the Chat 50 can be a speaker for your MP3 player.  Alternatively, with a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter cable you can use it as a high-quality speakerphone for your cell phone.

The Chat 50 can be found at various online retailers for around $120. Recently VoIP Users Conference sponsor e4 Strategies has been clearing out a number of them for the outstanding price of $85.

Next: the MVox MV-100

This Post Has One Comment
  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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