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Overview of Portable USB Speakerphones

Mvox MV-100

A few years ago I was working at a small trade show and found that I needed some last minute supplies necessitating a trip to the local Radio Shack. When I got there I found that they were giving away little MVOX MV-100 USB speakerphones. These little devices had a list price of $39.95, but at the time Radio Shack was clearing them out, selling them for $5 each, or giving them away with the purchase of some batteries. I bought one on the spot.

mv100_bigThat evening I tried the MV-100 in my hotel using X-Lite. It worked well. Ok, not as well as the Polycom C100 unit, but definitely worth $5. So I went back and bought their last 6 units. I gifted them to various friends and coworkers, most of whom used them with Skype.

With dimensions of only 3.75” x 2” x 0.75” and weighing just one ounce, the MV-100 is really small. It has a micro USB connector for connection to the host computer. A suitable USB cable is provided with the device.

On the pickup side, the MV-100 has a small microphone array mounted in the end of the device. The curvature in the end of the device accentuates the directional properties of the microphone pickup pattern.

The speaker in the device is also small, which limits the overall performance of the speakerphone. It’s fine for personal use in a quiet office or hotel room, but cannot manage enough volume to be useful in a larger room or compete with a noisy environment.

The device also features a 2.5mm headset jack, effectively turning it into a cheap analog-to-digital converter. You can plug a cell phone type headset into the side of the thing for those times when more privacy may be required. Depending up the sensitivity of the headset earpiece you may find that the MV-100 doesn’t provide quite enough volume into the headset. While this can be inconvenient bear in mind that the unit powered from the USB bus, so there’s not much current available to drive the amplifier circuitry. YMMV, as every headset is going to present a different sort of load to the amplifier.

As to audio quality, well that’s just not the devices strong suit. It’s extremely convenient, but the sound quality is definitely not spectacular. In fact, dialed into the ZipDX wideband demo (sip:wbdemo@conf.zipdx.com) using Eyebeam v1.5 I can barely tell the difference when toggling between the 4 KHz and 8 KHz sample audio streams.

Despite its limited performance the MV-100 is a handy little gadget. In many cases it’s just good enough, and certainly a good value for the price I paid. My wife kept one on her desk until very recently. She admired the way it could sit under her monitor taking up essentially no desk space.

Myself, I question whether the MV-100 was ever worth the $39.95 MSRP. I would likely pay $20 for it, which is typical of the asking price I find on E-bay. Of course, for $5 it was a bargain that I could not pass up.

It’s unclear to me whether these are still available. However, I do see them listed on Amazon.com.

Next: Phoenix Audio Duet

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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