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About Speakerphone Quality

A short while back, over in the VoIP forum on DSL Reports, long-time participant Stewart asked a question that seemed like it was written for me. Of course, I answered. The matter is related to one of my most favorite posts: Can You Hear Me Now? Headset vs Speakerphone In The Home Office.

With a little reflection, I realized that I didn’t want this discussion to simply fade away, so I’m adding a copy here.

He asked:

A friend needs to replace his desk phone. He uses speakerphone almost exclusively. Doubletalk performance is important; he often has trouble interrupting the other party, being soft spoken and sitting about two feet from the mic.

I’ve been looking at the Polycom VVX series. The simplest/cheapest model (VVX 300) has all the functionality he needs, but he would consider a more expensive one if it sounded clearer to him and/or the remote party.

Can someone with experience with this series please comment on whether the higher end phones sound any better? Also, if you have both Polycom and another brand that sounds better, please post details.

To which I responded:

This is right in my wheelhouse, and the opportunity to make an important point.

All speakerphones suck! Seriously, every last one.

Admittedly, some suck less. Polycom’s VVX Series are actually quite good. I can’t speak to lesser models, but I like the VVX-500 & 600 a lot. I use them every day.

The monstrous VVX-1500 is the best sounding desk phone ever made. Period. The physical design of the thing is unparalleled. Great acoustics.

My initial point underscores the reality that a speakerphone (not a conference phone*) is about a trade-off between the audio experience of people at the far-end and the convenience of the user. The user doesn’t want to hold the handset, and they simply don’t care if that impacts what the others on the call hear.

Their presentation will not be anywhere near as good with even the best speakerphone. They will sound more distant, with more ambience, and potentially noise. Psychologically, this creates the impression that the audience simply isn’t important. It comes across as dismissive.

If they really need the convenience of being hands-free and want to sound their very best, the answer is to use a headset. It’s the optimal solution.

I spend much of my day using a Sennheiser SDW-5015 (» DECT cordless headset connected to a Polycom VVX-600. The DECT cordless give me the ability to roam around while on a long call.

For less $, I could use a good Bluetooth headset with the VVX, since the 600 supports BT directly. I’d be limited in how far I could move.

Some Polycom VVX phones have a USB port. These phones allow you to use a USB wired headset.

In all these cases, the magic is optimal microphone placement. A boom-mounted microphone picks up the voice with minimal impact from ambient noise sources, room acoustics, air conditioning, etc.

*A conference phone is a different beast. In a meeting room, where there will usually be multiple participants, there often no way around using a conference phone. Of course, Polycom is the leader in that space.

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