Conference both VoIP and PSTN calls
Speakerphone-enable VoIP softphones
Excellent echo cancellation
Plug and play installation
A bit pricey
Whether it’s using your desktop phone’s speakerphone mode or a professional conferencing unit sitting in the middle of a conference room table, just about everyone at one point has used some sort of speakerphone to hold a conference call. But what about VoIP conferencing? Sure, if you own a Cisco 7900 series VoIP phone (~$200–$300) you can simply use the speakerphone on the Cisco unit itself. However, most desktop phones — including desktop VoIP phones — do not have the highest quality speakerphone nor very good echo cancellation. Further, what if you are part of the growing trend of VoIP softphone client users? If you use a VoIP softphone client such as Skype, Xten SIP client, or the Vonage soft client, how do you engage in a VoIP conference then?
Phoenix Audio Technologies Duet product “speakerphone-enables” any PC-based audio application including any VoIP softphone application. The Duet works via USB and can not only act as your VoIP speakerph one, it can also work with your telephone, IP telephone, cell phone, or PDA connecting via the your device’s headset jack to the Duet’s RJ11 (telephone connection) , thus adding speakerphone capabilities to these devices as well.
In addition, the Duet can work with both your computer and your telephone simultaneously, thus enabling three-way conferencing. For instance, we were able to start a Skype call (computer), then dial a PSTN number (using your telephone) and then conference the two — essentially “bridging” a VoIP connection with a PSTN connection — our own little mini VoIP gateway if you will. This VoIP-to-PSTN conferencing feature is a unique feature for the Duet that no doubt devoted VoIP users (such as Skype users) will enjoy.
Simply plug this device into your USB port and Windows automatically installs the proper USB audio classes and drivers to be able to communicate with it. It is powered via the USB port and a cool blue LED lights up indicating power. I mportantly, it can also be powered via a power connector for when the USB connection is unavailable while using it exclusively with your telephone or cell phone. Also worthy of noting is that when muting the device via the mute button, the blue LED flashes. The unit also features two other buttons — Volume Up and Volume Down.
By default, the Duet utilizes its internal microphone and speakerphone for high-quality, hands-free speakerphone communication. You can override this default behavior simply by plugging your headphones or high quality desktop speakers into the 3.5mm speakers/headphones jack. This will only disable the internal Duet speaker — but still use the built-in microphone.
The Duet also has a 2.5mm headset jack for connecting a standard telephone headset. By connecting the telephone headset to your Duet you automatically override both the Duet’s internal speaker and microphone.
Although the main purpose of the Duet is for VoIP conferencing, it can simply be used as a deskt op speaker replacement. Thus, you can play your favorite iTunes or MP3 files with no problem. Although, the speaker seems to be designed more for voice than music since it seems a bit on the tinny side with minimal bass. The conference quality is the result of Phoenix Audio’s proprietary technologies which include acoustic echo cancellation, noise suppression, Line Echo, and voice level compensation algorithms. Overall, the sound quality of the built-in speaker was pretty good, especially for voice online, and the microphone sensitivity was just about right. The echo cancellation seemed to work very well, although if we jostled or moved the unit we did get a tiny bit of feedback.
We asked Phoenix about this and they told us that this was only a problem in the pre-production units and that it was corrected in their software and works just fine in their production units.
Simply put, using the Duet enables more than one person to engage in a VoIP call or online conference headset-free using the Duet’s high-quality microphone and speakerphone. It’s the first product of its kind that we’ve seen that brings audio conferencing to VoIP softphone clients and we enjoyed its ease of installation, portability (fits in a laptop case), and very good sound quality. IT