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October 2008 | Volume 11 / Number 10
Editorial Series Sponsorship

Finding the Perfect VoIP Conference Phone

By: Richard “Zippy” Grigonis

Analysts have talked about VoIP for years, touting the advantages it will bring to your phone system: Low cost – or even no cost – phone calls, portability, easy expandability, unified messaging (integrated voicemail and email), and all the same calling features with which you’re familiar (call forwarding, call waiting, call park, etc.). Businesses will benefit with lowered phone bills, the ability to be more flexible and grow with changing demands, as well as greatly increased productivity.

Another discussion has centered on the different communication protocols: Should I go with H.323, SIP, or some other proprietary system? Though many H.323 and proprietary systems are in use and are still being installed, it is now quite evident that SIP has become the standard that will win out.

So, sooner or later, we’ll all be making phone calls using a VoIP IP PBX (News - Alert) running SIP.

Why should you care, you ask? It all boils down to the conference phone sitting on your conference room table.

Any business that has been around for any length of time knows the importance of good communication. And a good tabletop conference phone delivers tremendous value to any organization, regardless of size. But that old TDM conference phone won’t work on your new VoIP phone system.

Not to worry. Manufacturers like ClearOne (News - Alert) have followed VoIP trends for years and have created new products that will make you wonder why you waited so long to dump your old TDM system. Case in point is MAX IP, the industry’s first expandable SIP-based VoIP tabletop conference phone.

ClearOne has been building some of the world’s finest professional audio conferencing and sound reinforcement systems for many years. About five years ago, ClearOne launched a line of tabletop conference phones packed with all of the same high-performance audio technologies their professional equipment contains. And MAX IP is the VoIP conference phone with that high-definition heritage. Things like Distributed Echo Cancellation™, Full Duplex, Noise Cancellation, First Mic Priority, Adaptive Modeling, and ClearEffect™, to name a few.

Here’s why those technologies should be important to you: Crystal-clear, natural-sounding audio. Just because you’re not Dow Chemical, doesn’t mean your conversations aren’t important. ClearOne feels that great ideas need to be heard, no matter whose ideas they are. And if you’re trying to hold an important conversation over a standard telephone handset’s speakerphone or with an inferior tabletop conference phone, real communication cannot occur.

Here’s how those technologies work: Full-duplex simply means that call participants can both talk and listen at the same time. Since most speakerphones are half-duplex, when one person is talking he can’t hear anything being said from the far side without substantial audio clipping or suppression. This makes natural conversations next to impossible.

As explained by Mark Child, Director of Product Marketing – Telephony for ClearOne, “If a phone doesn’t do a good job of acoustic echo cancellation, you will often hear your own voice coming back through the loudspeaker, but at a slight delay. This echo makes it extremely difficult to carry on a normal conversation. Effective echo cancellation will identify the audio from my microphone that is being returned to my speakerphone and cancel it out—completely.”

“Almost all rooms – including most conference rooms – contain a fair amount of ambient noise from HVAC systems, fluorescent lights, projectors, computers, etc.,” says Child. “We usually don’t notice it because it’s always there. Noise cancellation software identifies these sounds and removes them. Our MAX IP uses a digital analysis technique that discriminates the talker’s voice from ambient room noise and cancels the noise.”

“Moreover, the vast majority of conference calls take place over narrow-band phone lines which eliminate the high and low tones from your voice,” says Child. “This often causes listener fatigue since participants have to strain to hear what is being said. The MAX IP has ClearEffect™ technology that simulates the high and low tones that were eliminated, creating a more full-sounding audio, even from a narrow-band phone signal. This makes the call sound much more natural and easier to listen to.”

So what’s the bottom line? By moving to a SIP-based VoIP phone system, you not only benefit from increased productivity and cost savings, but you can also take advantage of the opportunity to greatly improve the quality of your conference calls. If your VoIP phone system is running SIP, chances are the MAX IP will work with it. With its sophisticated audio processing technologies, advanced SIP features, and the ability to daisy-chain up to four phones, ClearOne’s MAX IP delivers unbeatable audio conferencing value.

Remember, if your conference phone is not up to par, your ideas won’t be heard. Imagine what it’s like to really connect.

» Internet Telephony Magazine Table of Contents

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