Best Conference Phones

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

48 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
511 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best conference phones

Last Updated December 2019

If you’ve ever tried to pull together a face-to-face meeting, you know how difficult it can be to fit it into everyone’s hectic schedules. And if participants are coming in from different floors, buildings, or even states to participate, the difficulty and cost can add up fast.

The right conference phone can be a vital tool for your busy office or organization, allowing you to save both time and money. But with the sheer number of conference phone systems currently on the market, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for your needs.

This guide examines some of the key features and other considerations you’ll face when choosing a conference phone. From microphone selection and audio quality to features such as Bluetooth connectivity and call recording, we drill into the elements of these systems so you’ll know what to keep an eye out for when selecting one. We also offer tips on what you should expect to pay and recommend what we feel are some of the best conference phones currently out there.

Traditional analog conference phones are more and more giving way to conference phones that can work with a variety of computer systems and Internet services.

Key considerations

Microphone type

The microphones in a conference phone — in terms of both quantity and capability — largely determine what size of room you can use the conference phone in and the number of people who can participate. Capabilities such as 360-degree voice pick-up allow participants to be anywhere in relation to the microphone and still be heard, while mute buttons help cut down on speaker ID confusion and overall background noise.

Conference phone microphones generally are one of three types: built-in microphones, wired extension microphones, and wireless microphones. Conference phone systems can have one or more of these types of microphones.

Built-in microphones: These are microphones that are built into the base of the conference phone. Some systems only offer base microphones, usually anywhere from one to four of them within the base. These microphones should be able to pick up far field voices easily.

Wired microphones: Like wireless microphones, wired microphones allow you to extend the effective range so you can hold a conference call in a larger room. With wired microphones, you should know how long the wires are, and the number of wired microphones that are included.

Wireless microphones: While not available in all conference phone systems, wireless microphones provide you with the greatest flexibility. Similar to wired microphones, these are best for larger rooms, particularly where participants are moving around (ex. giving a presentation). You should know the number of wireless microphones that ship with the system (typically two to four), the range of the microphones, how long they can hold a charge, and how long it takes to recharge them. Wireless microphones are usually charged on the base unit itself, which helps to keep them from being misplaced.

Versatility for larger groups


This VTech conference phone features four wireless and two built-in microphones, allowing for larger space calls with more participants. The backlit display is capable of saving up to 50 caller ID entries or phonebook entries. Wireless microphones offer up to eight hours of use per charge.

Audio quality

Audio quality for conference phones can vary quite a bit from unit to unit. The quality should be high enough that everyone can be clearly understood. All systems should include some form of variable volume control.

The majority of these systems also utilize some form of noise reduction to cancel out background noise. This can be achieved through features such as dynamic noise reduction filters, acoustic echo cancellation, and automatic gain controls.

Is it full-duplex?

The majority of conference phones offer full-duplex capabilities, which allow people in both the room and those speaking through the phone to speak and be heard simultaneously. This allows for a much more normal conversation between the call participants and will likely be on your “must-have” features list.

EXPERT TIP

If using a call recording feature with your conference phone, be sure to ask permission of those in the call before recording the conversation.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

One trick for hearing difficult conference call audio: close your eyes. By shutting out your surroundings you will be able to focus better on your hearing.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Bluetooth connectivity

Some conference phone systems work with Bluetooth, so that you can use wireless headsets, smartphones, and other devices with your conference phone. This can greatly extend the capabilities of a conference phone and is another “must-have” feature for some. One big plus with a system that allows Bluetooth is that you can easily expand the size of the participant pool just by having everyone show up with a smartphone.

Call recording

While not a standard feature, some conference call systems have a built-in call recording function. This is a handy way to retain a record of the call and any discussion or decisions that resulted from it.

If a conference phone allows for call recordings, you should verify whether the calls are stored on the phone itself or via something like a USB flash drive. If just the former, find out how large the available memory for storage is.

Basic and inexpensive


While not as robust as the VTech VCS704, the VCS702 still offers one built-in and two wireless microphones for calls with fewer participants. Basic features here include full-duplex conversations, a 50-name CID/phonebook, and on-base charging. This is an affordable solution for smaller groups.

Display

The majority of conference phones feature some form of a display, from simple two-line LCDs to larger touch screens. With these you can more easily interact with the phone and receive information regarding a call. For clarity, any display should be backlit.

Displays are the primary way to access the caller ID (CID) or address book features within the phone. While not all conference phones offer these functions, if the model you are considering does, you should know how many names and numbers you can store on the phone.

Conference phone prices

The cost of conference phones can be a big factor, particularly if either you or your business are on a tight budget. While you can find a few cheaper models, the majority of conference phones worth considering start out around $150 to $200 and reach up to $400 or more.

At lower prices, expect to find phones geared toward fewer call participants and with fewer features.

Phones in the upper range will offer more microphones — usually wireless — for larger spaces with more call participants. Models in this range also often have advanced features such as Bluetooth connectivity and call recording, in addition to improved sound quality.

Be sure that you also inquire about the warranty of a conference phone. A two- to three-year warranty is typical.

A noise reduction feature is particularly helpful for those users with some form of hearing impairment or disability.

Tips

  • If you need a conference phone that is portable, some aspects to consider include overall size, a system that can be powered via battery, and some form of wireless or USB connectivity to a network.
  • Spend some time when you first receive your conference phone reading over the documentation to familiarize yourself with all the tools and features that are available with the phone.
  • While not standard, some conference phones offer an active speaker feature indicates who is currently speaking on the screen. This is a great way to remove a potential problem — speaker ID — that can be a given in audio-only conference calls.
  • With call recording, employees who were not able to participate in a conference call can easily review the call at a later time to catch up on what they missed.
  • Consider your needs carefully before setting out to purchase a conference phone system. Having a comprehensive list of features you want — and those you do not — will help you find the system you need without spending too much for tools and features you will not use.
  • Some conference phones work better with certain providers than others. To avoid poor quality or reliability, spend some time on a product’s reviews section to discern any problems the phone may have with specific providers.
  • Conference phones with jack support for a handset can be used to make or receive private calls.

Other products we considered

Conference phones are one niche where there are numerous full-featured and high quality options to choose from. We wanted to highlight a few more that impressed during our research. The Yealink Conference IP Phone is designed for medium to large conference rooms and runs on Android 5.1. It stands out for its 5-inch multi-touch screen, in addition to its 20-foot, 360-degree microphone capabilities. The Polycom Voicestation 300 also offers 360-degree microphone coverage, although at a less impressive 7-foot range. We love the appearance of this model in addition to its support for a fax machine and handset. Finally, the best-selling eMeet Bluetooth Conference Phone features four microphones and Bluetooth support. This option is highly portable and can be used with a variety of operating systems and Internet applications.

Noise reduction features can block out a wide range of call background noise, including random voices, AC or ventilation unit sounds, typing, projector hum, and background phones.

FAQ

Q. Is it possible to add extra microphones to these systems?
A.
While this will vary model to model, scalability — or the ability to add additional microphones — does not show up with systems of this nature that often. One way around this is just to pick up two conference phone systems. A cheaper way is to go with a system that incorporates Bluetooth. This will allow everyone with a Bluetooth-capable smartphone or other device to participate in the call.

Q. Do these need a phone cord to work, or do they work via the internet?
A.
Some conference phones are analog and will require a phone service (and a cord) before you are able to send and receive calls. Others can be used with VoIP to WiFi networks to place and receive calls through programs such as Skype and Facetime.

Q. In addition to conference calling, can these be used like a regular phone to place and receive calls?
A.
So long as you have phone service, a conference phone that works with an analog line should function much like a regular phone and with largely the same features.

The team that worked on this review
  • Kyle
    Kyle
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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