Ships with a full-duplex design that allows for a more natural 2-way conversation between people in the room and on the phone line. Includes 3 microphones inside the base set and 2 wired extension microphones. Easy to use with caller ID and other advanced calling functions.
No wireless microphones. Not compatible with some telephone providers.
Includes 1 built-in microphone and 2 wireless microphones. For use by several people at the same time. Wireless mics charge from the main base unit so they're always at hand. Conference phone with full-duplex design so everyone can speak and be heard simultaneously.
Audio quality through the microphones is not consistent.
Versatile conference phone. Uses a full-duplex design so speakers in the room and those on the line can speak and be heard simultaneously. Offers 4 wireless mics and 2 built-in mics to accommodate large groups. Wireless microphones connect to the main unit for charging.
Wireless microphone batteries don't always perform well.
Good audio quality for both those in the room and those on the phone line. 3 microphones are built into the base unit with a 10-foot pickup range. Noise reduction and volume control built into the conference phone for better voice clarity. Allows for simultaneous 2-way communication in a natural manner.
Price is a little high considering some of the features missing.
Includes support for multiple phone line connections at once. Provides Bluetooth connectivity so you can use wireless handsets or make and receive cellular calls through the conference phone system. 2 wireless microphones. Good audio clarity for 2-way communication.
Doesn't hold a connection with certain telephone system providers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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