Best Conference Phone
Conference phones are an essential item for any successful business as they can accommodate multiple callers and interlocutors on one call at the same time. But like any particular piece of electronic equipment, there are a wealth of options available on the market with standard and unique features intended to offer a better product than the competition. First and foremost, you want a phone that offers exceptional sound quality, so look for a phone that employs wide bandwidth and noise cancelling technology to reduce background and ambient noise. Many phones are now wireless and even powered through Ethernet connections as they are configured to sophisticated networking solutions. Typical features run from the simple Caller ID and directory options to recording ability to log entire conversations. Also important, consider the room and environment where the phone will be in use. The larger the room, the more challenging it can be to maintain a crystal clear call; with longer microphone range and high-quality speakers some phones will be more advantageous in certain size rooms than others. The following best picks were chosen for their sound quality, functionality, ease of use, additional features, and price.
Clear One Max Wireless One Phone Conference System
Polycom SoundStation2 Expandable Conference Phone
Konftel 300IP Conference Phone
Revolabs 10-FLX2-200-POTS Wireless Conference Phone
Snom Meeting Point IP Conference Phone
Clear One's wireless conferencing system offers a number of advantages over the competition. The unit has been designed for use in any size conference room, allowing for the system to be expanded over multiple devices. Use just one Max EX phone unit for smaller rooms or connect up to four of them for complete coverage of much larger spaces with numerous microphones, speakers and keypads placed throughout your conference area. The Max EX uses noise and echo cancelling filters to reduce background interference so you come through loud and clear to the other party and they, in turn, sound like they're right there in the room with you instead of across town or halfway a world away. Three integrated, highly-sensitive microphones can pick up everything within 12 feet at a 360 degree radius making this a true omni-directional conference system. The loudspeaker offers total sound accuracy that lets you decipher between various voices on the other end of the line, so you know who's speaking at all times. The Max EX is even self-equalizing so no one comes in too hot or distorted on either end, as the unit automatically controls the gain levels throughout the duration of the call.
The SoundStation 2 is a full-duplex unit that offers real-time, natural two-way conversation. The company uses their own patented Acoustic Clarity Technology, affording simultaneous discussion between you and the party on the other end of the line without any lag time or delay. Equipped with three 360 degree cardioid microphones, the phone uses Dynamic Noise Reduction to eliminate unnecessary background noise by changing which microphone is live based on who's speaking at that time. It can detect which voice is closest to its three microphones and only that mic is live, cutting the other two so there's no excessive room noise to interfere with the quality of the call. These microphones also have a pickup range of ten feet. While the SS2 is best suited for small to mid-size conference areas, Polycom offers optional extension microphones to expand the coverage area of the phone. You also get a load of standard telephone features such as mute, redial, call transfer, and hold, all while the unit is plugged into any analog phone jack or connected to a private bank exchange.
The 300IP is Konftel's top shelf product for SIP networks. Weighing in at just about 2 lbs., this is a lightweight unit with a simple user interface and lots of great features. Network configuration and set-up are easy, and once you're up and running you can refer to the bright LCD display and keypad to navigate menus and submenus with self-explanatory buttons. This phone offers the ability to create and store up to 20 different conference groups of four participants each for parties you conference with routinely; there's also a built-in bridging option so you can bridge up to five simultaneous calls on the same SIP account into one conference.
Sound quality is superb on the 300IP as its supported by G.722 wideband, so your voice will be heard loud and clear... hopefully the phones of the other parties on the line have HD audio as well so they come through just as crisp. Unfortunately, the phone cannot forward incoming calls, but it does have built-in call recording capable of storing 70 hours of audio on the included 2GB storage card.
The FLX2 is most noteworthy for its eye-catching aesthetic and functional design. This is a conference phone that comes apart into a series of separate parts to accommodate portability and large numbers of groups participating on one end of a call. Starting with the base station of the unit, which runs on PoE networks with an optional AC power cord if preferred, the FLX2 houses one main cylindrical speaker adorned with small LED lights and a silver disc to distribute sound evenly in all directions. The station also houses two microphones which can be detached and carried around the room just as cordless phones would. You can also choose wearable microphones that can clip to a shirt or tie. Both versions are wireless for easy mobility. Sound quality is excellent but you can detect just a little ambient background noise on calls, which may or may not be much of a concern to some consumers. There are some issues with echo cancellation as well – nothing too bad, but it could just be an issue of keeping the microphones further away from the speaker during a call. The high-resolution, backlit LCD display makes navigation easy and the dialer can also detach from the base station, so it will work as a separate phone and a remote control for the entire unit.
Snom may not be all that well-known in the U.S., but they've got a conference phone that should find its way into many office conference rooms. Built for use in larger rooms of about 300 square feet, Snom says this unit can accommodate up to ten people during a session, with integrated microphones designed to suppress background noise in the room. This phone runs on a G.722 codec for 7kHz wideband audio through the speakers. It's PoE compatible, runs on SIP and Microsoft OCS, so you no longer need to bring a laptop or rely on a USB equipped speakerphone to run your calls. Network configuration is fast and easy, with a simple user interface and easy navigation. This phone also offers the highest possible security protocols with the use of Snom CTI which works with all Microsoft TAPI-capable applications in addition to many other telephony integration call center applications.