ZipDX is now in its twelfth year as a leading specialty conference service for business. Over that time we’ve learned a few things about how to get the most out of your conference call experience. From the outset, we set about disrupting the space in various ways. For example, being the first commercial conference service to support wideband audio (a.k.a. HD Voice) from then state-of-the-art conference phones.
The fact is that, for many clients, the conference phone remains an important aspect of a productive meeting. The number of vendors offering conference phones has grown. Faced with various special projects of our own, and clients asking for recommendations, we madk a effort to stay abreast of this space. What follows are a few of our favorite devices for your consideration.
Polycom SoundStation IP 7000
Truly great product design leads to longevity. Introduced in 2008, the Polycom SoundStation IP 7000 may well be the grand-daddy of IP-connected conference phones. It’s instantly recognizable. It was the top-of-the-line when ZipDX was founded all those years ago, offering superior performance and commanding a hefty price. Years later, it’s still available, still a favorite, but now much more affordable.
The SoundStation IP7000 is suitable for medium sized conference rooms. Optional extension microphones extend its reach in larger spaces. It’s also possible to connect two IP7000s to cover a very large room.
The device shows its age in limited connectivity. It primarily works over a hard-wired Ethernet connection, which also delivers power. An analog sub-mini audio jack allows it to be connected to a computer or mobile phone. Although, that sort of connection harkens back to a time before smart phones, and is no longer commonplace.
Despite it’s age, we can’t ignore that fact that Polycom’s SoundStation IP7000 remains a conference room workhorse. If it fits into your working environment, it delivers a reliably good meeting experience.
Although, if you have one and you’re interested in trading up, there is a clear option.
Polycom RealPresence Trio 8000 Series
While much admired, the old SoundStation IP was eventually dethroned by Polycom’s RealPresence Trio series of conference phones. A huge leap forward in technology, Trio features legendary Polycom audio quality arising from a brand new Android-based platform featuring intuitive menus appearing on a color touch-screen display.
Multi-modal connectivity delivers flexibility. Gigabit Ethernet is the primary means of both connectivity and power. Support for Wi-Fi offers wireless alternative. Bluetooth allows it to be used in conjunction with laptops and mobile devices. USB extends its reach to use with desktop telephony and video conference systems
The Trio is available in SIP and Skype-For-Business/MS Teams versions, allowing it to fit into any corporate ecosystem.
Yamaha FLX UC Series
Not as well known as Polycom, Yamaha Corporation, a long-time player in pro audio and corporate AV, entered into this space by acquiring Revo Labs. Their FLX Series are a family of three conference phones, sharing a common acoustic foundation, addressing a range of situations.
FLX UC 500 is a USB-connected conference phone for use in offices or small-to-medium conference rooms.
FLX UC 1000 builds on a strong acoustic platform, adding SIP-over-Ethernet connectivity. A dedicated hardware keypad adds ease of using in a freestanding meeting room application.
FLX UC 1500 (pictured) builds further, adding extension wired microphones in support of medium-to-large conference rooms.
All three models share the same cube-like microphone/speaker module. Touch sensitive areas around the upper perimeter provide control of hook state, mute and volume. A two-way speaker system deliver full, rich sound.
Yealink are an up-and-coming Asian manufacturer of IP telephones. Originally known for low-cost products, they’ve grown their portfolio to including some innovative conference phones. We’ve found their top-of-the-range model CP960 to be a worthy contender.
Being the newest model of those listed here, this device is especially flexible in how it connects. It supports USB connection to a computer. Also Bluetooth, for computer, tablet or mobile phone. It can also connect via Wi-Fi or hard-wired Ethernet.
The device features a color touch screen interface, with easy to navigate menus. We especially like the optional cordless extension microphones. These readily accommodate larger conference rooms, without wires to trip or tangle.
It’s Your Call
We’ve had hands-on experience with each of these conference phones. Each one impressed us with its ability to deliver a great participant experience. They vary slightly in feature set or how they are to provisioned and configured.
In our case, each was directly connected to ZipDX via an IP network. In your situation, it could be connected to a company phone system, hosted IP-PBX, or directly to ZipDX.
Alternatively, models with USB or Bluetooth connectivity can be used with a computer and our web phone, bypassing the traditional telephone network entirely.
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