In a busy work environment, face-to-face meetings aren’t always possible or the best use of colleagues and employees time. With conference phones set up, many meetings can be conducted as audio conferences instead, providing a time-saving and cost-effective alternative to traditional meetings.
So what is the best conference phone?
Our team of experts have compiled a list of ten of the most popular and highly-regarded conference phones available. The top of the pack are Avaya B100 Series, Polycom RealPresence Trio, Grandstream GAC2500, Yealink CP960 and Polycom SoundStation 2.
To Save You Time: Top 5 Conference Phones Compared
To save you a bit of time, this table gives a quick overview of the top 5 conference phones on the market. You can find more complete reviews of all 10 of the phones that have earned a spot on our best conferences phones list, further down the article.
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Deciding on which conference phone is best for your office is no easy feat. Between countless features and dozens of unique price points, a little information goes a long way in making the right call. So here we've collected all the research you need to choose the setup that'll make your business as productive as possible.
The Avaya B100 series of conference phones incorporate many features that make it easy to set up and administer conference calls via web-based applications or a corporate directory.
The Avaya B189 is an executive conference phone with touchscreen display and HD quality audio. Avaya B179 is a SIP-based conference phone for large meetings and features Avaya’s patented wideband audio technology. The Avaya B159 and B149 offer useful features for recording calls, setting up multi-party calls and saving call groups.
- Intuitive keypads to make accessing features easier
- Built-in conference guide
- 360-degree surround sound
- Wideband audio technology
- Full duplex operation
- Bridge up to five people or locations
- 360-degree Unidirectional microphones cover up to 750 square feet
- Built-in recording
- Expand to a Bluetooth headset or PA system
The Polycom RealPresence conference phone is by far the most stylish piece of technology in this comparison list and the feature rich system will also exceed expectations with its high quality audio as well. With a 20 foot pick up range the RealPresence Trio is suitable for even the largest of boardrooms and can aid collaboration between whole teams easily.
- Stylish design
- 5 inch LCD color display
- Polycom’s HD Voice & Noise Block
- Integrated Bluetooth technology
- 360 ° microphone coverage
- 20-foot (6-meters) microphone pickup
- One-step-to-join meeting integration
The Grandstream GAC2500 is a modern VoIP conference phone featuring up to 6 SIP lines. The stylish speakerphone will not look out of place in the most modern of office spaces while the 4 inch touch screen makes it incredibly easy to dial out and take calls. The latest model from Grandstream, the GAC2500 offers HD voice quality making it ideal for conference calls which incorporate a number of team members or different departments collaborating on a single project.
- WiFi Support
- Built in Bluetooth
- Compact footprint is designed for executive offices and smaller conference rooms
- HD voice technology for clear lifelike conference calls
- Advanced call handing, security, and provisioning features
- High-resolution display
The Yealink CP960 IP conference phone is designed for small and medium-sized conference rooms. It can support a radius of 20 feet for speakers in the room, and with the addition of optional wireless microphones, this can be extended to 60 feet. The unit provides optima HD technology, a built-in 3 microphone array, full-duplex technology and acoustic echo cancelling to enable clear, life-like conference calls. It also supports call recording and linkages to mobile phones or PCs.
- Call recording
- Connect to a mobile phone or PC for conference calls
- Optima HD voice, full duplex technology
- 20-feet and 360 degree voice pickup
- Optional wireless microphones for 60-feet pick up
- Microphone blocking when person not speaking
- USB call recording support
The Cisco Unified IP Conference Station 8832 is a modern conferencing phone with a full color backlit display. It can support large meetings and caters for up to 26 attendees with a microphone that can cover a wide area. Its design means that it is highly portable and can be easily taken from one room to another.
- Supports up to 26 attendees
- Backlit color display
- Covers radius of up to 800 square feet
- Wideband G.772 crystal-clear audio
- Built-in encryption
- Shares OS with other 8800 series phones
- Easy to move from room to room
The Snom Meeting Point is an executive-level business VoIP SIP conferencing phone designed for mid to large conference rooms and up to 10 participants. It offers excellent sound quality with three speakers providing full duplex broadband audio. It is the only current SIP conference phone that works in unison with Microsoft Office Communication Server. Two models are available – G.729 for 3-way conferencing and G.711 for 4-way conferencing
- Call recording feature in development
- Works with any SIP-based IP PBX.
- Integrates with Microsoft Office Communication Server
- OmniSound full duplex broadband sound technology
- Backlit graphical LCD display
- Supports 3 or 4 way conferencing
- Supports power over Ethernet
- Range up to 3 metres- suitable for 10 people
- Connection for add on microphones to extend range
The Polycom SoundStation2 delivers full duplex audio to suit small to medium meeting rooms. New features include easy-to-read LCD display and a 50% increase in microphone sensitivity over the previous Soundstation model. Participants can be heard from up to ten feet away. The unit connects to a standard analogue line or analogue extension from a PABX.
- LCD display
- 50% increase in microphone sensitivity over previous model
- Password-protected configuration settings
- Phone book/speed dial list – up to 25 entries
- Excellent sound quality
- Full 360-degree coverage
- Full duplex operation
- Digital speakers
The VTech VCS704 is an analog conference complete with PBX & PSTN compatibility that can be used with up to 2 lines. The VCS705 ErisStation is a wireless conference phone that includes an accompanying magnetic charging bay within the phones base to ensure each microphone is fully charged and ready for meetings at any time. The modern design also mean the model will not look out out of place in any office, while still offering a crystal clear voice quality at all times.
- Acoustic beamforming technology focuses on speaker
- Up to 8 hours talk time
- 70 hours of standy time
- Superior voice quality
- Acoustic echo cancellation technology
The Yamaha PJP-20UR is a Web conference microphone speaker with a built-in echo canceller. It connects to a PC or laptop via USB to support web conferencing. This is a small portable device that can be used in any small space in the office. For larger meetings, the units can be daisy-chained. The unit features a high-fidelity microphone speaker that supports softphone conferencing without headsets
- USB powered
- Lightweight, portable unit
- Supports web or audio conferencing
- Built-in noise reduction
- Smooth full-duplex performance
- Daisy-chain up to 4 units via a USB hub
- Adaptive echo canceller
The Polycom SoundStation IP 7000 conference phone is designed for midsize conference rooms. It delivers high fidelity audio from 160 HZ to 22 kHz, designed to best capture the high and low frequency of the human voice, meaning that your colleagues will sound as though they're in the room with you. Built-in security features mean that calls are protected.
- Full duplex technology
- Compatible with a broad array of SIP call platforms
- Optional expansion microphones and support for lapel microphones
- Polycom HD Voice technology, for high-fidelity calls
- Patented Polycom Acoustic Clarity technology
- Automatic microphone gain control
- Advanced call handing, security, and provisioning features
- High-resolution display
- Integrated Power over Ethernet
The Importance of a High Quality VoIP Conference Phones
Conference phones face a unique set of challenges that are different from mainstream phone technology. Regular phones are not designed for people talking several feet away from the microphone in rooms with an echo. The technologies used in advanced conference call systems have developed well ahead of the audio technology used in the mainstream mobile and telecom industry. The best conference phones today provide HD voice and use specialized high quality microphones. They can handle echo cancellation, noise reduction, and full duplex, resulting in clear audio from conference phone speakers.
A well-designed conference phone system will improve productivity and the quality of decision making. Participants can focus on the meeting and will not be distracted by struggling to hear what is said. This will minimize the risk of misunderstandings. During important meetings with customers, it is easier to detect subtle cues or changes in tone of voice if the audio quality is excellent.
A hundred conference calls lasting an hour each with four of your staff will cost more than $10k (if they make $60k/year). The cost of good VoIP conference phones is minor compared to the salary costs of time spent in meetings.
Different Types of Conference Phones
There are three types of conference phones: regular speakerphones, standalone conference phones, and installed systems throughout the room. The units can either use traditional analog voice or be VoIP conference phones.
Traditional speakerphones are basically desktop telephones with an incorporated speaker. They usually have no echo cancellation and only one microphone. They are designed for a single user sitting directly in front of the phone who sometimes uses it for hands-free calls. Speakerphones are not built for group discussions, and if several people sit around a speakerphone, the sound quality from the conference phone speakers is often very poor.
A conference phone is a single unit designed to operate in an open-air environment. It is a standalone device but can be supported by extension microphones. They are as easy to use as regular phones and are built to cover an entire room and all the people in it. Conference phones incorporate echo cancellation and noise reduction together with other advanced signal processing technologies for reproducing clear sound. Wireless conference phones are easier to move around but must be recharged. The market has developed enormously in the last 15 years and there are many models which are suited to different needs.
An installed conference system is built in to the room. There are a number of microphones and speakers throughout the room and some of them can be moved to accommodate different situations. Each component is controlled by a very sophisticated system that adjusts speaker outputs, the microphone gain levels, as well as the other variables required to maximize audio quality.
The installed system’s advanced signal processing can eliminate problems that often occur in a larger room. For example, loudspeaker zones, feedback, multiple echo, and other difficult noise problems experienced by conference phone speakers. These systems are often integrated with video conferencing equipment and the installation is usually done by a system integrator or A/V consultant.
Finding the Perfect System for your Conference Room
The optimal type of conference system will depend on the size and layout of the conference room. When selecting a conference phone, a lot can be achieved by improving the acoustics in the room before installation. Large windows or glass walls generate more echo while carpeting, acoustical ceilings, curtains or wall hangings will improve the acoustics.
Small Conference Room
In a small room, which seats up to four people, the size forces the participants to sit close to the conference unit. This provides an optimal conferencing experience. If a regular office is used, furniture and clutter will often improve the acoustics in the room. Conference phones designed for small rooms usually provide 5-7 feet coverage.
Best Conference Phone: Grandstream GAC2500
Traditional Conference Room
A mid-size conference room which seats between 6 and 12 people is more challenging than a small room. Participants are further away from the microphones, which makes echo and noise more problematic. If you're in need of a medium-ranging solution, make sure it has the microphone and audio features to manage a larger setup.
Best Conference Phone: Avaya B100 Series
A boardroom is often designed more for looks than for acoustics, which can make using a business conference phone setup difficult. That is, if you don't have the right one. There are installed systems that will get the job done, but some tabletop conference phones will work, if they have the right features and audio quality.
Best Conference Phone: Polycom RealPresence Trio
Conference Phone Features
Here are most important features to look for when selecting a conference system:
- Microphone: The quality and pickup range of the microphones is particularly important. Directional microphones will discard noise and echo coming from behind them while cheaper omnidirectional microphones will pick up noise from every direction.
- Noise reduction: Advanced signal processing for suppressing pickup of unwanted sounds is crucial.
- Full duplex sound: Full-duplex is another important feature. It will enable the participants to speak at the same time without cutting off one another. This ensures that the conversation can flow naturally without interruptions.
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