Best speakerphone in 2020 for working from home – CNET

The microphones and speakers on our laptops and mobile devices aren’t horrible (by that I mean they’re usable). But now that working from home is the new normal for many of us — which means tons of virtual meetings and video conferencing — you’re probably looking for a better audio experience. One option is to get a set of headphones that’s good for making a phone call, but the other is to get a speakerphone that’s designed expressly for the purpose of making and taking calls. 

Because speakerphones tend to lack a little bass and focus instead on midrange performance (i.e., voices), they’re not like your typical portable speaker, which means you don’t necessarily want to grab one when watching a movie or playing music. That said, they are louder and sound fuller than your phone’s speakers, so they’re better than nothing if you need a wireless speaker and you’re in a pinch.

I’ve reviewed or at least tested all of the best speakerphone models listed here. Note that the ones with USB connections work with Windows PCs and Macs, whereas a Bluetooth speakerphone model will also work with your mobile phone and tablet. And most of these are compatible with the universal communication format that’s essentially the industry standard.

So, read on if you’re ready to take the plunge and get your hands on the best speakerphone for your home office needs.

Read more: Best cheap VPN: 3 options for working from home in quarantine

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Anker released a new wireless speakerphone earlier this year, and it offers solid performance for the money, with six microphones arranged in a 360-degree array to pick up the voice of up to eight people in a room. This Bluetooth speakerphone charges and connects via USB-C to your computer (if you want to go the wired route) and easily connects to your cell phone and tablet via Bluetooth technology. With an integrated 6,700-mAh battery, you can also charge your devices with the speakerphone. Battery life is rated at 24 hours for call time. 

The speaker performed well, with good clarity and similar sound quality to the Jabra Speak 510. Jabra’s Speak 710 delivers a little fuller sound with a little more bass, but that speaker costs $100 more. While this can also be used as a speaker for listening to music or watching movies — and is a significant step up from the built-in speakers on your phone or laptop, particularly in terms of loudness — Anker says it’s first and foremost a conference speakerphone. Whether you’re in a large conference room or smaller conference rooms, it can pick up voices anywhere for up to eight people. A carrying case is included.

Note that you can’t connect more than one Bluetooth device to this at the same time. 

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The Luna is eMeet’s latest speakerphone and a good value at about $90 with an instant coupon on Amazon. It’s designed to compete with Anker’s PowerConf (see above). It’s not quite as sleek as the PowerConf, nor does it come with a protective carrying case like that model does. Also, its microphone performance is good but not on the level of the Jabra Speak 510 (see below) in terms of clarity. That said, it offers good noise reduction.

The speaker does sound clear and loud, and it’s versatile: You can go wireless over Bluetooth, plug the speaker into the USB port on your PC (with an included cable) or plug in the wireless dongle for a more reliable Bluetooth connection.

It can be daisy-chained with other eMeet speakerphones to add more people — up to 12, eMeet says — in case you’re running a business with multiple employees from home or just have a really large family.  

Jabra

The Jabra Speak 510 wireless Bluetooth speaker, which has been out for a few years, can be connected directly to a computer with a USB cable or wirelessly via Bluetooth. It doesn’t offer as much volume as the step up Speak 710 Bluetooth speakerphone, which costs about twice as much. Jabra says the speaker is suitable for smaller rooms with coverage for four people in a meeting. This portable speakerphone has 360-degree omnidirectional microphone and its rechargeable battery will last up to 15 hours of battery life in wireless mode. A carrying case is included.

You can get this model with a UC (universal communications) USB dongle that allows you to have a direct wireless connection with a PC. But the wired USB option is fine, and it offers the same softphone features for Windows PCs or Macs.   

David Carnoy/CNET

With Jabra’s Speak 710 wireless Bluetooth speakerphone (around $300), you’re getting a noticeable bump up in sound and microphone quality from the Speak 510 Bluetooth speakerphone (it is bigger but still compact). While it costs more, if you’re looking for top-notch performance with excellent noise reduction in a consumer-grade speakerphone, the 710 delivers it. Jabra says this rated for up to six people in a conference room, but you can daisy-chain a couple of these in a larger room to get twice the number of people involved. It also has an integrated USB cable for connecting directly to a computer and includes a UC (universal communications) USB dongle for reliable wireless connections with a Windows PC or Mac without installing any software (there is a companion app for both).

Don’t expect it to sound great for music or movie watching, but it does have more bass than the Speak 510 and the Anker. 

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The eMeet M0 is a compact USB speakerphone that connects to your computer with an included USB-A to USB-C cable. No drivers are required — it’s plug and play — but there is no wireless option. It has a four smart microphone array, acoustic echo cancellation, noise-reduction technology and is suitable as a conference phone for meetings with up to four people. This conference speakerphone is louder and more clear than your typical laptop speakers and picks up your voice well from several feet away. 

Amazon

If you can’t afford the Jabra Speak 710 and are looking for a compact, more “professional” Bluetooth speakerphone, the eMeet M2 costs less than $200, has a strong feature set and performed well in my tests (it plays louder than you’d think for its size). It’s equipped with a four microphone array, acoustic echo along with noise reduction technology and can operate with clear sound in larger rooms with five to eight people participating on a conference call. You can opt to plug the speakerphone directly into a computer (Mac or Windows) with a USB cable or go wireless with the included Bluetooth USB dongle. You can also use Bluetooth connectivity for your phone or tablet. A carrying case is included.

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The iPhone-friendly Pioneer Rayz Rally has been around for a while — I reviewed it back in 2017 — but it’s still being sold and is down to $70. 

The little personal speakerphone fits in your pocket and has an integrated Lightning cable so it plugs directly into your iOS device and draws power from it, though not much (it has little impact on battery life). Due to its size and portability, you can even use it as a car speakerphone. It’s not in the same class as the other speakerphones in this roundup in terms of sound quality or microphone performance, but it does give a little bump in sound quality from your phone’s speakers. The latest-generation iPhones have improved internal speakers, so the difference isn’t as great as it was a few years ago with the iPhone 7 or 8, but it still has more volume (it’s all midrange, of course).

The single button on the speaker serves as a mute button during phone calls (so callers can’t hear you) or a pause/play button while listening to music or videos. And like the Rayz Plus headphone, there’s a pass-through Lightning port integrated into the speaker that allows you to charge your phone with a separate Lightning cable.

Read our Pioneer Rayz Rally review.


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Originally published earlier this year. Updated with current deals.  

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