Monday, July 17, 2006

Initial impressions of Phoenix DUET Executive Speakerphone

Two of my co-workers are moving out of a small shared office in Southern England and starting to work out of their homes.

Among the many complications of this move, is the need to give them good phone access from home, without investing a fortune. Telecommunications is one of those areas that changes rapidly, so I spent a few days digging around to catch up a bit with the state of the art.

Our local IT shop in the UK has provided them with a dedicated POTS phone line, and a reasonable wired handset phone. But since these two gentlemen work heavily with those of us here at HQ, asking them to spend 4 or 5 hours a day with a phone crooked to their necks is a bit much.

Since we do a lot of internal phone calls we also would like to look at VOIP for some calls, to lower our operating expenses.

After some digging, I settled on the DUET Executive USB Speakerphone from Phoenix Audio Technologies. The primary reasons for this were:

  1. Small physical size so it fits easily on the desk and can be taken on the road
  2. USB Powered, so it can move easily from the US to the UK
  3. VOIP and POTS compatible (including bridging a single call across POTS and VOIP
  4. Noise filtering and canceling technologies
  5. Supports RJ11, Headset jack and USB connectivity
We purchased three units from Hello Direct for $199 each. They arrived Friday, so we've started having a bit of a play with them.

My initial impressions are quite positive. They work well for a small room conference phone and also work well for Audio chatting through MSN or MS NetMeeting. We have a dedicated room for our group here at HQ, but the room has a really crappy half duplex speaker phone, so the room is not used nearly as much as it should be. The Duet plugs straight into the half duplex phone via the headset jack, and works like a champ. For this setup, I've powered the unit via the supplied standard US power brick (it can also be powered directly from a USB connection).

The audio is a bit tinny when turned up for a conference call, but the phone connection is full duplex, and is very clean. The unit only has a single microphone, so it is a bit directional, with voices trailing off to the sides of the microphone. But it works well and is a darn good value given the flexibility.

For IM audio usage, it works directly off a powered USB connection. No other cables are needed. The device was immediately recognized when connected to my Laptop and worked without a hitch in both MSN IM Audio and NetMeeting Audio chats. I was disapointed to find out that NetMeeting audio is only allowed between two participants. I missed that when reading the NetMeeting help files. That's not a DUET problem, but we had hoped to use Netmeeting for Voice chats in conjunction with presentations.

I have not had the chance to try out the bridging of a single call between VOIP and POTS, but the documentation indicates that this works just by plugging the connections together. Including the ability for the VOIP and POTS participants to talk to each other across the DUET "bridge". The DUET instructions indicate that you can gang multiple DUETS together for larger conference areas. That sounds really interesting, and we may look into it further down the road, but for now, we will only have one unit in each location.

All in all, the DUET is an excellent value, works well, and is highly recommended.

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