Technology Showcase: Conference-room Telephone Systems
Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Bennett Liles
Plain old telephone service gets a boost in conferencing functionality.
The NEC ConferenceMax provides full-duplex communication for the smallest to the largest conference areas through its expandable daisy-chain configurability for up to four ConferenceMax units — putting loudspeakers, microphones, and control within easy reach. Multiple units can work as one with distributed echo cancellation, noise cancellation, first-mic priority, and automatic gain and level control. The base unit connects to a standard RJ-11 wall terminal and power outlet, and a Cat-5 cable is run to the Link In terminal on the telephone unit, which houses the dial pad, volume controls, and mute button along with an LCD display for menu setup and features navigation. Each unit has three microphones for 360-degree pickup.
The KX-TS730 conference recording speakerphone system from Panasonic connects to a standard PSTN line through an adapter for full-duplex calling, and it has a microphone on each of its four corners for omnidirectional pickup in rooms measuring up to 360 square feet. Features include automatic microphone selection and a digital echo canceler for good pickup at distances up to 10ft. The backlit LCD display works with three function keys for 120 minutes of recording and playback, menu navigation, and the phonebook. The controls include pulse- and tone-dialing selection, mute, four ringer levels, a flash button for special service features, chain dial for calling while conferencing, and display-flash time adjustment. There is a 16-step digital volume control, 3.5mm audio-out jack for an external recording device, 50-number call waiting/caller ID memory, 10-number history redial, green and red line-status indicator LEDs, and six selectable ringer patterns. Message function includes new and all-message playback with skip and repeat. The KX-TS730 can be purchased for less than $350.
Fully Bluetooth-compatible with mobile phones and PCs, the Conference from Parrot provides full-duplex conversation and echo cancellation. Centered on the unit is an attractive 160×128-pixel TFT screen with 262,144 colors that displays phonebooks, contact numbers, and their identifiers. The user interface includes a 12-button keypad with on/off, call reject, menu navigation, public and private phonebook management with up to 6,000 contacts, volume control, speed dialing, and a soft-touch control knob. The unit features an integrated Skype interface, three micro-phones for 360-degree pickup to a distance of up to 10ft., and a 5W hi-fi loudspeaker. Three high-capacity NiMH batteries provide power for up to 10 hours with a 4-hour recharge time. The phone can operate in normal, standby, or power-save mode.
Phoenix Audio markets the Quattro tabletop conference phone with VoIP, PSTN, SIP, and connectivity for video codecs and Bluetooth. The small unit has four loudspeakers; digital processing, including five echo cancellers; beam-forming microphone algorithms; voice-activity detectors; dereverb; and automatic gain control. The Quattro adjusts the combination of microphones to favor the direction of the person speaking and minimize background noise. On networks that can accept it, the unit can provide frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz. For VoIP application, the unit connects directly to a computer through a USB port, and it provides an audio sampling rate up to 44kHz. It can also connect to a one- or two-line PSTN terminal with the internal PSTN interface module and link up a conference between the computer, the conference-room unit, and the PSTN line. For larger conference rooms, multiple Quattro units can be daisy-chained to cover the wider area. The various connectivity options can be ordered and installed internally for a more convenient and compact appearance. When the unit is connected to a PC, the downloadable audio-setup utility will automatically adjust the audio volume to preset levels — which can be adjusted by clicking and dragging the displayed screen icons. With the USB interface only, the Quattro can be bought for less than $500.
The Polycom SoundStation VTX 1000 uses full-duplex connectivity on a PSTN or analog PBX, and it allows clear pickup of voices up to 20ft. away. When there is a VTX 1000 on each end of the line, the units automatically connect in VTX Wideband mode to provide a frequency response from 80Hz to 7kHz. Software upgrades can be downloaded right into the phone on an ordinary PSTN line along with selectable, downloadable ring tones. Automatic mic selection uses only one microphone at a time, and they work with the dynamic noise-reduction feature to automatically adapt to the particular room acoustics. A subwoofer can provide bass response down to 80Hz, and the two included extension microphones can provide even greater coverage for larger rooms. Treble and bass controls can add or subtract within a 6dB range. The RCA audio input jack can be soft-key programmed to work with a Polycom wireless microphone, an external audio source, or switch off. The RCA output jack can be programmed to function for subwoofer, PA connection, record-out, or off. With some shopping, the VTX 1000 system can be purchased for less than $900.
The 25001RE2 conference phone from RCA features three micro-phones for 360-degree pickup in full-duplex conversation; a backlit LCD display with adjustable contrast and a 100-name directory; seven-level volume control; three-level ringer control; a data port for parallel operation of a phone, fax, modem, or answerer; and one-touch redial. Features also offered are a mute button, a call timer, and all-station page. Prices for the unit start from as little as $167.
The Spracht CP 2012 conference phone has full-duplex communication capability to provide natural-sounding conversation without clipping speech, PBX compatibility, 360-degree pickup coverage from four internal microphones, and expandability to include two additional microphones for larger groups or irregularly shaped conference areas. With the optional Voice Center DT-104 digital adapter, the CP 2012 can connect to multi-line phones and a digital PBX system. The unit also includes an RCA output jack for recording conferences. On the AT-103 analog interface, the power and analog phone connection are supplied through an RJ-45 connection and cable to the unit, and the analog and digital interfaces may be either tabletop or wall-mounted. On the phone, pulse or tone dialing is selectable, and a standard analog handset may be connected to the unit for private conversations. Calls may be easily transferred between the conferencing system and the handset. In addition to the standard 12-button keypad, the CP 2012 includes an on/off button; a flash button for accessing special telephone-company services including three-way calling, redial, and volume controls; and a mute key that turns off all microphones. The CP 2012 retails for $250.
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