Peer Review-Clear One Chat 50
Price: $149 MSRP
MY PICK: The Clear One Chat 50 USB Plus personal speakerphone
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT IT: It's only slightly larger than a deck of cards and fits easily on the desk or in a laptop briefcase. There's no setup required for either PC or Macintosh computers, as no driver is required for basic operation.
I WOULD CHANGE: The Chat 50 does not impress when playing music, and it makes an iPod sound somewhat boxy. When playing iTunes via USB, only the left channel is audible; for true stereo you must use the analog input.
WHERE I USED IT: I installed the unit at Audmark's home office in Los Angeles for daily VoIP use with Skype software. The company had been using wired USB headphones to avoid echo and hoped that the Chat 50 would make these unnecessary.
MY RESULTS: This little box sounds great for VoIP — it has a full sound and the intelligibility is excellent. It sounds much better than the speakers built into most desk phones, and because it works in full-duplex mode, it doesn't cut off the sound of the other party when the caller speaks over him. The blue LED on the top confirms that the unit is on and working, and activating the microphone mute button turns the LED red so private side-conversations are not heard by the receiving party. Once you've set your computer to make the Chat 50 the default sound device, the two buttons on the top of the box will adjust the computer's output volume.
Clear One includes software for adjusting internal input and output levels and for disabling the Chat 50's echo canceling feature, and the software can store these settings in a database of devices for later recall. These settings don't change the sound of the box, but you'll want to turn off the echo cancellation to use it with an iPod. In that case you'll also need an AC adapter, since the Chat 50 takes its power from a computer's USB port.
Steve Cunningham is the Director of IT services at Audmark in Los Angeles. Audmark specializes in sales of print and online advertising. Sales associates are located on both coasts and in Europe, and daily business is conducted almost entirely online and via Skype VoIP software.