Last month we reviewed Zoom, a free conferencing service you can use on your computer, smartphone or tablet. To videoconference with Zoom, you can use the built-in camera on your device or, like us, buy a high-definition webcam if you want to display your ugly mug in HD. But no matter how you conference, you’ll experience the same problem: the built-in microphones and speakers on your devices are usually not that great, especially if you have several people speaking on your end." data-share-imageurl="" style="position:fixed;top:0px;left:0px;">
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Test Drive

Videoconference Speakers: Which Ones Are Your Best Investment?

Last month we reviewed Zoom, a free conferencing service you can use on your computer, smartphone or tablet. To videoconference with Zoom, you can use the built-in camera on your device or, like us, buy a high-definition webcam if you want to display your ugly mug in HD. But no matter how you conference, you’ll experience the same problem: the built-in microphones and speakers on your devices are usually not that great, especially if you have several people speaking on your end.

For a high-end conferencing experience, you need a better microphone and speaker that works with Zoom or other services like Skype, GoToMeeting, etc. The eMeet OfficeCore M1 ($180 on Amazon) and the Bose SoundLink Micro ($99 on Amazon) are two good options for improving your audio experience for what we will collectively call “e-conferences.” Both have advantages and disadvantages.

THE eMEET OFFICECORE M1 CONFERENCE SPEAKER

The eMeet OfficeCore M1 is specifically designed for e-conferences. Its multiple microphone array will pick up sound from any direction. Any person sitting within 6 feet of the microphone will be heard clearly during the conference, making it perfect for meetings of 10 people or fewer. The blue light around the edge of the device lights up in the direction of the person who is speaking, so it’s easy to follow the conversation. There is no echo for the person on the receiving end of the e-conference, as is the case with most conference speakers (including the Bose SoundLink Micro).

The OfficeCore M1 can be connected via Bluetooth, but our best results came when we tethered it with a micro USB cable. It was very easy to set up, and it has amazing battery life (about 12 hours). It can also charge your devices via a USB connection. That feature comes in very handy when you are using a smartphone or tablet. It is compatible with every device we have — which is just about everything on the market today.

It also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker to play music or audio from your phone or tablet. But playback on the OfficeCore M1 is clearly inferior to most Bluetooth speakers.

Its compact design — about the size of a hockey puck — makes it an excellent travel companion when you anticipate joining conference calls from the road. It even comes with its own carrying case. When used for its intended purpose (e-conferences), the OfficeCore M1 provides a great experience, but it does come with a hefty price tag.

For a high-end conferencing experience, you need a better microphone and speaker that works with Zoom or other services like Skype, GoToMeeting, etc.

THE BOSE SOUNDLINK MICRO

As our readers know, we love Bluetooth speakers. I am certain we own more than 20 between us. So when the SoundLink Micro went on sale for $99, we both ordered one immediately. We were not disappointed.

The quality of the sound when playing music is incredible for its size. We could not believe the bass response and the loudness and clarity, even outdoors. Speaking of the outdoors, this rugged speaker is waterproof and resists scratches and nicks. It has a neat strap that allows you to clip it to most anything, including a briefcase or a backpack.

We liked it so much, we decided to see if it could compare to the OfficeCore M1. As a speakerphone device, though, the SoundLink is clearly inferior. The recipient of the e-conference will hear a slight echo in the speaker’s voice, and the microphone is not nearly as sensitive as the OfficeCore M1’s array, so you have to be much closer to the SoundLink to be heard. In addition, the SoundLink’s battery only lasts about six hours — but isn’t that long enough for any e-conference?

As a playback speaker, it blows the OfficeCore away as we expected. And, for most small e-conferences, the SoundLink is more than adequate for the job. So if you are traveling and want a good speaker to kick out the jams in your hotel room or on the beach, the SoundLink is a perfect traveling companion.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Both devices work great for their intended purpose and reasonably well for their add-on features. When combined with a good camera and a service like Zoom, the OfficeCore M1 offers a videoconferencing solution that would have cost thousands of dollars a few years ago. Meanwhile, the SoundLink Micro is a great addition to the Bill and Phil Bluetooth collection because of its size, durability and audio quality. No surprises here — just good products.

About the Authors

William Ramsey, Partner at Neal & Harwell, and Phil Hampton, Consulting President of LogicForce, are best known for The Bill and Phil Show.

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