Audio and video conferencing have increasingly become a normal part of business, with many business phone services now offering them as standard features, especially when in comes to cloud phone systems.
However, while many of these provide apps for desktop and mobile devices to be used in conferencing, this works best when only a small number of people are involved in an online meeting. For larger groups, often with many people in a room, it's just not practical to have everyone set apart with their own device, and better if those present can discuss in a group.
This is where audio conferencing equipment can really prove its worth, as mobile devices have weak microphones built to capture only immediate sound, which means if you have a group in a room you need to ensure that everyone can be heard.
Audio conferencing hardware does this by usually including multiple microphones with long-range sensitivity, yet are able to filter out background noises that you might expect in an office. The result is a generally clear audio stream that can be inclusive of everyone present, with no one missing out.
Here then are the best in audio conferencing phones and hardware for online meetings in 2020:
1. Yealink CP960 Optima HD IP Conference Phone
The best high-end conference phone
Microphones: 3 | Mic range: 20 foot, 360 degrees | Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Micro-USB | Other features: Android 5.1 operating system, 5-inch multi-touch screen
If you want the very best conference phone for hosting large-scale meetings with people around the world, then the Yealink CP960 Optima HD IP Conference Phone is easily the best conference phone you can buy right now. Its elegant design allows it to sit in any meeting room without standing out, and the five-inch 1280 x 720 touchscreen lets you quickly set up the call and add participants.
Audio quality is fantastic, and the mics can pick up everyone in the room – even in larger venues. However, it is very expensive, and smaller businesses might not need all the features that the Yealink CP960 Optima HD IP Conference Phone provides.
2. Jabra Speak 710 UC Conference Speakerphone
The best affordable conference phone
Microphones: 1 | Mic range: Omni directional | Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB | Other features: 15 hour battery, Microsoft Skype for Business certified, can be paired with a second unit for stereo sound and increased range
If you're looking for a device that's more affordable than the Yealink CP960 above, then the Jabra Speak 710 UC is our pick for the best affordable conference phone. It can be easily set up in a meeting room, and its omnidirectional microphone does a great job of picking up everyone in the room.
The built-in speaker provides excellent audio quality, and it can even be used to play music. As you might imagine, it is compatible with other Jabra headsets, though it's not a standalone unit, so it needs to be connected (either via a wire or Bluetooth) to a PC. For the price, though, this is an excellent choice.
3. Polycom Soundstation VTX 1000
The classic conference phone
Microphones: 3 | Mic range: 20 feet | Connectivity: Ethernet, external mic connections | Other features: LCD screen, 12-key keypad, caller ID
If you've ever been in a meeting room, you're likely to see a Polycom Soundstation sitting on a table or desk. These are excellent, no-nonsense, conference phones, and the Polycom Soundstation VTX 1000 is it's best product. It's easy to set up, with a LCD screen and number pad that lets you easily dial in or view incoming calls.
It looks a bit dated compared to conference phones with touchscreens built-in, but it does the job - and does it very well. If you're not bothered about modern mod-cons, you'll love the Polycom Soundstation VTX 1000.
4. Konftel 300IPx
A brilliant modern conference phone
Microphones: 1 (two additional microphones can be added) | Mic range: Omnidirectional | Connectivity: Ethernet, Mini USB, Bluetooth (for control only) | Other features: Konftel Unite app, NFC, recording to memory card
While the Polycom Soundstation VTX 1000 is an example of a classic old-school conference phone, the Konftel 300IPx is a brilliant example of a modern conference phone. It's key selling point is the Konftel Unite app, which allows participants to join and set up meetings easily using their smartphone.
Even better, the Konftel 300IPx has built-in NFC (Near Field Communication), which allows people to simply tap their compatible smartphone on the Konftel 300IPx to download the app. There's a lot of great features included with this conference phone, including the ability to record to a memory card, bridge calls and connect it to a PA system, easily making it one of the best conference phones you can buy today.
5. Konftel Ego
Another great affordable conference phone
Microphones: 1 | Mic range: Omnidirectional | Connectivity: Bluetooth, Micro USB | Other features: 12 hour battery, color LCD screen, portable
If the Konftel 300IPx above is too expensive, then the Konftel Ego is a great alternative. It has a built-in rechargeable battery, which makes it an excellent portable conference phone, and its omnidirectional microphone can handle meetings with around four people in a room.
It's not the most feature-packed conference phone on this list, but it does the job well, and is a decent choice if you're on a budget.
- Check out the best business smartphones here