In the April/May issue of the Nashville Bar Journal, we reviewed Zoom, a free videoconference and audioconference service you can use on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. With Zoom, you can use the built-in camera on your device or the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 if you want to display your ugly mug in HD. The problem is the built-in microphones and speakers on your devices are usually not that great, especially if you have several persons speaking on your end. For a high-end experience, you need a better microphone and speaker for your Zoom audio and videoconferences (or conferences using other services, such as Skype, GoToMeeting, etc.). The Soundlink Micro ($99 on Amazon) and the eMeet M1 ($180 on Amazon) are two good options for improving your audio experience for what we will collectively call “econferences.” Both have advantages and disadvantages.
eMeet OfficeCore M1 Conference Speaker
The eMeet OfficeCore is specifically designed for econferences (perfect for meetings with 10 people or less). By using a multiple microphone array, it will pick up sound from any direction. Any person sitting within six feet of the microphone will be heard clearly during the call or videoconference. The blue light around the edge of the device lights up in the direction of the speaker, making it is easy to follow the conversation.
The OfficeCore can be connected via Bluetooth, but our best results came when we tethered it via a micro USB cable. It was very easy to set up, and it has amazing battery life (about 12 hours). You can also use it to charge your devices via a USB connection, which comes in very handy when you are using a smartphone or a tablet. It is compatible with every device we have (which is about everything on the market today), and also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker to play music or audio when playing back from your phone or tablet. But, music playback on the OfficeCore M1 is clearly inferior to most Bluetooth speakers.
The compact design of the OfficeCore makes it an excellent travel “ecompanion” when you anticipate having to join conference calls from the road. It comes with its own carrying case, and is about the size of a hockey puck. (We hope that does not evoke bad memories for you Predators fans.)
There is no echo for the person on the receiving end of the econference, as is the case with most conference speakers (including the Bose Soundlink Micro). When used for its intended purpose—econferences—the OfficeCore provides a great experience, though it does come with a hefty price tag.
Bose SoundLink Micro
As all of our readers know, we love Bluetooth speakers. We are certain that we own more than 20 between the two of 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 back music is incredible for its size. We could not believe the bass response, the loudness, and the clarity—even outdoors. Robben Ford has never sounded better to us (and he always sounds great).
And speaking of outdoors, it is waterproof. It is very rugged 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, the SoundLink is clearly inferior. The recipient of the econference will hear a slight echo in the speaker’s voice and the microphone is not nearly as sensitive as the OfficeCore’s multiple speakers, requiring you to be be much closer to the Soundlink to be heard. In addition, the SoundLink’s battery lasts about six hours. (But, isn’t that long enough for any econference?)
As a playback speaker, though, it blows the OfficeCore away, as expected. And, for most small econferences, 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 is that both devices work great for their intended purposes and reasonably well for their “add on” features. The Office Core, combined with a good camera and Zoom can give you a videoconference solution that would have cost thousands of dollars in recent years. The Soundlink 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.
—Bill & Phil