A Portable Conference Speaker
Conferences have always been a part of office environments, and this continues to be true today regardless of whether the conference has people in one office talking to someone out in the field or to others in their car or at a home office. So when you have a group of people all together participating in a conference call, then you’re going to need a way for everyone there to be able to speak and listen clearly. And so that means some kind of device that operates as a speakerphone. But not just a simple speakerphone where you have a speaker and a microphone plugged into the phone line; it needs to have the kind of technology that will make for a lot of different opportunities because it's now done over the Internet and uses sophisticated software programs. What’s needed is a device that does the “basics” of letting everyone in the room — no matter their position in the room — to be able to respond and to be heard well. Such a device is Anker’s PowerConf S500 Portable Conference Speaker.
Speak and Listen
The S500 looks like a now-conventional oval shape, portable conference speaker (meaning it is lightweight enough to be carried from one location to another without causing any grief). Large enough though to contain a 1.75” sized speaker, with 4 microphones being employed (32HGz sampling rate) and working in tandem with algorithms and a full duplex so that both “sides” can listen/speak without concern of waiting.
The S500 is designed to function for up to 12 people conversing, but as we’ve a home office we simulated it with 3 people sitting around the kitchen table and changing their positions between “speaking engagements.” The S500 did exactly what it is supposed to do — which is to say homing in on the speaker and transmitting that audio to the other party we had on Zoom going through our laptop. We also had someone stand up and move a bit off and the S500 did, as it said it would, moderate their speaking to increase its volume so as to be about the same as those seated around it.
Audio quality was fine from what we were hearing from the other party and we were told later than they could hear us “all” just as well as if we had been seated in front of the laptop doing a one-on-one conference. We should also note that the internal rechargeable battery of the S500 had been topped off — the company says it will work for up to 16 hours and we had no issues with using it for 6+ hours at a clip, and we were using it with the Bluetooth dongle and not directly connected via USB. More about that now.
To Bluetooth Dongle or Not To
So what’s the story with it being Bluetooth-enabled — nobody is connecting it to their smartphone, right? It’s correct that it’s not connecting a phone — it’s connecting to a laptop/desktop computer so that software can be used with it for making the conference calls. It’s rated for compatibility with the leading conference software (such as Zoom Rooms and Google Meet), just so you should know. Now connecting it by a USB-C cable to the computer is doable (and is one way to charge it up for use), but using Bluetooth allows the S500 to be separated away from the computer — for example it can be placed in the middle of a table, should there be a gaggle of people seated in the room for the conference call. Distance for the Bluetooth-enabled separation is the conventional 30 feet or so, but as the S500 is designed for moderate to small rooms, the odds of having it to be really far apart from the computer are doubtful. So for that to happen, there’s a Bluetooth dongle that goes into the USB port of the computer, and obviously it’s provided with the S500 (with the pairing done in a conventional fashion similar to that of doing it with a smartphone).
The Anker PowerConf S500 Portable Conference Speaker is a compact accessory for making conference calls using Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc. and works at its best when the size of the room is moderate. It also performs best without issues when the Internet connection is of a reasonable speed, although having a fast connection is less of an issue since no video is involved. And its audio pickup and speaker are both of a high quality that is superior to that found in laptops, so that it makes sense even for those doing one-on-one audio calls to use it. For further details, including how you can wire two of them together to make for a 20 person gaggle, go to https://us.ankerwork.com/collections/speaker/products/a3305