What is a USB Speakerphone?

G. Wiesen

A universal serial bus (USB) speakerphone is a device designed to be used as a speakerphone for a computer. Speakerphones are phones made to sit on a table, desk or elsewhere and capture sound from a distance while also projecting the voice of the other talker from a speaker that enables the user to hear from a distance as well. A USB speakerphone is typically intended for use with a computer so that a computer user can talk through voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) with someone else without having to use a headset or handheld device. USB speakerphones allow hands-free audio communications over the Internet through either free or paid services.

A USB cable connects a USB speakerphone to a computer.
A USB cable connects a USB speakerphone to a computer.

USB refers to the type of plug required to connect a USB speakerphone to a computer or other device. While originally intended primarily for personal computer (PC) use, USB connectors have become industry standard for many devices such as wireless phones and video game consoles. Created by a multitude of technological leaders, USB has become such an integrated aspect of PCs and other devices that most computers now have six or more USB ports. These allow devices such as USB speakerphones to be easily and reliably connected to a wide range of PCs. Most computer users will find it easy to install and use a USB speakerphone.

Some manufacturers now offer speakers that rely on USB 3.0 technology.
Some manufacturers now offer speakers that rely on USB 3.0 technology.

VoIP is a general term for technologies that allow transmission of audio over Internet protocol (IP) networks such as the Internet. With the proliferation of broadband and high-speed Internet in more and more homes, the use of such technology became a more common occurrence in the first decade of the 21st century. Some businesses provide free VoIP services that allow users to call each other and talk over what is traditionally long distance for phone services. Traditional phone handsets typically do not plug into computers for use over VoIP networks, so users often use headsets with earpiece speakers and a microphone on the front to communicate.

A USB speakerphone allows a user to talk over VoIP and keep his or her hands free to use the computer or perform other tasks. Some businesses have also switched to using VoIP services; having a USB speakerphone in a boardroom allows for greater efficiency during conference calls or telecommuting. While some speakerphones suffer from poor sound quality or echoes heard coming from or captured by the speaker, many manufacturers look for ways to avoid such audio interference. Anyone looking to purchase such a device should consider those issues.

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