One thing the pandemic has taught us this past year is how tiring it can be communicating with people via phone or webchat. Although the brain is a powerful organ, when it has to cope with multiple voices on one screen, without any directional information to indicate the sound source, it has to work much harder. Likewise, phone calls with less-than-perfect line quality put a huge strain on the brain. Perhaps now we can begin to appreciate just how tough a job working at a call center can be.
A lot of research is now going into making phone and web chats easier because communicating at a distance will always require more brainpower than a face-to-face encounter. Web chat software companies are already working on spatial audio solutions while companies like Jabra and EPOS have been leading the way in making headsets and speakerphones that make phone calls less arduous.
This week I’ve been reviewing the Jabra Speak 750 speakerphone to see what it can offer home workers who have to spend a lot of time on the phone talking with colleagues or customers. Holding a cell phone to your ear all day isn’t very pleasant and while it can always be switched to speaker, many cell phones aren’.t powerful enough to give sufficient volume and clarity. Muffled calls make the brain work harder and that means stressed workers who get tired before the working day is through.
The Jabra Speak 750 is a lovely piece of Danish design that looks a little like a flying saucer. The center is a raised speaker grille that radiates sound far more efficiently than the tiny speaker on a cell phone ever could. Encircling the speaker grille is a touch strip that’s studded with LEDs showing the areas to touch to pick up a call, end a call, mute the microphone and adjust volume levels. There are also touch controls for Bluetooth pairing, Microsoft Teams and even a symbol to show remaining battery life.
The built-in lithium-ion battery inside the Jabra Speak 750 offers up to 11 hours of talk time on a single charge which is a lot of phone calls. It has enough stamina to make it through a full working day and because it’s portable and comes with a zippered travel case, it can slip into a workbag and be taken along on business trips.
Connecting the Jabra Speak 750 to a computer or smartphone can be done in one of three ways. There’s an integrated USB-A cable that can plug into a laptop or desktop computer. The Jabra Speak 750 appears as a sound device for input and output. The second method is by using the supplied Bluetooth USB dongle which lives in a slot under the speakerphone.
Although most computers have Bluetooth capability, some of them have basic Bluetooth just for connecting keyboards and mice. Some computers don’t have the Bluetooth profiles necessary for high-quality audio. The Jabra Bluetooth USB dongle gets around this limitation by posing as an audio device and provides high-quality audio on calls.
Finally, for connecting the Jabra Speak 750 to a smartphone, there’s a Bluetooth module built-in for pairing to a smartphone just as you would any other Bluetooth headset. All the Bluetooth profiles are built-in so everything can be controlled from the speakerphone or computer.
The Jabra Speak 750 has an integrated stand that enables it to be stood up on a desk pointing forwards. This is useful for meetings so that everyone can hear a little more easily. The volume levels on the speakerphone are surprisingly loud and Jabra claims there’s enough oomph in the Speak 750 to work in meetings of up to six people. The omnidirectional microphones built into the Jabra Speak 750 offer a 360° pick-up range so that everyone gets heard properly.
One problem when making calls using a speakerphone is the issue of duplexing. Not all speakers offer continuous two-way transmission. It’s a bit like the old days of mobile radio where the speaker had to push to talk and then say “over” to indicate they had finished their speech. With full duplexing, the conversation remains two-way and so people can even talk over each other, although that’s a bit rude and doesn’t help, especially in heated conversations. Thankfully, the Jabra Speak 750 has a full duplexing capability for more natural calls where nuance matters such as hearing the other person on the line sighing. We need these audible cues.
The Jabra Speak 750 also has something called AEC (acoustic echo cancellation) for taming the sound in rooms that maybe have an echo or reverb quality. It also ensures the caller at the other end of the line doesn’t hear their voice coming back at them. Add in noise-canceling to the mix and this little speakerphone does make phone calls clearer and more intelligible. My hearing is relatively good, but I do struggle when making calls on a smartphone. Whether it’s the low power of the speaker or the lack of sidetone, I find phone calls difficult. Speakerphones help a lot and I’ve reviewed quite a few before, including the excellent EPOS SP30T.
Finally, the Jabra Speak 750 is fully certified for Microsoft Teams with a dedicated stars indicator that lets the speakerphone work with the software and will change color to show when a message is waiting etc. Also, the Jabra Speak 750 will work with all the other major web chat and comms software, including softphones, so that users need never pick up their smartphone or put on a headset again. It’s certainly an ideal tool for those people who hate wearing headphones on a video call.
Verdict: The Jabra Speak 750 is a superb speakerphone that looks as good as it sounds. I’d say it’s easily on a par with the superb EPOS SP30T and the styling is very attractive. The shiny plastic control strip looks positively space age and the back illumination of all the controls makes it easy to use the Jabra Speak 750 even in rooms with subdued lighting. The quality of the microphones is excellent. The speaker has plenty of power to fill a meeting room. The connection methods give a choice of three ways to take calls and it’s even possible to have two devices paired at the same time so the computer can be connected and a smartphone so there’s no need to switch between calls and video chats. Highly recommended.
Pricing: £306 / $329 / €356
More info: www.jabra.co.uk
- Full duplex audio: Yes
- Acoustic echo cancellation (AEC): Yes
- Microphone type: Omni-directional (360° pick-up range)
- Signal to noise ratio (SNR): +70 dB
- Connectivity: USB 2.0 & Bluetooth – USB cord ~90 cm
- Bluetooth standard: Bluetooth4.2 – Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE)
- Wireless range: Up to 30 m (between speakerphone and Bluetooth adapter) and up to 10 m (between speakerphone and smartphone/tablet)
- Supported Bluetooth profiles: Headset profile v1.2, hands-free profile v1.6, A2DP v1.2, AVRCP v1.5
- Talk-time: Up to 11 hours
- PC USB Bluetooth dongle (Jabra Link 370): USB BT audio device/HID dongle. Bluetooth 4.2 – Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE)
- Charging power and time: USB 5V / 500 mA – charging time 3h
- Speakerphone weight: 301 g/10.62 oz.
- Certifications: Speak 750 for Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Teams Rooms, Skype for Business, Speak 750 for Unified Communications: Certified for all Unified Communications-leading platforms e.g. Cisco, Avaya and more.