Tuesday, June 25, 2024
How-tos

A Great Speakerphone, but Do You Need It?


Rating:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Does not work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 – Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 – Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 – Best-in-class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price: $249

Audeze Filter sitting on a desk
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

If you’re taking the occasional call, a Bluetooth headset works fine, but it can be uncomfortable if you spend a large portion of your day on calls or in videoconferencing chats. This is precisely the problem that the Audeze Filter Bluetooth conference speakerphone aims to solve.

If you’re familiar with the Audeze brand, this device may come as a surprise since the company is mainly known for its planar magnetic headphones. The Filter actually uses a planar magnetic speaker, but the focus here isn’t on music at all. Instead, this device uses carefully chosen parts and AI-powered noise cancellation to make voices clear and easy to understand on both ends.

Is a business-grade speakerphone device from a company loved by audiophiles a good idea? It’s certainly well-built, and it sounds great, but it seems aimed at a decidedly narrow market.

Here’s What We Like

  • Sleek, professional aluminum construction
  • Leather case adds to the premium feel
  • Voices sound great
  • AI noise suppression works well
  • Multi-angle beamforming microphone is useful
  • Works well for podcasts and audiobooks

And What We Don’t

  • Aimed at a niche market
  • Focus on voice means it doesn’t work for music
  • No 3.5mm input or output

How-To Geek’s expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Premium Look and Feel

Audeze Filter peeking out of its case
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Dimensions: 0.43 x 2.99 x 5.98in (11 x 76 x 152mm)
  • Weight: 9.87oz (280g)

Audeze certainly didn’t skimp on the presentation of the Filter. The review unit arrived nestled in a sleek-looking black box. Inside, the speakerphone unit was tucked into a sturdy black leather case, which features a magnetic flap to keep the device well-covered.

The size of the Filter was eerily close to that of my iPhone 13 Pro Max, so much so that it felt like it was meant as a companion. With phones trending toward the larger size, it’s a nice touch to see the Filter sized so similarly.

The build of the unit felt solid, especially the hinge that allows you to position the speaker toward you with the speakerphone sitting on a desk. The hinge feels completely solid, and I’d be surprised if it started to feel looser or weaker within a few years.

The built-in USB-C port is covered out of the box, which helps protect against water, but considering the speaker is partially exposed to the elements, this doesn’t offer much protection.

All the Connectivity You Need

Person holding the Audeze Filter case
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Codecs: SBC, AAC, and aptX Classic
  • Bluetooth profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, BLE

The Audeze Filter is meant to be used either with a phone for calls, or with a computer for audio and video calls. You can connect either wirelessly via Bluetooth or wired via USB-C.

Looking at wireless first, the Audeze Filter features Bluetooth 5.0 and a surprising number of codecs. While even pricy Bluetooth headphones sometimes offer just the standard SBC codec, the Filter also supports AAC and aptX Classic.

While most will likely stick with Bluetooth, the USB-C functionality is especially useful if you’re using the Filter for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other similar apps.

Controls: Surprisingly In-Depth

Audeze Filter sitting on top of its case
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek

There is only one physical button on the Audeze Filter: the power button on the side of the device. The other six controls on the face are capacitive touch buttons. On earbuds and headphones, these can be annoyingly easy to touch accidentally, but they work well on a device meant to sit on a desk.

With just six buttons, you can control most of the functions of the device. You get volume up and down buttons and a handy mute button, as well as a multifunction button marked with the Audeze logo to answer and end calls. The two other controls adjust the noise cancellation and the pickup angle of the microphone.

For fine-tuning the options, you’ll want to use the Audeze Hub app. This is available for iPhone and Android. It’s also available for both Windows and Mac, which is handy if you’re using the Filter more for video chat.

The app lets you choose how strong the AI noise suppression is, as well as how wide or narrow the pickup angle is. You can also test the microphone to see how your voice sounds, boost the speakerphone volume, and adjust the volume of voice prompts.

Voices Sound Great, but Music? Not So Much

Audeze Filter angled on a desk
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Driver: Ultra-thin planar magnetic with Uniforce voice coil
  • Driver size: 2.75 x 4.13in (70 x 105mm)
  • Speaker frequency response: 300Hz to 20kHz

Audeze makes it clear on the product page for the Filter that this is a speakerphone device, not a Bluetooth speaker. That’s true, but since it connects to your device through Bluetooth exactly as a speaker would, it’s hard to resist the temptation to play music on it.

Used as a speaker, the Audeze Filter works quite nicely for audiobooks and podcasts. This is not a device you want to use for music, however, as the bass is rolled off from 300Hz down, meaning you’ll be missing a significant amount of bass content.

With that said, that same low-end roll-off means lower-pitched voices don’t have the same booming quality they can on Bluetooth speakers. Voices from across the spectrum sound great on the Audeze Filter, as they should. Volume goes quite high as well, thanks to the planar magnetic drivers and Uniforce voice coil.

Impressive Microphone and Noise Cancellation

Audeze Filter in use
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Microphone: Dual microphone with beam-forming technology
  • Microphone range: 10ft (3.05m)
  • Noise reduction: AI-Based Intelligent Zero-Noise

Making incoming voices sound good is only one-half of the equation when it comes to speakerphones. You want to make sure people on the other end can hear you clearly as well.

To that end, the Filter has a beamforming microphone with A.I.-powered noise-canceling to make sure that background noise on your end doesn’t make it through. I didn’t have a crowded office to test the Filter in, so a loud TV in the background had to suffice, but the noise cancellation seems quite effective.

Of course, especially with business calls, you’re not always the only person on your side of the call. This is where the adjustable angle comes from. Instead of choosing a standard pickup angle like cardioid or supercardioid, you can choose from various angles. This ranges from a narrow 30 degrees all the way up to wide 180 degrees.

With the angle set low, the Filter will only pick up voices from directly in front of it. This is handy if you’re making a call from a busy office or a crowded café. On the other hand, if you’re with two other people, all on a speakerphone call, a wider angle, like 90 or 180 degrees, ensures the other voices are picked up as well as yours.

Audeze Filter Microphone Sample: Close


Audeze Filter Microphone Sample: Far

Audeze Filter Microphone Sample: With Background Noise

Plenty of Battery Life

The USB port on the Audeze Filter
Kris Wouk / How-To Geek
  • Battery capacity: 1050mAH Lithium-polymer
  • Battery life: Up to 15 hours @ 80dB (at 50cm)

Audeze claims the Filter offers up to 15 hours of battery life on a single charge. That’s more than enough for even the longest day of calls. Battery life always depends on the volume you’re listening at, plus other factors such as whether you’re using noise cancellation.

Interestingly enough, Audeze provides a volume for its battery life figure: 80 decibels at 50cm, or roughly 3ft. A standard conversation is typically around 60 decibels, so that’s a pretty good figure for realistic use.

I don’t personally need to make that many phone calls or spend that much time in video chat, so I wasn’t able to test battery life this way. In testing by playing an audiobook and making the occasional calls, I got over 16 hours.

The Best Desktop Conference Speakerphones of 2023



Logitech Logi Dock All in One Docking Station - Graphite

Logitech Logi Dock All in One Docking Station – Graphite


Poly Sync 20+ Personal Portable Bluetooth Smart Speakerphone (Plantronics) - USB-A UC Bluetooth Adapter

Poly Sync 20+ Personal Portable Bluetooth Smart Speakerphone (Plantronics) – USB-A UC Bluetooth Adapter


AnkerWork SR500 Conference Speaker and Microphone with Deep Learning, 8 Mics, 48 kHz, Connect 5 Speakerphones in Daisy Chain, AI Noise Cancellation, Premium Pickup in Conference Rooms Up to 45 PeopleAnkerWork SR500

AnkerWork SR500 Conference Speaker and Microphone with Deep Learning, 8 Mics, 48 kHz, Connect 5 Speakerphones in Daisy Chain, AI Noise Cancellation, Premium Pickup in Conference Rooms Up to 45 PeopleAnkerWork SR500


StarTech.com USB-C Conference Speaker Mini Dock, Portable Boardroom Speaker and Multiport Adapter, USB-C to VGA/4K HDMI, 2X USB-A Hub, Mic/Speaker, Teams/Zoom/Softphone Speakerphone (DKTBRSPMPD)

Best for Using With a Laptop

StarTech.com USB-C Conference Speaker Mini Dock, Portable Boardroom Speaker and Multiport Adapter, USB-C to VGA/4K HDMI, 2X USB-A Hub, Mic/Speaker, Teams/Zoom/Softphone Speakerphone (DKTBRSPMPD)

Should You Buy the Audeze Filter Speakerphone?

The Audeze Filter speakerphone isn’t the type of product you’d expect from the company, but it has the design and careful attention to detail that makes Audeze’s headphones and earbuds so well-loved. I was so drawn in by the elegant design and functionality that I found myself wishing I had more of a reason to use it.

That’s the main point against the Audeze Filter: it’s not a product that many of us need. Even with remote work more popular than ever, not everyone spends a large portion of their day making calls or in chats with members of their teams. It’s hard to justify paying the asking price if you only make a few calls a week.

On the other hand, if you spend all day talking to others, whether on phone calls or via Zoom, the Audeze Filter is a fantastic alternative to a headset. If you’d like to see more remote work audio solutions for comparison, check out our picks for the best desktop conference speakers.

Rating: 8/10
?

  • 1 – Does not work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 – Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 – Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 – Best-in-class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price: $249

Here’s What We Like

  • Sleek, professional aluminum construction
  • Leather case adds to the premium feel
  • Voices sound great
  • AI noise suppression works well
  • Multi-angle beamforming microphone is useful
  • Works well for podcasts and audiobooks

And What We Don’t

  • Aimed at a niche market
  • Focus on voice means it doesn’t work for music
  • No 3.5mm input or output





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