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Friday, June 8, 2012

Which of these Bluetooth speakerphones sounds the best? (comparison)

Bluetooth speakerphones
(Credit: Antuan Goodwin/CNET)
Most phones sold these days have a speakerphone mode. This setting is usually good enough for an impromptu hands-free call in a quiet office. However, when you get on the road in a noisycar, the phone's flaws are made apparent. For example, the built-in microphone can be less than ideal for canceling the levels of road and wind noise present in a car at highway speed, which leads to poor quality on the receiving end of your calls. I'm sure that you dislike repeating yourself to callers as much as I do, so let's look at how to improve call quality.
Visor-mounted Bluetooth speakerphones feature more sophisticated microphones with noise and echo-cancelation technology located closer to your head, which can dramatically improve sound quality. How much of an improvement should you expect? I've recorded outbound calls from five speakerphones (and my test phone's internal microphone) to demonstrate.
All of the recordings below were made on the same day in our CNET test car--the 2007 Chevrolet Aveo, one of the noisiest cars that I've ever driven--while doing 55 mph over the same stretch of US-101 just North of San Francisco in an attempt to eliminate variations in engine noise, wind noise, road texture, and cabin acoustics.