Boost Your Conferencing Experience with a Personal Speakerphone
The $120 MXL uChat AC-406 speakerphone is great for audio conferencing and listening to music--and it works well with PCs and Macs.
By Paul Mah, CIO
The MXL uChat AC-406 by Marshall Electronics is a speaker that connects to your PC or Mac via USB for personal conferencing. The manufacturer says its MXL uChat is different than other comparable products because it incorporates a unique microphone design with 180-degree coverage for high-quality Internet conferencing. And the uChat AC-406’s speaker is also great for playing music.
The MXL uChat comes securely wrapped in bubble wrap and it ships with a generous, three-meter-long USB cable. The device is made of a durable plastic, and foam material covers its base to help reduce unwanted slippage or movement. The gadget also come with a user manual, a CD-ROM disc that contains the free ooVoo video chat software and a micro-fiber cleaning cloth.
The sole button on the MXL uChat makes it simple to mute the device without having to fiddle around with software controls, and a centrally-positioned LED indicator lets you know when the device is plugged in. A couple of 2.5mm input plugs for external headphones and microphones are located on the back panel. Marshall Electronics says the MXL uChat also works well with speech-to-text programs, but I didn’t test this claim because I typically have issues with voice-recognition software due to my Asian accent.
My Windows 7 laptop automatically detected the AC-406 and all relevant software drivers. I tested the MXL uChat during a Skype conversation, and the program recognized MXL uChat and asked if I wanted to make it the default microphone and speaker for future conversations. The speaker’s volume range impressed me more than anything else; it produces very loud sound.
The small speakerphone is mostly on par with your average external computer speakers, but it’s substantially louder than the built-in speakers found in most laptops. It captured and reproduced conversations very well, and voices came across loud and clear.
One downside: Though the volume of the microphone pickup was excellent when placed at arm’s length, it deteriorated quickly when moved further away. In other words, the device is only good for personal use, or use in very small groups of two to three people in close proximity. Also, the absence of a physical knob to adjust the volume directly from the front panel is unfortunate.
The $119.95 MXL uChat is rather pricey. But executives who hold regular conferences and who loathe wearing headsets will probably find it to be a worthwhile investment. I do not, however, recommend replacing your computer speakers with the MXL uChat.
Back view of the MXL uChat AC-406. Note the microphone and headphone jack on the back panel and the depressed mute button.
While not exactly bulky, the MXL uChat may have trouble fitting into slimmer laptop bags.
The MXL uChat has a certain sleek elegance in its simplistic design, as is evident from this shot.