ZDNet's Business Bargain Hunter scours the web for great deals on computers, phones, services and much more. Prices and availability are accurate at the time deals are shared. Some products and services may not be available outside the U.S. Follow BBH on Facebook and Twitter, where he's known as The Cheapskate. Plus: You'll find more Cheapskate deals on CNET.
Conference calls are a terrible but necessary part of business life. Necessary because sometimes group communication just requires live discussion, terrible because most speakerphones are the worst.
I'm talking about your average office phone or smartphone, which is what's often used when everyone's gathered around a conference table. The microphone points in only one direction, the speaker isn't loud enough or sounds tinny or distorted. It's just a mess.
So should you invest in a fancy conference-room speakerphone? If those calls are a big part of your office life and you're sick of crummy audio quality, most definitely. Thankfully, you don't have to spend as much as you might think.
For a limited time, you can get the new eMeet M2 Wireless Conference Speakerphone for $178.49 when you apply promo code CNETRICKM2 at checkout.
The M2 is barely largely than a compact disc and measures a little less than 1.5 inch thick. Thus, it's highly portable, easily able to slip into a travel bag.
I like the design, which strikes me as flying saucer-y. I also like the LED ring that indicates volume level (it's reminiscent of an Amazon Echo) and points in the direction of whoever's speaking. And speaking of the Echo, there's a button that lets you engage your phone's voice assistant (Google, Siri, etc.) for hands-free activities.
You can pair the M2 with your smartphone, of course, but it also has an input jack for connecting to the likes of a PC. (There's an output jack, too, should you want to connect an even larger speaker.)
I can't say I have a ton of experience with these things, but I can say I got the chance to test-drive the M2 and came away thoroughly impressed. The sound quality (from the speaker) was amazing -- vastly superior to what you hear through your smartphone or office phone.
During a test conversation, I casually mentioned that I was testing a speakerphone -- and the person at the other end was dumbfounded. "I'd never have known you weren't just talking into your phone," he said. So it sounds good at the other end, too.
Your mileage may vary, of course, as there are lots of variables than can affect call quality. Me, I'm forever spoiled; I can't go back to using my iPhone speakerphone for group calls. I can't; I won't!
That being said, the previous-gen eMeet M1 is currently on sale for $149.99 (when you apply a coupon that's on the Amazon product page). It's fairly similar (albeit with the look of a vinyl record) and has a battery with twice the capacity. Plus, it doubles as a power bank if your phone is low on juice.
I haven't tested that one myself, but the user reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Whichever model you choose, I think you'll be happy. You might not think voice quality matters when it comes to conference calls, but it does. A lot.