Wideband clears phone ranges for teleconferences

Polycom's SoundStation VTX 1000, shown with a separate subwoofer, has microphones that pick up a wide range of voice frequencies.

The Polycom SoundStation VTX 1000 teleconferencing phone, due out later this year, is the third generation of the ubiquitous triangular conference room device from Polycom Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.

The new version more than doubles the voice frequency range that can be transmitted over analog lines, according to Polycom representatives. It also has a better microphone for voice pickup.

'I'm so in love with it,' said Darlene McKinnon, deputy director of the Small Business Administration's San Francisco district office, after three weeks of beta testing the new phone. 'I love the clarity.'

The VTX 1000 uses wideband in the traditional frequency sense, rather than in the data communications sense of moving bits across a connection.

Public switched telephone networks carry audio signals between about 300 hertz on the low end up to about 3.5 KHz. FM radio and television signals range from 30 hertz to 15 KHz, and an audio CD-ROM can deliver 20 hertz to 20 KHz. Polycom chief technology officer Jeff Rodman said many of the distinguishing consonants in human speech are above the 3.3-KHz range and thus not audible via conventional telephone.

The new SoundStation widens the audio range from about 80 hertz to 7 KHz.

Wideband voice up to 14 KHz has been used for about 10 years in videoconferencing systems that are not limited to analog phone lines, said Ned Semonite, Polycom vice president of product management.

The new SoundStation has its own transmission protocol with a modem that bypasses analog filters, which reduce voice frequencies. The modem also can download software upgrades for the device.

The microphone can pick up voices up to 20 feet away with filtering to eliminate background noise. Polycom bundles a separate subwoofer speaker, and the unit can accept other external speakers and sound sources.

The extra bandwidth is available only when VTX 1000s are present at both ends of a connection. But even with only one new set, sound quality is noticeably better, McKinnon said.

'I'm a pacer,' she said. When she paces around a 60-seat training room, 'People on the other end say, 'You are coming in so clear.''

SBA's San Francisco district covers the northern half of California from the Oregon border to Monterey. The wideband setup is installed at two district offices. McKinnon said SBA agreed to test the Polycom product as part of its effort to scout new technology for the businesses it serves.

'We take cutting-edge technology to small business to help them operate more efficiently,' she said. After cutbacks in travel and the economic downturn, 'it's becoming increasingly important to have this kind of technology. I can't wait until it hits the market for wider use.'

The SoundStation VTX 1000 will list for about $1,799 with a discount for a two-unit package.

Contact Polycom at 800-765-9266.

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