MXL AC-406 USB Web Conferencing speakerphone review
September 2012 - As a result of the rise of video conferencing and VOIP based communication, we decided to review several easy to use USB microphones targeted at this market. The reference unit we tested first was from MXL and was the AC-406. This table use microphone is actually a speaker phone that has a 180degree microphone pickup and a built in speaker to playback the conversation that is coming in. The table top speakerphone is the alternative to the use of a single person headset with boom microphone so there can be multiple people in the location involved with the call.
Pro - easy to setup up under windows, clear playback, clear sound capture, so additional software required, good sensitivity, works for speech-to-text
Con - room placement and edge sound pick up requires some adjusting, very sensitive
Overall - Solid product for the price point. Good entry level product for small to mid-sized rooms, does well up to 4 people in the room, supports headphones for private calls.
The speakerphone comes in a simple box that includes a free copy of Oovoo video conferencing software. The USB device requires no drivers and is auto-recognized by both Win XP and Win 7 as a USB AV device with built in codec. The device comes with a long Usb cable that will work with an extension cable (up to 15' in length) to allow for placement of the conferencing computer to be away from the people and the microphone pickup, if needed based on the room.
The microphone from recording specialist MXL, is actually a combination of 3 mics that provide a full 180 degree coverage without picking up sound bleed from the built in speaker. The sensitivity with Win 7 gets configured at the maximum level, and must be adjusted down to about 40-45% point to get good clear coverage on the speakers without picking noises such as chairs, pens and keyboards. With Win XP, the configuration of the USB 1 & 2 connected device comes in a the midpoint so it does not require adjustment, but will generally work best if turned down a bit.
The sound quality from the speaker is clear. There is no additional latency when testing with Skype or Google+ for voice or video when hearing through the speaker. The speaker worked well in the small room, and was a bit on the weak or had a slight echo in the room when used in the large conference room. The product should work well for rooms up to 6-8 people.
The microphone does a good job of damping vibration from the table from being picked up with the cushioning on the bottom of the unit. With multiple people in the room, the microphone did a good job of adjusting to the various voice levels and locations. There was some cloudiness reported at the receiving end on voices that are near the 0-10o and 170-180o points on the microphone pickup, but this was clarified by slightly louder speaking or same volume and moving 3-6" closer to the microphone.
Overall, the product worked as a good small office speaker phone for VOIP applications. It can double in those cases as a entry mike for speech to text use. The clarity of the microphone was good enough to not require retraining of the software to recognize the voice that was setup with a headset and boom mic. The speaker worked well for its size in a typical office size space. For private use, there is a headphone jack and mute button on the device.
The unit was tested with dual and quad core Intel processors using Win XP SP3 and Win 7. The devices were tested in standard USB2 connections with and without a generic un-branded 15' USB extension cable. Programs that were tested were Skype, Google+, standard Google voice search and Dragon Speak 10 Professional by Nuance. The environment was a standard 10x12 office with window and single door and a larger 10 person conference room with center table an 1 glass wall.