Q: What do you recommend for a portable speakerphone accessory? I have been looking at the Jabra 710, but I would like to know if you have any other recommendations.
A: In addition to the Jabra 710, I would consider the Anker PowerConf (anker.com). It has received much critical acclaim as of late, and after trying it, I can see why. It is an exceptional speakerphone accessory as well as a standout value.
As you might conclude from the name, PowerConf is a contraction of Power Conference, and it is designed to excel in a conference environment. It has six microphones in a 360-degree array as well as innovative sound processing to eliminate echoes and improve voice clarity at both ends of the line. Originally marketed to offices, it offers a lot of value to the individual user, as well. I have found it to be a great improvement over my MacBook Pro audio when making Zoom calls. If you are working remotely, it is definitely something you will appreciate.
The PowerConf works via Bluetooth or a USB connection and has a battery with 24 hours of run time. Normally $129, it currently is only $99, making it less than one-third the price of the $314 Jabra 710 despite delivering similarly outstanding performance.
Toeing the line
Q: My kids bought me a JBL Flip 5 speaker, and I love the sound. Music played through it sounds far better than the speakers attached to my desktop PC. Is it possible to connect it to my PC?
A: This is very easy to do with most portable speakers. They have an auxiliary input that accepts a "line level" signal, which is found in pretty much every electrical device. Blu-ray and DVD players, CD players and VCRs all send a line level signal from their red/white RCA audio outputs. Computers, cellphones and tablets send line level signals from their audio outputs or headphone connections.
If you have a turntable with a built-in phono preamp, you probably will see a switch with two settings, "phono" and "line." The phono setting delivers the unaltered signal from the phono cartridge, which must be used with a phono preamp or the phono input of a receiver or amplifier. The "line" setting runs the electrical signal from the cartridge through the internal phono preamp, creating a line level signal that can be used with almost anything, including a portable speaker.
The line level audio signal is universal. If you use an RCA-to-miniplug cable, you can connect the audio outputs of a VCR, CD player or camcorder to a portable speaker. You can use a miniplug-to-miniplug cable to connect a computer to a portable speaker. If your turntable has an internal preamp with a line setting, you can set it to "line" and connect the turntable to a portable speaker.
All that being said, your JBL speaker is the rare exception that doesn't have an auxiliary input. But you still can use it via Bluetooth. If your computer doesn't have Bluetooth, you can connect a $25 Bluetooth transmitter to your computer audio output, and it will create a wireless signal compatible with the Flip 5.
Send questions to Don Lindich at email@example.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.