Posted on 1-Aug-2008 18:55 by S Biddle| Filed under: Reviews
Polycom is a name synonymous with audio and video conferencing solutions and it’s a fairly safe bet that if you look in the board room of any large company you stand a good chance of seeing one of their products.
Their analogue products had a great reputation for quality and as the move to IP based telephony continues it’s great to see Polycom aren’t being left behind!
The Polycom Soundstation 7000 is Polycom’s latest VoIP conference phone. It is a full duplex device that both looks nice and also performs extremely well.
The unit features a large backlit LCD screen and a generous sized keypad. The Soundstation 7000 has two connectors for additional microphones and also features a 2.5mm audio connector for connecting the unit directly to a mobile phone or PC. With an appropriate cable this allows the unit becomes a speakerphone for a mobile phone or allows you to connect directly to the soundcard of a PC and use the Soundstation with a PC based softphone client or sending audio from any other PC application. The unit has no power socket but instead is powered solely by the Ethernet port and is compliant with the 802.3af PoE standard. A PoE injector and AC power adapter are included with the product if you don’t have a suitable PoE switch.
Volume levels from the unit were great and there was no sign of any distortion, even at full volume. Claimed microphone range is approximately six metres and during my tests with several people in the room this was easily achieved. The speakers and microphones were very well shielded and were immune to GSM mobile phone interference (the familiar buzzing sound that you hear when you use a GSM phone next to a speaker or telephone), something that is particularly handy if you’re in a room with other people who don’t like turning their mobile phones off!
One of the key selling features of this phone is its support for the G.722 audio codec, a feature Polycom refer to as “HD Audio”. G.722 is a wideband codec that captures audio from 160hz right up to 22KHz at 16000 samples per second – twice that of the common G.711 codec. As well as G.722 support the unit also supports both G.711 ulaw and alaw, G.729, and the Siren 14 and 22 codecs used by many video conferencing solutions which allows this unit to be integrated into an existing setup.
The quality of a call using G.722 is simply fantastic, capturing the lows and highs of the human voice and it really does make you feel like you are in the same room as the person at the other end of the phone. The only limitation of this is that to experience G.722 you need to be calling another G.722 compatible device either connected to your own PBX system or by dialing a SIP URI of a remote party (assuming the remote party supports URI calling). Calls to regular landlines will end up being transcoded and the quality will only be the same as a regular phoneline.
If your VoIP provider supports G.722 then you may be able to call another user on the same service and experience the beauty of G.722 audio.
The unit can be configured either from the phone menu, web interface or automatically provisioned by a FTP, TFTP or HTTP(S) server.
I use trixbox at home for my PBX, and as Polycom are a trixbox certified partner configuring the Soundstation 7000 was as simple as creating a new extension in the web based GUI and associating the MAC address of the device with the new extension in the endpoint manager. This automatically creates a config file on the TFTP server ready for the phone to download and provision itself upon reboot.
If your DHCP server does not support setting the OPTION 66 TFTP server address, the only manual step required may be to manually configure the TFTP server address from within the phone’s configuration menu. Configuring the device from the phone menu and web interface was also very straight forward.
Like all Polycom products the phone has also been certified by many of the leading IP PBX manufacturers which assures interoperability with many of the leading IP PBX solutions in the marketplace.
No IP phone these days is complete without an XML browser and the Soundstation 7000 features a XHTML browser which is accessible from the phone’s Application menu. This means the capabilities of the device are only limited by your imagination (and programming skills!) and allows you to create a myriad of applications - whether it be a simple browser for viewing static or dynamic content or a script to perform a web or database lookup.
Overall it was hard to find any real faults with this phone. The audio quality was great, the backlit LCD was easy to read and the numerous configuration options make configuration a breeze.
- G.722 HD audio really does sound fantastic!
- XHTML browser offers a lot of potential
- Great backlit LCD display
- The price isn’t cheap – but does compare favourably with other conference phones.