Yamaha launches their PSG-01S Microphone Speaker for Skype to be sold via the In Store Solutions shop on the Skype Store.
During my recent European trip I had my first ever encounter, after several decades of traveling on Air Canada, with their baggage scales and new weight limits: 23 kg per checked luggage piece and 10 kg per carry-on item. As a result my wife and I had to reorganize our luggage at the airport to comply with these limits. Given that I would also be on RyanAir for a couple of trips while in Europe – with 15 kg checked baggage and 10 kg carry-on limits, it made me much more conscious of what I would be carrying in my laptop briefcase. Out went the spare battery (Air Canada has laptop power outlets at the seats); I was also reduced to carrying one book along with my laptop. If I want a printer while traveling I can simply fax a document to the hotel fax using PamFax. So when it comes to adding complementary devices for a laptop, such as a device to support audio, I look at not only the feature set but also the weight and “bulk”.
Prior to my trip on RyanAir to eComm Europe in Amsterdam I was given a Yamaha SoundGadget USB Microphone Speaker to determine where I could find user experiences that facilitated my business travel; in addition I arranged to have several units sent out to bloggers for their feedback over the past couple of weeks.
So why would one want this audio device in a market that has many speakerphone offerings?
It’s the combination of size and feature set. It’s not “just a speakerphone”. At about 200 grams in a very portable 12 cm x 4 cm x 5 cm package, the recently released Yamaha USB Microphone Speaker is a personal microphone/speakerphone combination that allows one to combine Skype calling, wideband audio recording and music or podcast listening into a compact, yet feature rich, device. Some of the other features on which feedback came:
- Sound quality: supporting a 300 Hz to 20KHz audio bandwidth for both local (voice and music) recording and listening, the sound quality in such a small size package was the first feature always commented on. While it’s definitely not the boom box that one would have at home, the consensus appears to be that, for its size, sound quality is excellent for voice calls and listening to music or podcasts in a hotel room or small office environment.
- Skype calling: With its Skype client that supports all three of Windows XP/Vista/7, one can use the buttons on the device to answer and end calls as well as manage the speakerphone volume. To date it appears to be the only Skype speakerphone that has the appropriate client for all three versions of Windows and, in particular, Windows 7. (And yes, while the Mac will recognize it as an audio device for Skype calls, a request has been made to Yamaha for a Mac client that would achieve full integration with Skype.)
- Note, for audio quality purposes, that the microphone supports Skype calling up to 7Khz – sufficient to take advantage of Skype’s wideband SILK codec feature; however, this limitation is removed for “local” voice or music recording.
- 360 degree “around-the-table” pickup: unique in a Microphone Speaker is its four microphone array on the top complemented by the internal echo cancellation and background noise reduction firmware. As a result several people can be positioned, say, around a small office table and all parties heard equally well instead of having everyone facing the device from one side.
- Tilt for (stereo) listening: while vertical it supports Skype calling and recording in mono mode; tilt it to a horizontal position and the two speakers go into a stereo mode for listening. Not much physical separation but then I see a lot of iPod devices out there where the two speakers are combined into one unit.
My experience: it came in very handy during my trip, for instance, my wife and I could participate in calls back home together while sitting across a table; in one case, it was beneficial where a person in the room only spoke Spanish but I had a translator as the called party. When horizontal, it came in handy in my lodging as a speaker for the iTunes media player on my laptop – much better audio quality than the embedded laptop speakers.
As a result, it appears to be the ideal complement to the laptop for road warriors and for use in a personal office. And it could be considered as a holiday gift for the laptop addict amongst your family members or colleagues.
However, as outlined in the full disclosure below, I am probably considered to be a bit biased, although I did a fair bit of research on speakerphones in coming up with this post. I will either add to the end of this post or, in a couple of weeks, put up a post pointing to blogger and Twitter feedback. Update: as I wrote this, the first blogger feedback has appeared from Jonathan Jensen on “The Really Mobile Project”.
But the real test comes if users have a chance to experience it and use it for themselves; perceived audio quality tends to be a very personal experience. So here’s the deal: Normally priced at US$219/£199/€199 – including delivery and VAT/Sales taxes, until December 31, 2009 pricing has been reduced to US$199.90/£179.90/€179.90 – including delivery and VAT/sales taxes. It’s available at any of the Skype Stores that Yamaha has shown on their website for this product. And where’s the value-add? Being able to take advantage of the inherent audio enhancement feature set while traveling, but not paying those €20 per kilogram overweight charges on RyanAir or €5 per kg on Lufthansa.
But you also need assurance that you will have a positive and satisfying personal experience with it. Should you buy the Yamaha SoundGadget USB Microphone Speaker during this promotional period and then decide – for any reason, “no questions asked” – that this device does not meet your expectations, simply return it to In Store Solutions, shipping prepaid, by January 31 and a full credit will be issued. The timing on this return policy is such that you can gift it to a family member, friend or business colleague during this holiday season and still give them enough time to decide if they like it.
Full disclosure: In Store Solutions has become a client of Denali InterConneXions, publisher of Voice On The Web, building on the author’s previous business development experience with establishing partnerships that can assist with the promotion of a primary vendor’s offerings. A more complete statement will follow shortly.
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