The EPOS EXPAND 80 – USB/BT Conference speaker/mic has exceeded all our expectations. It is scalable from a workgroup huddle to a 16-person conference room.
Whether you use unified communications (UC) or run it from a smartphone – it is an excellent addition to any small to large business that needs ultra-clear hands-free communications.
Where do you start with this? Perhaps that the EPOS EXPAND 80 USB/BT Conference speaker/mic is a product of a joint venture with Demant A/S and Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co. KG.
It sells to business professionals, UC users, and gamers – what a dichotomy. The EPOS AU website is here, and its pillars are performance, pioneering, crafted to last, and designed to excite. Its competitors include unified comms companies like Logitech, Jabra and Poly.
Where to start with the EPOS EXPAND 80 – USB/BT Conference speaker/mic
If in doubt start at the essential specifications
Six digital MEMS omnidirectional microphones for up to 16 pax. Clear voice frequency response of 150Hz-7.5kHz (for clear voice and excludes higher level noises). All mics give a 360° coverage.
One Neodymium ring magnet speaker for up to 85dB with low distortion (excellent)
If that is not obvious by now and you don’t know what UC means you don’t need to read on. There are hundreds of low-cost hands-free speaker/mics.
It is approx. $899, but you buy it from UC specialists so you may bag a bargain.
Connect it via BT (supports NFC for quick pairing) or USB, and it becomes a business-grade hands-free speaker/mic.
That is all you need to do.
From there you have buttons for volume up/down, mute, answer/reject call, swap/hold calls, BT and NFC pairing. There is also an audio playback button that appears to switch to A2DP. But a long hold summons the voice assistant of choice.
Boardroom – EXCEED
We place it in the middle of a 5 x 5m area, not dissimilar to a corporate boardroom size. Tests were on BT (using the built-in BT 5.0), and USB-C connected to a Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and a Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G.
I was seated in two test positions – 1m and 2.5m (at the edge of the room). I also walked around the room.
While mic sensitivity is subjective, the caller commented on the crystal-clear clarity of the beamforming mics. You can also add up to two more mic units to suit 24/32 people.
Maximum volume at 1m from the EPOS EXPAND 80 was 85dB and a very loud 75dB at 2.5m. Even at that level, there was no reverb or feedback – the speaker fires upwards, and the mics cover outwards.
Another test was to have three people speak at the same time. The caller said that the three conversations were quite distinct, and he understood all.
But the big test – a noisy environment – EXCEED
I took it to my local friendly café, where there are dozens of conversations ranging from whispers to shouts.
The aim was to see how effective the mic’s beamforming is. Again, this is subjective because we can only qualitatively measure results. The DSP (digital signal processor) did an amazing job of cutting ambient noise and focusing on those closest to the unit.
As a video conference hands-free – EXCEED
I suspect that I don’t need a $900 hands-free speaker/mic, but it sure makes a difference to the inbuilt mic on the Surface Pro 6.
I heard nuances in remote voices that I missed with a traditional speakerphone. But they could also hear me with no lag or reverb.
As a music device – EXCEED
It is a mono speaker and most of the time focuses on clear voice clipping at 7.5kHz.
Press the Audio button (or change to A2DP on the host device), and it opens up as an almost perfect, loud 80dB speaker.
You get strong hints of upper bass then it is flat to 10kHz where it dips to remove harshness and then back to flat almost to 20kHz. The sound signature is bright vocal (for clear dialogue), but it has just enough bass for jazz and blues too. In other words, it was pleasant to listen to, albeit a mono speaker.