Bluetooth speakers are usually designed to listen to music, but you can also use them as hands-free speakers for calls when connected to your smartphone or computer. Interestingly, the wireless speaker I’m reviewing here works quite differently from the main options, in the sense that it doesn’t focus at all on the music listening experience. Beyerdynamic Phonum is a wireless speaker designed specifically for voice communications – whether it’s phone calls or Internet-based audio and video conferencing – and connects to a source device using either Bluetooth or a wired USB connection.
Approximate price Rs. 25,000 In India, Beyerdynamic Phonum is an expensive speakerphone, but specially designed to allow you to answer calls without taking your hands off the keyboard. It’s meant to be used for business calls, whether you’re at home or in the office, and works just as well with a smartphone or computer. Is this interesting wireless speaker worth the price? Find out in this review.
Design and specifications of Beyerdynamic Phonum
Most mainstream wireless speakers are designed for portability and weather resistance, so Beyerdynamic Phonum stands out for its subtle and sophisticated look. The round body has a flat base, grip, with a narrower section just above that you can use to wrap the cable. The grid is facing up, although the speaker is pulling down, and the touch controls are all around it. The physical power switch and USB Type-C charging port are on the back.
Some of the controls – volume, microphone on / off, Bluetooth, and microphone direction – are visible at all times, while the answer and answer indicators on the call and the microphone direction indicators only light when you receive a call and when you’re on the go. You can leave Beyerdynamic Phonum on standby and pick up calls with it as they come, or turn it on when you need it.
Using Beyerdynamic Phonum is fairly easy; pairs with a source device using Bluetooth and activates controls on the device when in use, depending on whether it’s on standby or active. You can also connect it to a computer using the included Type-A to Type-A USB cable, which establishes a wired connection between the two, and also charges the Phonum battery.
Beyerdynamic Phonum uses the company’s Gecko microphone technology, which has three voice tracking modes and can detect voices coming from any direction around the speaker. You can go through the modes when in use and choose the one that best suits your purpose. Fixed mode tracks a single speaker in a fixed location; Tracking mode directs tracking to the active speaker in a group; and 360 mode captures voices from all directions.
The speaker has a 2-inch driver, a 120-10,000 Hz frequency response, automatic echo and noise cancellation for the microphone and Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity. There is a 2,600 mAh battery in the Beyerdynamic Phonum, which has been running for about nine hours when playing audio continuously. When I used it as a speaker system, I managed to get a total of about 16-17 hours of battery life, switching between standby, answering phone calls, and occasionally playing music.
Beyerdynamic Phonum performance
Unlike most wireless speakers we’ve reviewed, Beyerdynamic Phonum focuses heavily on the voice call experience. Although I used this speaker for occasional music listening, I mostly plugged it into my iPhone and into standby during the work day, placing and receiving phone calls as needed. I’ve also used it with the MacBook Air for Zoom conference calls on a few occasions.
The Beyerdynamic Phonum chord is expected to be suitable for voice. The exit was clear and precise, and the voices were loud and distinct enough to be heard clearly up to 3 m away, in a quiet room. In addition, connectivity was stable as long as the phone remained within 3 m of the speakerphone.
I found the controls particularly easy to use; I could look at my smartphone to see who was calling and quickly tap the answer button on my Beyerdynamic Phonum to pick up without interrupting my workflow from my home office. Adjusting the volume was also easy, although I didn’t have to do this often in a quiet room, and I only grew up if I wanted someone else in the room to hear what was being said.
The Gecko microphone system is as good as it sounds and it was able to pick up my voice at exactly 60 cm from the speaker. Noise cancellation and echo cancellation also worked well to make sure my voice was clearly heard. While callers reported that it sounded like I was talking on a hands-free device because of the perception of the distance between the speaker and the microphone, my voice was still clear. Calls have not been affected by the typical clarity issues that people face when using hands-free devices.
Music is not the ideal use case for the Beyerdynamic Phonum, and as indicated by its frequency response range and voice-tuned tuning, the audio tracks sounded a little strange on this speaker. The highs were completely out of place, and the bass couldn’t be heard. It may work for some vocal-centered tracks, but in general, Phonum is best avoided for listening to music.
Cable connectivity naturally sounded much better than Bluetooth on the Beyerdynamic Phonum, providing a more stable and cleaner sound experience than just using my laptop speakers. When connected to the MacBook Air, Phonum was automatically detected, and MacOS offered two equalizer modes through its sound settings – Voice and Music – which worked as I expected to optimize the equalizer for these purposes. Voice mode gave the media a reasonable boost.
The increased dependence on working from home has led to some interesting innovations in the space of gadgets, and Beyerdynamic Phonum is such a device. It is presented as a speakerphone and does this very well whether it is connected via Bluetooth or a USB cable. It could also be useful in a conference room, where its excellent Gecko microphone system can optimize voice picking from any direction.
Although expensive at about Rs. 25,000, this speaker uses Beyerdynamic expertise. It doesn’t sound very good with music, but it’s not for Phonum; stick to the basic functionality and you’ll quickly fall in love with it, just like I did.