Microsoft is now shipping a handful of "modern" accessories designed to enhance your work life, whether that be at home or in the office. We've already reviewed Microsoft's Modern Headsets and Modern Webcam, and now we're reviewing Microsoft's Modern USB-C Speaker designed for Teams conferencing.
The Modern USB-C Speaker is a small, portable conferencing device designed to enhance the Teams calling experience with better audio and dedicated controls for answering calls and controlling volume. It's small enough that it comes with a carrying case included, protecting it from the elements when travelling.
I've been using the Modern USB-C Speaker for the last month in many of my daily work meetings, testing all its functions and capabilities as well as testing how good the microphones are. Here is my review!
Bottom line: The Modern USB-C Speaker from Microsoft is a simple, stylish, and portable conferencing device built for Teams, but is missing some extra functionality such as Bluetooth.
- Compact and stylish.
- USB-C connection.
- Dedicated Teams controls.
- Not very configurable.
- No Bluetooth support.
- Not battery powered.
Modern USB-C Speaker: Price and availability
The Microsoft Modern USB-C Speaker is available directly from Microsoft for $99, but right now can be found for just $80. Here's what that gets you:
|Category||Microsoft Modern USB-C speaker|
|Materials||Fabric + Silicone|
|Dimensions (LxWxD)||138 mm (5.43") x 70 mm (2.756") x 29 mm (1.142")|
|Weight||191 g (0.426 lbs)|
|Frequency response||200Hz – 20kHz for music|
300Hz-10KHz for conference
|Speaker||50 mm full range driver|
|Cable Length||680 mm (26.9")|
Mac OS X 10.15
Mac OS 11+
|Microsoft Teams Certification||Pass 1.5 m conference room Spec|
|Buttons/Controls||Microsoft Teams button, Mute button, Volume up button, Volume down button, Hook Switch button|
Modern USB-C Speaker: What you'll like
Straight out of the box, the first thing you'll notice when setting it up is the compact nature of this conferencing speaker. It's small enough to be palm-able, and its included carrying case means it's super easy to throw into a bag to bring with you on a busy meeting day. In fact, the included carrying case is really nice. It's strong, feels good, and will protect the speaker from sharp objects when on the go.
The speaker itself is well designed, featuring a mesh covered fabric around the outside, complete with a rubberized bottom and small control panel with buttons on the top. The rubberized bottom has a lip that houses a USB-C cable that unwinds when you need to plug the speaker into a computer. When the cable isn't in use, it's hidden from view. Pretty great!
The buttons on the top feature a dedicated Teams quick-launch button, a button to answer incoming calls, a volume up and down button, and a mute/unmute button. The Teams and mute/unmute buttons light up when pressed, with the mute button turning red when mute is enabled. The buttons are easy to press with satisfying clicky feedback.
Now, onto the meat and potatoes. How is audio quality? Let's start with the listening experience, which I would call pretty great for its size and purpose. It features a 50mm speaker that honestly surprised me with its bass output. Don't get me wrong, it's not going to rock your world, but for a conferencing speaker this thing has a bit of punch to it.
This as a result delivers a great listening experience that sounds surprisingly rich, compared to many other conferencing devices which often skimp out on audio quality because most conference calls are using a low-quality bitrate or mic setup anyway. Because of how good the speakers are, you can get away with listening to music using this thing, though I wouldn't buy it just for that.
On the flipside of the audio experience, how are the mics? Microsoft says the Modern USB-C Speaker has two omni-directional speakers which capture sound from all around pretty well in the medium to large meeting room setups we tested. Additionally, the mics have built-in noise reduction, which should aid in filtering out noises such as air conditioners, projectors, and other meeting room appliances.
The accompanying accessory app allows for a couple of settings to be tweaked. You can configure the mute button to act as a toggle switch for unmuting your mic, good for people who prefer a "push to talk" setup. You can also turn on and off the prompt tone, which is a sound that plays when you mute and unmute the mic.
Modern USB-C Speaker: What you won't like
I would say that there are very little downsides to this conferencing speaker if you're buying it for its intended use. Audio output is good for conferencing calls, and while you could get away with listening to a bit of music with it, it's no dedicated music listening device. It'll do you fine in a pinch, but you can find better dedicated music listening devices for less money in this range.
I'll also note that the built-in mics sound a bit worse than the built-in mics you can find on modern laptops, at least in my testing. This is likely because the speakers are designed to grab audio from all around, in medium to large meeting rooms, so it needs to have far-reaching mics built in which often sound less full. It's no big deal for conferencing calls, but if you were hoping to record high quality sounding audio using this device, that's not going to happen.
Additionally, unlike other conferencing speakers on the market, this one doesn't have a built-in battery and therefore can only be used when powered via the built-in cable. Additionally, there's no wireless audio options, meaning no Bluetooth support.
Lastly, just like with Microsoft's other "modern" peripherals, you cannot program the dedicated Teams button to launch another app if you don't use Teams, which significantly limits the audience that this product is built for. While you can use the speaker in other apps like Slack and Skype, the dedicated buttons for answering calls and launching Teams are exclusive to, well, Teams.
Modern USB-C Speaker: Competition
The market is rife with conferencing speakers, many of which actually offer more features than the Microsoft Modern USB-C Speaker. There's the Lenovo 700 conferencing speaker, which is battery powered and has built-in Bluetooth connectivity, a great choice for those who might not always be able to hook up the speaker via a cable, though this speaker is priced much higher than the Microsoft one at $150.
There's also the slightly cheaper Anker PowerConf speaker at $130, which is also battery powered and features Bluetooth connectivity. Compared to the Microsoft Modern USB-C Speaker, which doesn't have a built-in battery and is missing Bluetooth, but comes in as the cheapest at $80. Plus, Microsoft's is the only one with dedicated Teams buttons.
Modern USB-C Speaker: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You need a portable, stylish conferencing speaker.
- You find yourself in Teams calls every day
- You want the convenience of dedicated mute and Teams buttons.
You shouldn't buy this if...
- You want something battery powered or with Bluetooth.
- You don't use Teams.
- You want to record high quality audio.
I would argue that Microsoft's Modern USB-C Speaker is one of the more stylish and portable conferencing speakers you can buy right now. It's compact, well built, and is suitable for both conferencing and casual music listening if required.
If you find yourself in Teams meetings all day, and are also hybrid working between the Office and home on some days, I think the Microsoft Modern USB-C Speaker is a great buy as it's designed to be portable, and connects easily with a single USB-C cable. You can use it at home, or at the office, and it'll perform perfectly well.