I’ve had a very nice conversation with folks at Marratech, who make a web-based videoconferencing/whiteboard software client that runs on all platforms. In talking with them, I asked about how they did their audio echo canceling, and they suggested looking into the Phonix Duet speakerphone. Excerpts from review that appeared on the VoIPspeak site are posted below. Essentially, this is a device which provides echo cancellation and that allows you to avoid using a headset.
The Duet was designed from the ground up to work with voice over IP (VoIP) services such as Skype, Gizmo, and SoftPhones as well as Instant Message clients such as MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, and Google Talk. With proprietary Acoustic Echo Cancellation, Noise Suppression, and equalizer algorithms built in, the Duet PCS offers remarkably clean sound.
The first question you might ask is “who needs a business class speakerphone that plugs into a USB port?”. I actually had to think about that for a minute until I stopped to think about my own usage habits. To start off with, a USB sound device is much more efficient than using a soundcard for VoIP applications. With a soundcard you are using the processing power of the computer for the analog to digital conversion when the strength of a soundcard is not in its input, but rather than in its output abilitty. With a USB audio device, the device converts the audio into digital signals before sending it to the computer. This results in much better sound quality and compression which can have a dramatic efect on VoIP conversations. As a USB audio device, the Duet PCS not only functions as a speakerphone but also has a stadnard headset jack available essientially turning a standard headset into a high quality sound platform. Since it registers as an audio device, it is not specific to VoIP or IM applications, the noise reduction and echo cancelation make this device an excellent choice for podcasters as the recording quality is so good.
A PDF data sheet is located on the Phoenix site.