Anker PowerConf is a great speakerphone for Zoom calls, adapting portable speakers to computers (Week 30, 2020)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 30, 2020

Q. What do you recommend for a portable speakerphone accessory? I have been looking at the Jabra 710 but would like to know if you have any other recommendations.


A. In addition to the Jabra 710 I would consider the Anker PowerConf. The PowerConf has received much critical acclaim as of late, and after trying it myself I can see why. It is an exceptional speakerphone accessory as well as a standout value.

As you may guess from the name, PowerConf is a contraction of Power Conference and it is designed to excel in a conference environment. It has six microphones in a 360-degree array as well as innovative sound processing to eliminate echoes and improve voice clarity at both ends of the line. Though group meetings and the associated conference calls are almost unheard of in these days of the pandemic, it offers a lot of value to the individual user as well. I have found it to be a great improvement over my MacBook Pro audio when making Zoom calls and it is hard to imagine going back to the computer audio now. If you are working remotely with Zoom or similar applications it is definitely something you will appreciate.

The PowerConf works via Bluetooth or a USB connection and has a battery with 24 hours of run time. Normally $129, the PowerConf is currently only $99, making it less than one-third the price of the $314 Jabra 710 despite delivering similarly outstanding performance.

Q. My kids bought me a JBL Flip 5 speaker and I love the sound. In fact, music played through the Flip5 sounds far better than the speakers attached to my desktop PC. Is it possible to connect the JBL Flip5 to my PC?

-N.K., Minneapolis, MN

A. This is typically very easy to do because most portable speakers have an auxiliary input that accepts a “line level” signal. A line level signal averages about 2 volts and is found in pretty much every electrical device. Blu-ray and DVD players, CD players and VCRs all send a line level signal from their red/white RCA audio outputs. Computers, cell phones and tablets send line level signals from their audio outputs or headphone connections. If you have a turntable with a built-in phono preamp you will probably see a switch with two settings, “phono” and “line.” The phono setting delivers the unaltered signal from the phono cartridge, which must be used with a phono preamp or the phono input of a receiver or amplifier. The “line” setting runs the electrical signal from the cartridge through the internal phono preamp, creating a line level signal that can be used with almost anything, including a portable speaker.

The reason I have gone into this much detail is because I frequently receive variations of this question. The line level audio signal is universal. If you use an RCA-to-miniplug cable, you can connect the audio outputs of a VCR, a CD player or a camcorder to a portable speaker. You can use a miniplug-to-miniplug cable to connect a computer to a portable speaker. If your turntable has an internal preamp with a line setting, you can set it to line and connect the turntable to a portable speaker.

Your JBL is a rare exception that does not have an auxiliary input. If your computer does not have Bluetooth you can connect a $25 Bluetooth transmitter to your computer audio output, and will create a wireless signal compatible with the Flip 5.