The ClipSee Challenge
The ClipSee has been tested against several Bluetooth speakerphone systems. Most built-in speakerphones sound pretty good on the driver side, but the sound on the listening side can be very noisy. Likewise, aftermarket Bluetooth speakerphones sound poor on both ends. If you are not moving or driving slow the audio is generally okay, but once the car is up to 35 MPH or on a bumpy road the audio can become annoying or even unusable.
Some of the hands-free systems also have duplex problems. Duplex refers to the ability of the speakerphone system to allow both side to talk without echo. This is hard to in consistent way. The iPhone in a ClipSee does a good job with duplex. The quality of duplex of built-in speakerphones ranges from okay to very poor and lots of echoes.
In the ClipSee Challenge we are only testing against background noise. We are using noise rejection as a proxy for overall speakerphone quality.
The reason why cars and aftermarket speakerphones have lots of noise is simple. The car manufacturers and aftermarket speakerphone makers do not concentrate on the microphone pickup. In general the car manufacturers place the microphone near the rear view mirror. That is about 24 inches (60 cm) away from the talker’s mouth. That is a long distance to put a microphone from the mouth when there is so much ambient noise. Most of the car manufacturers install a directional microphone, but because of mounting restrictions and location it only partially improves the sound pickup. Directional microphones have their own issues. They are very susceptible to noise from air blowing across them.
The ClipSee holding an iPhone keeps the iPhone’s microphone only about 6-9 inches from the talker’s mouth for most users. The iPhone’s speakerphone microphone is located at the top of the iPhone. On the iPhone 5 it is hidden in the “receiver” slot (where your ear listens). On the iPhone 4, it is the pinhole located near the headphone jack. The iPhone’s microphones are omni-directional. They pick up sound in all directions, but since the talker’s mouth is so close, then the sound is clear. The iPhone’s have very good internal noise reduction algorithms. As audio engineers know, it is fairly easy to remove a little bit of noise, but it is much harder to remove a lot of noise.
First up: after-market speakerphones
BlueAnt Supertooth 2, Jabra Freeway, Motorola Roadster There are two sets of tests, one in a 2009 Nissan Maxima, and another extremely brutal test in a Scion xB. In the Nissan Maxima the aftermarket speakerphones are carefully mounted on the sun visor as close to the talker as possible. LIkewise the speakerphones are mounted favorably in the Toyota Scion. Because of the higher ceiling in the Scion, the speakerphones are farther away from the user’s mouth. It is predictable that the results will favor the ClipSee in the Scion. BlueAnt Supertooth 2 in the Nissan Maxima Easy win for ClipSee, The BlueAnt picks up lots of motor and road noise
BlueAnt Supertooth 3 in Scion xB
Easy win for ClipSee, The BlueAnt is unintelligible with windows rolled open.
Jabra Freeway in Nissan Maxima
The Jabra does well at 0 and 35 MPH, but picks up a lot of acceleration and motor noise at 65 MPH.
Supertooth 3 in Nissan Maxima
Easy win for ClipSee, The BlueAnt picks up lots of motor and road noise
The ClipSee vs. Cars with Built-In Bluetooth Speakerphones
So far we have tested against the 2013 Tesla Model S, 2013 Porsche Panamera, 2009 Nissan Maxima, and 2011 Toyota Sienna.
ClipSee vs. the Tesla Model S
We had heard that there were complaints about the Tesla Model S speakerphone being unusable. We got one of our friends to loan us his Tesla, though he insisted on driving it himself. Thanks Curt! The Tesla Speakerphone picks up a lot of road noise that will be heard on the other end. It is pretty bad. It left us scratching our heads why it is so bad. It is possible the microphone is actually being vibrated, or it just has a very aggressive automatic gain control. The Tesla audio is a little bit buzzy. The ClipSee easily wins the voice quality challenge.
ClipSee vs. 2013 Porsche Panamera Built-In Bluetooth Speakerphone
The road conditions are standing, 35 MPH, 65 MPH on California freeway (highway 85). In this you can hear less distracting background noise using the ClipSee. You can drive about 30 MPH faster with a ClipSee in a Panamera for equivalent road noise — not that we suggest using the ClipSee to drive faster, though the speedometer on the Panamera does go to 200 MPH.