We have the pandemic to thank for so many innovations. Who could forget groundbreaking life hacks such as virtual meetings, virtual happy hours, and virtual sewing bees? So many virtual opportunities to be virtual. The trouble is, we’re all burned out on virtual. In-person is what we’re craving now. Anything short of a face to face interaction now feels less-than.
Technologies trying to break through have to do a better job at mimicking real in-person interactions. That’s exactly what the new PulseAudio Collaboration Video Bar claims to do. The folks at Vanco sent me their new all-in-one conferencing speakerphone, far-field microphone array, and 4K video camera solution to try out. Would it shine or fall flat? I was about to find out…
Unboxing the PulseAudio Collaboration Video Bar
The PulseAudio Collaboration Video Bar arrives in a shiny box clearly designed with retail buyers in mind. The glossy front flap lifts up to reveal innards nestled in foam with a petite instruction guide sitting atop it all, beckoning the customer to open up and follow along.
I yanked everything out of the box and laid it all out on my office floor. Besides the unit itself, there’s a remote control, AC adapter, USB cable, and mounting adapter included.
I plugged in the PulseAudio Collaboration Video Bar to a NUC mini-PC and flipped on the power switch jutting from the back of the unit’s posterior end. I watched as a red LED above the camera started blinking and eventually turned solid. I fired up the Google Meet app and logged into a test video conference.
I got up to get a drink and noticed the camera immediately started panning to follow me out of the room. I’ve tested quite a few of these video collaboration bars and none of them have performed particularly well out of the box. This was clearly an exception. I moved ahead to record an audio/video demo.
The playback quality coming out of the speakers indicated the microphones were capturing my voice well from the far recesses of my office all while capturing pretty decent HD video. The video preview didn’t appear to be 4K, but that could have been down to a number of factors, including my own ineptitude (I was later informed by Vanco that most of the major services like Zoom, Teams, etc. only support 1080p video).
The user guide wasn’t particularly helpful here and appeared to be the result of rebadging a foreign manufacturer’s white labeled product. A wizard or Quick Start guide would’ve been very useful here. Maybe even a calibration routine based on answering a few questions about the room and doing a little auto sensing around light levels and audio reflectivity?
I managed to bungle my way through the user guide and get the settings pretty well dialed in. I made a few more video calls and tried to stump it. The PulseAudio Collaboration Video Bar handled everything I threw at it.
In a crowded space full of conferencing video bars claiming they can easily auto group participants and deliver great sound, the PulseAudio Collaboration Video Bar stands out as a product that actually performs as advertised. With its $999 MSRP, it’s a great value given all that’s happening behind the scenes. I can’t wait to see what PulseAudio cooks up next!