PhoneValet 3.0
Company: Parliant

Price: $199.95 and up – $49.95 Podcast add-on

When I first saw the advertisements and reviews of PhoneValet, I thought it looked like a cool product, but probably not one I would have much need or desire for. Then almost a year ago, when we started the Podcast, suddenly the ability to record telephone conversations became something I was very much interested in. PhoneValet does much more than simple telephone recordings; in fact that is one of the lesser features of this program / hardware package.

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Installing the software is a snap, although the software serial number is tied to the hardware serial number on the phone plug to USB adapter that makes up the other part of the package. This was a little buggy at first, as the user is forced to enter different serial numbers at different times during the setup process. In fact, the program rejected my license code ten times before I broke down and emailed Parliant for help. I was emailed possible solutions, which worked eventually. As a long time product reviewer, I have to say that the rigmarole involved to simply enter a license code should not be this time consuming or frustrating. Software companies are supposed to make life for the end user easier, not more difficult in a vain attempt to combat piracy. Why do I have to be inconvenienced?

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Once the software was actually installed and updated to the latest version, it was time to set up the software to handle my entire phone answering needs. Turns out that PhoneValet comes in two different components, PhoneValet and PhoneValet Message Center. I am unsure why these two applications are not combined into one easy to use interface, but they are not. Both programs work well and are easy to use on their own.

Setup consists of telling PhoneValet what you want it to do. For instance, perhaps there are multiple people in your location; wouldn’t it be cool if each could have their own phone answering service? With PhoneValet, that possibility is a simple reality. In fact, PhoneValet can handle up to eleven different and unique mailboxes.

More, let’s say you are away from the office or home, but you really need to know when someone has called and left a message that you need. PhoneValet can email you the recording, wherever you are. It also works with SMS or pager, although I did not have the equipment to test either of those features.

When your phone rings, you simply let PhoneValet handle it. If you want to talk to the person leaving the message, you can pick up the phone. If not, listen to the message later on your Mac.

One of the cool factors is having your Mac announce who is calling via Caller ID. Yes, the Mac will actually speak the name of the person (or business) calling. Once you get used to using PhoneValet, it’s like having your very own personal telephone assistant, one who can even make calls, record calls, and save a history of your calls for future reference.

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Don’t we all hate it when you call a phone number hoping to talk to someone, and get that Press 1 for sales, Press 2 for service message system? Well, usually those telephone systems are designed that way to route your call to the appropriate person or department, thus saving time for the business. Technical Support will probably not be able to help you with your sales question. PhoneValet gives you the option of having the same high-tech options for your business. It can route calls on a multi-line phone system, or route it to the correct phone mailbox. You can even set the program up to play messages, such as store hours, but not to take messages. This is handy!

If you’re worried that using a Mac as an answering machine will quickly fill up hard drive space, you should have no fear. While the quality of voice recordings are not CD quality, the stored messages in PhoneValet are fine for voice messages, and they don’t take up much space at all. Besides, even a five-year-old Macintosh probably has a 20GB hard drive, and according to the PhoneValet website, that would enable it to record 191 days of continuous voice messages. I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on being away from my phone for that long, and even if I were, I don’t think enough people would ever call to worry about filling up a hard drive. However, you can always archive voice messages and recordings to removable media for long-term storage.

As a Podcaster, I wanted PhoneValet for a very different reason: to record conversations to be used later on the podcast. To this end, PhoneValet works very well, and they even sell a bundle that ships with tools to help you clean up the quality of voice recordings to be used in podcasts. While I found the third-party tools that Parliant includes in this bundle (BIAS SoundSoap 2 and Peak Express 5) to work well, I found they simply could only do so much to help the rotten sound quality of the cheap telephone quality in my house. Yes, I think I have the oldest and crappiest phone service in the state of Michigan. Some recordings were simply too horrible to use in the podcast, no matter how many filters and enchantments I used to try and correct the problems. I don’t blame this on the PhoneValet software, nor on the applications in the Podcast bundle.

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All in all, I am quite pleased with this software/hardware solution. The ability to record telephone conversations on my Mac has been something I have wanted for years, and PhoneValet does an excellent job of it. When I did have a problem, in this case a recorded conversation that the audio quality was actually pretty good, the program refused to playback the sound recording afterwards. One email to Parliant later, and I had a clever terminal command to correct the problem and save the recorded conversation. So, hats off to Parliant for great customer service. Rating: 4 out of 5


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