Network World is reporting that ShoreTel is about to start shipping VoIP phones that support “hi-fi” codecs. Specifically, they’re going to be using up to 256 kbps for 16-bit, 16 kHz audio, which could sound a lot better then the 8-bit, 8 kHz audio stream that has been universal for decades.

I’ve been wondering when this was going to happen. In a LAN environment, there’s no real reason to limit yourself to 64 kbps audio. Even when talking over the Internet at large, you should be able to find a decent codec that’ll give you better sound quality while still using less then 64 kbps. On the other hand, we’re all really familiar with the compression inherent in standard telephones; there’s a chance that better sound quality could actually backfire by making IP phones sound less like the old phones that we’re all familiar with. If someone wants to send me a pair of Asterisk-compatible hi-fi phones, I’ll report back on how they sound.