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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 4:05 pm 
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We are using Skype more and more (mostly for reports and brief segments) and have been pretty happy. Skype has IM if you can't wire two-way audio. We send the same audio for the telephone mix-minus to the studio Skype computer for communication from the studio. There's hardly any delay and the quality is good. Of course, you are beholden to the internet in your location. Also, if you're paying $40 for a phone call for a game, check out different long distance options! I'm sure you can find something that would cut the average game cost to $10-$15.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:16 pm 
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radiodj...I don't mind the quality. In fact, I'm VERY anal about audio quality, and I have no problems with Skype. I was just wondering if I had missed another option.

malden153...as for the price of the long distance call, our Comrex didn't like a credit card call...couldn't connect at a fast enough speed. The local phone company (if we were to use a "regular phone") here charges $0.15 per minute on a business plan...4 hour football broadcast is $36 ($396 for the season)...3 hour hockey game is $27 per game ($972 for the season). At $1400 per season...compared to free for the internet (either wifi or our Verizon card - which is traded out) it's easy to make the switch.

In fact, now that our station has added high school football and basketball games, the total phone savings (installs and long distance) is approaching $4000 per year. With the radio industry facing another 10% drop in ad sales...ya need to find savings anywhere you can!


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:03 pm 
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Location: Greality, CO
We tried Skype for a couple of things in the past, but were never pleased with the output...But, that's been a couple of years.

I actually was surprised by how well both the video & audio worked the other night when I was involved with a cable TV broadcast (non sports related, and if any of you saw it...well, I don't expect you to "out" yourselves). We had video & audio from my home office to them and an IFB audio feed back to me, with no video.

And, yes, I'm I fan of Comrex's Access. Used it quite a bit this past year, though it meant lugging a rack unit along. The portable is $5-7k...

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:38 pm 
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I just stumbled on a different alternative than Skype. Ekiga (http://ekiga.org/) -- I wish I knew how to pronounce it -- has a bandwidth setting that will allow you to use a different algorithm based on how fast (or good) your internet connection is. I'm gonna try it tonight for a show we do at the local watering hole.

http://brian-schultz.com/Ekiga_Samples.mp3 Here's a quick audio sample

The first 20 seconds or so is using Ekiga setup with a setting for low bandwidth (dialup would even work). This setting uses 16khz audio (the same quality as a comrex POTS codec). This Ekiga codec is made for voice...but music doesn't sound bad at all.

The second 20 seconds or so is recorded right off the tuner in my office.

The last part of the sample is using Ekiga setup with a setting for higher bandwidth (about 180kb/second). This setting uses 48khz audio (the same quality of audio that runs directly out of the studio console at the station!). I'd NEVER use this setting unless I was in town, and knew the internet provider and knew that they were solid...but for home games...this is an option for me.

After doing more research on Skype (I've had GREAT success on hard wired or wifi internet...a few cutouts, though, on the Verizon air card), Skype uses more bandwidth than you might think. Other Skype users (ones you don't even know) behind firewalls MAY get routed to YOUR internet connection to make their call...thus using more of YOUR bandwidth. Ekiga doesn't do that.

Brian


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:58 am 
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I'd definitely like to bump this discussion about Skype. We have a very new, clear FM signal so sound quality is a priority. Ethernet is as reliable as you'll see in a small town, which means decent, but clearly more shaky than somebody from a bigger city might be used to, and it's not like internet is flawless there either. Just wanna' try to get down to brass tacks.

- WITH PROPER MIXING EQUIPMENT how is Sype quality? Good? ALmost COMREX?

- How reliable is it? How often would it cut out intermittently? Not work at all?

- What platform has everybody used it on? Has anybody tried it on, say, an iPad?

- A couple of people have mentioned similar programs to Skype they may like better. Are there any more thoughts on this?

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 4:22 pm 
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AdamDSeidel wrote:
I'd definitely like to bump this discussion about Skype. We have a very new, clear FM signal so sound quality is a priority. Ethernet is as reliable as you'll see in a small town, which means decent, but clearly more shaky than somebody from a bigger city might be used to, and it's not like internet is flawless there either. Just wanna' try to get down to brass tacks.

- WITH PROPER MIXING EQUIPMENT how is Sype quality? Good? ALmost COMREX?

- How reliable is it? How often would it cut out intermittently? Not work at all?

- What platform has everybody used it on? Has anybody tried it on, say, an iPad?

- A couple of people have mentioned similar programs to Skype they may like better. Are there any more thoughts on this?


Adam...since this thread has started, we have used Skype a little more, and have been very pleased. We have Access units that we use first, but don't hesitate using Skype when the Access units are tied up. Answering your questions in order:

1) With good audio gear and a solid computer, you can get top quality audio that's difficult to distinguish from a good Comrex feed. Remember that you need mic level from your mixer. My advice is to set Skype levels manually. Skype's default is auto-adjust, but that means the first couple of words coming out of a break or pause are too hot.

2) The key is your internet. If you have decent internet, Skype will be every bit as stable and sound about as good as a Comrex Access connection. We have found that we'll get a momentary flutter for a second or two once or twice per game, but we get that with Access. Skype will automatically adjust the call quality if your connection fluctuates, but it would have to drop quite a bit to affect an audio call. You should have upload speed of at least 30 kbps, and make sure you're not connecting a video call, just audio. You can test your speed at www.speedtest.net.

3) We have only used it via Windows, and have had success with laptops in the field. We have even done two full football broadcasts via netbook and air card (although the wireless tower was only 500 feet away, so the connection was stable).

4) Another similar program is ooVoo, but I have very limited experience with it.

For communication from the studio, the cheap and dirty way is to plug in a mic with an on-off switch into the studio computer, and in the field you route computer headphone audio with your mixer audio into a headphone amp. You can also use the Skype IM. Remember that the board op can't talk in your ear while you're on the air, or that ends up on the air, which is also why he/she needs to switch off the mic except during breaks.

Hope that helps!


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:24 pm 
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Adam,

Since I started this thread, I suppose I should chime in.

I used Skype exclusively for about six months (remotes, games, etc)...and found that we had issues when using it on an aircard. As is turns out, Skype will route other people's calls thru YOUR internet connection if that other person (you don't even have to know who they are) is behind a firewall. That means that you WILL run out of bandwidth at some point during a game if you don't have pretty high speed and high quality internet.

That's when I started looking for alternatives to Skype that still used a similar codec (since Skype sounded REALLY good on the air).

I came across Ekiga...which I have a sample up a few posts. It sounded REALLY good...but I had some firewall issues on the road. If the school I was at had ANY restrictions on ports that were being used...Ekiga WILL NOT WORK!.

I then came across a program called TeamSpeak. It's used for gamers so that they can play video games and talk to each other. The audio quality is selectable (turn up the quality when you have good internet...turn down the quality when you don't). Now, EVEN ON DIAL UP, you can get audio that sounds like a Comrex pots codec!.

Here's my rationale...

A Comrex Access on IP mode SOUNDS GREAT! I've used them before. I liked them. But, if the internet takes a crap, you have a $6000 piece of USELESS equipment sitting next to you!

A Comrex Pots codec SOUNDS BETTER THAN GOOD...BUT NOT GREAT. They are getting harder and harder to find phone lines that will work with them. If the phone line doesn't work, you have a $3000 piece of USELESS equipment sitting next to you!

Teampspeak can sound anywhere between GREAT to BETTER THAN GOOD. If the internet takes a crap, you can plug in your air card (I HIGHLY suggest having one with you...if the aircard isn't working...use dial up. Earthlink has local numbers EVERYWHERE...it's like a $20 a month insurance policy).

The best part of Teamspeak...it costs NOTHING! You already have your laptop with you...and there is NO LONG DISTANCE CHARGES!



At the station, just have the engineer hook up a computer (with Teamspeak running on it as well...the two of you will connect to each other) to the MIX MINUS line of the board. The station engineer will know that means. The mix minus feed of the board also feeds the telephone, so you can hear the commercials and host...they will hear you...just like if you were using a plain old telephone.

Again, if the internet takes a dump, Teamspeak won't work. Either will that $6000 Comrex Access! Take a Gentner Hybrid Coupler with you as a backup if you need a phone line...and you're set.

Let me know if you have any questions....and I'll try to gather up some audio samples of TeamSpeak.

Brian


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 6:13 pm 
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Thanks for the comment on teamspeak, I am definitely going to check that out. I've actually used that and similar voice programs while playing some computer games before, but I've never used it with good equipment. If you say the quality is quite good, I'll have to check it out (I LOATHE the idea of going back to broadcasts off a laptop, but if it's a decent system and never has anything else every put on it or done with it to protect it from any silly problems, it may work).

Do you need any special cables to connect the mixer to the laptop and the station computer to the mix-minus (something I've definitely used before, hooray for FCC certification in college)? I'd be concerned a standard headphone jack connection would be lossy.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 6:32 pm 
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Oh, also, Brian, do you think a dial up connection as a backup is superior to falling back on a POTs setup [after also trying the aircard]? I still have my team's old POTs equipment they used with tout previous radio station, and I could simply have that set up in redundancy with my teamspeak setup and pull out a phone card to complete any broadcasts with problems. That has the advantage of being 100% reliable and fast to set up, which is a nice, reassuring attribute in a situation where your broadcast drops and you're scrambling to get back on as quickly as possible. The worst thing ever is when the stress of solving technical issues disrupts your ability to get back into your comfort zone with the game after you solve them.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 9:22 pm 
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A POTS backup (as long as you have it) is best.

Here's a VERY CRUDE picture I drew up to show you a setup...

Image

I use a VERY high quality USB sound card (Focusrite Scarlett EI6) for my audio INTO Teampspeak. I then use the built in sound card to have the return audio (who cares what that sounds like...you're the only one that hears it!).

Just remember to use LEFT channel on the mixer for all outputs (sound card, POTS input) and RIGHT channel on the mixer for all returns (Teamspeak and POTS for commercial return audio).

At the station, I'd suggest putting TeamSpeak on a production computer in the studio. That way you can use the high quality sound cards on that machine...and it's probably already wired into the studio board.

Brian


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:13 am 
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Location: State College, PA
bschultz wrote:
A POTS backup (as long as you have it) is best.

Here's a VERY CRUDE picture I drew up to show you a setup...



I use a VERY high quality USB sound card (Focusrite Scarlett EI6) for my audio INTO Teampspeak. I then use the built in sound card to have the return audio (who cares what that sounds like...you're the only one that hears it!).

Just remember to use LEFT channel on the mixer for all outputs (sound card, POTS input) and RIGHT channel on the mixer for all returns (Teamspeak and POTS for commercial return audio).

At the station, I'd suggest putting TeamSpeak on a production computer in the studio. That way you can use the high quality sound cards on that machine...and it's probably already wired into the studio board.

Brian


Brian

This is the setup that I should have been using this past season. Our new FM radio station picked up our UStream feed on the studio computer, but too many times the audio stream was very bad. That left us using the Remote Sport Mix connected to a cell phone and that quality was as bad or worse.

Assuming I'm back with the varsity program in September, I'm going to bring up your setup as the way to go.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 9:47 am 
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Brian,

Your setup looks very wise. I'm going to recommend it if they don't want to go with COMREX.

The USB sound card you use to connect the mixer to the computer (for outbound), is that an external attachment that plugs into the computer's USB port and then has the mixer outbound plugged into it?

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2012 11:33 am 
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AdamDSeidel wrote:
Brian,

The USB sound card you use to connect the mixer to the computer (for outbound), is that an external attachment that plugs into the computer's USB port and then has the mixer outbound plugged into it?


Correct...


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