Here in Southern California I still have my ISDN lines at a reasonable cost and regular clients who use them. However, the same cannot be said for talent in other parts of the county. Monthly rates have skyrocketed to as much as $700 (or more!). And in some parts of the US, you can’t even get new lines if you wanted them a whatever cost you might be willing to pay.
ISDN has been the de facto leader of the pack for professionals for many years, but the times they are a changing.
The challenge is finding a secure, simple, stable, high-quality, fast and cost-effective solution. While simplicity is not the most important factor in a preferred solution, we are more and more used to plug and play solutions, so simplicity may in fact become a driver in this battle. The ability to connect multiple talent is going to be a driver as well. Ultimately quality will be important.
We as talent are probably NOT going to be the ones who tip the scales in favor of one over the other. But we can be part of the process, testing, comparing, discussing, suggesting.
There are a handful of companies with options that are getting better and better as the stability of the Internet increases with growing bandwidth. Now, I am not a technical person, but as an early user of some of these technologies, I have seen how VoIP solutions can work well, or be troublesome.
I use Source-Connect Standard from Source-Elements with a dongle and software that integrates with my Adobe Audition. I don’t normally record, but I have had to when the connection was glitchy. But as a non-engineer, who doesn’t work with assigning ports and stuff, simple it is not. And recently when I switched to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I had to buy some tech support so that they could get me back up and running. They have a new Source-Connect Now option (in Beta) that is much simpler. However it is important to note that their website suggests that it is not a true solution for professional audio.
I also have an ipDTL account, which uses the Chrome browser, but have not had a chance to use in a session. Friends have and seem to be happy with it. I have recently tried BodalgoCall, which also uses a browser (several different browsers are supported) and connects with your DAW. Simple as well.
SessionLinkPro is another option that I have not tried, but a few anecdotal reports from other talent who have show it as working well for them.
All of these solutions are compressed and have various amounts of latency and stability – all due to the nature of the connection. Even ISDN is compressed.
One solution that has just come to my attention and is in Beta is uncompressed with very little latency and the ability to connect more than one talent – ConnectionOpen. I did a test last week and it was clean and simple.
Again, though, as a non-engineer, and as a talent who simply wants to send my mono voice to clients as cleanly and as efficiently as possible, I can’t really speak as to what kind of discernible difference there might be between compressed and uncompressed sound, but I do know that people recording music can tell! There must be a difference, as even the Source-Elements website states that their Source-Connect Now program is “not so good” for professional audio.
I decided to try to organize the features from each of these options into a comparison chart so that people can see them all in one place. Here is my first draft the information. Click on the image to go to the pdf version.
So, please take a look and let me know what else needs to be included in this chart and if you have any input, corrections or suggestions! And if you haven’t tried any of them yet, certainly find some time and test them out, especially the ones in Beta that are currently free.