The Big Blue Yeti, Soft Phones & Audio Sample Rate

dialpad-windows-desktop-yetiA short while ago friend and telecom luminary Dave Michels contacted me about a problem he was encountering with his Blue Yeti USB microphone. While he appreciates the benefits of a headset, he prefers to not use one when there’s video involved.

Dave uses the Yeti when recording videos and participating in various UC podcasts. He’s recently started to use it with the Dialpad soft phone. That’s the service that provides his home & office phones.

The Yeti is a fine microphone for many purposes. The combination of USB convenience, handy level controls and low-latency monitoring makes it an excellent choice for podcasters. I recently wrote a blog post for ZipDX that describes its use by a professional interpreter in the UK.

In Dave’s case, when using the Yeti with Dailpad others on the call would complain that his volume was very low. So much so that he was forced to switch to his Plantronics Savi headset. They also complained that “he sounded bad.”

To solve these problems the two of us set about a quick investigation. What we found is potentially useful, so I’m sharing it here with y’all.
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VU Meters For Windows

Some time ago I noted the availability of installable audio metering for Windows. Today I stumbled upon a similar free application called “VUMeter” that provides old school stereo VU meters.

VUMeter-basic-600px

The meters can be resized from 50%, 100% or 200% of normal size, where  normal size is 1500 x 300 pixels.

VUMeter-600px

They can be set to stay on top of all windows. They can also be set to display the signal from any available sound recording or playback device.

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MOS, Podcasting, SIP Reinvites and WebRTC

podcast mic & logosAccording to popular legend, in the early days of talking movies there was a German director working in Hollywood whose pronounced accent skewed his use of English. He would call for another take of a scene, this time without recording sound. He’d yell out “Mit Out Sound!” Over the years industry professionals came to use the acronym MOS as a shorthand for recording a silent take.

Operating MOS may be occasionally useful in film, but it can be disastrous for a podcaster. When producing a podcast reliable audio is a must. Achieving this goal can be complicated when trying to connect to a distributed array of co-hosts & guests via the internet.

Using a SIP service like SIP2SIP.Info allows the use of high-performance audio codecs, like Opus, which makes for superior podcast audio. This is something that I’ve advocated for along time in my series called Making Use of HDVoice Right Now!

This week I had a Twitter exchange with veteran broadcaster and podcaster Mike Phillips about a problem with audio over a SIP connection.

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New Skype Alternatives for Internet Broadcasting

Skype-alternativesI have an issue with “meta“ things. I blog, but I’m not engaged with the broader realm of bloggers. Blogging about blogging baffles me. Similarly, although I’ve been involved in the VUC since 2008, I’m not really engaged in the world of podcasters/internet broadcasters. I’m trying to work on this by sharing some of the techniques that I’ve discovered in doing VUC calls.

Last fall I was advising podcaster Mike Phillips with some issues of audio quality with respect to remote participants in podcasts.  He appears to be a frequent contributor to the blog of the IAIB. It was there that I stumbled upon a post recommending Skype Alternatives For Internet Broadcasting.

This post implies that Skype is tremendously popular in this space, and yet there is some desire to seek out functional alternatives. The author, Andrew Zarian, offers the following list of alternatives; Google+ Hangouts, Zoom, Apple’s FaceTime and Cisco’s Jabber. All are certainly worthy of consideration.

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Podcasting: A Killer Application For Binaural Conferencing

Earlier this week a morning’s news dump brought with it something from Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology, a communication professional and long-time podcaster. He penned some interesting observations about the use of audio on the web in, “Listen up! You may be producing audio sooner than you think.” His post helped cast a new light on my perspective of binaural conference services like Voxeet and Dolby Voice. While I may have some reservations about their use in business, these could be killer tools for podcasters!

I must admit I was tempted to title this post with reference to binaural conference calls “getting rid of the voices inside my head.” That’s the value of the spatial effect, it expands the soundstage such that the call participants seem to be arrayed around one’s head instead of piled up between the ears.

For a podcast that has two more participants binaural conferencing is definitely an improvement over voices in mono. However, to make this convenient Voxeet et al would need to offer local call recording in their client. At present this is not offered, although it is on the Voxeet wish list.

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Podcasters, Please! Put Down The Phone!!

Scott Harvey Old Vine Zinfandel (5)While it doesn’t often get mentioned here (more usually here) I’ve developed something of an interest in wine. This passion comes with a healthy learning curve. I’m still early in the process so trying to take onboard whatever information I can find.

For some time I’ve been listening to Randy Fuller’s excellent “Now and Zine Wine Report” podcast. At one minute, five times a week it’s an information-rich nugget of Johnny-Five style input. It’s especially notable because Randy Fuller is also a professional actor and voice talent. As you might well expect, his podcasts are usually a fine example of an audio professional at work.

Randy’s typical high standards make his recent series, taken from a conversation with winemaker Scott Harvey, all the more jarring and unexpected. Randy’s presence in the podcast is his usual, most-excellent self. It’s Scott’s presence that I find wanting.

According to Randy’s introduction, the series of three posts so far are, taken from a conversion that they had by telephone. It seems quite likely to me that Scott was on a mobile phone at the time. His audio quality is quite poor, but it’s really the contrast between the host’s voice and the guest that hits like a hammer to the skull.

This has me pondering the various alternative approaches that might be used in creating such a podcast. There are many possible ways to avoid leveraging a cell phone over the PSTN.

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