We wanted to consider every option for recording over the Internet while we are on opposite sides of the country. As you may know, I live in California and Dice lives in NH. We developed our Dropbox strategy of sharing .WAV files, but wanted to see if we could do some quality live recording and Dice brought up the fact that his sound quality on the podcast could be better as well.
Obviously, we couldn’t get high quality real-time audio just over the phone because of all the compression and sound degradation and because of the small microphone in Dice’s Android so we began to think about upgrading the whole thing all together by incorporating Voice Over IP or VOIP for all our sessions. We figured this would allow us to connect Dice to monitor the same sound as me as well as upgrade his mic in order to have an actual session. Sounds cool right?
In theory this would work because it would be like we we’re right next to each other in real life having a legit session. I figured out how to set up the auxiliary send through a mixer and Pro Tools where I could send my voice and whatever else I wanted back to Dice. This set up is also known as a mix minus. Ray Ortega from thepodcastersstudio.com has and excellent video that explains this set up. For more information on mix minus visit:
Skype and FaceTime
So we got it all set up and tested Skype and FaceTime and actually got some pretty good results for sound quality. However, we did experience delay and couldn’t seem to get the synchronization quite right which isn’t necessarily good for musical collaboration where timing is everything.
What would happen is I would send my voice and a beat and Millie (who was engineering) and Dice heard my voice and the beat a few seconds after it had actually happened. This caused monitoring issues on my side because Dice’s voice was delayed. We couldn’t do any complicated wordplay like we want to for this album. Rehearsing seems to be tough while 3,000 miles apart.
So not only was the delay an issue, but there were drop outs. This was to be expected though and we determined that this could still work just using similar manual sync techniques as we use in our Dropbox strategy as long as I wasn’t monitoring Dice while recording and we weren’t doing any back and forth wordplay rhymes that required us to hear one another.
The other issue that arose was what Millie mentioned how the tempo sped up and slowed down randomly on their side causing Dice’s performance to be inconsistent with the actual track. This wouldn’t work. We could only assume these tempo changes were caused by bandwidth limitations or network dropouts or something internet related.
The strange thing was that this tempo fluctuations only occurred with Skype and not FaceTime. Everything else was constant; the networks, the hardware. We determined that each service had it’s own quirk. For example, audio quality seemed great with FaceTime, but when overloads of audio information went through, it seemed to drop out as opposed to Skype which compensated by speeding and slowing tempo.
So all in all we liked the sound quality in FaceTime and felt we could better deal with dropouts in FaceTime as opposed to the tempo shifts in Skype. Possibly, there are solutions for the podcast that wouldn’t necessarily work for our recording sessions and visa versa which we are still exploring. For example, in the coming episodes, we are going to experiment with upgrading the microphone on Dice’s Android with an iRig PRE that will enable us to plug his Shure SM58 into his phone while we talk. We’ll report on how that goes.
Additionally, I’ve read a bit about ISDN which is an older radio technology that allows for simultaneous digital transmission of voice. That technology is dying because of the emergence of higher-end VOIP services taking over. These high-end types of VOIP services are certainly not cheap, but I believe will become more and more accessible as time goes on. Also, its worth it to note that these types of services require very robust internet connections and stable computing systems.
In conclusion, for general speaking purposes, connecting via VOIP with a standard consumer internet connection seems to have its ups and downs. Phone calls over an Andriod or iPhone certainly comes with its own faults for quality sake. When tracking, the old Dropbox strategy seems to prevail as it is simply transferring data and doesn’t have to rely on internet connection in real time.
Hopefully you enjoyed the episode and see you next time!