This week, a few of my voiceover and producer friends have been trying out a new bit of browser-based software called ipDTL.
It is being tentatively heralded by many as a realistic, cost-effective alternative to ISDN. And here's why:
- ISDN (Integrated Services for Digital Network) is old technology. Developed in the mid-1980s for voice and data communications, it's still occasionally used in the business sector. However, since high-speed broadband became available in the late 1990s and superfast broadband in 2008, most businesses have done away with ISDN for voice and data communication.
However, It is still widely used in the broadcasting industry - especially by radio stations, production houses and voiceover studios.
- ISDN is ridiculously expensive. To get ISDN in your home or business premises, you need to have a second phoneline physically installed by the telecoms company. This isn't cheap.
Then there's the ISDN codec (a box which processes the digital send/receive signal) . Even a second-hand G.722 codec costs upwards of £1,500.
You probably already pay a monthly subscription for your broadband connection in your home or office. If you want ISDN, you'll need to pay an additional subscription. This comes to between £25 and £45 a month.
- If you move premises, you have to get a new ISDN line installed. That could take up to a month. If you're a voiceover artist and you rely on ISDN almost every day, then a month without it is almost unthinkable.
- ISDN is being phased out. It is old technology which offers painfully slow data speeds (compared to today's widely-available broadband). Most telecoms companies are keen to cease offering ISDN services in the next five years.
With ipDTL, you don't need to install an additional phoneline. You only need a decent broadband connection offering at least 2 Mbit/s. Even in the wilds of my native west Wales, speeds of 2 Mbit/s are easily attainable.
You don't need to invest in any new hardware. ISDN codecs are eye-wateringly expensive. If you already have ISDN, you can now seriously think about putting your codec on Ebay and cancelling your ISDN subscription.
To use ipDTL you need to be running Google Chrome (it won't work on Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari etc.).
It offers send and receive data of 128 kbps.
This week, I tested ipDTL with three voiceover and producer friends. All of us are obsessive about sound quality and reliability. The results were very impressive.
I simply logged into the ipDTL website using Google Chrome and a box popped up asking me to choose which audio source to send.
When you sign up for ipDTL you are given two internet logins. One for you and one for your recipient.
I have a 100 Mbit fibre optic internet connection connected directly from the wireless router to my computer with an ethernet cable. Don't worry, you don't need such a fast internet connection for ipDTL to work.
Just ensure you have your studio computer connected directly to the router using an ethernet cable. If this isn't possible, try moving your wireless router as close as possible to the computer.
To my well-trained ears, the audio quality over ipDTL is actually much better than ISDN. Even though I'm still transferring audio at 128 kbps (the same as ISDN), it really does sound cleaner.
One of the biggest issues with IP-based audio transfer has been latency, drop-outs, variable bitrates and compression glitches have made it impractical to use as a replacement to ISDN.
I've used ipDTL for a total of 4 hours this week and didn't encounter a single problem. I even made a point of using it during peak internet times when worldwide internet traffic is heavy and it still worked perfectly.
The audio quality is superb with absolutely no signal drop-outs or weird glitchy sounds which you often encounter on Skype.
ipDTL costs just a tiny fraction of ISDN. For just £103 a year for a voiceover artist (or free if the radio station or production house has an ipDTL voiceover subscription) then it's ludicrous not to give it a try. I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I am.
Check it out for yourself with a free 1 month trial at www.ipdtl.com