I got a new Plantronic’s headset not too long ago and I’ve started looking at getting an SEB Podcast going once more. This meant spending some time trying things out to see how things work. I think I’ve decided to make use of TalkShoe.com for hosting the podcast as it allows for all manner of participation including have people call in on the phone, or via VOIP, or just listening in on streaming audio. So I downloaded their SoftShoe VOIP proggy last night and took it for a spin… and it sounded terrible. The audio recording sounded like I was talking through a fan or underwater or something. This was very odd as I’ve used the headset with World of Warcraft and Ventrillo and Teamspeak and Call of Duty: World at War and it sounded great. I even made sure it was a USB headset for the better sound quality. So why did the SoftShoe application make it sound so terrible?
Well it took about three hours of putzing around with various applications last night, but I managed to figure out what the problem is. The realization came while playing around with a softphone called SJphone which is a VOIP package similar to Skype. It had been suggested, in one of many forum threads I read on TalkShoe, that using a softphone gave much better sound quality than the SoftShoe application TalkShoe provided. While configuring SJphone I discovered that it had the option of using DirectSound (part of Microsoft’s DirectX API) for playback and recording of the audio. With DirectSound disabled not only was the recording choppy as hell, but so was any audio playback. The problem was SJphone would use DirectSound just find for playback, but not for recording and the same appeared to be true of the SoftShoe client. I verified this by loading up Teamspeak once more as you can toggle the use of DirectSound in that application as well and the same thing happened. Lousy choppiness without DirectSound, smooth as silk with it.
Well isn’t that a kick in the pants? I had bought a USB headset because it offered better sound quality, but it turns out that’s only true if the software you’re using makes use of DirectSound when accessing the headset. The SoftShoe client has no user configurable options so I can’t go in and tell it to use DirectSound. So to get decent audio quality I have to use a softphone VOIP package to connect. SJphone is already out for the aforementioned reason so I ended up settling on Gizmo 5 which works fairly well.
The test recording I made last night sounded decent enough, though there was a weird phasing effect from time to time that made me sound like I was in a bad sci-fi film. I had ***Dave check it out to see if it sounded OK to him and he said it was pretty good though I had a deeper voice than he expected. I told him my voice varies depending on the time of day, how excited and/or how tired I am. It’s a lot of jumping through hoops to make use of TalkShoe, but it works and doesn’t sound half bad. The next step is to actually plan out an episode and find someone to join me so it’s not just me blabbing aimlessly. ***Dave has already said he’d be happy to do the first podcast with me and we’re looking at maybe a half-hour to get things started.
All that’s left is to pick some topics to blow hot air on and then a time and date to actually do it. With any luck I’ll get both of those finalized before too long and we’ll see just how entertaining I can be in an non-textual medium.