Great Skype

By in 56knobs, podcast on April 13, 2010
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Hi Know Tech,

I know you’re busy as heck so I’ll keep this brief. I’m an audio engineer for a small internet broadcaster in the East Bay called the Brewing Network and I really want to pick your brain about remote interviews.

We’ve been broadcasting live and podcasting shows for four years and our sound quality in-studio has gotten better and better, but phone interviews and Skype calls seem to suck no matter what gear we send the interviewee.  How do you guys get such great Skype quality on your shows?

Any insight you have to offer is much appreciated. Even if you just have a moment to jot down a quick list of your signal path it would be great.

Thanks, Know Tech!  All the best,
Push Eject

there are many factors that you have to control to get Skype to sound better for your calls. some of these things are are very simple to fix and others take a higher level geek to get working. everything in this podcast applies for Skype, SIP, Gizmo5 and other peer to peer Voice. even if you do all these things the quality of this stuff isn’t stellar. the biggest problem is the delay they have is the round tripping causes people to talk over each other. that said, I find Skype hit or miss for all things. here’s my list to get things to sound better:

0) there cannot be ANY other traffic on the Skype connection. a caller downloading a web page on a different computer will cause farts (distortion specific to Skype) while talking.

1) use the Windows version on a separate computer for incoming calls.
Windows development is WAY ahead of all the other versions. it’s up to v4.2.

2) use a direct (wired) connection instead of a wireless one. however. this means you won’t be sharing that wireless N or wireless G with other computers around you. you’ll have 100megabit all the way to the router.

3) if you can control the QOS on your router you can tweak it to make sure Skype’s ports have priority. you can also define a specific amount of bandwidth and latency. if you have a newer Linksys just select Skype from the QOS tab.

here’s how to control QOS if you installed DD-WRT on your router.

with DD-WRT you can prioritize by Applications, IP address or by MAC address:
fixed IP for the skype computer
port forward 1023 to that IP
set the priority to HIGH or PREMIUM

http://protocolinfo.org/wiki/List_of_protocols

4) get a newer router that can run something like DD-WRT (the USR one for $40 is nice) then you can packet shape to your hearts content. we like the ASUS 20WL-520GU and here’s a review.

5) you might need a gay shirt.

6) using the latest (Skype 4 or later) you can turn off SuperNodes explicitly.

http://www.skype.com/security/universities/

https://www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/twiki/view/CF/SkypeConfiguration

7) look into getting more bandwidth or newer “business class” bandwidth.
old, old DSL has lots of traffic shaping built-in.
servers were not allowed. Skype is acting like a server.
your old contract may cost more then newer better service.

8 ) Comcast biz class for example is very cool with all kinds of overhead
you can run servers.
they give you real IP addresses (block of 5)
you can get 16Mbs down and 2Mbs up (or more) for up for $80.

http://business.comcast.com/service-availability/available-plans_possible.aspx

9) recording the call
skype based tools. there are lots of choices.
wire it into your board.
we do this.
use WireTap, Sound Flower or
the equivalent on Windows.

10) echo, echo, echo…
everyone has to wear headphones.
AKG K-240’s SUCK
they aren’t closed
ear buds work better!
Sony
MDR-7502
MDR-6V

Sennheiser
HD202
$90 for 5. send them to people!
Audio Technica
AT-HM20

YMMV

bottom line:
don’t do anything else but TALK. not YouTube, email or chat on both sides
have a good microphone.
use a Skype on Windows on your side.
where headphones.