Could ipDTL spell the end of ISDN?

As a voiceover talent who’s relatively new to the business one of the biggest issues I’ve been wrestling with is whether or not to invest in ISDN. I’ve been a professional voiceover for five years with my own home studio facilities. I’ve already invested thousands of pounds in equipment but so far I’ve resisted forking out for a codec and signing an expensive contract for the line.

Part of my reasoning for this – along with the cost – is that due to my other job as a Studio Director for the BBC I’ve had to move home four times in the last 3 years and therefore installing a line just wouldn’t have been practical.

Fortunately I’ve been getting plenty of work without the need for ISDN; most of it has been undirected and carried out in my home studio by myself. Now I’m settled in Manchester and in a bid to expand the level of service I can offer I’ve been re assessing the issues surrounding ISDN and looking into the alternatives.

I’ve investigated Source Connect and Sound Streak but the new kid on the block, ipDTL from a company called In:Quality looks especially promising.

The company, which won the Technical Innovation award at the Radio Festival this year, has been setup by Kevin Leach.

All you need is a broadband connection and the Google Chrome browser at both ends, a pair of headphones and you’re sorted. Head over to the ipDTL website and sign up for an account.

This video – in which I make a fleeting appearance – goes through the connection process step-by-step.

To test the service for myself I connected up with Kevy Parr, a friend and fellow voiceover based in Scotland, and we chatted for over 20 minutes. We both have fibre optic broadband which helped ensure that the Internet connection and audio quality was faultless for the duration. Having said that, I have spoken to several other voiceover artists with much slower internet connections who have also had great results with ipDTL. An upload speed of 0.3mb is enough for the service to work.

I wanted to record the session so I could listen back to it afterwards (and post a clip of it here for you) so I had to do a bit of work to set that up. I use Pro Tools 10 on an iMac so a bit of fiddling about with an application called Soundflower was needed to be able to record the session with Kevy. If you have a similar setup to me you may find this guide helpful. Click play below to hear how we sounded via ipDTL.

The free version of ipDTL is only for radio stations – giving them two logins per station. It allows audio up to 40 kbps but for £99 a year you can sign up for a voiceover account giving you a 128 kbps connection. Other packages for charities, podcasters and radio stations are available at different price points and if you’d like to try it out before you buy you can sign up for a 1 month trial. You’ll find all the details here.

 

There are lots of reasons why this new technology will become ever more relevant. With even second hand ISDN codecs costing well into the £1000’s, service providers becoming increasingly reluctant to install lines and the availability of high speed internet on the increase I think more and more current users of ISDN will be looking for viable alternatives.

The demonstrable audio quality of ipDTL coupled with the lack of a need for extra equipment and affordable prices will surely make the service a serious contender.

If you’re on Twitter you can follow @ipDTL – they are always happy to provide help and advice. Please feel free to comment below or get in touch with me on Twitter – I’m @roryauskerry.