What is ISDN, why do some clients want you to have it, and how can you use Source Connect, ipDTL and other less expensive alternatives instead?
All are a kind of phone call between studios. So what you say into your mic they hear in their studio, and what they say you hear through your headphones. They let you “remote connect” work in your studio, but be directed by a producer in a different studio. It’s like a high-quality Skype call.
Why might you *unexpectedly* need this if you are not already doing a lot of VO for clients? Most commonly, if you are auditioning through a P2P site such Voice123 you may find the occasional client (and higher-paying spot) that want to connect by calling you at an ISDN. This will let you do that. But read on for details!
Some jobs won’t consider talent that don’t have a a home set up for this. They sometimes specify Source-Connect or ipDTL but usually studios are flexible.
📌 OFTEN CHEAPEST: PHONE PATCHING
The cheapest alternative is for you to set up your headset and mic as the mic and speaker on an internet phone call. They just call you on a phone number, and they can hear you to give you direction via their phone. This is known as a “phone patch”.
You are recorded at your studio and must deliver audio files after the session.
You can do this with Skype or Google Hangouts (changing sson), but a traditional Phone Patch is an electronic box that allows a direct connection to a mixer or digital audio interface to standard telephone lines. The mic signal is routed to the telephone as if the talent are speaking into a telephone receiver. The talent is recorded at their studio and audio files are delivered after the session.
📌 SOURCE CONNECT
Lots of people use Source Connect on an as-needed basis. You just need a standard high-speed internet connection (plug in, not wifi). So you can get familiar with it, and then advertise you have it, and only pay for it when you need it.
If you want to do it by installing and learning their software, they offer a 15-day full-featured trial, then $35 per month with an initial $75 set-up fee. (Re-subscribing if previous subscription lasted at least 4 months, setup fee is waived.)
More and more competitors to this service every year, but this is kind of the granddaddy of ISDN alternatives.
ipDTL was developed by the BBC. The $15 “day pass” may be the best deal for some (Source Connect used to be available on a weekly subscription).
📌 MIMICKING ISDN EXACTLY
Both Source Connect and ipDTL have the ability to bridge to ISDN for an additional fee. Why would you want this? Well, some clients might not be willing to download software or login to an internet site…they just want to use the ISDN that they are familiar with. If you use a bridging service, which acts as the go-between, your client will never know that you DON’T have traditional ISDN. For $32/hour, Source Elements will *bridge* you to an ISDN connection via Source-Elements.com/products/isdnbridge
Source Elements also has a “take care of everything” option: their “concierge” service with a real person taking care of things for $35 plus $1/minute via store.source-elements.com/isdn-bridge-concierge.
📌 IPDTL and ALTERNATIVES
Source Connect and ipDTL have been the most popular alternatives to ISDN. But Bodalgo Call (free) and Connection Open have become serious alternatives, along with Cleanfeed and Zoom.
There is also “Source Connect Now” that runs free from inside a browser, but most studios don’t use it as an ISDN alternative (at Now.Source-Elements.com/#!/) Some alternatives have disappeared, such as ISDNToGo.
ISDN itself is kind of like getting cable—they literally lay a wire to your location, and you pay a (VERY high) monthly fee. It can be $100+ for installation, plus $100+/month (sometimes less). And if you call out on the line, you pay per minute line charges (but it’s customary for the studio to call you and pay the line charges). Most talent use a service like Source Connect over their internet connection instead.
Both parties must have access to ISDN for it to work. They can’t necessarily tell on the other end whether it is “real” ISDN or simulated like Source Connect.
ISDN is an initialism for “Integrated Services Digital Network” It uses traditional telephone lines to allow two-way, high fidelity, real time communication and recording from a home studio to high-end studios, stations and networks elsewhere, all over the world.
And it’s not always perfect! “Occasionally phone carriers are not compatible, for whatever reasons, and my ISDN simply will not lock with certain customers…ISDN…is prone to occasional dropouts.” –Voiceguy.org
The consensus is that ISDN alternatives are just as reliable as ISDN, which as noted above itself is not 100% reliable.
Realize that you may hear that *studios* don’t want to give up ISDN, but that is mainly because of how the hardware plugs in on their end. In fact, with ip based hardware boxes from Comrex and Telos (Z/IP and Bric Link) studios are now finding that solutions such as ipDTL give them *higher* quality than ISDN at times.
If you find articles on the internet arguing that these are NOT as reliable, check the date of the article, and read the comments. Often the article is talking about having trouble configuring their computer/router.
That said, in the studio, they often need actual ISDN to do the things they want to do, but on the voice talent end, you don’t need it.
Some organizations in years past, such as WCCO, have avoided ISDN alternatives due to their being unclear on security issues and more familiar with ISDN, but I have not heard of that in recent years. By using bridging, they call and ISDN number and can’t tell the difference if you don’t tell them in any case. If they SPECIFY not to do this, then don’t, but otherwise…