THIS is why studios don’t want to relinquish their ISDN

by | Dec 18, 2014 | ipDTL, ISDN, Source-Connect, Technology, VO Business | 12 comments

studio-cAs voice talent, we see a simplistic view of the distance remote-recording transaction.  The producer or audio engineer contacts us, we talk into the mic, they record it…we dust off our hands, and are done.

 That’s why the ISDN alternative technologies look so good to us.  Cheaper, software rather than hardware configurations, and just as clean.

  • ipDTL
  • Source-Connect
  • SoundStreak
  • ConnectionOpen
  • Skype

They all – in some form or another — tout the ease of use and reduced cost for the voice-talent customer.  But the OTHER side of that recording transaction — the audio engineer — sees it differently.  While they also like the reduced expense, and ease-of-IP-use, there is a distinct, and sometimes almost insurmountable issue that throws a monkey-wrench into their willingness to switch from ISDN.

Below, the explanation from my secret production studio owner/operator friend I’ve featured before.  Here’s what J”J” says to explain the monkey-wrench:

In answer to the question of so many talent as to why studios tend to stick with ISDN over ipDTL or Source Connect Now:

Quite often when a studio does a remote session there are many factors that the talent is not aware of that are greatly complicated by ipDTL or Source Connect Now.  Since those two products use the Opus codec within Chrome the selection of inputs and outputs is limited to the Chrome defaults. 

In a studio session there is the engineer, the client, a remote client via phone patch and often there is more than one talent.  With ISDN we get to choose what signals arrive where in our systems and we route them appropriately: talent get a headphone feed, playback and client plus talkback and phone patch get sent everywhere but nothing gets sent back to itself. 

Setting up such a scenario, especially when recording multiple remote talent at the same time, can be rather complicated.  Internet codecs can’t easily be routed where we would like them to go and working around feedback issues is problematic. 

ISDN doesn’t create such issues and makes our lives easier.  Until a solution arrives that allows studios to route the signals where they need them including directly into the DAW I don’t believe you’ll see widespread adoptation of the internet codecs.

JJ points to a headache that in a busy workflow day, just doesn’t lend itself well to solving each time it comes up!  No wonder they knee-jerk to a tried ‘n’ true solution – ISDN.

There’s really no way for us — as voice talent — to solve this, other than to pressure the vendors (see bullet list above), to work with the audio booths to find solutions.

No one said this switch to a new realm of technology was gonna be easy!




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  1. William Williams

    Another thing that you engineer does not mention is that the talent, ad agency, client company and whoever have absolutely NO patience if the whole system isn;t working correctly or can’t be adjusted on the fly as needed. The setup really needs to be flawless and bulletproof from beginning to end.

    The minute you start mumbling “I can’t give you playback because this codec can’t be mixed in my DAW blah blah blah… ” They say OK, and think “we’ll find someone else next time…”

    Hardware inputs and a real (or complete virtual) mixer let you mix various signals, adjust the headphone levels, etc. Something that a real session requires.

    Good article!

    • CourVO


      Wow!…so true… I could just visualize that scenario in my mind as I read your comment. It appears this blog ferreted-out some decent answers and solutions, as well as point-up an opportunity for SC and ipDTL to get busy, and provide some tutorials on how to make this easier for producers and engineers.

      Hope all is well with you and yours for the holidays!

      Dave Courvoisier

  2. Tim Keenan

    Great article Dave – Get’s right to the crux of the issue.

    If the VO community wants to help make the transition they could help the vendors create some tutorial videos explaining the technology to new users.

    Our pro VO studio has embraced ipDTL & SC-NOW and we’ve been working with VO folks to get started – but even I spend a half hour sorting out how to add a new VO user connect to my ipDTL Link+ account as a guest because there was NO explanation on thee ipDTL website on how to do it!!

    Moving forward!!

    Tim Keenan, Creative Media Recording

    • CourVO


      Thanks for commenting (and also for re-tweeting my blog link!). Clearly, I touched some nerves with this article, and got lots of great ideas in the process. Even ipDTL’s Kevin Leach responded to the post in one of the FaceBook groups… he would be the guy to mount a video production like that, no? ‘Seems to me a great opportunity for him to answer some perceived need out there.

      Hope all is well with you and yours this Christmas season!

      Dave Courvoisier

  3. Peter Drew

    There is at least one IP-only hardware audio codec option available. Telos makes the Z/IP One. Don’t know how flexible it is from a routing standpoint but Dave Immer at Digifon offers it for sale. See it at

    • CourVO


      Thanks for chiming in. I wrote about the Z/IP just a few weeks ago! I think lots of great ideas came out in response to this little blog, and yours was one of them1

      Merry Christmas!

      Dave Courvoisier

      • Jeff Berlin

        I use Comrex BRIC Links.

        They have 2 balanced inputs and 2 balanced outputs, plus AES/EBU inputs and outputs. Just like my Telos Zephyr xStream.

        What’s there to not figure out?

        Most engineers are not stupid, but the one quoted in this article certainly sounds incompetent.

        • CourVO


          Thanks for visiting and commenting. I think through airing out his laundry, “JJ” found some good solutions in all the responses. Yours too.

          Happy New Year!

          Dave Courvoisier

  4. Dan Friedman

    Having worked both sides of this issue I certainly agree that the routing of the signal coming through the computer and getting it everywhere it needs to go is by far the most complex and confusing task associated with using this technology. Even when it works it can be a little perplexing as to why and how. You simply rejoice and move forward. Also, when there are problems, the only troubleshooting that can be done is to reset, reconnect or restart. We’re at the mercy of the internet.

    All of that being said, in just the last several months, I’ve been a part of successful dialog sessions on ipDTL and SourceConnectNow where other talent were coming in via ISDN and there was no significant delay between us and the studio or any problem with any of us communicating with each other. I was also in another session where a talent’s ISDN was down and my ipDTL connection was rock solid.

    The technology is getting cheaper, easier (and better) and will continue to do so. Talent, studios, and even clients will continue to evolve and adapt.

    • CourVO


      I appreciate the update from your side of things, Dan. You’re right, it’s getting less convoluted, and I know the parties involved ( SC, ipDTL) are more than happy to get this stuff resolved.
      Thanks for taking the time to stop by and add to the conversation.

      Dave Courvoisier

  5. Sean Caldwell

    In order for the software ip codecs to be compared to ISDN solutions on the producer side, it may be necessary to think of them as you would ISDN: one box per connection/talent feeding a mixing console.

    Their ISDN hardware boxes got routed into their mixing board and then distributed where they want; mix minus created for other destinations. The studio would run the IP software based solutions audio interface into their mixing console the same way in a complicated session. Or directly into the DAW in a simple session.

    The ip based hardware boxes from Comrex and Telos eliminate some computer related issues that can pop up and provide higher quality options. I’ve had fantastic results using both the Z/IP and Bric Link ii on sessions, even sending straight PCM audio (no encoding at all). Much higher quality than ISDN, lower delay, and no dropouts or other anomalies. On the software side, almost all source-connect or source-connect now sessions I’ve done in the last year have been flawless as well.

    It does feel like 2017 is the year ISDN has started going away.

  6. jeff smith

    A question, knowing that this thread is almost 4 years old now: with ipDTL offering reliable ISDN bridge, is it reasonable to say that these problems have been solved?

    Having just taken the plunge into ipDTL, I feel pretty confident saying that I can connect via ISDN. I’d hate to have a client disagree.


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