Banishing Phone Quality From Radio

It’s not brain surgery but getting people on the radio in something other than phone quality still seems to be beyond us. Two new services are doing their bit at getting better quality live contributions on air.

I’m not a huge fan of companies that jump up and down excitedly about audio codecs.  Firstly, they should be working flat out to develop codecs that use much less bandwidth than current models so that reporters and contributors don’t fall off air (like I did this morning!) and broadcast quality contributions become the norm, not the exception.  Secondly, they need to get out more.

Price models for broadcast quality hardware and software are simply too high.  ISDN codecs still cost thousands of pounds while Hi-Q VoIP solutions are confusingly priced and often banded according to the number of occasions they’re used.  Inevitably, one day, someone will turn the industry on its head and release a free solution that will lead to price drops around the industry but until then it’s going to be a more piece-meal approach.

iPhone-4-Broadcasting-Luci-Live

Luci Live Lite is the first app off the blocks with an answer that offers occasional users a cheaper way of broadcasting. Already available for Android, PC, Linux and Mac (with iOS surely just around the corner) an in-app purchase allows users of Luci Live Lite to upgrade to the full Hi-Q version for around £20 – for a limited amount of time: 30 days.  This is a great idea for guests and reporters who, in the UK, only need to go on network radio occasionally.  For boring reasons I won’t go into here, BBC Local Radio can connect to Luci Live Lite’s G722 quality codec whilst network radio can’t (it prefers the higher quality codec found in the full version of Luci Live  which costs £250).  But occasionally a guest may find themselves having to do a number of lives with network radio – or a reporter normally working for Local Radio may be working for network for a while.. so this is a good solution.  I just wish Luci would bite the bullet though and offer a one-day licence for one-off guests.

ipdtl_isdn_alternative_on_deskThe second development comes from ipDTL which is taking a leaf out of Pizza Hut’s delivery service.  It’s launched a pilot in London where it will drop off a (loaned) microphone at your home or office and set it up for you.  For an additional fee, they’ll hold your hand (metaphorically speaking) during the live.

The £64 charge includes delivery (travel costs are charged on top) and for that you get a microphone and headphones as well as a 24 hour licence to use the software.  The firm is also offering an annual deal for just over £250 which could be useful for people who find themselves on the air more frequently.

Kevin Leach, the company’s founder, says “We recently sent a USB microphone by motorbike courier to Keith Vaz MP at his North-London home. With a little guidance from us over the phone he was able to connect to 5 live the next morning in studio quality”.

Undoubtedly we need more temporary solutions to the issue of getting people on the air in quality instead of using a technology that’s over a hundred years old.  Eventually they’ll be free and we’ll wonder why we ever had to put up with a presenter sounding so superior (in terms of quality!) to the people being interviewed but for now at least Luci and ipDTL are moving things in the right direction.

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