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News Staff Rates Gear for Skype Use

WTOP newspeople try out USB-connected devices

Ari Ashe

How can a news radio station help its guests get the best audio out of Skype for broadcast use?

Producer and Reporter Ari Ashe at Hubbard station WTOP(FM) in Washington and some of his colleagues took that question in hand recently and did some research on a dozen headsets and microphones. The result is a list of findings and recommendations that the station keeps handy and also provided to Radio World.

“Currently, radio stations depend on telephones, ISDNs and other expensive hardware to deliver tape and live content to listeners,” Ashe tells potential station Skype guests in the document.

“But just as the Internet revolution changed the way we received news, technology is also offering less-expensive ways to get high-quality audio. Our first of several projects into working with Skype is to research headsets and microphones. There are a lot of models, all at different prices, that promise different experiences.”

He wrote: “The new emerging VoIP technologies like Skype are getting close to mimicking an ISDN, but at a fraction of the cost. Our goal, like all TV and radio stations, is to get you onto a Skype connection that sounds as close to an ISDN or in-studio as possible.”

An Audio-Technica USB mic, one of the models tried by the WTOP staff<

While the study may not be the work of engineers — it’s not written for a technical reader, and it does not attempt to survey every suitable USB headset or microphone — one RW engineering observer called it “an impressive piece of work” and thought these findings will be of value to stations not only in Skype interviews but in using any PC-based app with a wireless connection that needs to deliver good audio.

Specific products from Blue, Logitech and Audio-Technica fared particularly well.

The report concludes: “Unfortunately, not enough research has been done in the broadcast industry into audio. However, any successful Skype television interview requires good video AND good audio. One cannot thrive without the other. That’s where this study can apply to platforms beyond WTOP(FM) and other radio outlets.”

Read it here.

WTOP Skype Audio Study (PDF)