How to take phone calls on a live Internet or radio show


Screaming Into Phone

Neema Vedadi and I do the Freedom Feens Live show. It streams live over the Internet, is on Ku-band free-to-air satellite radio throughout North America, and is on a couple of FM stations in New Hampshire. We have been doing a non-live podcast weekly for a year, but added the live show last week. It’s Sunday from 5-7 PM East Coast Time, and you can listen live, HERE.

Neema and I talk to each other and also wire into the New Hampshire servers with the program Mumble. Info on how to use and configure Mumble is HERE. We also record the show for our archives via Mumble. Mumble has a red button on it to bring up the recording interface:

Recording In Mumble

Mumble puts the WAV files of the recording in your MyDocuments folder by default.

I talked to a friend who works at a radio station that has people call in. He told me the model number of the rack mount unit they use for callers. I looked it up, the units start at 900 dollars, and quickly go up in price from there.

Neema and I came up with a last ditch effort, and it WORKED. It not only worked, but worked well. Here’s a short MP3 if you wanna listen to our test. It’s Neema and I talking via Mumble, with my wife calling in on her cell phone from another room, and the whole thing was recorded by Mumble’s record feature.

Here’s how we did it: We got a Skype-To-Go phone number (a paid Skype number, 18 dollars for three months). A Skype-To-Go number is an actual ten-digit phone number that people can call in to from a cell phone or land line, but you receive it on your computer with Skype. You can even get a custom number in any state and almost any country for no extra charge, if you can find a number that’s not taken for the area code you want. I couldn’t find one that spells anything, so I simply got one in my area code that’s easy to remember.

I set up Skype on a second computer (not the one we’re using Mumble on, we tried that and it didn’t work). I used a small inexpensive netbook that doesn’t have a whole lot of processing power and it worked fine. I plugged both computers into my mixer. The Mumble computer connects via USB, and the Skype netbook connects via audio outputs. We use Skype with audio only, no video, for better bandwidth and audio quality.

Here are closeups of how I hooked the Skype computer up to the mixer (click image to enlarge):

skype to mixer setup

Here’s a pulled-back photo showing my mixer settings:

skype podcast mixer settings

One thing that’s hard to see is the buttons above the bottom right master volumes. The “2 Track To Mix” button is off (not pressed in). The “2 Track to Control Room” and “Mix Track to Control Room” are both on (pressed in).

IMPORTANT: If you don’t have an output on your mixer called “Control Room Out” (Or “Ctrl Room Out”), make sure that wherever you plug that plug is a LINE output, not a speaker or headphone output. Otherwise, at best, you’ll get horrible audio. And at worst, you’ll fry your Skype computer’s sound card.

My condenser microphone is going into channel 2 via XLR. The Skype computer’s audio out is going into channel 7 via a 1/8″ mono male jack with an adapter to a short 1/4″ mono male cable. Control Room Out is going back into the audio input of the Skype computer via a short 1/4″ mono male cable connected to a 1/8″ mono male jack. I’m listening to everything on headphones.

Here’s a sort of blurry photo of the whole setup:

three computers for live internet netcasting

The full-size laptop on the far left is running Mumble. The smaller netbook laptop to the right of that is running Skype. The mixer is just below the netbook. The large desktop computer on the far right is not connected to the mixer and is not doing any audio function, it’s on for Internet research during the show. (You could do this whole setup without the third computer if you didn’t need to do Internet research live.)

Neema, the other host on the podcast, is in a different state, using one computer to connect to me and New Hampshire via Mumble.

The people calling in only need a phone, not a computer. Though they could also call in via free Skype anywhere in the world, without a phone and without it costing them anything.

I have to accept the call via Skype when the person calls in, and disconnect when they’re done, using the mouse on the Netbook.

Please also see my related post, Mumble for encrypted Skype-like conversations. Also, read this article on how we do our uber-high-fidelity Wednesday non-live double-ender podcasts.
–Michael W. Dean



7 thoughts on “How to take phone calls on a live Internet or radio show”

  1. With a mixer involved, I’d highly recommend using the “Aux Send” instead of Ctrl Room out to feed the laptop. It creates a “mix minus” for Skype, and keeps the caller from hearing herself echo back. Skype’s echo cancelation is good, but not perfect. Just turn up the Aux SEnd knobs on every channel of the mixer you want to send to Skype (all but the Skype return channel of the mixer).

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