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Hi Guys,

 

I've seen posts asrecent as 2016 about this, I've been a member on VATSIM as far back as 2005...

 

When can we expect VATSIM to actually do something about audio on the network

 

I don't mean to be rude, and please don't take this as being rude either. The quality of the audio on VATSIM is a serious show stopper for me. It's unbearable to fly like this with ATC on-line. Whether I'm flying locally in ZA, the UK, the US, I can't hear, nor understand most controllers, most of the time.

 

100/100Mbps FTTH connection, absolutely no problems with my Internet connection, and absolutely NO problems on IVAO (which uses TS, I know).

 

Problem with IVAO is the lack of ATC/Pilots. Now you come to VATSIM and you get the ATC/Pilots, but you can't understand them. You're stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of on-line flying.

 

We're not in the 1980ties anymore... Something needs to be done.

--

Chris.

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It keeps amazing me what kind of problems some members have with VATSIM's voice. Look, I do believe you! But I just cannot agree that it is a problem in general. I am currently flying with X-Plane 11 and xSquawkbox (mostly Europe, but not limited to) and never really have any problems understanding ATC or most other pilots. If ATC is unreadable then the reason is usually their talking-technique or the position of their microphones. If you have a hard time understanding ATC, let them know: "read you 1 out of 5 only, your voice volume is way too low" (for example).

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It keeps amazing me what kind of problems some members have with VATSIM's voice. Look, I do believe you! But I just cannot agree that it is a problem in general. I am currently flying with X-Plane 11 and xSquawkbox (mostly Europe, but not limited to) and never really have any problems understanding ATC or most other pilots. If ATC is unreadable then the reason is usually their talking-technique or the position of their microphones. If you have a hard time understanding ATC, let them know: "read you 1 out of 5 only, your voice volume is way too low" (for example).

 

I mean, I've mentored students listening to their frequency, and have been talking to them in TeamSpeak too. There are many times I can't make out what they say on-frequency but can in TeamSpeak.

Kind Regards,

Kieran Cross,

 

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It keeps amazing me what kind of problems some members have with VATSIM's voice. Look, I do believe you! But I just cannot agree that it is a problem in general. I am currently flying with X-Plane 11 and xSquawkbox (mostly Europe, but not limited to) and never really have any problems understanding ATC or most other pilots. If ATC is unreadable then the reason is usually their talking-technique or the position of their microphones. If you have a hard time understanding ATC, let them know: "read you 1 out of 5 only, your voice volume is way too low" (for example).

 

I mean, I've mentored students listening to their frequency, and have been talking to them in TeamSpeak too. There are many times I can't make out what they say on-frequency but can in TeamSpeak.

 

Exactly.

 

I also have absolutely zero problems with my headset (or the controllers with theirs) on IVAO for example. I hear them perfectly - 99% of the time.

 

The problem isn't headsets, it's not internet connections. This is a VATSIM problem, and it's the audio codec that is being used, that is donkey years old. It's really as simple as that.

 

EDIT:

 

In 2016 the VATSIM Board of Governors ACKNOWLEDGED the poor audio quality, and it was being looked at. It's 2018. What has happened in two years? Nothing?

 

Reference: https://community.vatsim.uk/topic/33529-why-is-the-audio-so-bad-in-2016/

--

Chris.

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The whole topic is strange for me, too. I can confirm what Andreas said: I never have any voice issues on VATSIM at all. But I also frequently see others writing about their problems. Would be interesting to find out the difference between these two groups of users.

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  • Board of Governors

Agreed. I am very rarely aware of any issues, and when I am, I can usually trace it back to

1. Mic away from mouth and member either didn't realize or forgot to put it back

2. Music/TV/Teamspeak/other background noise

3. Member using defective or poor quality headset

 

I don't recall ever having an entire session (or anything close) where *all* voice quality was bad.

 

It would indeed be interesting to see if the root cause of the complaints could be determined. More importantly, it would be magnitudes better to have an improved voice architecture with reduced latency (most important) and improved voice codec quality (nice to have).

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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Exactly: I also do support new software/codecs, but in the meantime the current audio codec is not all bad and as described by Alex and Don, usually it is the other side doing something "wrong" in their setup or having poor hardware.

 

I forgot to mention in my first post that I have not experienced a difference between me using FS9+Squawkbox4 and X-Plane 11 and the latest release(s) of xSquawkbox.

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Ok.

 

Well then sorry I asked. I shall refrain from the pleasures of ATC then.

There's no need for this kind of behaviour. We have acknowledged that you do experience problems and we have shared our sympathy and the interest in new audio software/codec. But then again, there are lots of members who do not have the issues as described by you and we really wonder whether it's an individual (user) problem or if the current codec is behaving differently on different machines. So far, many problems with low volume voice can be solved by asking people to actually hold their microphones closer to their mouths, activate microphone boost (if available) etc.. Some members do not even use headsets, but rather built-in microphones in their notebooks!
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If you ask me, the fact that we have such inconsistency in the quality of voice across users is just further evidence that we need to overhaul the voice infrastructure.

 

If the users that reported poor voice quality (such as the OP here) didn't also say that they had no issues with other voice systems such as TeamSpeak, then I would be inclined to agree that it might be a voice hardware or other local issue for those specific users. That's jut not the case. Many users that report issues with VATSIM voice say that TeamSpeak, discord, etc. work just fine for them.

 

This suggests that VATSIM's voice architecture is far less tolerant of individual hardware/software differences and thus needs an overhaul.

Developer: vPilot, VRC, vSTARS, vERAM, VAT-Spy

Senior Controller, Boston Virtual ARTCC

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If you ask me, the fact that we have such inconsistency in the quality of voice across users is just further evidence that we need to overhaul the voice infrastructure.

 

If you read my original post, and following ones...

 

1) VATSIM's Board of Governors has ALREADY ACKNOWLEDGED this. It's nothing new. The voice is a problem, finish.

2) I merely asked in the 12+ years that I've been lurking on and off VATSIM, what has changed in terms of Voice? The answer is clearly, nothing.

3) Given the fact that VATSIM's Board of Governors already in 2016 agreed to look at the voice issues... What has been done? Again, clearly, nothing.

 

This isn't about my voice is good, oh but mine is bad. VATSIM took a DECISION in 2016 to overhaul the voice. What has happened, and what has been done, as so far as that decision is concerned?

 

I am really, not the slightest, interested in a my headset is better than yours (and I choose headset, rather than some other words that would more than likely get me banned) conversation. The codec's used by VATSIM *IS* a problem, it *HAS* been acknowledged. What is being done about it?

--

Chris.

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Because I am in Africa? And I would have expected by local Region/Division to partake in this discussion, which clearly hasn't happened.

 

Would be better placed in General - this is a network issue after all.

 

(and I choose headset, rather than some other words that would more than likely get me banned)

 

Legitimately interested in what words these are! PM me them?

 

As far as I can tell, nothing has gone forward except for meetings and planning. If I recall correctly, every time they talk about voice codec, the BoG goes into an executive session (why, I don't know) - so who knows what's going on there.

Kind Regards,

Kieran Cross,

 

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Well, my microphone is longer than...ok, let's stay on topic

 

Clearly, the issue is, as usual, that VATSIM is not a commercial network, things get done on a voluntary basis. As long as there's nobody who is going to create and implement a new codec, not much will happen. Possibly the current topic of discussion is also what will happen to those pilot and controller clients that are not being developed anymore: if we cannot modify the code of those programs, then we cannot replace the old voice codec with a new version. So, what will we do? Just cut off users that are still using old clients? E.g. there are still quite a few FS9-pilots around who can only choose between Squawkbox and FsInn. Both are not being developed anymore, we have no more access to the source code, as far as I know.

 

Questions over questions!

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  • Board of Governors

The good news is we now have a fully-staffed technical/network department. We've had key vacancies for a while, and I imagine that could have contributed to the delay.

 

The bad news is as much as dozens (if not more) members have begged for updates and communications from the swift team, none come, so the average member is left to [Mod - Happy Thoughts]ume swift is dead. And then we hear it's not, followed by more silence for the better part of a year. The swift team started development in April 2013. More than 5 years ago. There is a ton of reticence to "abandon" FSInn and Squawkbox which would be required if we move to a new codec. It would leave FS9 pilots without a way to connect to the network. It would be interesting to see some stats on how many / what percent FS9 (and prior) pilots are still connecting to the network. We don't know that, so we don't know as a network how to calculate the "least worst option" in terms of moving to a new codec and abandoning the old clients, or accepting the risk to the network of keeping the existing codec and losing members to other networks.

 

I wish the data would be gathered so informed decisions could be made.

 

Further, I wonder about the possibility of releasing a "Swift Lite Beta" that would allow us to migrate to a new codec and have FS9 support (perhaps even "only" FS9 support), thus allowing us to move forward and still support our members that don't want to move to a current sim platform.

 

Sorry for all the wishing and wondering

Don Desfosse
Vice President, Membership

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The failure to appoint a VP of Tech Development has been a key problem. In the past few years, plenty of people have put their hands up to do something, but this kind of development requires both technical leadership and policy coordination (i.e. the job of the VP of Tech Development).

 

Now that Zach has been appointed, there is significant planning work to be done to not only work out what the final technical solution looks like, but also what the roll-out/implementation looks like. This is work that needs to happen even prior to lines of code being written, let alone something for us all to use.

 

It will take time, but things are at least moving in the right direction.

David Zhong

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I agree that the majority of times I've had difficulty understanding someone on frequency, or had difficulty being understood, it was a combination of cheap equipment and significant background noise that was to blame.

 

However, I would strongly encourage us as a community to shy away from thinking that a solution is "tell people with cheap headsets, or who use their notebook mics, to get better equipment." Not all of us have hundreds or thousands -- or, sometimes, even mere dozens -- of dollars to burn on a hobby that many in our own families regard as a simple game. If this network is truly about inclusivity, then a network infrastructure that is not reliant upon high-end equipment to function at a tolerable level should be a priority.

Cheers,

-R.

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If this network is truly about inclusivity, then a network infrastructure that is not reliant upon high-end equipment to function at a tolerable level should be a priority.

 

You can get an acceptable twin plug stereo headset at Walmart for $10, the worst example of which is going to be miles better than a notebook mic. USB models start around $20. I acknowledge that my examples are limited to the USA as far as availability, but you can make the jump to acceptable voice equipment for less of an outlay than the simulator itself costs. I don’t think it’s so much of a burden to ask that if someone wants to participate at a higher level that they consider making that much of an investment. Text still exists, as does voice receive, neither of which require any extra equipment at all.

 

This is entirely in the interest of maximizing the user’s immersion, after all.

Edited by Guest

Dhruv Kalra

VATUSA ZMP ATM | Instructor | VATSIM Network Supervisor

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Just as a feedback: on Sunday I coached an experienced ATCO on a new station. Strangely the quality of his voice-output was distorted and would cut out at times. In the end he found out that Euroscope (probably after an automatic update of Windows) had changed its selection of audio devices from his headset to his webcam!

 

So, if you ever come across other members telling you that your voice-output is hardly readable, please go and check the audio-settings in your ATC- or pilot-client.

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You can get an acceptable twin plug stereo headset at Walmart for $10, the worst example of which is going to be miles better than a notebook mic. USB models start around $20. I acknowledge that my examples are limited to the USA as far as availability,

An Iranian student at VATSTAR recently told me that you can easily multiply US prices by 5-10 once you talk about the strict import regulations and taxes there.

 

This is entirely in the interest of maximizing the user’s immersion, after all.

The user should be able to decide what level of immersion they want. I, personally, must *sacrifice* immersion because if I have the aircraft engine sounds turned up the least bit, my voice over my inexpensive headset becomes so distorted as to be completely unintelligible on frequency. Meanwhile, everyone on TeamSpeak and/or Discord hears me just fine.

 

But my bigger point is that the network should consider what the experience looks like for the first time user, not someone who has already made these Investments, however meager they may be. If a new user tries IVAO with a laptop mic and everything goes fine, and then they try VATSIM with a laptop mic and everyone shouts at them about how they can't understand anything they're saying, the perception is going to come down to the idea that our network sound quality sucks.

Cheers,

-R.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Just as a feedback: on Sunday I coached an experienced ATCO on a new station. Strangely the quality of his voice-output was distorted and would cut out at times. In the end he found out that Euroscope (probably after an automatic update of Windows) had changed its selection of audio devices from his headset to his webcam!

 

So, if you ever come across other members telling you that your voice-output is hardly readable, please go and check the audio-settings in your ATC- or pilot-client.

 

Not wanting to be daft, but things like that has been checked, prior to making this post.

 

If they don't want to modify the clients, or can't modify the clients, at this stage it would be even better (albeit more work) to just manually join TeamSpeak servers TBH.

 

What I have noticed (and not only for me, but by monitoring HOURS and HOURS of Pilots and ATC streaming on Twitch), is that the audio is distorted by the UDP packets traversing over the Internet. When pilots and atc are close to each other, the audio is good (US to US, US to EU for example) for the most part. When the pilot and controller are far from each other (US to AU, US to ZA for example), the voice is terrible. When the same pilot that had good quality voice in the US goes and flies in AU for example, wham. Terrible voice. It's not coincidence.

 

The simple fact of the matter is that this is due to the codec, and the way by which the audio is distributed over the Internet (Peer to Peer & UDP packets). It has nothing to do with mics, software settings, etc. Unfortunately, there is a VAST majority of people NOT located in the EU and US. I think if a quick survey is done, most of the more constant complaints about voice, will also come from people more orientated to these remote locations.

 

I am not referring to isolated incidents (i.e. mic in my chin type of people), I am talking in general here.

 

For me personally, I am sorry but my VATSIM experience will remain ATCless and I will disconnect from the network as soon as I encounter ATC. Until I see CONSTRUCTIVE WORK (and not empty promises) in terms of VATSIM improving it's voice, I will not participate with the current voice as it stands now. In 10+ years of me personally being on (and off) VATSIM there has been MORE than enough time to do something about it TBH.

 

I have enough things to worry about, I don't need the irritation and aggravation of trying to figure out what someone is trying to tell me.

--

Chris.

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