Remote Interviews: To Skype or not to Skype?

I like the sound of phone calls

That means that many people won’t agree with this post, but I have good reasons for liking the sound of phone calls, and I’d like to lay them out for you:

Skype or other computer-based voice-over-IP (VOIP) systems sound too good sometimes.

Too good? Let me explain: If you use Skype properly — with good microphones — and have a solid connection, it will sound just like the two people are in the same room.

That’s if you use Skype properly with good microphones and have a solid connection. It is very hard to guarantee that all of those requirements are met at both (or all three or four) ends of the call. This creates the kind of “Last 1%” problem seen in computer animation: You can create a computer animated person that looks and moves 99% as realistically as an actual human, but the missing 1% makes the viewing experience disturbing.

It isn’t this severe in a Skype call, but it is a problem. I’d rather have my listeners hear a phone call sound they are extremely used to — and therefore know that I was on the phone with someone — than have it sound like we’re in the same room using a cheap recording rig. Then again, the show I do professionally is going for that “radio” sound, so we use a telephone hybrid at work. I don’t do phone interviews for my home show, but if I did, I would save money by using SkypeOut or Gizmo to call a real phone for that “phone sound.”

Phone calls are a known quantity to everyone in the developed world. Skype calls are not.

In fact, the fact that phone calls — and phones — are a known quantity is my other reason for suggesting a “phone sound” interview (using the regular phone network or a VOIP-to-phone connection). Unless you are only interviewing other podcasters or tech-geeks, most people don’t have nice microphones or know how to use Skype. Anyone can use a telephone.


If you really want good sound, you should set up a “double-ender.” This is when you call you interviewee and talk to them over a regular phone line, but both of you record your side of the conversation at your respective ends. You then have your guest email you the file of their side, and you combine them in editing. This has the same potential problems as Skype when it comes to your guests’ recording abilities, but you’ll never have connection issues.







One response to “Remote Interviews: To Skype or not to Skype?”

  1. Cheap Mobile Calls Avatar

    I can understand what you mean with the whole “sound is too good thing”. However, you provided some great advice for the interview recording, thanks!