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How should you "monitor" a phone call?

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How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:21 pm

Okay, get your thinking caps on, because I've got some tricky questions!!

I am trying to record phone calls on my Macintosh.

My first question is regarding how I should "monitor" (i.e. listen to) the phone call.

I have a USB headset with a speaker for my right ear and a microphone.

Presumably, I want to set up my software so that I can "monitor" the phone call through the headset's earpiece, right?

What I seem to be running into, though, is that I am getting a feedback loop between the headset's earpiece and my voice and the speaker.

When I tell people how frustrating it is to set all of this up, they laugh at me like I'm an idiot, but I can tell you now that setting up audio on a Macintosh is a MAJOR pain-in-the-ass!

Maybe for you audio engineers, this is "cake", but I'm really struggling with all of this. (And I haven't even gotten into all of my software issues yet!!)

Hope this thread makes sense, and there are some "obvious" answer from you gurus!

Thanks,

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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby wireman » Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:56 am

I don't understand your setup or where the speaker comes in.

You could use something like the Retell 157 if your phone has a handset that plugs in.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:59 pm

You just press the 'Speaker-Phone' button on your handset and put the thing and yourself next to a microphone or the computer's built-in mic.

Job done!
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 05, 2018 2:11 pm

audio_jungle wrote:I am trying to record phone calls on my Macintosh.

Do you mean you're using Skype or something like that for the 'phone call'? Some kind of voice-over I software?

My first question is regarding how I should "monitor" (i.e. listen to) the phone call.

Via the headphone socket seems the most logical answer -- unless you have some kind of audio interface hooked up to the computer.... in which case you'll need to plug headphones into that.

I have a USB headset with a speaker for my right ear and a microphone.

Okay... then that is effectively a USB audio interface, so set the Mac up to use that for all local sound coming in and going out so that your telephone software can use it.

Presumably, I want to set up my software so that I can "monitor" the phone call through the headset's earpiece, right?

Right.

What I seem to be running into, though, is that I am getting a feedback loop between the headset's earpiece and my voice and the speaker.

That could either be an acoustic feedback because the earpiece is too loud or the mic is turned up to far, or it could be electronic in that you have some inappropriate signal routing going on in the audio settings of your USB headset software or the Mac's audio settings.

Hope this thread makes sense, and there are some "obvious" answer from you gurus!

Yes, it makes sense, but without specific details of the USB headset, the telephone software, and the operating system it's impossible for anyone to offer any detailed advice.

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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:21 pm

Based on some of the earlier responses, there are some wise-guys here or this isn't the right place to ask for help.

I have a MacBook Pro running Sierra. I am using VOIP for my calls, Zoiper for the softphone, Rogue Amoeba Loopback as an "audio hub" and Audacity to record.

In order to help, people need to understand what all of that means. (Telling me to put a microphone up to a speaker phone sounds asinine.)

I can go into more detail, but didn't want to type a book if this is the wrong forum.


Hugh Robjohns wrote:
audio_jungle wrote:I am trying to record phone calls on my Macintosh.

Do you mean you're using Skype or something like that for the 'phone call'? Some kind of voice-over I software?

Similar to Skype. Yes.

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
My first question is regarding how I should "monitor" (i.e. listen to) the phone call.

Via the headphone socket seems the most logical answer -- unless you have some kind of audio interface hooked up to the computer.... in which case you'll need to plug headphones into that.

In audio recording they call the speaker the "monitor" - which seems strange to me.

In my OP, I was trying to ask...

When a DJ or whoever is tryong to hear/listen/monitor a conversation/phone-call, how are they hearing things?

Should I be hearing my own voice from mouth to ears?

From mouth to the speaker in my headset?

How should I be hearing the caller?

On my computer's speaker?

On my headset's speaker?

Using a USB headset, I assumed that I would hear the whole conversation via the headset speaker.

Come to think of it, I don't know what to expect.

For example, if I talked on a 1970s dial phone, when I was talking to grandma, how did I hear my end of the conversation?

When you talk on a phone are you hearing your part of the conversation from your mouth or the headset speaker?

I ask this, because when I adjust Rogue Amoeba's Loopback - to help me you need to understand what this is - I get one of two scenarios...

In order to get signal coming through the software so I can record the phone call in Zoiper, I am also getting FEEDBACK when I talk.

And if I adjust Loopback so I do NOT hear my own voice in the headset, then it is not picking up the phone call.

And so that has me wondering if maybe when I talk on the phone call, if I should hear my own voice directly from my own mouth and not the headset speaker.

But then again, when a DJ is speaking to a caller, they are NOT wearing a cheap USB headset, and since they have an "over-the-ears" headset on, the only way they should be able to hear anything is through their headphones, right??

Therefore, that leads me to believe that my voice and the caller's vocie should be heard entirely through my USB headset's speaker, right?


Hope that makes more sense, and I hope people here can at least help me understand the Physics of all of this, even if you lack the computer knowledge.

If I can better understand the audio theory behind what I am doing, then I am smart enough with computer's to translate that into a (hopefully) working IT solutions!

Thanks!
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:26 pm

You seem bit quick to cling accusations around at people trying to just get at the info that was originally missing. In the light of your latest post I'd say try Audio Hijack Pro.

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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:35 pm

ConcertinaChap wrote:You seem bit quick to cling accusations around at people trying to just get at the info that was originally missing. In the light of your latest post I'd say try Audio Hijack Pro.

CC

When someone said "Press the speaker phone button" that seemed pretty sarcastic...


Why do you say try Audio Hijack?

Do you have experience using it?

And what about the fact that Rogue Amoeba's own website basically told me to spend $100 to buy Loopback because it acts as a digital "mixer" of sorts and should handle my need to patch together a Zoiper VOIP phone call with my USB headset and Audacity recording software?

I've been in IT for over 20 years, and the way Macs do audio is confusing as hell!

I think a better understanding of "audio theory" and my questions above about WHERE and HOW you should be able to hear your own voice and then the voices of others is probably what I need a better understanding of before I get into the "gear"...

Thanks.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sun Aug 05, 2018 3:55 pm

audio_jungle wrote:Based on some of the earlier responses, there are some wise-guys here or this isn't the right place to ask for help.
Are you always this rude when you are asking for help?

audio_jungle wrote: (Telling me to put a microphone up to a speaker phone sounds asinine.)
It is also a method that works and works well.

audio_jungle wrote:When a DJ or whoever is tryong to hear/listen/monitor a conversation/phone-call, how are they hearing things?
Via a device called a telephone hybrid that converts the 50V telephone line signal into two distinct audio signals that are then fed through a broadcast mixing desk that allows the DJ to monitor all signals on headphones. The hybrid also has to incorporate auto-ducking, feedback suppression and echo suppression.

There are handsets for Skype and other similar services that have an audio-output socket that you can plug into a mixing desk.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 05, 2018 4:30 pm

audio_jungle wrote:Based on some of the earlier responses, there are some wise-guys here or this isn't the right place to ask for help.

It's usually a good place to ask for help, but yes, some people make wise cracks now and again. Regulars get to know -- and usually appreciate -- their sense of humour... ;-) but it might seem unhelpful to newcomers! I blame the heat... ;-) Stick with it and ignore the wisecracks...

I have a MacBook Pro running Sierra. I am using VOIP for my calls, Zoiper for the softphone, Rogue Amoeba Loopback as an "audio hub" and Audacity to record.

Thanks. That is exactly what we needed to know.

In audio recording they call the speaker the "monitor" - which seems strange to me.

Strange, possibly, but accurate and widespread. Loudspeakers or headphones are used to 'monitor' the signal quality, so we talk of 'monitor speakers', and 'monitor controls', etc.

Should I be hearing my own voice from mouth to ears? From mouth to the speaker in my headset? How should I be hearing the caller? On my computer's speaker? On my headset's speaker? Using a USB headset, I assumed that I would hear the whole conversation via the headset speaker.

I think that's what I would expect, too. I would expect to hear all of the caller in the headphones, plus a certain amount of your own voice as captured by the headset mic. That's broadly what happens in a conventional landline telephone, too.

So I would expect the VoIP software to deliver exactly that to your USB headset -- but its only going to work properly only if you've set the USB headset set up correctly in the Mac's audio preferences dialogues. I can't help you there as I avoid Macs... But there are many experienced mac users here who should be able to help.

...if I talked on a 1970s dial phone, when I was talking to grandma, how did I hear my end of the conversation?

A certain amount of signal captured at the mouthpiece was/is allowed to bleed into and mix with the signal from the caller feeding the earpiece. That bleed signal was/is called 'side tone', and the amount was/is just enough to give confidence that the telephone is working but not so much that it becomes distracting.

When you talk on a phone are you hearing your part of the conversation from your mouth or the headset speaker?

Both.

In order to get signal coming through the software so I can record the phone call in Zoiper, I am also getting FEEDBACK when I talk. And if I adjust Loopback so I do NOT hear my own voice in the headset, then it is not picking up the phone call.

I'm afraid I'm not familiar with your specific software, but it sounds like there's something not right with your audio routing here.

Ideally, your recording software should receive two separate signals from the VoIP program: one is the remote caller, and the second is your local headset microphone. That way you can balance the recording as necessary. However, some VoIP software only provides a single mixed feed which is less helpful, but still gets the job done.

Separate to the recording side of things, your monitoring arrangements should allow you to hear the remote caller mixed together with a certain amount of your local mic. Again, you may get to adjust the balance, or it may be fixed by the software.

So, you'll need to figure out what your USB headset is receiving -- which program is currently producing the listening signal, and might there be a better option that gives better control and adjustment? Is it the VoIP software, or the 'audio hub', or the recording platform?

You also need to be sure that the feedback is not caused by acoustic feedback, with sound leaking from the earpiece into the microphone, of course. Reducing the earpiece volume and/or the microphone's sensitivity should prevent that if that's the problem.

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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:16 pm

I was in the same boat last year. I thought about trying to figure out the route you are now taking but I got to the point where I thought my head would explode, even though it sounds like you are getting close to a good solution.

In the end I decided I would put the caller on speakerphone and set up my little digital recorder near the phone. The recordings went to a micro card in the recorder. When finished I take the micro card out of the recorder and put it in a $6 USB card reader, attach it to my Mac, locate the file and drag it onto the Mac. Not as good a method as what you want to do but it works well enough for me.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby Jorge » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:27 pm

How will you let the person(s) on the other end of the line know you are recording them? In many situations it is unethical, and in some geographic areas it is illegal, to record phone conversations without notifying the other party. Some telephone recording systems will make a periodic beeping sound, in other situations the person recording simply states the call may be recorded and continuing the call after proper notification is considered a tacit form of consent.
Also, you seem to be new here. In general, and also from a purely selfish perspective of getting the best answers to your questions that you can, it would behoove you to treat the folks on this forum with the respect they deserve, even if you don't know who is who. How many times have you as an IT professional told the person to turn on their monitor or fix a loose IEC plug in the back of their computer? There is some rationale for starting at the beginning.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:33 pm

I'm old-school, like Red Bladder, so I use a traditional 'telephone hybrid' wired across a standard landline phone.

A studio mic feeds the computer via an interface and gets recorded on one track, with a direct (mix-minus) output signal feeding into the hybrid which is what the caller hears. The caller's contribution from the hybrid also goes into the interface and is recorded on a second track. Any sound sources in the computer can also be played down the line, of course.

That's not much help to the OP, but might be of interest to others, and fleshes out the detail of what RB was talking about.

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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:37 pm

Jorge wrote:In many situations it is unethical, and in some geographic areas it is illegal, to record phone conversations without notifying the other party.

Good points, well made....

I assume the OP is planning to record podcasts or similar with remote contributors who will be made aware of, and actively consent to, being recorded.

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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:43 pm

ManFromGlass wrote:I was in the same boat last year. I thought about trying to figure out the route you are now taking but I got to the point where I thought my head would explode, even though it sounds like you are getting close to a good solution.

Yeah, I agree with your "I though my head would explode" comment!!! :(

I'm sure there is a solution out there, I'm just pissed that this is so much more involved then I originally thought.

I am so far behind where I need to be to get things going, and it just break my heart because I feel like I will never reach my goals...
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:47 pm

Jorge wrote:How will you let the person(s) on the other end of the line know you are recording them? In many situations it is unethical, and in some geographic areas it is illegal, to record phone conversations without notifying the other party. Some telephone recording systems will make a periodic beeping sound, in other situations the person recording simply states the call may be recorded and continuing the call after proper notification is considered a tacit form of consent.

I am in the U.S. and there definite laws around this.

The easiest solution is to tell people up front, then there is no risk.

I did create a track in Audacity with a BEEP every 10 seconds, and from what I have read that should work too.

All valid points.


Jorge wrote:Also, you seem to be new here. In general, and also from a purely selfish perspective of getting the best answers to your questions that you can, it would behoove you to treat the folks on this forum with the respect they deserve, even if you don't know who is who. How many times have you as an IT professional told the person to turn on their monitor or fix a loose IEC plug in the back of their computer? There is some rationale for starting at the beginning.

When I post a question about recording phone calls on my computer and someone tells me to press the record button on my speaker phone I take that as them being rude, not me.

Either way, it's time to move on from all of that....
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby Dave B » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:49 pm

Jorge wrote:How will you let the person(s) on the other end of the line know you are recording them? In many situations it is unethical, and in some geographic areas it is illegal, to record phone conversations without notifying the other party.

Again, +1 here. This is important and failure can get you into legal hot water.

The simplest way around this - in many, but not all, areas - is to place the call on loudspeaker / speakerphone. Then record the resulting conversation. It was explained to me that any call on loudspeaker does not have the same expectation of privacy as via a handset. This is why people will say "I'm putting you on speaker" when they do it - it's a legal ass-cover and means that other people may be in the room / the call may be recorded. Basically, it means that if you proceed, you waive your privacy rights.

Audio Hijack is one of a couple of standard Mac ways of intercepting the audio sub-system so that it can be routed to secondary applications. Another such example is Soundflower which is open source, but I'm not sure of it's status at the moment. I know it works on my machines but it was installed many OS revisions ago. I know I can intercept the resulting audio, but not sure about sources - I might have a fiddle with things and see just for the hell of it.

Cor ... 20 years of IT huh? Newbie then ... ;) To a few of us old timers with a decade or two more, Macs seem eminently logical. Each to their own I suppose!

:)
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:51 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Jorge wrote:In many situations it is unethical, and in some geographic areas it is illegal, to record phone conversations without notifying the other party.

Good points, well made....

I assume the OP is planning to record podcasts or similar with remote contributors who will be made aware of, and actively consent to, being recorded.

H

I have two objectives...

1.) I need a way to record phone calls as proof of what was said with some issues I am having with some businesses/agencies.

2.) I want to be able to do VOIP interviews with guests that I can then turn into podcasts.

Same technical use-case, but slightly different end purposes.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby audio_jungle » Sun Aug 05, 2018 5:57 pm

Dave B wrote:Audio Hijack is one of a couple of standard Mac ways of intercepting the audio sub-system so that it can be routed to secondary applications. Another such example is Soundflower which is open source, but I'm not sure of it's status at the moment. I know it works on my machines but it was installed many OS revisions ago. I know I can intercept the resulting audio, but not sure about sources - I might have a fiddle with things and see just for the hell of it.

Audio Hijack would probably solve this problem, but Loopback is supposed to as well, and since I laid down money on Loopback, I want to see it work first.

Loopback is the replacement for Soundflower.

Ironically, I had an old Mac where I bought Loopback a couple of years ago, got all of this that we are talking about working, and then my hard-drive crashed and I lost everything.

Then when I rebuilt my machine, Loopback was no longer compatible with my OS version so things have sat for the last two years.

Now I finally got a new Mac, and I can't get this same set up working?! :roll:


Dave B wrote:Cor ... 20 years of IT huh? Newbie then ... ;) To a few of us old timers with a decade or two more, Macs seem eminently logical. Each to their own I suppose!

:)

Heh!

Um, I started programming aroun 1980 (as a kid), so I'm not that much of a "newbie", but I'll nod to the "blue hairs" here... :tongue:
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby blinddrew » Sun Aug 05, 2018 9:59 pm

Something like this might be worth looking at http://tascam.com/product/us-42/images/ as it appears to be designed as a podcast tool.
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Re: How should you "monitor" a phone call?

Postby ManFromGlass » Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:23 pm

When I do a recording of a call to a large corp like the phone or insurance company I assume that their pre-recorded message of "your call may be recorded for blah blah purposes" covers the recording going the other way as it were.

Interestingly, I had a beef with an insurance co this year. Seems an internal email wasn't sent so from their perspective I hadn't cancelled. At the time I thought - no need to record this one, it's a straight ahead procedure. So they were resistant to sending me a full refund. But they actually went back to listen to my conversation with their agent that they had made. I got the full refund. I assume this is a rarity.
Sadly the refund wasn't enough to buy some new gear with!
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