Most HamSphere users sound awful on the system. Most aren’t even aware they sound bad on the system. It’s not easy to hear yourself and few operators are willing to give someone an honest report on their audio quality for fear it would be offensive to do so. The Echo Server at 1.82345 offers too short a playback to get a good idea what you really sound like. So what to do???
Some people think engaging the compressor built-in to the HamSphere software will make them sound better. This is usually wrong. The compressor does nothing to improve tonal quality. In fact, the compressor tends to exaggerate the worst qualities of an audio signal. Generally speaking, I DO NOT recommend using the compressor built-in to the HamSphere (HS) software. In most cases it adds no value. Worse, most people have no idea how to use it and have no way of hearing what changes the compressor makes in their audio.
When it comes to HamSphere transmit audio, LESS is MORE. The most important thing is to learn good MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE. Most people make their microphones too sensitive, talk to close or too far away from their microphones and don’t set their MIC LEVEL correctly.
Most people don’t pay enough attention to the acoustics of the room from which they operate. In too many cases, the sound of their voice bounces off nearby walls or objects and creates echos or an annoying hollow sound quality to their audio. All of these things are easily correctable…without the use of the compressor. In most cases, the fix is SIMPLE: lower the sensitivity of the microphone!!!
I recommend NOT using the compressor at all. Take the time to figure out how to make your computer’s microphone setup sound the best it can outside of HS. Use the sound recording software built-in to your computer’s operating system (or one of many free sound recording programs available for download on the internet) to make test recordings of your setup.
Adjust the microphone settings in your computer’s sound-related screens so your microphone sensitivity is only high enough to adequately pick up your voice with the best quality. Figure out how far away you need to be from your microphone to sound clear without any background noise. This will require several experimental recordings. Practice making recordings of yourself speaking at various distances at a comfortable voice level. Playbacks will reveal what sounds best.
If you aren’t able to get a good sound from whatever microphone you are using, buy something different or better. Headsets with boom mikes tend to be the best choice for most HS operators.
Once you are able to make a recording of yourself and the playback sounds clean and clear, start up HS and adjust the MIC LEVEL so the needle kicks up to the top of the green bar on the bottom scale of the HS transceiver meter. Avoid going past the green bar. Remember: LESS is MORE.
If you hear someone who sounds especially good to you on HS, contact them and ask them detailed questions about their setup. You will find that most people who sound very good on HS are using boom mikes with their microphone sensitivity set properly, their MIC LEVEL set to avoid going past the green bar on the HS meter and the room they are in produces no echoes or reverberations.
Avoid using the compressor. It usually just adds distortion. The compressor usually makes bad audio sound worse. The compressor’s purpose in life is to produce an even level of audio despite the many changes in level that actually exist in the audio. The compressor DOES NOTHING to improve the TONAL QUALITY of a signal. The compressor is all about LEVEL not tonal quality.
The objective is to sound clean and clear as well as loud. Achieving that goal takes experimentation and effort. The results are worth the time required.
Feel free to share this information with anyone you like (or as many as you like!!!)
Till next time…73,
Frank N. Haas KB4T
Too many HamSphere operators OVER-IDENTIFY. It simply isn’t necessary to identify yourself at the beginning and end of every single transmission. Identifying too much is a poor operator practice. Identifying too much is a waste of time and, for some, annoying.
HamSphere is a privately-owned Internet entity. It is a simulation of the real ham radio world. No governmental regulatory body dictates how HS operators shall identify. There are no published rules in the HamSphere Manual about how often you must identify. Thus, common sense is the guiding policy here.
So…looking at identification with a HamSphere slant in comparison to real Ham Radio identification, it seems sensible to identify yourself:
a) When you start a conversation, when you end a conversation and every 5 to 10 minutes during the conversation.
b) When you want to clearly indicate which operator in a roundtable conversation is to speak next.
Did you know that you almost NEVER have to identify the other party or parties in the conversation during most of the chat?
When you start a conversation: “99HS9999, This is KB4T. Thank you for the call. My name is…”
When you want to pass the conversation to a specific operator in a group conversation: “…and that’s the story here. I believe it’s Bob’s turn now. 99HS9999, this is KB4T. Over to you, Bob.”
If there are only two of you in the conversation, it isn’t necessary to identify with every OVER. Just say, “Go ahead” or “Over to you” or simply “Over.” “…so tell me Bob, what’s the weather like over where you are? Over.”
If there are more than two people in the conversation, it is VITALLY IMPORTANT and top notch operator practice to clearly indicate who is next to speak: “It’s Bob’s turn now. Pick it up, Bob. Over.”
When ending the conversation: “Thank you for the call and the conversation, Bob. It’s been fun. 73. 99HS9999, this is KB4T, Frank in Florida. Take care.”
Some operators feel compelled to identify when they start every transmission and again when they end the transmission. This is simply not necessary. During a conversation it simply isn’t necessary to identify the other operator(s) in the conversation. You only need to identify yourself.
There is a peculiar practice being used on HamSphere that defies logic and is definitely not typical Ham Radio practice. Some operators will give their callsign followed by “responding to” and then the callsign of the party to whom they are speaking. This is confusing and contrary to typical ham radio practice. In the United States and many English-speaking nations, recommended practice when fully identifying both stations is to always give the other party’s callsign first followed by “This is” and then your callsign. It’s always best to give the other party’s callsign first, then yours.
Consistent, sensible, logical, standard operating practices are the hallmark of a top notch operator. Identify yourself when it makes sense to do so. Avoid over-identifying. Give the other operator’s callsign only when it’s necessary to do so. Set a good example for others and especially the newcomers to HamSphere by using standard, sensible identifying practices.
The latest Ham Radio News is available in a 30 minute audio program suitable for airing on your local repeater or at your local meetings.
Visit http://www.arnewsline.org and look for This Week’s Newscast – AUDIO link. Click and download to listen on your computer.
Bill Pasternak WA6ITF and the AR Newsline team bring you Ham Radio news and features from around the world every Friday morning around 1500Z (1000 Eastern Time).
Amateur Radio NewsLine is a volunteer free service but it isn’t free to produce. Consider donating to the service via the DONATE NOW button found in the upper right portion of the site’s home page.
Stay informed about what’s happening in the Ham Radio hobby by listening each week to the Amateur Radio Newsline podcast – available free every Friday at http://www.arnewsline.org.
HamSphere recently implemented a new User Support System. A team of HamSphere specialists and experts has been assembled to answer questions about all aspects of HamSphere.
Topics include (but are not limited to) questions about when you want to:
Download HamSphere software
Install HamSphere software
Configure HamSphere software
Use HamSphere software
Use the HamSphere system
Answer questions about operating in the HamSphere universe
Resolve Receive or Transmit audio problems
In fact, nearly any issue related to HamSphere can be dealt with via the Support system. Here’s how to take advantage of this valuable user service:
Point your browser to http://www.hamsphere.com/support
Look for this button upon which to click:
In the screens that follow:
1. Describe the make and model of your computer
2. Describe the Operating system type and version used on your computer (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
3. Describe the version of HamSphere you are trying to use
4. Describe IN DETAIL any error messages you see on the screen related to your issue
5. Describe IN DETAIL…LOTS of DETAIL…exactly what is happening that is causing trouble. Be DETAILED…very, very detailed. Describe the steps you follow that produce the error.
6. Read over your problem description before submitting it. Make sure you have said everything listed above and have provided every detail.
Once your request for support is submitted, DO NOT SUBMIT another request about the same issue. One submit is all that’s needed. You will receive a written reply from someone on the HamSphere Support Team within 24 hours. If you have not heard anything from the support team within 24 hours, check your email SPAM folder to make sure a reply did not end up there. If you are certain that no reply has been received AND 48 hours have passed, send a short email with the support ticket/case number to email@example.com. Your matter will receive prompt attention.
The absolute WORST thing you can do is create MULTIPLE support requests about the same problem. Please don’t do this. It doesn’t help in any way and won’t give your matter any higher priority.
If the reply you get from the HamSphere Support Team is not clear, raises more questions or simply can’t be understood…simply click REPLY and ask for clarification on whatever points are not clear. The HamSphere Support Team will do all it can to provide clear, detailed and useful responses to help you resolve your issue. You can reply as often as needed to get what you need.
The HamSphere Support Team is composed of volunteers who donate their time and expertise to make sure your HamSphere experience is the best possible. Do your part and follow these recommendations when you need their help.
Frank N. Haas KB4T
HamSphere Support Team
P. S. Reread items 4 & 5 above. Detail is essential. The more detail you provide the less time will be needed to resolve your issue.
Many new/trial users experience a few problems when getting started using HamSphere (HS). I’d like to offer some tips for a successful HamSphere launch.
1. Read the User’s Manual first. On the surface the HS seems intuitive. Yet there are important details that one should learn before making contacts on the system. The User Manual is a fairly quick read yet contains a great deal of useful information. You won’t have to ask many questions if you start by reading the User Manual.
2. Make sure your transmit audio sounds better than good. Laptop users are especially prone to sounding hollow, weak, boomy, bassy, distorted and just generally awful. There are at least 2 ways you can check the quality of your transmit audio. My blog features a detailed step-by-step tutorial for configuring your computer and the HS software so you sound GREAT! Visit http://kb4t.hamsphere.net and look for the Configuring Transmit Audio article.
At the very least make sure that when you are transmitting, the needle on the HS transceiver never goes above pointing straight up and down. When the needle bounces along the top edge of the green bar on the bottom meter scale, your level is perfect. Perfect level doesn’t mean perfect audio however. Read my tutorial if you want to sound perfect.
The type of impression you make will be directly proportional to the quality of your transmit audio. The better you sound, the more fun you will have.
3. RESIST THE URGE TO TRANSMIT FOR AT LEAST THE FIRST HOUR of your first HS use. No one will do this, of course, because nearly everyone is anxious to make that first contact. Instead of busting into ongoing conversations or calling CQ endlessly, take time to tune around and listen. Click on each band and observe the bandscope. Move the receiver to any activity you see there and listen. Try to get a feel for how things are done.
If you are an Amateur Radio Operator, be prepared to hear different procedures than those you may be used to on the ham bands. Ultimately, activity on HS is supposed to mimic the ham bands. Keep in mind that the majority of HS users are radio enthusiasts who may have never used a radio or they may be Citizens Band operators or they may be total newbies who have never used any radio or VOIP system before.
4. Go back and really read #3 again. You probably read the first sentence and said, “I don’t need to do that!” Yes! You do!! The best HS operators LISTEN. They listen intently. They pay attention to detail. They follow the HamSphere Code of Conduct and the Amateur’s Code (both can be found elsewhere in the forum.) Operators who are good listeners garner the greatest benefit from their HS operating time.
5. Review the HamSphere Bandplan. Digital modes and CW are the only modes allowed on the 30m band. No voice operation is allowed there. Digital modes are NOT allowed on any other HS band.
6. Always be courteous, friendly and pleasant. Always. If you are angry, upset, annoyed, unhappy or in a foul mood, shut down the HS software and resolve the issue. One saying sums it up, “On HamSphere, just as in all aspects of life, YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE.” Nothing else needs be said.
7. Finally, be a great conversationalist. Being a great conversationalist is not hard. The secret is to ask questions that can’t be answered with a “Yes” or “No.” Asking questions and listening intently to the answers makes for great conversation. Would you like to know the secret to winning instant friendships? Make the other party in the conversation talk about themselves. That’s it. Use their name often and ask questions that give them the opportunity to talk about themselves. Do this and you will be very popular on HS.
Follow these tips and you will enjoy your HamSphere operating time immensely. I guarantee it!
Frank N. Haas KB4T
If you want to learn more about Amateur Radio in the United States, watch or listen to HAM Nation on the Twit Network. This weekly hour long podcast/videocast features Bob Heil K9EID and Gordon West WB6NOA, both highly renowned Ham Radio personalities. Watch or listen to the program anytime you like by pointing your browser to http://twit.tv/hn.
Each week Bob and Gordon present the latest ham radio news, special features on ham radio social events and information about interesting technical projects. You can watch the program being recorded live on Tuesday evenings at 2045 EASTERN time at http://live.twit.tv (Flash Player is required to view the video so your iPad or iPhone won’t work.)
The TWIT Network broadcasts via the Internet. Famed Tech Show Host Leo LaPorte founded TWIT and hosts many of the programs offered on the network. The TWIT network offers more than 20 professionally produced tech-oriented programs on all wide variety of topics from high tech smartphones to computer operating systems to internet security. Check out the TWIT Network. I promise you that you will get hooked!
Watch Ham Nation every week for an hour of entertaining and informative news and features about Ham Radio!
Learn about all the TWIT Network programs by visiting http://twit.tv.
When configuring your computer and the HamSphere software for conversations on HamSphere there are two adjustments that must be made correctly. The first is the sensitivity of your microphone. This is usually set in Windows or whatever operating system you are using. The second is the MIC LEVEL on the HamSphere transceiver. The final result should be clean, clear audio that makes the needle on the HamSphere transceiver meter peak at 8 to 9 on the top scale or the top of the green bar on the bottom scale. This is absolutely CRITICAL to success.
Setting the sensitivity of the microphone is best done using the built in Sound Recorder program in your computer’s operating system. I use Windows so I use the Sound Recorder program found under Start\All Programs\Accessories\Entertainment\Sound Recorder. The Sound Recorder makes an actual audio recording of your voice and allows you to play it back so you can hear what you sound like using whatever microphone you choose.
Setting the sensitivity of the microphone is done within the sound driver of your computer’s operating system. Again, in Windows, this is usually found in the Control Panel under Sounds and Hardware or something similar. Typically there is a slider control or some sort of adjustment that controls the amount of amplification applied to the signal from your microphone.
Let’s take a minute to talk about Microphone Technique. The most frequent problem with transmit audio in HamSphere (or any other transmit audio application) is poor microphone technique. Because HamSphere is a computer based communications system, many operators use notebook/laptop computers. The built-in microphones in these devices are usually situated at the bottom of the display or along the front edge of the device which points more or less in the user’s direction. Invariably, the user is a foot or more away from the microphone. When the operator is this far from the microphone, every noise in the room can be heard nearly as loud as the operator’s voice. The computer cannot distinguish between the operator’s voice and the other noises in the room. Essentially, the operator’s voice and the other noises in the room all sound the same. The result is audio that sounds terrible. When you are so far away from the microphone, your audio will usually sound mushy, bassy and can be completely unintelligible. No one will want to talk to you…at least not for very long.
Another common problem is dealing with receive audio. On some computers, pressing PTT to transmit on HamSphere results in the receive audio being muted. This is perfect. On other computers, the receive audio is not muted. Worse, the transmit audio is not muted. When the transmit audio is not muted, FEEDBACK (a squeal) or ECHO is usually the result. Both are completely unwanted and need to be dealt with.
These problems are easily solved. Find a way to get close to the microphone or buy a microphone that is easy to keep close to your mouth. Set receive audio very low in volume (not usually preferred) or use a headset.
Many users buy single or dual headphoned headsets with a boom microphone that reaches around the face to be close to the mouth. This is a great solution to both problems. The boom microphone is positioned near the mouth but not directly in front of the mouth. The headphone part of the headset allows receive audio to be set to a comfortable level even if one can hear one’s own transmit audio while transmitting.
Headsets come in two basic types: USB or dual plug. USB headsets come with software to make them work. Dual plug type simply plug into the computer’s headset and microphone jacks (always situated next to each other and marked with icons.) I personally prefer the dual plug type but many people enjoy great results with the USB type. Before getting on the air with your new headset, be sure it’s working properly by making a recording on your own computer FIRST! Listen to the recording and be sure everything sounds great.
If you buy a headset, be sure to configure its setting correctly. Make recordings on your own computer to set the microphone level to produce good clear, clean audio in the recording. This will involve setting the microphone levels in the Control Panel or driver software for the headset. Once you have been able to make a good recording that sounds great, you are ready to configure the HamSphere software.
Make no further changes (for now) to the control panel or driver settings of your microphone or headset. That is, leave them as they are to produce a good clean recording. Load the HamSphere program and Login. Configure the HamSphere transceiver to 160M band and adjust the big knob to a frequency setting of 1.825. The frequency setting is absolutely critical. be sure it’s set to 1.825.
Set the Mic Level control to 4 (approximately 10 o’clock position.)
Press F8 to toggle the PTT to LOCK when you press it. (This means you click once on PTT to transmit and click on PTT again to return to Receive mode. If you don’t set the PTT to lock you must hold the mouse button down to keep the transmitter keyed on.)
With the headset or microphone positioned where you want, transceiver set to 1.825, mic level set to 4, and PTT set to LOCK on with a single click, Take a breath and relax. Here’s what you are going to do next:
1. Make sure the volume is turned up so you are receiving/hearing the rushing noise from the HamSphere transceiver’s receive mode.
2. Listen without transmitting for at least 2 minutes to make sure the frequency is not in use by others. Press F12 to see if anyone is shown as being on that frequency.
3. Assuming the frequency is NOT in use, Click the PTT and make a 30 second transmission. Simply count up until you have spoken for 30 seconds.
4. While you are counting up, look at the meter on the HamSphere transceiver and observe its movement. How HIGH is the meter moving?
5. Click PTT to stop transmitting.
Did the meter move while you were speaking? If it barely moved, you need to INCREASE Mic Level. If it moved above 9 on the top scale, you need to REDUCE Mic Level. Repeat Steps 3 through 5 and adjust your MIC LEVEL control on the HamSphere transceiver until the needle on the meter peaks at 9 on the top scale during most of your speech.
If you find that you have to set the MIC LEVEL to 8 or 9 in order to make the meter peak at 9 on the top scale, you likely need to either move the microphone a little closer to your mouth or adjust the microphone sensitivity up a tiny bit. Avoid putting the microphone in front of your mouth or you will risk having loud breath noises in your audio. Go back and make more recordings with the mike a bit closer and/or the sensitivity increased slightly and you sound clean and clear. Repeat Steps 3 to 5 again.
If you find that you have to set the MIC LEVEL to 1 or 2 to keep the needle near 9 or can’t get the meter to read below 9 at all, you will have to reduce microphone sensitivity or move the microphone away from your mouth a bit. Ideal settings for MIC LEVEL are between 3 and 6, in my opinion.
Why is it so important to adjust your audio to a maximum of 9 on the meter? Because excessively loud audio will get you kicked off the system automatically for “excessive modulation.” You will be kicked off repeatedly until you fix the problem. If you are too loud or your audio is too low, most people will not want to speak with you.
Once you have found a combination of microphone position, microphone sensitivity and mic level that results in transmit audio that sounds good in personal recordings and peaks at 9 on the top scale of the meter, you are ready for the next test. The Echo Server.
Adjust the HamSphere transceiver’s big knob so the frequency readout shows 1.82345. Be very precise as the frequency setting is critical and must be 1.82345.
When you transmit on 1.82345, the HamSphere server will record the first 10 seconds of your transmission and play it back to you a few seconds after you stop transmitting. This is a handy tool for confirming that your audio is setup correctly.
1. Verify that the microphone is properly positioned, MIC LEVEL set and frequency readout says 1.82345.
2. Click PTT and make a 15 second transmission. Count or just speak for 15 seconds.
3. Click PTT again to put the transceiver back to receive. Within a few seconds, the HamSphere system will play back 10 seconds of what it recorded from you.
How does it sound? It’s likely it won’t sound as nice as your personal recording but if it’s clear and clean, you are good to go.
If you have any questions, email KB4T at kb4t at kb4t dot us [change "at" to @ and "dot" to a single period]
Good luck and sound GREAT on HamSphere!!
Thanks for visiting the KB4T HamSphere Blog. If you have never heard of HamSphere or don’t know what it’s about, visit http://www.hamsphere.com and spend some time browsing. In a nutshell, HamSphere is a VOIP simulation of the High Frequencies complete with fading and static. No RF is involved. No antennas. No links to the real high frequencies. HamSphere is a world within itself in which anyone can experience what it’s like to be an Amateur Radio Operator but without the license exam or a radio and antenna.
People who have an interest in radio communications can become HamSphere subscribers. No ham license, indeed no license of any sort, is required. There is a small annual fee to use the service but it is a bargain when balanced against the hours of fun and education that can be enjoyed. It’s easy and free to get started. Simply download the software and use the service for free for 5 days. At the end of the trial period (or earlier!) you can decide to subscribe for approximately $35 USD or delete the program and go on your way.
Some HamSphere users have no radio communications experience at all. Some come from the ranks of the world’s Citizens Bands. Some are real licensed and experienced Amateur Radio Operators. While HamSphere seeks to emulate the real world of Amateur Radio, the mix of experienced & inexperienced, licensed & unlicensed and computer savvy & computer beginners makes for a diverse universe…not unlike the real ham bands in many respects.
KB4T has been a licensed Amateur Radio Operator for 47 years. Most of that time was spent operating CW (Morse Code) on the lower high frequency bands. In 2009, KB4T became voice talent for This Week In Amateur Radio and discovered the world of VOIP Ham Radio. To create broadcast quality recordings for TWIAR and top quality Enhanced Single SideBand on HF, KB4T made part of his ham shack a recording studio complete with professional audio equipment. When the studio isn’t used to make broadcast quality recordings, the equipment serves as the launch pad for VOIP operation.
Starting first on QSONet.com and then HamSphere.com, KB4T found the world of VOIP Amateur Radio both inviting and entertaining. It’s difficult to pin down the attraction. Perhaps it’s the ease of use. Perhaps it’s the lack of static. Perhaps it’s the many opportunities to show non-hams how Amateur Radio really works.
VOIP Ham Radio is not a perfect world. Yet it is an incubator for radio enthusiasts who want to dip their toe in the Amateur Radio water and see what it’s like. QSONet requires its users to have an Amateur Radio License. HamSphere does not. Anyone can play in the HamSphere universe. For those who find the demands of licensing unattractive, HamSphere is the perfect world where one can experience the joys of Ham Radio without that pesky testing thing. Yet unlike unregulated chat rooms, anarchistic CB channels and other unruly VOIP services, HamSphere is a civilized environment, protected by Admins who make sure the irresponsible don’t make life unbearable for those who are responsible, courteous and intent on good clean fun.
To those who say, “It isn’t real ham radio!” I say, “You’re absolutely right.” It doesn’t need to be. I’ve always said that the medium is not as important as the message. If I could derive the same joy of personal electronic communication by using a string tied to other cans, I would do it. Like Ham Radio, HamSphere and services like it, open up a world of interpersonal relationships that is very rewarding.
For me the toughest decision each day is which medium to use. RF or VOIP. Both are fun. Both are rewarding. Both provide me with great satisfaction. In fact, I feel very lucky to have both to choose from.
See you on the bands, Real & Virtual!!!
73, Frank N. Haas KB4T in Florida
The KB4T Ham Radio Blog can be found at http://kb4t.us but I admit that I don’t write about many subjects.
Email KB4T at kb4t at kb4t dot us [Be sure to change "at" to @ and "dot" to a period.]
One of the first lessons all VOIP Ham Radio Operators must master is the art of LISTENING.
Commit this to memory: Never transmit on any frequency until you have spent at least 2 minutes listening there.
New users are prone to violating this basic operating procedure. They may be so anxious to make their first contact that they can’t keep their fingers off the PTT button. New users tend to barge into ongoing conversations without having anything to contribute. This is simply rude! Such behavior satisfies their urge to transmit but disrupts the flow of the conversation and leaves those who were talking feeling awkward and a bit annoyed. Not a great way to start!
Imagine you and someone you just met are chatting at a party face-to-face about something that interests you both. Suddenly a stranger neither of you knows walks up to the two of you and starts talking about something random and unrelated. How would you feel if that happened to you? Very likely you would be momentarily shocked and then somewhat angry especially if you were the one trying to make a point. Breaking into an ongoing HamSphere conversation without a clue as to what’s being discussed is equally rude.
Be patient! Listen long enough to get a good idea what is being discussed. Resist the urge to break in just to say “Hi.” Such greetings are best done at a sensible stopping point in the discussion or at the end of the conversation. It’s always best to sit by quietly if you have nothing useful to contribute to the ongoing conversation. Only listening will you ever get in sync with the discussion underway. Break in only if you have something valuable to add to the discussion.
Avoid making a bad first impression. Learn to listen before you join an ongoing conversation. Gain respect by offering added value to the topic under discussion. Being a good listener will make you a better operator.