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.
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
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.