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How to Normalize Volumes in Ventrilo

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Ventrilo is among the most popular third-party voice chat software used in games, and it remains a favorite way to communicate by voice in World of Warcraft, despite the integration of voice chat into the game. In part this is because Ventrilo has better sound quality and more options than the voice software that is typically built into games.

One of the most common complaints I hear about using voice chat is that some people can barely be heard, while others are so loud that they blow your ear drums out. And we all know what it's like when someone gets excited in the heat of battle and starts screaming into the microphone, or decides to share that extra special rap song they're listening to with everyone else on the channel at extra high volume.

Fortunately, for people with DirectSound (most Windows users), there are settings in Ventrilo that can help balance these radical volume changes and make for a less painful voice chat experience. The trick is to use a compression sound effect, which is technically "a reduction in the fluctuation of a signal above a certain amplitude." Here's how to quickly set up the compressor in Ventrilo for use with a group of people playing an online game.

1. Go into Setup under the Voice tab, and on the right you will see settings for the input device. If you have DirectSound you will be able to check "Use DirectSound," which activates the "SFX" button in the corner.

2. Clicking "SFX" (short for Special Effects) brings up a window that lets you add and remove effects from Ventrilo. Adding "compressor" will open its Properties window.

There are 6 settings for the compression effect.

  • Gain 0
    This can usually be left at 0, unless you're having difficulty hearing most of the people on the channel. Gain controls how much volume is sent to the compressor. Turning it up a little (10 or 15) may help, but turning it up a lot causes significant sound degradation.

  • Attack 0.01
    Attack determines how quickly the effect is applied to the sound, in milliseconds, and can be turned down to the minimum of 0.01. The default is 10, which is also quite fast. The maximum of 500 creates an unpleasant half second delay before a loud incoming sound is adjusted.

  • Release 200 - 500
    The length of time the compressor remains on after the sound has stopped is determined with the Release setting. The default of 200 milliseconds typically works, but some people turn this up to 500 or even 1000 (1 second).

  • Threshold -30
    The level at or above which the compressor kicks in is the Threshold. -30 will make the quiet people a bit more audible, while still keeping the loud types from blasting you. This setting is measured in decibels, with 0 being very loud and -60 being very quiet.

  • Ratio 100
    Ratio sets how much variation in volume remains after the compressor has done its job. Most people put this right up to 100 so there is as little variation in volume as possible. Although the default setting of 3 leaves some variation in, it also works.

  • Pre delay 4.0
    This is a digital sound processor function that determines how far your system "looks ahead" for sounds that need adjustment, again in milliseconds. This is best left at the maximum of 4.
Note that you can also apply special effects to users individually, which will override the general special effects settings. You can do this by right clicking on their names and selecting "Special Effects" from the "Miscellaneous" menu, giving you access to the above controls for each user.
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