Podcasting Wars: Skype Vs. FaceTime Audio 

While FaceTime Audio was introduced with iOS 7, with OS X 10.9.2, Apple added audio-only calls to the desktop FaceTime application.

I — like many other podcasters — have thought about trying to harness Apple’s service to record shows, as opposed to the venerable solution, Skype.

FaceTime Audio only supports calls with two people, so it isn’t helpful for podcasts like mine, but it is possible to capture the incoming and outgoing audio fairly easily.

Double-Ending

Recording a podcast via the “double-ender” method is the best way to get the highest possible audio quality, as each host is recording their own audio input locally on their Mac or PC.

On The Prompt, each of the three of us use QuickTime to record our own audio. Once the show is done, we get our files to Myke via Dropbox, and he uses them to edit and mix the show. To aide in the timing of these tracks, he uses a file he captures with Ecamm Call Recorder that include audio from each “side” of the conversation.

Since double-ending is really just syncing up a bunch of locally-recorded files, Skype is relegated to being the middle man. In that regard, FaceTime Audio can easily become a replacement for Skype.

But what if you want to live on the edge and go straight to tape, assuming you have your mic input set correctly?

Recording a FaceTime Audio Conversation

While Call Recorder won’t work with FaceTime, both Audio Hijack Pro and Piezo are capable of recording both sides of a FaceTime Audio call.

Piezo is $15, but records FaceTime Audio calls only in stereo, with the local caller on one side and the remote guest on the other. While this easy enough to fix in post, the $32 Audio Hijack Pro can be configured to record directly to mono, once it’s pointed at the FaceTime app:

The Future

While Skype has a fairly poor reputation, FaceTime Audio isn’t immune to dropping packets or calls, either. In fact, at times, Skype has proved much more reliable than FaceTime Audio.

Acknowledging that no VoIP system is perfect, it is important to note that FaceTime Audio and Skype sound very different.

Here is 5by5’s Myke Hurley:

My conversations with podcasters that are smarter than me tell me that they do a lot of work on compression to ensure that Skype sounds closest to telephone conversation and has a warm, rich tone. I am inclined to agree with this. When the call connection is good, Skype sounds great.

I agree with Myke’s assessment. I wouldn’t want to switch back and forth between FaceTime Audio and Skype, as the sound is noticeably different.

At this point, I think it’s best to think of FaceTime Audio as a good backup for Skype, but I won’t be moving to it anytime soon.

Update: On episode 38 of The Prompt, we tested FaceTime Audio on the air. Be sure to check out the difference in audio quality. It’s crazy.