What Is (or Was… ISDN?):
The letters stand for; “Integrated Services Data Network” and, frankly, it’s antiquated technology! It was originally developed as a high-speed internet connection for use primarily by businesses. However, ISDN lived on past corporate use because of its unique ability to combine bearer channels (“b” channels), increasing speed and bandwidth. This enabled the transmission of much larger chunks of data at speeds that allowed the real-time transfer of high quality audio and video. “Real time” as in two-way, like a telephone, but at CD-equivalent quality.
ISDN phone lines are much more expensive than regular telephone lines, if you can even find them now, and the hardware needed to encode and decode the audio at each end is also pretty pricey. But, in recording studios, it became the ultimate solution to the constant demand for quick turn-around.
Unfortunately, in 2013, major ISDN service providers such as Verizon and AT&T began taking steps to do away with ISDN service by either refusing to issue new accounts or bumping monthly line charges up so high it became a staggering expense for many studios and voice talents. The only alternatives on the horizon involved the use of the Internet, and were plagued by unreliable connections due to traffic demands on bandwidth and vagaries in the loosely-woven nature of the web.
It ushered in a fairly dark period in the recording industry. We had become accustomed to the rock-solid stability of ISDN and its ability to deliver a voice, from anywhere in the world, right to where it was needed, in real time. That feeling of security and immediacy is returning as the dust settles in the software scramble to provide a relatively inexpensive and reliable replacement for ISDN.
Today, the front-runner appears to be Source Connect (available at SourceElements.com). But others, such as “ipDTL” and “Source Connect Live”, are providing more cost-effective solutions. They are much easier on a budget than Source Connect, but have some technical drawbacks.