Ventrilo: You do the talking, let Ventrilo do the rest

While VOIP communication is used for many purposes, the increasingly large MMORPG gaming communities have certainly raised the standards for these services, demanding increased reliability and ease of use. At this point I would like to introduce you to Ventrilo, a utilitarian Voice over IP client with built-in text-chat that will surely come up to your expectations when it comes to dependable and high quality group voice-conferencing.

Ventrilo Main

Installation & Requirements

Ventrilo’s install process does not disappoint in any way:  it’s simple, adware-free and finishes in less than a minute. Another strong asset of Ventrilo is the fact that it’s basically a cross-platform application, compatible with many operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X and Linux (for both 32 and 64-bit versions). The program’s accessibility is also supported by its low system requirements and insignificant CPU usage that will allow you to install and use Ventrilo on almost any computer without diminishing its performance.

To enable voice communication you will also need to install a Ventrilo Server (only one person needs to host the server while the others can connect to it using the Client). Both Server and Client programs are accessible for download and marked as freeware for up to 8 people on the same Ventrilo server. If you need voice-chat services for a larger group you can always rent a Server that will support more than 100 users. Installing the Server doesn’t bring additional requirements except DirectX 8.1 and it works perfectly even on low bandwidth Internet connections such as dial-up.

Interface

As a consequence of Ventrilo’s almost inexistent requirements its interface is austere and has poor graphics but the program compensates with functionality and good sound quality.  The default installed Server and Client can be used right after installation, as they don’t require additional settings. Even so, you will find out that a lot of options are available for users to play with.

To connect to a server, you need to complete form-fields for user name and server info (Hostname or IP, Port and password, if needed). After you connect, depending on what server you have joined, there might be multiple channels available so don’t get scared by all those names and tags. This is not the case if you are joining a private server, made by a friend of yours for example.

Let’s have a look under the Setup menu, which is the usual place within a program where confusion might appear. It’s almost unbelievable how many options can fit into such a tiny application, but let’s face it: the more, the better. Even if the default settings are enough for most users, you can easily tweak Ventrilo in many aspects, such as amplifying the outbound and inbound, changing the input and output device and much more.

One of Ventrilo’s brilliant features is the “Push to Talk” option that mutes your microphone unless you hold down a certain key (defined by the user). This particular manner of communicating allows you to have some privacy without compromising on performance and sound quality.

The simple design of the interface makes it easy to see all the program’s features without having to navigate through stacks of drop-down menus: at the top of the window you will find the above mentioned form-fields for user name and server info. Below, the main content area shows all the information related to the Server you are currently connected to and from the right sidebar you can access all of Ventrilo’s options, namely buttons for Connect/Disconnect, Comment, Chat, Setup, About, Close and Help.

Pros

– Free to use for groups with up to 8 people.

– Cross-platform application with low system requirements.

– Lightweight program that does not affect computer performance and other running applications.

– Works great even on low bandwidth Internet connections.

– Ready to use right after installation.

Cons

– For groups larger than 8 users, renting a server is required.

– The setup interface is rather primitive and in need of improvements.

Alternatives

Ventrilo might be very popular but it’s certainly not the only good VoIP program out there. One of the old rivals of Ventrilo is TeamSpeak, a free VoIP application designed with an improved user interface friendlier than Ventrilo’s, but our software in question delivers superior sound quality.

Another VoIP program that gained respect within gamer communities is the open-source Mumble, which boasts low-latencies and a bunch of useful features such as the automatic volume normalization.

Both TeamSpeak and Mumble are cross-platform applications and rely on the client-server architecture just like Ventrilo.

Conclusion

Ventrilo is one of the best programs in its niche, with a great deal of customization possibilities, outstanding performances and high-quality sound. Free and comprehensive at the same time, Ventrilo is topping the market since 2002, as it continues to be an exceptional VoIP application for gamers and an efficient communication tool for large groups of users.