Source-Connect ISDN Bridging Totally Sucks

I have had my black suit laid out for many years in preparation for the ISDN funeral that has been foretold since the early 2000s.  I hate to question the wisdom of the sages,1 but the prophesy is bunk.  ISDN is alive and very well and is not going anywhere any time soon.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Of course, support and availability from the phone companies is waning but that is hardly the final nail in the coffin.

ISDN is certainly no walk in the park for talent to set up.  Depending on where you live you may have to wait for installation, make a million phone calls and generally get the runaround.  A Zephyr (or similar) is not cheap and there are monthly fees on the lines, etc.  No fun.


The thing is, if you do a lot of ISDN work, you don’t really have a choice.  If you don’t do a lot then you are probably better off spending your money elsewhere.  Get the numbers of as many local studios as you can and be prepared to book them (sometimes on your own dime) when a client insists.  Otherwise, try to talk your client into a phone patch session instead.  I have changed a million ISDN sessions to patches after minimal cajoling with the client.

Recently I have heard more than one talent allude to “just” bridging with Source-Connect.  As in, “I can’t be bothered with the hassle and expense of ISDN so I am just going to get Source-Connect and then bridge when I need to because it is just as good.”  The problem is that SC bridges totally, completely and utterly suck ass.  After doing quite a few of them here we are experiencing about a 15 percent success rate on these sessions, and by “success” I mean “it actually kind of worked and didn’t drop”.  This is with different talent from all over the world on different ISPs with different bridging services.  I have heard of similar results in places with dedicated T1 lines so internet reliability is not the issue.  The only common denominator in all of these sessions has been Source-Connect.  After another catastrophe last week I have decided we will never offer a bridge session to our clients as an option again.

It ain’t exactly cheap either:  Exhibit A.

Yeah, yeah.  Somebody is going to disagree and say they have a fantastic history of bridging and it works just great.  The problem is, you’re wrong.  I am right and you are wrong.2  It WILL fail.  Your connection WILL drop at some point and it WILL suck.  It is confusing for the client, frustrating for talent, wrecks the flow of the session and is a general show-stopper.  Not to mention being embarrassing to your agent who signed off on the damn thing.  Then you have to scramble to reconnect or just scrap the idea altogether and switch to a phone patch session.

So what is the point of all this aside from the catharsis factor?3  I simply wanted to get a few things clear for those who think “just” bridging is a viable option.  It’s not.  It’s really, really not.  Either bite the bullet and get ISDN, be prepared to travel to an outside studio, get good at talking clients into phone patch instead or be prepared to let someone else do the job.

1. No I don’t
2. Don’t feel bad, it happens all the time.  Just ask my wife.
3. I must admit that talking smack about them feels pretty good.

12 Comments to “Source-Connect ISDN Bridging Totally Sucks”

  1. Thank you so much for clearing that up for me. I just researched here in NYC, how much it would be to go to a studio for ISDN. I found a reputable studio that will turn on the ISDN and – no engineer – then turn it off at the end of your session – $100 and hour, $50 a half hour.

    I can’t get ISDN as I rent an apartment and was wondering about Source Connect. You’ve cleared that all up nicely for me. It’s my phone patch or fun over to the studio down the street. :-) That problem is solved.

  2. “run” over to . . . not “fun” over to. Guess you can tell I like what I do.

  3. Unfortunately, since ISDN is not available in my area (trust me, I’ve tried – I’m in the far off, cow country, boonies), I will have to rely on trying to convince my clients to go with phone patch. The nearest ISDN studio is 2 hours away. I was really hoping Source Connect would be a viable option :(

  4. Do you think the issue is with the Source Connect technology itself? Could it be the end-user (voiceover talent) not knowing how to properly setup their Internet connection and firewall to provide quality of service priority to SC network traffic? A combination of both>

    ISDN is $191 per month just for the service where I live. Ouch!

  5. As a long-time user of Source-Connect, I feel compelled to say a few words…

    While it’s true that ISDN will be with us for the foreseeable future, it’s inevitable that users will look for other solutions as a backup, or even replacement. As simple economics force the telephone companies to stop investing in the ISDN network and they cease new installations in some parts of the country, it will only be a matter of time before we reach a tipping point, and a new solution will be widely adopted.

    The logical next step in this internet age is a standardized IP solution. Whether or not Source-Connect will emerge as this new standard, I really don’t know. But it’s important to say that for many people, myself included, it already is a reliable replacement for ISDN.

    I have used Source-Connect since 2007, in two different home studios, on the road, and through several iterations of the product. I’ve used it for direct Source-Connect to Source-Connect sessions, and yes, I frequently use a bridging service for my clients who require ISDN.

    I’m the first to admit that Source-Connect is not totally without its technical challenges, the most common one being proper network configuration. But once configured correctly with your network, in my experience it has worked near flawlessly.

    The same goes for ISDN bridging. I have always used Source-Connect’s own bridging service,, and have no experience with other providers (Digifon, EDNET, Out of Hear, etc.). In all the bridging sessions I’ve done, I have only once had a problem connecting, and that situation was quickly resolved when support reset the ISDN box being used for the bridge (i.e. not a Source-Connect problem). Neither myself, nor my agent has ever heard any sort of complaint as to the quality or reliability of the audio connection. Really, my only reservation in using a bridging service vs. native ISDN is that it increases the latency – basically adding together the latency of the ISDN and Source-Connect connections. But this is at most a minor problem.

    I would also give a tip of the hat to Robert Marshall, John Binder, and the other fine folks working at Source-Elements. When I have encountered problems – usually getting set up in a new location – they have been incredibly helpful and responsive.

    As to cost, my relatively modest investment investment in Source-Connect has paid for itself many many times over. Not only that, it has given me a portable solution that works just as well on the road as it does in my studio.

    Granted, this is based on my own personal experience – the only thing I’m qualified to write about. Your mileage may vary, as they say. But as we discuss this as a community moving forward, I think it’s important that we take a considered, long view. Yes, ISDN is still very much a part of our business. Yes, the ISDN network is aging and will eventually be replaced by something new. And yes, the current crop of IP solutions, including Source-Connect, may not be perfect. But is Source-Connect a viable backup or even replacement for ISDN? In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.


    Chris Flockton

    • john beach says:

      I second Chris’ opinion. SC doesn’t suck ass. It SAVES ass. And I have had many flawless SC to ISDN bridging sessions. Many, many. Once your computer/router, etc. are properly configured, it’s just as reliable as ISDN. Which is about 90 percent of both, for me. Occasionally phone cariers are not compatible, for whatever reasons, and my ISDN simply will not lock with certain customers. So we use SC. ANd both ISDN and SC are prone to occasional dropouts. So, like Chris, I respectfully disagree with your very myopic and unilateral opinion.

  6. Hi Erik,

    Thanks for taking the time to write about Source-Connect. We stand behind Source-Connect and when implemented properly and with the proper understanding and expectation of internet bandwidth, it has a track record of working extremely well.

    We provide superior support and we take care of our users: we pride ourselves on this.

    We encourage you, and everyone who has questions, to contact our support team as we are confident we have solutions.

  7. John beach says:

    Rebekah–and the entire support group at Source Elements–serve us, as customers, far better than we, as customers in the ” new world”, have come to expect from vendors. Their product is revolutionary. Sure. It is not without it’s glitches, like any other piece of software. But this product has given me freedom. Really–like isdn in the 90′s–this product has given me even more choices. More freedom. Thank god I can get out of this stupid little cave now!
    I don’t. Very often. But when I do, I carry source-connect in my pocket.

  8. Given the controversy and the cost of obsolescent ISDN/Source Connect, and the probability that producers will try other ways to link if it’s made easy and we give them the nudge, maybe now’s the time to keep up dialogue about Soundstreak?
    I have no affiliation with them, but when I tried the system with a fellow VO it provided two way audio of at least Skype standard, no dropouts, and then transmitted a broadcast-quality file immediately thereafter. And my English rural connection is… I think you call it boondocks.
    We got mutually editable script on screen as well. Now Soundstreak is at last dual platform, I think it should be helped to get known.

  9. jltnol says:

    The problem with ISDN are the rates. ATT was charging about $100.00 a month for the line. Now up to $440.00 a month. And later this year, it would have been $550.00/ month.

    Sooner or later, everyone will be in the same boat.. As all the phone begin to phase out ISDN, the price you pay will skyrocket. Sooner or later, it won’t be worth it to keep the line.

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