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A Beginner’s Guide to Ventrilo, the VoIP App for Gamers

If you’ve spent any amount of time playing multiplayer PC games online, you’ve probably encountered Ventrilo. It’s one of the most popular VoIP apps among PC gamers, but its user interface is hostile to newbies.

Got a Ventrilo server to connect to? We’ll show you how to get started and ease you into Ventrilo’s arcane interface.

The Ventrilo Interface

After downloading and installing Ventrilo, fire it up and you’ll see Ventrilo’s user interface.

It has some advantages — its small size lets it easily overlay games without taking up much screen real estate, but its interface is rather baffling if you’re not familiar with it. Click the User Name or Server drop-down boxes and you’ll just see empty lists.

Creating a Username

You’ll need to create a username before you connect to a server. Click the arrow button to the right of the User Name box to open the user setup window.

Click the New button and provide a username. Everyone on the Ventrilo servers you connect to will see this username, so choose something distinctive.

The other boxes here aren’t really important; feel free to ignore them. You can also create additional user names and switch between them using the User Name box in the main window, if you like. If you do, each user name will have its own server settings.

Connecting to a Server

Now that you’ve got a username, you’ll need a Ventrilo server to connect to. Your fellow players probably have their own server they use; just ask for its details. Once again, click the little arrow to get started.

Click the New button and you’ll be asked to name the server. The name you provide here only appears on your own computer; name it something memorable.

The three important options are the server’s host name (or numerical IP address), port number and password. If you don’t know a server’s port, stick with the default. Most servers require passwords, but you can leave this box blank if the server doesn’t require one. You can also add additional servers from here and choose between them using the Server drop-down box in the main window.

Ventrilo checks the server after you add it and lets you know if it’s available. Click the Connect button to join the server.

Want your own Ventrilo server? Ventrilo servers are usually rented from third-party hosting providers, but you can download the Ventrilo server software for free and host a server yourself.

Channels

Sign in and you’ll be in the main server lobby (unless you specified a default channel in the server’s configuration window). People have to be in the same channel to talk to each other. See that little yellow speaker, as opposed to a red one? That means someone is talking, but you can’t hear them.

Double-click on a channel to join it and you’ll be able to hear the people talking in it. You can also talk in it yourself.

How to Talk

Ventrilo uses a push-to-talk key by default. Push to talk allows many people to be in the same channel at the same time — people just press the key when they want to talk, so you don’t always hear background noise from everyone in the channel.

Click the Setup button to configure your push-to-talk key and microphone settings.

Click the Hotkey box and press a key combination to use that key combination as your push-to-talk key. You’ll have to hold the key combination down whenever you want to talk.

You can test your microphone setup by clicking the Monitor button. See those numbers? If they’re changing as you talk, Ventrilo is hearing you properly. Ventrilo should detect your input device automatically, but you can use the Input Device drop-down box to select it if there’s a problem.

Sharing Web Addresses

You should be ready to start using Ventrilo like a pro, but there’s one more thing you should know. People often use the Comment button to share Internet addresses, but it isn’t obvious how to access them.

If you want to visit an address that someone’s shared, just right-click their name, point to Miscellaneous and select the Copy Comment URL option. This puts the URL in your clipboard; just paste it into your web browser’s address bar to visit the web page.


Feel free to explore Ventrilo on your own now that you’re familiar with the basics. You can access a lot of other options by right-clicking in the Ventrilo window or right-clicking on a user. Whether you want to mute a user, record a conversation, use an equalizer or apply audio effects to a specific user, there’s an option for that.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 01/16/12

Comments (13)

  1. Eugene

    Why not use Skype instead?

  2. Chris Hoffman

    @Eugene

    I’m not saying Ventrilo is the best VoIP client (it isn’t!) but it’s really entrenched in some gaming communities. If you play with a group of people that use Ventrilo, you use it because they use it.

  3. Asgaro

    Agreed. Ventrilo, Teamspeak and Mumble are 3 alternatives that are widely popular for online PC gaming.
    Skype isn’t used for that purpose because people use that for family and real life friends.

  4. Leonick

    @Eugene
    Because Skype works as a phone while Ventrillo (,teamspeak and mumble) work more like a traditional chat, that is you join the server, pick a channel and join. No need to get everyone in to the same call or anything like that.

  5. ASH

    TS3 ftw. Blows Vent out of the water imo. I have heard good things about Mumble too

  6. Chris Hoffman

    Yeah. Vent definitely is not the best, but for lots of people, it’s the only one they use.

  7. Stefan

    This + http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/windows-vista/disable-caps-lock-key-in-windows-vista/ is very useful:)
    I never use capslock anyway and I dont want to “speak” everytime I press ctrl (or shift or alt) since they are used all the time (either when typing or playing).

    Also +1 for mumble > ventrilo

  8. Chris Hoffman

    @Stefan

    Good tip! Disabling caps lock and using it as your Vent key — I actually do that myself.

  9. LaDonna

    I’ve tried several keys and the one I found to be the least problematic to use is the minus key on the number pad. That’s not a key I’ve had occasion to use at any time during gaming so it was a perfect choice for me as the talk key for Vent.

  10. Mark

    I use Ventrilo when playing WOW it keeps you anonymous as you normally use a character name instead of your real name. It also has the advantage of being half duplex (only one person transmitting at a time) most of the time, where Skype transmits constantly, this reduces latency and so improves game performance on slower Internet connections. Imagine trying to connect to 25 people that are playing alongside you (in a raid for example to discus tactics) to Skype. As for mumble and teamspeak I have never used them as our guild uses Vent. Being left-handed I have found the easiest key for me is the Pause/Break key

  11. Chris Hoffman

    @Mark

    Yeah. I used to play WoW, and that was THE thing you used to communicate with your guild. It was also the only thing everyone else on the server used.

  12. Nathan

    I feel like you have missed the 2nd most important thing with Vent…

    Making everyone the same volume.
    http://forum.ventrilo.com/showthread.php?t=41893

    – Right-click on ServerName
    – Select Miscellaneous / Special Effects
    – Select Compressor and click Add
    – Under Compressor Properties use the following settings
    – Gain = Adjust for how loud you want people to be (see below)
    – Attack = 0.01
    – Release = Around 500
    – Threshold = Around -30
    – Ratio = 100
    – Pre delay = 4.0

    What the settings do:

    Gain
    How much volume you feed into the compressor. Not really relevant unless everyone is too quiet, then you can turn this up a little; turning it up too much will sound EXTREMELY BAD.

    Attack
    How fast volume change will happen. example: setting this to 500 means that any-
    thing coming in will only be dropped in volume after a half a second. for vent this should
    be set as low as possible.

    Release
    how fast the compressor stops changing things. not really that relevant with vent, setting it around 500 is good for voice material.

    Threshold
    This sets the point where we actually start changing what’s coming in. Whereas 0 is the absolute loudest you can have for an input, -60 is super quiet. Average users will probably come in somewhere around -25 to -15, with the occaisional few being really quiet, which is why I have this set so low.

    Ratio
    How much any sound below the set threshold gets compressed and/or modified in the volume department.
    If you still want to hear SOME volume variation then set this lower (2-4)… the higher you set it the closer in volume everyone will be.

    Pre delay
    Mostly just deals with processing; with computer and digital processors they can look ahead a few milliseconds to see what needs to be dropped in volume or changed before it actually comes through the speakers. Highest is ideal.

  13. Chris Hoffman

    @Nathan

    I agree. That’s a very important thing to know; thanks for sharing.

    I was considering making that a separate post, actually. We’ll see!

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