With little more than a microphone, a later model sound card, an Internet connection and one of these IM clients, audio chats are a reality for IM users around the globe. But, while many IM clients offer audio chat, some are better then others.
Based on testing, here are three IM clients I believe offer the best audio chat experience in the industry:
- Yahoo! Messenger: Labeled as PC-to-PC calling, Yahoo! offers amazing quality and strength in its audio voice chat capabilities. While some IM audio chats present issues such as clicking noises, connection errors and less than perfect sound quality, Yahoo! Messenger seems to have the most crystal-clear sound of any other single-protocol IM client. The controls are easy to use and most connect without issues. The most frequently discussed issue with Yahoo! Messenger’s PC-to-PC calling (that is easily resolved) is the end user’s firewall preventing audio chat connection. Opening outgoing TCP connections can help troubleshoot the issue.
- Windows Live Messenger: Another strong choice for PC-to-PC calling is Windows Live Messenger, which secures a strong audio connection for its users frequently. On occasion, firewall issues similar to those faced by Yahoo! Messenger are present that are easily addressed by modifying your firewall to allow complete access for Windows Live Messenger. One of the great bonuses of using Windows Live Messenger for audio chat is the ability to communicate with contacts on Yahoo! Messenger and vice versa.
- Skype: As a standalone peer-to-peer audio and IM client, Skype is a pretty good option for people who might want the excitement of PC-to-PC audio chats without the frills of an IM client. While the client offers text-based IM in addition to audio chat, for the most part, Skype is a great application for calling friends on their computers—-and even on their phone. Subscription is required to receive and make calls between your computer and a friend’s telephone. Audio quality is just a notch above average IM client capabilities you won’t see recommended on this list; there seems to be some issues with audio at certain peak hours.
Agree with Brandon’s assessment? Tell him about your favorite IM clients featuring audio chat and PC-to-PC calling by emailing Brandon at firstname.lastname@example.org