Mumble improves on other voice chat applications for gamers and offers quite a few advantages. It’s optimized for low-latency communications, making it perfect for hectic game situations where every second counts. It automatically normalizes people’s voices, so you don’t have to fiddle with volume levels. It has positional audio support for a variety of popular games, so you can hear another player’s voice coming from their character’s location in the game.
The advantages don’t stop there — it automatically reduces noise and optimizes sound quality. It has strong, certificate-based security. If you’re coming from Ventrilo, another popular voice chat application for gamers, you’ll also find that Mumble voice chat has a much more streamlined interface.
Mumble’s low latency is one of its biggest advantages. In my tests, latency seemed pretty similar to a normal phone call. I can’t say the same about my experience with Ventrilo, which often introduces huge delays. Mumble’s audio setup wizard helps you tune latency to the appropriate value for your sound hardware.
If you’re playing an online game, being able to communicate at almost real-time speeds is a big advantage. It can mean the difference between dodging an incoming attack and hearing about it while your character is already bleeding on the floor.
Automatic Volume Normalization
The Mumble server (also known as Murmur) automatically adjusts every user’s volume level for you. If you’ve used Ventrilo, you’ll remember having to adjust every user’s volume level individually. Mumble eliminates that pointless, fiddly busywork.
Mumble’s Automatic Gain Control feature works automatically as long as every user has their microphone volume at a high enough level — the audio setup wizard guides you through that part.
Mumble voice chat works with any game, but it includes special plugins for some games. If you’re using Mumble with a supported game, you can activate positional audio and get full, 3D sound. You’ll hear your friend’s speech in your left ear if their character is standing to your left in the game. Mumble includes plugins for a variety of popular games, including World of Warcraft, Team Fortress 2, the Call of Duty series and the Left 4 Dead games. You can find a full list of supported games on the Mumble wiki.
Setup is easy: Ensure the game’s plugin is enabled, activate the “Link to Game and Transmit Position” on the plugins pane and enable the Positional Audio checkbox on the Audio Output settings pane.
Mumble has strong security features. Encryption is one of them — Mumble encrypts all communications between you and the server, so you can have private voice conversations without being eavesdropped on.
Instead of passwords, Mumble uses certificate-based authentication. Mumble recommends you create a trusted certificate, but this isn’t entirely necessary for casual use. You can just select the Automatic Certificate Creation option to have Mumble create a self-signed certificate for you.
Certificates are more secure than passwords — people can’t connect to a server and impersonate you unless they acquire your private certificate, which is stored locally on your computer. Server administrators can assign fine-grained permissions to specific certificates, and you can even use your certificate to reserve a username on a server.
Finding and connecting to servers is easy in Mumble. The program itself provides a list of public servers to connect to — of course, you can also connect to a private server if you know its address
Mumble’s interface is much more streamlined and easy-to-use than many other voice chat applications (I’m looking at you, Ventrilo). By default, there’s a box on the left for status messages and text chat, and a channel list on the right. The lip icon to the left of a user’s name turns red when that user starts talking. The layout is completely customizable from Mumble’s configuration window.
Mumble voice chat eliminates those features that no one uses and brings commonly-used features to the fore. It’s easy to record conversations, set comments and avatar images other users can see and perform other common tasks with Mumble.
Mumble has a built-in overlay, so you can see who’s talking even when you’re playing a full-screen game. The overlay is completely configurable; you can position it and adjust its appearance from Mumble’s configuration window.
Mumble’s only real disadvantage is that it’s not as widespread and many gamers are unfamiliar with it. Still, if you can bring your gamer friends around, Mumble is likely a big improvement over what you’re already using.
Let us know what you think in the comments. Have you tried Mumble? Do you still prefer another voice chat app? Or do all your gamer friends just use Ventrilo or TeamSpeak?