Backbone Talk™ User Guide
About Backbone Talk
Installation and Startup Instructions
First time Backbone Talk Start Up
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Running Backbone Talk
A Tour of Your Screens
The Talent Screen
Dialing a Call with Backbone Talk
Text Chatting with the Talent
Receiving a Call with Backbone Talk
Blacklisting, if Necessary
Put the Caller On the Air
Tools and other Features
The Tools Menu
Call Detail Records (CDR)
Advanced Audio Topics
Audio Mix of Backbone Talk in different modes
Thank you for using Backbone Talk, the Broadcast Phone System in the Cloud. We hope you enjoy your experience. This document is a brief guide to how to set it up and use this unique product.
Backbone’s Internet Talk Radio Phone system is the most versatile, powerful telephone system for radio talk shows and stations that want to engage listeners. No need for expensive handsets or cumbersome rack frames, this scalable, online phone system operates right on your computer screen(s) and into your board. No capital expense, no equipment maintenance, no need for phone lines, and no limit on your number of callers.
Developed specifically for professional Talk, News and Sports Radio stations produced digitally “in the cloud” using our Backbone Radio platform, this software-based phone suite gives your station the freedom to broadcast live from virtually anywhere and stay connected with your listeners in the middle of the action.
A different kind of Talk Radio phone system — one without phone lines or specialized hardware
You are about to use the next generation of talk radio phone system, where you are no longer tied to a broadcast studio or chained to an array of expensive, antiquated hardware. Backbone Talk integrates smoothly to elevate production values in sports, news and talk shows in both studio and remote broadcasts.
Everything you need to take calls, screen them and put them on the air is here in an easy to use, professional phone system. You concentrate on the creative and business aspects, and we provide the products to help your station prosper…on all levels. Combined with Backbone Radio and Backbone Co-Host the result is a complete talk radio station that can produce professional shows locally, remotely and with callers and co-hosts around the globe.
Backbone Talk is a multi-line, call-in phone system in the cloud enabling 24/7 talk radio stations to engage their listening audience from anywhere in the world, using only a Macintosh computer, without any specialized hardware. With its local/remote call screener capability, talent can focus on the conversation, while the call screener uses his system to answer, conference, block, and/or record calls. Features include inbound text from the same phone line; and an integrated caller feedback line for listeners to record voice messages into Backbone Radio for later air play.
Backbone Talk is the first comprehensive broadcast phone system that runs on your own PBX in the cloud. The result: No matter where you are, you can take and manage calls from your guests and listeners from anywhere you can get an Internet connection. Your phone system in the cloud—Your Station Anywhere. Agile, mobile, scalable, and affordable.
The Basics - A simple to set up and use phone system
Backbone Talk is a Talk Radio Phone System application that provides Radio Stations the ability to take phone calls, screen them, place them on hold and put them on the air. It can be used in the full range of radio station applications from a simple headset to configurations that have external mixers and are geographically distributed.
Who is Backbone Talk designed for?
Any broadcaster—individual or organization—radio or television—which includes phone calls and remote contributors to their show. This might include:
What is so revolutionary about Backbone Talk?
The main distinction of Talk, versus your conventional hardware phone system lies in the fact that Backbone Talk is in the cloud as a low-cost subscription, not an assemblage of purchased equipment.
That’s what the multi-thousand dollar hardware remote access boxes use. That’s what Backbone uses, too. Just add Backbone Co-Host to your subscription, and it blends right into your Talk interface. Guess what! Automatically, your callers and your guests and your co-hosts can all be on together, easily managed by your Producer/Screener in Backbone Talk. If you were to attempt to do this using a hardware approach, you might be lost for weeks trying to navigate your way through IP addresses, router port assignments and a slew of IT issues. With Backbone, it just works.
If you have a headset/microphone connected to your system and would like to run Backbone Talk you are ready to download the software.
You will receive a Welcome Email message providing you with a Customer Id (e.g., Station_12345) soon after your phone system is provisioned. You will need this ID to log into Backbone Talk. If you do not have a Customer Id, contact Backbone support at email@example.com. Be sure to write down your unique Customer Id and keep it in a safe place.
Note: While Backbone Talk will normally remember your Customer ID from session to session, you may occasionally need to log in again or set up another machine, so keep your Customer Id handy.
All you need is a Mac® or two a couple of headsets, and a good Internet connection (the same quality you would need for a hardware-based VOIP system).
System Requirements: OS X 10.8+
Network Requirements: A high quality internet connection that is capable of supporting Voice over IP. This is an Internet connection with the following characteristics:
To test the capability of your Internet connection run the VOIP Review test. Please make sure your network provides sufficient support before proceeding to the other steps.
Network ports out for control and telephony need to be opened. If you can’t connect to the phone system, these ports will likely need to be opened on your network by your IT department. Opening all ports will enable operation. If you would like to know which specific ports to open check the Info section of your Preferences to determine your PBX Server IP address and the associated Ports it uses.
While Backbone Talk only needs a headset some radio stations may require advanced setup and configuration by an audio engineer. They will be able to set up external mixing boards, mix-minus and how other channels of audio can be mixed and used with the system. For more on this see our chapter on Advanced Audio Topics.
If you have a headset/microphone connected to your system and would like to run Backbone Talk you are ready to download the software
Your Welcome Email will also direct you to the Download Page Link (URL) where will see up to date procedures and requirements, as well as a clickable Link at the top of the page to download an Apple Disk Image file (.dmg).
Clicking the URL link above downloads an Apple Disk Image that will install the client side portion of Backbone Talk onto your Mac(s). Open the disk image. When it is opened you should see this screen:
Drag the Backbone Talk application to the Application directory. If you have installed an earlier version of the Backbone Talk application, it will ask if you’d like to replace the old file and preserve the previous configuration.
Tip: Go into your Application Folder and drag the Backbone Talk icon to your dock for quick access in the future.
To start Backbone Talk double-click the Backbone Talk application in your Application folder. Note: If you get this prompt the first time you start it up
“Control Click” the Backbone Talk icon (now in your dock) and select OPEN
Then you will see this prompt asking you to verify you want it open. Click Open.
Registering Backbone Talk
Go to your applications directory. In that directory you will find the Backbone Talk application. Open the application.
The first screen asks you for a bit of information:
If you choose to click the Auto Login checkbox the Backbone Talk client will save your configuration so you will not need to see this screen in the future. If in the future you would like to change anything, such as your Role, you can uncheck the Auto Login checkbox from your preferences.
Accept Incoming Network Connections
If a newer version of Backbone Talk is available, you will be notified at this point. Select UPDATE to download the newer version.
Let’s look at the Preferences available to both Producer/Screener and Talent. This covers both the Information regarding your network settings, like IP address and network ports your IT department may need to open. It also covers Settings, which are configuration settings you can modify for your particular set up.
To access your Backbone Talk preferences, choose the Talk -> Preferences menu option on your Macintosh. Alternatively, you can click on the gear icon in the bottom left section of the Talent or Producer/Screener screen. There are two tabs, Settings and Info:
The Settings Tab allows the Talent and Producer/Screener to make certain changes to their operation.
Number of (Simultaneous Caller) Lines — Default is 6 lines. You may set this for fewer lines to limit the number of simultaneous callers and keep caller-minute usage in check. (Callers on Hold count in total monthly minutes used.) Maximum number of lines depends on the size/resolution of your Mac screen. Since the screen does not scroll, it is possible to lose lower screen control if too many caller lines are displayed on screen.
Note: This number should be the same for both Talent and Producer/Screener. Displaying a different number of lines may cause operational errors and caller problems.
The following AUTO functions are OFF by default:
☑ AutoLogin — Automatically bypasses the application login screen and applies the previous Name, Customer Id and Role settings.
☑ AutoHold — Automatically answers calls and puts them on hold. If this option is turned on then AutoAir is not available.
☑ AutoAir — Automatically answers calls and puts them on the air. If this option is turned on then AutoHold is not available.
Screener (or Talent) Microphones and Speakers — These set the Microphone and Speakers for Backbone Talk to use. The default microphone and speaker settings are your Apple Mac built-in devices. If you elect to use different devices, make certain these settings coincide with your desired set up.
Show Mix Microphones and Speakers — Default is for your Show Mix Monitor to be OFF. When turned on this special softphone provides an additional input into the On Air mix of audio and the speakers can provide the resulting output of adding in the additional microphone.
To change this, check the ☑ Monitor Show Mix checkbox below and modify these device settings accordingly.
☑ ☑ Producer/Screener-Only Settings, boxed in red in the image above
☑ Allow IFB (Talkback) to Talent — Select to send talkback audio to Talent when IFB button is temporarily pressed and held. This is checked and set ON by default.
☑ Incoming Call Notice — Select to hear audible word “Call” repeated to notify of incoming call to the Built-In output device. This is checked and set ON by default.
The Info Tab displays fixed settings, which are grayed out and not modifiable.
This information is available to you and/or your IT professionals for future reference. As noted on the screenshot, if you are running behind a firewall you may need to have the PBX Ports opened for both TCP and UDP.
Call Status URL — Clicking this button will copy a URL to your clipboard. This URL provides information about the status of calls on your Backbone Talk phone system and can be shared with others. Here is a sample screenshot from a web-browser:
Installation Instructions — This button opens a browser page to the Backbone Talk Installation Instructions page. You can share this link with other who may want to install the Backbone Talk client on their machine. Note, to operation they will need the next item, the Customer Id.
Customer Id — This is the Customer Id associated with your Backbone Talk phone system. It is used to provide access to the phone system at startup.
The Notifications Tab is available while running the Screener only. It is used to set the Notifications of Incoming calls.
Message — Define the Message that is heard when there is an incoming call. In this example the Message is set to “Ring”.
Voice — This field defines the Voice that will be used to speak the Message. In this example the voice is set to Daniel which will pronounce the Message in British English.
Repeat — This defines the number of times to Repeat the Message when there is an incoming call. In this example Repeat is set to 1. When there is an incoming call the Message will be played and then Repeated once.
To hear what the Message will sound like click the Test button. To save the Notification click the Apply Changes button.
Backbone Talk is a Talk Radio Phone System application that provides Radio Stations the ability to take phone calls, screen them, place them on hold and put them on the air. Fundamentally it is a mixer that determines what gets heard by different people and devices that are connected depending upon the mode of the connection.
There are similar screens for Screener and for Talent. Many of the functions are mirrored on both, though there are differences. We will describe the Producer/Screener first, then Talent.
Start up Backbone Talk as the Producer/Screener. Notice that Role, Your Name and Your Telephone number are listed in the top title bar, circled in red:
Number of Lines
Backbone Talk comes pre-configured with six (6) lines for your callers. This number can be changed in the Preferences under Backbone Talk menu or by clicking the gear icon at the bottom left of the Backbone Talk interface. Here is a screenshot with the number of lines circled:
Each horizontal line represents a single caller. In the screenshot above all lines are idle. Each line has three sections, status, information and line control.
The first call into your phone system will appear in the top line. The Producer/Screener may dial an outside number by clicking the Dial button, which launches a dialing pad. Other line control functions when not Idle include: setting the call Audio Level, Answer, On Hold, On Air, Drop the Call and IFB enable.
Start up Backbone Talk as the Talent. Notice that Role, Your Name and Your Telephone number are listed in the top title bar, circled in red:
Number of Lines
Backbone Talk comes pre-configured with six (6) lines for your callers. This number can be changed in the Preferences under Backbone Talk menu or by clicking the gear icon at the bottom left of the Backbone Talk interface. Here is a screenshot with the number of lines circled:
Each horizontal line represents a single caller. Shown, all lines are idle. Each line has three sections, status, information and line control.
The first call into your phone system will appear in the top line. The Talent may dial an outside number by clicking the Dial button, which launches a dialing pad. Other line control functions when not Idle include: Answer, Put On Hold, On Air, Drop the Call and call Audio Level control.
System Controls — TALENT
In the lower section of the screen are additional indicators and controls for the Talent
Screener Connection Indicator — This indicator is Amber when waiting to connect with Screener. This indicator turns Green and says Connected when there is a solid 2-way Internet connection between Talent and Screener programs, which occurs via your designated server. Thus, Screener and Talent may be located remote from each other, even in separate cities, thanks to this cloud-based infrastructure.
Text Chat — This Box provides interactive, 2-way text communications between Talent and Screener. Enter text into the small, bottom window, and view the thread in the larger window. Clear the entire chat thread by clicking the Clear Text button.
Note: Clearing text cannot be undone.
Busy All — Creates a busy signal on all unoccupied phone lines, preempting additional callers from interrupting important conversations. When depressed, each line displays the word BUSY
Drop All — Hangs up the phone on all callers at once. Disconnects all lines.
Network Status Button — below Drop All, lights up Green when the network performance appears suitable for VoIP calls. Amber indicates a warning that there may be network issues between your system and the Backbone Talk server, and Red indicates a network failure between your system and the Backbone Talk server. Clicking on Net Status button status provides additional information on the operation of the network, i.e. jitter and latency.
Call Detail Record (CDR) Status — below Network Status is a display for the number of minutes of calls you have used in the current billing period. When the amount of minutes is below 500 it displays <500 Minutes. Otherwise it will display the number of minutes used.
Record — Depress to record entire show mix on your server. When selected, the text of the button flashes red Recording. Push again to stop recording. When segments finish recording, they are time stamped and placed in a directory on the Backbone Talk server. For Backbone Radio customers, these segments are deposited in your Radio automation library.
Mute — Depress to mute Talent microphone audio. When selected, the text of the button flashes red Unmute. Push again to change it to Grey Mute and re-enable the Talent’s microphone.
In this section we will discuss how to operate Backbone Talk. We may use screenshots from either the Producer/Screener or Talent, though the operations will be similar for both interfaces.
Click a Green Dial button through either interface, and a phone pad pops up. Use the keypad to dial the number. Type in the information before calling to better prepare for the call. This information will be logged in the call window after you establish your call. Click Dial on the keypad when you are ready to make the call.
When the called party answers, the Producer/Screener talks with him/her while completing the information. (The CLEAR button clears all info, including phone number.) Note that while screening the call neither the Screener nor the Caller are On Air.
When finished screening Click OK. The party will be put on hold and wait to go on the air with Talent. Or, click DROP to hang up.
With the party on hold, type into the Text Chat section to brief Talent about the caller.
Notice that the information about the caller from the screen dialog is now displayed in his call pane. Also that the text typed into the text message area is displayed in the text message area.
Talent may opt to put the caller on the air or may visually cue the Producer/Screener to do so.
When finished, either Talent or Producer/Screener may click DROP to end the call.
When a call comes into your station, the Producer/Screener will hear a voice that repeats the word, “Ring”. At that time the corresponding green Dial button becomes a green ANSWER button.
When you click it, an Incoming Call form pops up for the Screener to fill out. If it is from a previous caller, the form will automatically be filled out with the prior information for that caller. That information may include a prior “blacklisting” of the caller, with instructions to automatically drop the call. Blacklisting will warn you of a caller who is a known offender of broadcast civility.
Click Drop to end the call, Air to immediately put the caller on the air with Talent (not recommended), or Hold to let the caller wait to be put on air. The caller’s name, phone number and topic is now visible on his call line.
If there is a substantial problem with a caller, the Screener can click the Black List button at the bottom of the Screening window. This will immediately Drop the call and disallow the caller to contact the station. The blacklisted caller will henceforth receive a Busy signal. Blacklisting can be reversed in the Phonebook, found under the Tools menu.
When the Host (Talent) is ready to engage the caller, either Talent or Producer/Screener may press the AIR button. The caller should be prepared to join the broadcast, because normally he/she will be listening to the on-air Show Mix. When AIR has been pressed, Producer/Screener will see this:
Screener sees that ON AIR is illuminated for that caller, and can be ready to put that caller back on HOLD or immediately DROP that call.
Note that in this case, IFB has been enabled (Green ) for this caller, enabling him/her to hear off-air instructional audio when Screener presses the large IFB push-to-talk button.
Handling Subsequent Calls
Screener should be prepared to screen additional callers while others are On HOLD or On AIR.
You have several helpful tools available to you in the TOOLS menu at the top of your screen.
As with your mobile phone, your local Backbone Talk phone number serves as your text number. Clicking on SMS texting in the Tools menu brings up the following screen.
The large window displays a running account of all SMS conversations, identifying callers by phone number. You can look up or add those people in your Phonebook tool. You may reply in the Message field. If you have previously sent a message to an individual, you can bring up that number from the pull down list in the Send To box by clicking the arrow on the right of the box.
You can keep track of and manage your calls and your monthly usage with the Call Detail Records tool. The CDR pane keeps track of your cumulative call time since your last billing period and exports this data for use in your operations. Enter any date range and click Select to refresh or change dates.
Store your previous and favorite caller contact information so you can easily identify and call them. Let’s walk through a few of the screens to see how it works:
This is a simple phone book with 4 entries. Each entry includes the contact name, their phone number, their location and whether they are on the black list or not.
We selected the first entry in the phone book. Notice that the information about that entry gets loaded into the section at the bottom of the screen. From here we can perform a few actions including, Delete, Clear, Dial, SMS and Done (close). We can also edit information about the entry such as their Name, Number, Location or whether they are on the black list.
This screen is showing that the entry was edited. If you click update the phone book will get updated with the modified information.
If the editing section is blank you can input information. This screenshot shows that information has been input into the blank fields. Note that the Add button is now lit and the Update button is not. If you click the Add button this entry will be added to the phone book.
The Help Menu has a few items that will help you in the operation of Backbone Talk. Let’s walk through these items.
Talk Documentation - This menu option will open a link in your default web-browser to the Backbone Talk Documentation (this document).
Release Notes - This menu option will open a link in your default web-browser to the Backbone Talk Release Notes.
Check for Updates - This menu option will check to see if there is an update to the Backbone Talk Client and will show you this dialog:
Report a Problem - This menu option will open a link in your default web-browser to the Backbone Talk Problem Report Page. This will get sent to our support team who will get back to you with a status.
Net Status - The status of your Internet connection is critical to the operation of Backbone Talk. To help keep you running Backbone Talk has a built in Network Status test. It is on the main screen of either the Talent or Producer/Screener interfaces.
Clicking on the Net Status button will bring up screens that provide more detail about your network to help troubleshoot any issues you may be having with the network. Here is a sample screenshot, with a few of the dialogs move for easy viewing:
Restart Server - In the rare case that your Backbone Talk server is unresponsive this menu option will restart your server. The restart typically takes about 1 minute and any calls you may have on the line will be dropped.
Backbone Talk only requires a headset/microphone combination to run. However, some radio stations may require advanced setup and configuration by an audio engineer. An audio engineer will be able to set up external mixing boards, mix-minus and how other channels of audio can be mixed and used with the system. While Backbone can provide limited support in your audio set up, if you need a professional please contact your local chapter of the Audio Engineering Society (AES).
For these advanced configurations we recommend a mixing board with dual buses, having an AUX or FX bus, and USB in and out for easy connection to your computer. Note that many laptops no longer provide both analog input and output, but rather depend on USB in and out.
This is probably the only configuration that is a bit challenging. It requires patching cords to your mixer and turning down one channel. If you understand how to set up and operate a mixing board, this will pose no problem. If you or your coworkers don’t, then it is a skill worth learning. Mix-minus eliminates annoying echoes to callers & guests by removing the Bridge Mix audio (coming from the mix in the cloud down to your board) from the returning FX Bus Mix coming back up from your board to the cloud PBX, or bridge as we sometimes call it.
The following diagram illustrates the signal flow so you can see where mix minus occurs and which knob or slider to turn down.
For more information, you may watch a video which can be found at:
Backboneradio.com > Products > Backbone Talk > Documentation
Or on YouTube at:
Click here for Mix Minus video
Backbone Talk is a Talk Radio Phone System application that provides Radio Stations the ability to take phone calls, screen them, place them on hold and put them on the air. What gets played and heard will depend upon the “client” doing the listening and the “mode” of the call.
At a basic level there are multiple “clients” that can be connected. These include the special clients of the Talent, the Producer/Screener and the ShowMix along with the callers that include both phone calls and high-fidelity connections.
Each client has an assigned Microphone and Speaker pair that defines what they hear. For phone calls the microphone speaker pair are what is available in the phone or the remote device, i.e. Luci Live connection. For the special clients the microphone/speaker pair are defined by the Backbone Talk application in the application preferences.
At a high level this is how everything is connected:
For the special clients they are often connected to many different things, i.e. headsets, mixers, etc. Those are often wired in a certain way based upon the application of the customer. For simplicity we will not describe that wiring only to note that it is outside the basic connectivity of Backbone Talk.
Let’s take a look at the user interface of the two special clients, the Talent and the Producer/Screener (which also includes the ShowMix Microphone and Speaker combo):
Here is a description of what each of the 5 callers hear (note the call on Line 1 is a high fidelity connection and the other calls are standard phone lines):
Talent - The Talent hears the Microphone of the callers on Line 1 and Line 2. In the diagram those would be Mic5 and Mic6. He does not hear himself, his own microphone, Mic1, has been subtracted out from the mix he hears.
Line 1 - This is a high fidelity connection like those provided by Luci Live or Luci Global. The caller on Line 1 hears the Microphone of the Talent and Line 2. In the diagram those would be Mic1 and Mic6. He does not hear himself, his own microphone, Mic4, has been subtracted out from the mix he hears.
Line 2 - This caller has made a phone connection. The caller on Line 2 hears the Microphone of the Talent and Line 1. In the diagram those would be Mic1 and Mic5. He does not hear himself, his own microphone, Mic6, has been subtracted out from the mix he hears.
Line 3 - This caller has made a phone connection. Because he is On Hold his microphone, Mic7, is disabled and not heard by those callers On Air. He hears all calls that are on the Air including the Talent. In the diagram that would be Mic1, Mic5 and Mic6.
Line 4 - This caller has made a phone connection. Because he is in Screen mode he does not hear any of the callers On Air or On Hold. He will only hear the Producer/Screener screening the call, Mic3. For that call, he will have his own microphone, Mic8 subtracted out from the mix he hears.
Line 5 and 6 are empty.
Next for the Producer/Screener’s view of the same calls and who hears what:
Producer/Screener - The Producer is Screening a call. He hears the Microphone of the caller he is screening. In the diagram that would be Mic8. He does not hear himself, his own microphone, Mic3, has been subtracted out from the mix he hears.
Line 1 - This is a high fidelity connection like those provided by Luci Live or Luci Global. The caller on Line 1 hears the Microphone of the Talent and Line 2. In the diagram that would be Mic1 and Mic6. He does not hear the microphone of the Screener, Mic3, when his call is On Air.
Line 2 - This caller has made a phone connection. The caller on Line 2 hears the Microphone of the Talent and Line 1. In the diagram that would be Mic1 and Mic5. He does not hear the microphone of the Screener, Mic3, when his call is On Air.
Line 3 - This caller has made a phone connection. Because he is On Hold his microphone, Mic7, is disabled and not heard by those callers On Air. He hears all calls that are on the Air including the Talent. In the diagram that would be Mic1, Mic5 and Mic6. He does not hear the Producer/Screener, Mic3
Line 4 - This caller has made a phone connection. Because he is in Screen mode he only hears the Producer/Screener. In the diagram that would be Mic3. For that call, he will have his own microphone, Mic8 subtracted out from the mix he hears.
Line 5 and 6 are empty.
ShowMix - This is a special Microphone/Speaker mix. This adds an additional microphone to the Mix, Mic4. This can be used to add additional audio into the Mix that is heard. If ShowMix is activated Mic4 will be added to the mix heard by the Talent, Line 1, Line 2 and Line 3 in the diagram. The caller on Line 4 does not hear the ShowMix while the call is being Screened.
Air Monitor - The Producer/Screener application allows for the Producer/Screener to hear the mix On Air. This is done via the Air Monitor slider, which is set to 0 by default. If the Producer/Screener would like to hear the mix of audio On Air he would move the slider from the “off” or 0 position to the desired audio level. That audio would get played through his speaker, Speaker3. Note, while screening a call the Producer/Screener does not hear the ShowMix.
IFB (Interruptible Foldback, aka Talkback) - This is a special button that enables the Producer/Screener to send a one way audio into what is heard by those lines where IFB is set. By default the Talent line is set to hear the audio. Each individual caller line can also be set with the IFB button for that specific line. The default is “off” indicated by the button being Amber as is the case for line 1, line 2 and line 3.
When the Producer/Screener would like to activate IFB they press and hold down the IFB button in the lower section of the Producer/Screener interface and speak into their microphone. This adds the audio from Mic3 into the the mix that is heard by each line where IFB is set.
Air Talk - This is a special button that enables the Producer/Screener to add his audio to the ShowMix. When the Producer/Screener would like to activate AirTalk they press and hold down the AirTalk button in the lower section of the Producer/Screener interface and speak into their microphone. This adds the audio from Mic3 into the the mix that is heard by each line that is On Air, the Talent, line 1, line 2 and line 3..