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What Is a Telephone Hybrid?

A webcam for use with VoIP.
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  • Written By: Mal Baxter
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2014
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Going to the phones on a radio or television broadcast is a simple matter for the telephone hybrid. This device converts old-fashioned analog audio from telephone networks through repeater amplifiers that boost the signal for broadcast, as when a talk show host speaks with a guest caller. Contemporary digital systems receive analog or digital telephone audio signals and process them through computers. Essentially, this component links up telephone lines to broadcast audio systems. Signals, however, may be processed through a labyrinthine system of equalization, filtering, and digital manipulation.

Advantages of using a telephone hybrid are numerous and include its ability to compensate for audio feedback echoes, which sometimes occur when callers leave their radios on and sound bleeds back through the telephone. Sound from the radio speaker gets filtered back through the telephone receiver and can make it sound as if a talker is speaking in a well. Worse, the signal may interfere with equipment levels and overwhelm the entire audio. In the studio, hybrid telephone components work together to neutralize these effects with this technology's acoustic echo cancellation capabilities.

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Some telephone hybrid products are fitted with few inputs, while others accommodate multiple inputs for more switchboard-style activity. These may be interfaced with simple telephone and audio jack ports and pushbutton or knob controls. For hosts who like to broadcast outgoing calls, units are sometimes outfitted with dual-tone multifrequency signaling (DTMF) keypads; these are the familiar arrays of numbered telephone buttons. Additionally, devices may support electrical XLR connector ports, typical of analog audio transmission lines. Components may serve electronic analog technologies as well as computers and digital equipment.

Studios rely on rack-mounted components that support telephone line connectors and other popular network configurations. For example, they may accommodate Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone lines and numerous other industrial standards. Equipment might be outfitted with features such as caller identification and multiple lines. All of these components may be fed into a computer for instant overview and running management by a producer. These setups can also expand interaction with an audience, incorporating other Web-based channels like e-mail or chat.

An assortment of telephone hybrid products work with varying degrees of success. Designs and functions vary widely, from small hand-held components to large studio mixing board systems. When amateur radio operators link telephones to their radio equipment, these technologies are referred to as autopatches.

Typically, however, the telephone hybrid combines a dual-wire telephone signal with a host audio signal for a unified and manageable output. Some devices enhance this unit with other functions, such as mixer, amplifier, and private branch exchange (PBX) telephone interface. Integration of this useful device into a broadcast system helps ensure smooth, continuous caller interactions and balanced audio. Smooth switching and dedicated telephone connections can expand the range of conversation worldwide, allowing timely interviews in journalism, entertainment, and more.

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