Voice chat is now standard fare in the video game community. Gone are the days when you had to share a couch to socialize while playing. Why bother when you can just stay home and chat over the internet instead?
However, with so many options available, you may be confused about which one is right for you and your circle of friends. So, here are the best free voice chat apps for gaming, along with their pros and cons.
Discord is a free app that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and as a web app (which is sadly not as feature-rich as the desktop version). If you’ve ever used Slack or IRC, then you’ll feel right at home on Discord. In addition to voice chat, Discord supports text chat and video chat (for up to 10 people).
Advantages of Discord
Anyone can create a Discord server for free. Users can join up to 100 different servers, and each server is essentially its own independent community. A server can have both a text line and a voice line, and the server owner can change almost anything about it. Discord hosts the servers themselves, and here’s how to find the best Discord servers that suit your interests.
You and your friends can be up and running in minutes. Servers are private and people can only join them via an invite referensi (a “public” server is a server with a permanent public invite referensi that anyone can use). Discord has a lot of features in addition to the voice chat client, and is well worth checking out.
Disadvantages of Discord
Since all servers are hosted through Discord, an outage means all Discord servers are down and you can do nothing but wait.
Furthermore, Discord servers are hosted in the following locations: US East, US Central, US West, US South, Europe, Russia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Japan, South Africa and Australia. If you are outside of these areas, the latency may cause delays in your voice chat.
Discord might actually be a bit overwhelming if you just want voice chat. The best way to go is if you are already participating in some of the other Discord servers, in which case you are already running the Discord app and have nothing to lose.
Mumble is a free and open source application that runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. On mobile, you can use third-party apps: Plumble for Android and Mumblefy for iOS. It is primarily used for voice chat, although it also supports primitive text chat.
Mumble specializes in low-latency communication, which makes it great for high-octane games with lots of fast-paced action, especially those involving teamplay. It can also position audio based on where you are in the game world, but this is only supported in some games (like most Source Engine and Guild Wars 2 games).
Everything is in your control. If you want to host a server, you can simply download the server version of Mumble and run it on your computer. Then everyone downloads the Mumble client version to connect to your IP address. You can create channels to keep things organized.
If you want 24/7 uptime without leaving your computer on all the time, you can purchase Mumble server hosting. Expect to pay around $2.50/month for five slots, although the price per slot drops drastically as slots increase. And you can get massive discounts by paying multiple months at a time instead of paying monthly.
Disadvantages of Mumble
You can only connect to one Mumble server at a time.
The clunky interface is probably its worst aspect, followed by the learning curve. While Mumble is very easy to use once you get used to it, that initial experience can be quite frustrating, especially when you’re trying to set up server software on your computer and don’t know why your friends can’t connect.
TeamSpeak is a free app that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS (mobile app client app only). TeamSpeak is very similar to Mumble in design and operation, but offers some unique features while also falling short in certain aspects.
The advantages of TeamSpeak
TeamSpeak has an easy-to-use interface with high-quality audio, albeit with slightly more latency than Mumble. However, the difference is negligible in most cases.
TeamSpeak also has a flexible and robust permissions system that allows different users to have control over different areas of the server based on their “power level”. Permissions are also divided into groups, so you can give control over the channel to one user and control over the server to another. This makes community management a lot easier.
Like Mumble, you can self-host TeamSpeak or you can pay for hosting.
Disadvantages of TeamSpeak
You can only connect to one TeamSpeak server at a time.
The self-hosted TeamSpeak server has a maximum capacity of 32 concurrent users. If you request and obtain a non-commercial non-profit license, you can increase that limit to 512. Otherwise, you must pay an annual fee based on maximum capacity. This won’t be a big deal for a private group of friends, but it might be a deal breaker for the public community.
Steam Voice Chat
Despite being one of the most popular gaming platforms on the planet, Steam didn’t have an integrated voice chat option until 2018. With the amount of money spent on such a large platform, 100 million users, and the variety of games available, it’s a bit surprising.
In fact, the lack of an integrated Steam Voice Chat option has helped some of the alternative options on this list grow into better alternatives, building a dedicated community.
Advantages of Steam Voice Chat
If you’re already playing games on Steam, you don’t need to mess around with third-party voice chat apps. Everyone you use uses the same game launcher, plays the same game, so all your friends can chat using the same app.
As you might expect with Steam products, Steam Voice Chat works great. You can drop various types of media, such as GIFs or audio clips, into Steam Voice Chat for easy sharing. In addition, the chat hub makes it easy to manage your Steam Voice Chats.
Another plus of Steam Voice Chat is the global scope of Steam servers. Wherever you are, you are not far from the location of the Steam servers. Proximity is great for latency, helping your voice to sound clear.
Disadvantages of Steam Voice Chat
There aren’t many downsides to using Steam Voice Chat. Voice call quality is poor at times, but this is often explained through other internet issues.
If you rely on Steam Voice Chat to communicate with certain friends or gamers, you won’t be able to reach them if the Steam network goes down. In that case, some users prefer to use an alternative voice chat client as it stops one company from consolidating the market (further).
When it comes to chatting with other people or different gamers, Steam Voice Chat is limited. You will most likely be chatting with your friends on Steam Voice Chat. Whereas, with other options like Discord, you can join different servers and chat with different people.
Tox is a little different from the other voice chat options on this list. Unlike the alternatives, Tox has a strong focus on user privacy, using end-to-end encryption to protect your data. It also uses a peer-to-peer connection model to further enhance your privacy while chatting and gaming.
Tox is actually a protocol that has several different implementations, depending on your operating system. Voice chat software using the Tox protocol is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, as well as web-based options.
Advantages of Tox
The Tox protocol offers a secure voice chat option for gamers. Privacy is important, and many voice chat options ignore this important issue. In addition, because Tox’s source code is open source, you can ensure that nothing untoward happens to your data.
You can find Tox apps for almost all modern operating systems, meaning cross-platform chat is a possibility. Also, because Tox is cross-platform, you will find developers innovating around the protocol and adding features to their chat clients where possible.
Since Tox is peer-to-peer, the sound quality may suffer. The quality is only as good as your connection to each other. With the extension, you cannot send messages if the other user is not connected to the Tox messenger. Some applications may display the message as sent when, in fact, it is waiting to complete sending.
Additionally, due to the open-source nature of the Tox protocol, developers come and go. There are at least seven different dormant instant messaging services at the time of writing. That number can increase if the service doesn’t attract enough users, or even if the development team loses interest in the project.
The options above are some of the best voice chat apps for gaming. Almost every gamer develops a preference for one of them. If you don’t like any of them for whatever reason, there are two other voice chat solutions you can use: Google Hangouts and Skype. But be warned… they have some glaring flaws.
Google Hangouts lets you make free voice calls to other Hangouts users, plus video conferencing with up to 10 total participants. It’s fine for hanging out with fellow gamers, but not the best to use when playing actually because the quality isn’t optimized for it, you don’t have the option of push-to-talk, and there’s no persistence between calls.
Skype is better suited for gaming because you can have persistent group chats between voice chats, but the Skype software itself leaves a lot to be desired. It’s buggy and prone to errors, plus the sound quality is generally poor and has little difference.
This Voice Chat App Will Keep You Playing The Game
In this article, we have listed some free voice chat apps for gamers. All in all we would happily recommend. However, if we had to pick just one, we’d recommend Discord.