- Download and install the free client version of the voice chat software Ventrilo.[/*:m:2rmvaasc]
- Make a few settings, the address of SgtSpike's Ventrilo server is in this thread.[/*:m:2rmvaasc]
- Start the program, select the server from the drop-down, click connect.[/*:m:2rmvaasc]
- Start listening/talking. But no spam or obnoxious sounds, please.[/*:m:2rmvaasc]
It's much easier than having to type everything in chat, only to type later: "I already TOLD you, didn't you read? Now I have to type all that aga" - And that's about the maximum chat length. And what you see on screen while typing is even shorter. Don't put up with that. (Side note: There's a client-side chat modification for Minecraft. Never tried it, but I hear it's good.)
Not only can you transport much more information in the same time if you use voice chat, you can do so while you keep playing. Have you ever followed someone through the lands of Minecraft, only to stop whenever you want to say something? Forget that.
Short setup instructions
Ok, how to download and install the program is a no-brainer. Making the settings is a bit harder if you've never done it before. Here's short instructions if you found the above linked tutorial too big and if you're kinda GUI-affine:
Make a user entry (that's just a local setting, we're not talking about creating an online account or something). Make a server entry (so that the program knows SgtSpike's server, should be vent44.light-speed.com port 7390 as the above linked post says). Use the "Setup..." dialog (In conjunction with your system sound mixer!) to make sure that the microphone (and only the microphone, not your media player etc.) is connected to the Ventrilo program. Also, decide for a hotkey for push-to-talk. Default is the left CTRL key. You can even use the mouse buttons. I use the END key since I play with arrow keys. You can also have Ventrilo automatically turn on transmission if the sound level gets high enough, but that's only sometimes the method of choice.
Details about Ventrilo's behavior
Ventrilo thankfully samples the sound the whole time, and when it starts the transmission (triggered by sound level or button), it doesn't start sending what you're currently saying but what you said about half a second before. So, you don't always lose the first word (yes, even if the transmission is started automatically). But the transmission end does not behave like that, it ends when it ends, it's instant. You should know this. Because you'll hear a sound when the transmission starts and ends (which can be turned off, but it's useful), and first time users would instinctively repeat themselves at the beginning of the transmissions.
You can test all this in the "Setup..." dialog as if you were talking to a server, you'll hear what really happens (incl. the above described behavior). And while you're in that dialog, nothing will be sent from your machine, you're in a sandbox.
You can also apply "special effects" to every single chat participant, these settings will not be lost between sessions. The most important effect: Volume. There's also a compressor you could apply on everything at once (in the "Setup..." dialog) to brute-force the volumes to one level, but that's not really the best solution, just the quickest one.
You can not apply special effects to your own voice before transmission (like chorus etc.), at least not to my experience.
There's also the feature to mute individual users - but if you want to chat with a certain group, get a room, guys. There are several on SgtSpike's Ventrilo server.
A word about hardware
A cheap microphone as they come with many sound cards will do. Since most PC-microphones concentrate their "awareness" on the area very close (and also in the direction) where the opening is, you have to take that into account when you setup auto-talk (instead of push-to-talk) and the amplification. I am using such a microphone, and I am not very near it, so I am rather in the room-background "awareness" of the microphone. Thus, my pre-amplification setting in the system mixer is quite high, thus the noise level is quite high. It's not too much for proper communication, and it's not on a level annoying to the chat partners. But it's definitely too high for reliable auto-transmit (as opposed to push-to-talk).
A head-set microphone that's kinda glued to your mouth is a better choice, I believe, but it's really not necessary. If you want to voice chat, you're probably good to go right now. All you need is click a few times.
Speaking of head-set: It's a good idea to use headphones instead of speakers, because, depending on your microphone situation (e.g. like I have it, see above), you'd record what comes out of the speakers, and this would be disturbing for the chat.
There are also headphone-microphone headsets available, but guess what the headphone quality is like if you don't spend a fortune.
Don't put the microphone directly in front of your mouth, or you'll deafen everyone with your explosion sounds. (That's what air-pressure effects caused by uttering "p" etc. are called.) If you put the mike to the right or left of your mouth but still pointed at it, you'll still have perfectly loud sound but without the explosions.