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A friend and I have been writing (electronic) music together for over a decade, but we're now separated by distance. It's essential that we're able to see one DAW (i.e. the audio composition software) and hear everything together as we work.

For the "seeing" part, we found https://join.me's free desktop sharing service—and we were in particular impressed by its low latency and ease of sharing mouse control. However, its audio quality left much to be desired—the audio sounded like call center music over the phone.

But even more so than quality, we need low latency. When we tried SHOUTcast, there was about 5 or 6 seconds between me friend hitting "Play" and be hearing sounds. Impossible to work with. Of course, in retrospect, that was dumb—trying to use a broadcasting system for our point-to-point needs—but at the time we didn't think to make use of our soundcards' Stereo Mixer (basically a loopback mechanism, redirecting audio-out to line-in) and simply call each other over Skype or Hangouts. We're going to try this next, but we're afraid that not being able to set a constant audio quality (since both Skype and Hangouts adjust their stream qualities based on detected bandwidth quality) will become very annoying for the process. We'd rather hear a constant 128 Kbps MP3 quality stream, than something that shifts around as we try to listen and analyze things.

Is there a program, preferably lightweight, and preferably gratis (but, we'd pay for good software), that can stream audio both ways (i.e. make a "call") at a set quality and with low latency?

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    Keep in mind that the network speed and contention will set an upper limit, e.g.: you are not going to get 128 kBPS if you are on a 1MBit link. Likewise if you have a contention ratio of 20:1 and your neighbours at either end all start streaming movies. – Steve Barnes Dec 5 '14 at 8:45
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    @SteveBarnes It's rather late, but I'd like to point out that the asker was most likely talking about 128 kbps (bits per second) - which shouldn't have a problem going over 1 Mbps uplink. – Sebi Mar 26 '15 at 15:44
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Mumble, a free and open source VoIP chat program ?

Run the server on one computer, the client on the other one, tinker with the audio codecs and quality until you get satisfying results and set a constant bitrate if you want to, then you can either enable push to talk or speech detection so that it doesn't transmit if there's no sound (to leave more bandwidth for your screen sharing app).

You can then use Virtual Audio Cable (paid, 25$ with free trial) to create a digital equivalent of your loopback cable without any losses (note that this software isn't only for Mumble and you can use it with any other program like Skype, it appears as a standard sound card).

I've used both of these programs with much success, Mumble was really great and allowed good quality and almost zero latency over a basic 1mbps DSL connection.

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