Observing without MSFS2020 - VRC or vatSys - which tool is the right one?

Hi Folks, I’m new to the whole VATSIM experience and trying make sense of vatSys vs VRC. I’ve been trying to set myself up as an ATC/Radar observer without firing up MSFS2020 but its been hard to follow exactly how to do this. My questions are as follows:

  1. Is vatSys simply a “next generation” version of VRC but specifically suited for Australia or is VRC equally suitable?
  2. If VRC is an option for Aus based ATC, where can I find the “sector” files needed to actually be an observer against Australia based ATC?
  3. Can we use vatSys for non-Australian based ATC interactions or will this simply not work?
  4. Is vatSys mainly intended for people acting as controllers?
  5. In vatSys, I’m successfully connected to the VATSIM network, positioned at SY_TWR, with SY_TWR frequency added and “ACTIVE” (in pink) active in the VCSC window…problem is I don’t hear anything except occassionally the box in pink saying “ACTIVE” changes to red and says “NO VOICE”…why is that? Im pretty sure my audio is working fine in other apps on the same audio devices.

I am new too, and not in your region, but with some searching I found some potentially helpful links:

It seems after 21 days of the post being up a more experienced user should be replying.

Q1 and Q2: It looks like VRC is officially retired for Australia based on the sector files page.
Q3: Too new myself to know, but I presume any supported client will technically work, but each region has their own recommended software so if you want an accurate depiction of what is going on you would want to use the client that the region has standardized on.
Q4: From what I have read, yes the controller clients are for people practicing to be controllers. For non-controllers just to see what is going on there is maps.vatsim.net and VatSpy and other similar clients.
Q5: From what limited vSTARS training (another client) I have looked at, you should connect as (your initials)_OBS as your callsign unless you are actually rated as a controller. Otherwise my understanding is that you would be expected to provide ATC services for which you aren’t rated. I’m not sure what the network does if you connect with an ATC callsign and you are not rated for it. Maybe other users will complain and start enforcement actions against you. Not sure.

My best suggestion, is to go contact your VATSIM region and ask for help (Regions) and treat it as if you were knocking on the door of a Terminal Control Center in real life so that you don’t inadvertently spoil others’ experience.

Hi Byron, thanks so much for taking the time to respond…I greatly appreciate it. I must say it was a surprise to me to see no reply for so long. I took your advice and reached out via the VATPAC divison forums…hopefully that will yield more answers…especially in relation to vatSys and the sector files for Oz.