Using USB mic with Zoom - what settings for mic, to optimize sound?

December 30, 2020, 12:18 PM · Sorry to raise this again but in searching the threads I didn't seen an answer to this specific question: My father's cello teacher (I know its a viollin site but you all seem to know this stuff!) told him to get an Apogee Plus mic (USB) to connect to his laptop for zoom lessons. We got it hooked up but it sounds dreadful through zoom. His teacher doesn't know much about it although his works great. Does anyone know what settings to put the mic at, the 'blend control' and the 'input gain level', both adjustable? Also I did just learn from Apogee Help that turning off the Automatically Adjust Microphone level' on the settings-audio of zoom improves the sound. Given he's 86 were thankful for remote lessons but hope to get it to sound better than a plastic child cello. Any leads much appreciated! Thank you in advance!

Replies (12)

December 30, 2020, 1:10 PM · I do not have experience with that mic.

As you may know, the gain is the amount of amplification. Less gain usually results in lower distortion, etc. but the sound level is quieter. You want to use just enough gain to be loud enough for soft passages.

The blend is specific to that mic. It is how much sound is output directly to the headphone jack. I do not think it effects the rest of the signal.

You want to sort out the source or sources of the problem. Plug a headphone into the mic. Does it sound ok? If not, try adjusting the gain and blend. If it is still bad then there is an issue with the mic, Make a recording on the laptop/phone with the mic. Again how is the sound quality? You can adjust certain settings on the computer. Sampling rate, etc.

Two more sources of sound issues are your internet connection speed and zoom. The latter has an use original sound setting. In general the quality of sound on Zoom seems to be getting better. (Latency is still terrible.)

December 30, 2020, 1:40 PM · Apogee also has a Zoom-specific video, where they recommend using the middle blend setting.

It also shows that if you're seeing red on the LED's while speaking or playing the cello, it's overloading the mic, and you need to turn the knob leftwards to reduce the level.

https://youtu.be/wFfiRgaFoc8

Also use the Zoom mic setup/test function to check your levels.

Turning Zoom's "automatically adjust microphone volume" control back on might be useful to get over some problems until (if ever) you have the mic level set just right.

Congratulations to your father for learning cello and using new technology at his age - from my limited perspective, he's doing very well to even try this.

December 30, 2020, 1:50 PM · And don't forget that you need to correctly configure Zoom's sound settings as well.
December 30, 2020, 5:51 PM · I KNEW you all would be just the people to ask! Michael yes i'm learning that that kind of stepwise problem solving is key. The Apogee help person also suggested trying the mic with Quicktime just to see if its a mic or a zoom issue. And J Ray, that Youtube video was helpful to see how to set the knob, and Lydia, yes I've just watched a few videos on the proper zoom audio settings for 'music lessons'. Armed with this I headed back over to my father's house to try again. My father has played cello as an amatuer all his life and has a wonderful teacher. He stopped with the pandemic and only recently decided to try zoom lessons, which is great. Neither he nor his teacher are tech savvy :) I'm happy to report it sounded much better, like cello through a bit of mild distortion but not bad at all. I think the biggest issue was getting the audio Zoom settings right. But alas my father was very disappointed in how he sounded and now doesn't want to do lessons. I think he's worried his teacher will think his tone has disintegrated since the pandemic and his tone is what he is proudest of. I tried to explain we all sound dreadful to ourselves on zoom but i don't know. At least he'll be early in the vaccination line...Again thanks for your help!
December 30, 2020, 11:29 PM · That's a pretty expensive zoom mic.
December 31, 2020, 5:35 AM · It is Paul. Do you have something cheaper you like?
December 31, 2020, 5:55 AM · "Turning Zoom's "automatically adjust microphone volume" control back on might be useful to get over some problems until (if ever) you have the mic level set just right."

But, as just mentioned on another topic - this will likely get rid of all your dynamics: play loud, play soft - it all comes out the same because I think this is a lay term for 'audio compression'.

When you start recording there should be a 'test' phase where you can see the trace on the recording device but actual recording has not started yet. Turn off the "automatically adjust microphone volume" then get the loudest instrument to play (often the piano) and adjust the recording volume to about 1/4 or 1/3 of max. Because of the high dynamic range of modern digital devices (we are no longer at 8 bit!) should allow you to capture the loudest sounds without clipping (this will be obvious in the recording trace by a 'ceiling') while not distorting the quietest ones.

December 31, 2020, 6:55 AM · I use the Blue Yeti for my Zoom music lessons and it works quite well.
December 31, 2020, 7:47 AM · Maybe someone has gone through this but-
In Zoom settings, click advanced, check Show in meeting option to "enable original sound" Disable "Surpress Persistent...." and "Suppress intermittent" Set Echo cancellation on Auto.
When you start meeting make our and click "Turn on original sound" in upper left hand corner.
Edited: December 31, 2020, 9:06 AM · Zoom for Zoom seems appropriate. Zoom washing powder is pretty good too I'm told.
December 31, 2020, 11:23 AM · Karen Egee wrote:

"But alas my father was very disappointed in how he sounded and now doesn't want to do lessons. I think he's worried his teacher will think his tone has disintegrated since the pandemic and his tone is what he is proudest of."


Yeah, sound degradation will always be a factor no matter what your setup is.

But in my case, I found connecting my laptop to a 4KUHD TV with a
built-in stereo system helps makes the sound better.

When I want to record myself and listen to what I'm playing on my violin, I use a $200 4K webcam with dual microphones, and use zoom (with all the settings already mentioned) to record myself, then play back the recording with my laptop attached to my 4KUHD TV. And in my BIASED and GRATUTIOUS opinion, I sound very good...LOL. Of course, nothing beats a "live" cello or violin sound.

Perhaps you can set up your Dad on a better sound system when he wants to hear himself play? Or maybe a good set of headphones? Just my .02 cents.

I wish you and your Dad the best! I just read in the news that there's a new covid strain here in the U.S. too, so stay safe and healthy.

December 31, 2020, 12:06 PM · "That's a pretty expensive zoom mic."

Yes, but it's the apogee!

"this will likely get rid of all your dynamics: play loud, play soft - it all comes out the same because I think this is a lay term for 'audio compression'"

Not quite, but you're right - it will change the volume up and down and quite possibly unexpectedly. I don't know if there's going to be a single value that will be good for both the talking part and the playing cello part of a lesson, given that I don't know anything about how they're going to be positioned, and moreover, they were having difficulties. So my suggestion was certainly not an ideal solution, but a compromise / way of easing problems that might arise during a lesson without the person having to do manual gain adjustment. If the person can do manual gain adjustment and get the sound they want without distortion or a lot of hiss, I agree that that's preferred.

There's also the level of the playback/headphones to adjust.

Thanks for stepping in Elise.


Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email

Violinist.com is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

MyLuthier
MyLuthier

Violinist.com Business Directory
Violinist.com Business Directory

Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning
Violinist.com Guide to Online Learning

ARIA International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases

Fiddlerman.com

Fiddlershop

Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Violin-Strings.com

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin

Warchal

Barenreiter

Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn

Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2
Violinist.com Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine

Subscribe