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Live concert with Zoom commentator - question

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Jim Klas:

Please pardon me if this question belongs in another forum on this page, I'm not precisely sure where it fits to be honest.

My friend would like to do a series of jazz concerts with live audience, where he has a guest speaker present by way of Zoom. The guest begins the concert by talking to the audience and taking questions for about 1/2 hour, then the band plays and after each song the guest gives insight, perhaps talking back and forth with the band leader, or audience members if there is a question, etc.

Friend says he has attempted this several times with the problem being that the talking back and forth works fine over zoom, but the guest encounters horribly distorted sound quality or even in some cases muted audio when the band begins playing, even if the mic input levels look good on the computer. Other issue is he said there were significantly disparate volumes between the talking and the band (to be expected IMHO).

I am wondering if, firstly, anyone else has encountered this issue?

I researched a couple other threads on this forum about zoom sound quality - noting  all details in the thread "Zoom high quality audio set up questions" in particular, which was very helpful. Zoom has echo cancellation features and other audio parameters that he may not have been familiar with that certainly could have impacted quality.

I am also wondering if anyone has any insight they can share about ways to set up the guest's audio feed for this type of production.

My idea for guest feed was to mic the band with an XY pair, run that to 2 channels on the board. The band leader will talk on a wireless, channel 3 on board. Audience members get a 2nd wireless to pass around, channel 4 on board. Sometimes the band leaders do not like to use wireless handheld my friend says, in which case I'd put a lapel on the band leader or put up an omni pattern mic near band leader that I can run to a separate channel with higher gain for talk. Route band mics to band subgroup, talk mics to talk subgroup. Muting between the band and talk subgroups and managing the level differential should take care of the other issues my friend mentioned so the guest gets a more useable feed? And lastly my thought would be to apply light buss compression to the band, light buss compression to the talk mics, and on the final mix out - potentially a brickwall limiter before it hits the audio interface going into the Zoom computer? I would wonder if there is a specific loudness target that Zoom prefers. Perhaps this type of setup has a significant chance of working?? Or perhaps this is all taking it too far.

Thanks for your opinions in advance.


Helge A Bentsen:
Zoom needs a heavily compressed board mix when the band is playing.
Done this several times, feed a separate mix minus to zoom and slam it with a compressor/limiter.

Tracy Garner:
To add to what the other person said about mix-minus, make sure the Zoom settings are set to high-fidelity. Default Zoom settings are configured to automatically suppress background noise which will negatively affect your stream audio in and out. Make sure 'enable Original Sound' is configured.

Mike Caldwell:
What kind of interface or you using to send audio to the Zoom computer?

In addition to the other suggestions make sure your not crushing the input on the interface
if it's a mic preamp style interface.

What is you mixer, does it have a direct USB output?

Jim Klas:

--- Quote from: Mike Caldwell on January 27, 2023, 09:27:55 AM ---What kind of interface or you using to send audio to the Zoom computer?

In addition to the other suggestions make sure your not crushing the input on the interface
if it's a mic preamp style interface.

What is you mixer, does it have a direct USB output?

--- End quote ---

Tracy, Heige, thank you very much for your reply!


Originally my friend didn't have an audio interface on the Macintosh audio input he was just using the onboard MacBook microphone. I believe that contributed significantly to the issues he was having.

In my proposed setup (presuming my friend will hire me for this) I would be using an RME FireFace UCX interface on the Macintosh running Zoom. That particular interface has not only mic level inputs but line level balanced inputs so I think it should be hopefully an easier setup. Mixing board is a Midas/Behringer M32. Since I would be running other mixes from the M32 I will likely use a pair of linked busses and outputs to feed the FireFace. Potentially sending audio through a TC Electronic DBMax first. Sometimes for streamcast mixes I insert one of the 8 effects slots on the M32 on the output buss, the M32 has a few choices to compress and limit - emulations of Fairchild 670, LA2A, 1176 and a "Precision Limiter" which I personally find to be time consuming to tweak and get just the right sound I'm looking for. Hence the DBMax. I believe it may be appropriate to use some low cut eq above 60Hz-80Hz and perhaps even low pass below 19kHz to eliminate material Zoom's audio data codec might not deal with very well.



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