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Do you want to perform together across the Internet with professional results? Learn about the equipment you’ll need.

1. Computer

  • You’ll need a decent laptop or desktop computer to use our service. A tablet or phone will not work.
  • With some computers you may need a USB hub if you are connecting a USB audio interface, Ethernet adaptor, one or more webcams, and power delivery for the computer.
  • For the best results, a quiet computer with no fan or a silent mode is best.
  • If you happen to have two computers (both connected by Ethernet), it can be helpful to use one for audio and one for video but most of our users are fine with just one computer.

Best

  • Two Mac, Windows, or Linux computers with Intel i5 or equivalent processor and 16 GB of RAM with fanless design or silent mode
  • One computer is used for handling audio and the other is used for handling video
  • Recommended computer: MacBook Air M1, Mac Mini M1, LG Gram

Better

  • Mac, Windows, or Linux computer with Intel i5 or equivalent processor and 16 GB of RAM with fanless design or silent mode
  • Large monitor and/or second display
  • Recommended computer: MacBook Air M1, Mac Mini M1, LG Gram

Minimum

  • Mac, Windows, or Linux computer with Intel i5 or equivalent processor and 8 GB of RAM

Unusable

  • Smartphone or tablet
  • Chromebook
  • Budget computer with Intel i3 or equivalent or slower processor

2. Internet Connectivity

  • You must be connected to your Internet router or modem using an Ethernet cable for our service. Packet loss on WiFi will almost always produce nasty-sounding artifacts in audio and unsightful artifacts in video.
  • If your computer doesn’t have an Ethernet port you’ll need either a USB to Ethernet adapter, or a USB hub with an Ethernet port, or for a desktop PC, an Ethernet card.
  • If your Internet router is located quite far from your computer, simply buy a long Ethernet cable and connect it when you need to perform together across the Internet. Even 100′ cables are readily available and inexpensive.

Best

  • Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) Internet connection
  • Ethernet between computer and Internet router/modem

Better

  • Cable or fibre-to-the-curb (FTTC) or fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) Internet connection
  • Ethernet between computer and Internet router/modem

Minimum

  • DSL Internet connection
  • Ethernet between computer and Internet router/modem

Unusable

  • Any kind of wireless Internet such as satellite or microwave
  • Wi-Fi connection between your computer and your Internet router/modem

You’ll get the best experience with a fiber Internet connection

If you’re able to get fiber Internet, we strongly recommend it for the best experience not only with our service but with many other online experiences.

If you’re a Canadian musician living in Ontario or Quebec and you’re not on Bell Fibe, read our Bell Fibe page to find out why you should get it and how to get the service at a discount.

In-depth: What you need to know about Internet connections for playing music together online

Playing music together across the Internet requires a great Internet connection but what constitutes “great?”

Measurements

There are important three parameters: bandwidth, latency, and jitter.

Bandwidth is the amount of data you can push through your Internet connection at any one time. It’s typically expressed in megabits per second (Mbps). Since you can both download (receive) and upload (send) data through your connection, there are two separate measurements. Bandwidth is typically the only measurement Internet Service Providers (ISPs) ever talk about yet for our purposes it’s typically the least important measurement. All you need is to have enough bandwidth to send and receive the audio and video data. To use syncspace.live in rehearsals, we only require about two megabytes of upload and download bandwidth. For broadcast performances, we require about seven megabytes of upload bandwidth and two megabytes of download bandwidth.

Latency is the thing we care about the most (almost). Latency is the time it takes to send a single packet of data from one location (such as your location) to another location (such as a syncspace server) across the Internet. When performing together online through syncspace, if everybody has very low-latency connections, it can sound and look like we are right next to one another in the same room. If the latency is high, the delay will be more noticeable. The lower the latency, the better the experience will be.

Jitter is the variance in the latency. It is possible to have a low average latency but if the connection is very jittery and the latency is bouncing around everywhere, it will result in packet loss which will result in artifacts in video and audio. This will be very obvious in the audio as there will be popping and crackling in the sound. The way to deal with jitter is to use buffers that help absorb the impact of the packet loss. However, the larger we have to make these buffers, the more it adds to the latency. The lower the jitter, the better the experience will be.

Bandwdith, latency, and jitter can all be measured using a web browser test.In major cities, with fiber connections, many users can get latency to our servers of between 1 – 5 ms. If you then have a decently low-latency audio interface, you can get overall delays in Jamulus of between 12 – 18ms which is like being about 6 to 10 feet apart in the same room. This will produce an amazing experience.

Internet technology

DSL uses telephone cable. Telephone cable was never designed for Internet connections. DSL is often high latency and high jitter especially if there is noise on the line. DSL sucks.

Cable uses coaxial cable. Cable was never designed for Internet connections. Although you can sometimes get cable connections with large amounts of download bandwidth, they often have very small upload bandwidth. In many cases, latency on cable is adequate for our usage as long as the jitter is not too high. One problem with cable is that connections can be susceptible to congestion if your ISP has oversubscribed Internet service in your area (which is often the case) and your neighbours are using the Internet heavily.

Fiber uses optical fiber cable that sends data through light. It was designed for data transmission. Fiber is by far the best connection you can get. The latency is ultra-low, the jitter is almost non-existent, and you can get huge amounts of bandwidth (both up and down).

If you can get a fiber Internet connection, you will have an amazing Internet experience for everything, not just for using syncspace.live. With everyone now working so much online at home, many people will find that their Internet connections simply can’t handle their requirements, especially if there are multiple people using the connection.

The difference between fiber connections

The best connection you can get is fiber-to-the-home (FTTH). This means that your ISP will bring optical fiber cable right into your residence. Unfortunately this is not available in all areas.

Some places can only get fiber to a point that is some distance away from the residence and then copper (telephone) cable is used the rest of the way. This is known as fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) which is sometimes called fiber-to-the-node (FTTN). One problem with FTTC/FTTN is that you never know exactly how low the latency will be because it will depend on how far you are from the fiber node. We’ve seen people on FTTC/FTTN with latency to our servers as low as 5 to 6ms (compared to 2 – 5ms on FTTH) but some as high as 15ms.

FTTH is what you want, if you can get it. You will know if FTTH is an option if the upload and download bandwidth being offered are the same and large amounts of bandwidth (such as 100 Mbps or more are available as an option). If the download bandwidth is greater than the upload bandwidth (e.g. 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up), then it is not FTTH but rather FTTC/FTTN.

If you are in Ontario or Quebec and want to know more about Bell Fibe, we have written a whole page about this.

Internet routing

Internet routing is something most ISPs will never talk about but it’s often the biggest frustration we will encounter in dealing with them.

Unfortunately the Internet is extremely complicated. When you send data from one location to another, you might think it would travel there by the most optimal route, with the shortest distance, and the fewest hops. Unfortunately this often does not happen and in many cases it is because ISPs will try to send data along the cheapest routes, rather than the fastest ones. As an example of how this can be frustrating, even if you are one mile away from our servers, if your ISP is doing not optimally routing your traffic, any data sent or received between you and our servers may be going via another city. In the worst case ISPs will send the traffic through multiple (other) cities and sometimes even out of your state/province or even the country! This will greatly add to the latency.

Routing is a complex topic and involves an understanding of what the ISPs are doing, how the various service providers are peered, the presence and use of Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), and more. We can help you understanding routing for your connection to our servers.

Test your Internet connection

To understand the capabilities of your Internet connection, run a speedtest and take note of the upload and download bandwidth, the latency, and jitter.

You can use these measurements when consulting charts below.

It will also be helpful to record the location of the server that the speedtest connected to.

Latency

Excellent

0 – 5 ms

Very Good

6 – 15 ms

Acceptable

16 – 25 ms

Poor

> 25 ms

Jitter

Excellent

< 1 ms

Very Good

2 – 4 ms

Acceptable

5 – 10 ms

Poor

> 10 ms

Upload

Excellent

> 15 Mbps

Very Good

10 – 14 Mbps

Acceptable

5 – 9 Mbps

Poor

< 5 Mbps

Download

Excellent

> 15 Mbps

Very Good

10 – 14 Mbps

Acceptable

5 – 9 Mbps

Poor

< 5 Mbps

Our global network of servers makes the difference!

When you run a speedtest, the reported latency will be based on the server that it connected to and therefore it can only be considered an estimate of latency since any particular syncspace you use may be located elsewhere, and other network factors may change.

We operate a worldwide network of server locations so that we can increase the likelihood of lower latency with servers closer to musicians, and to make it easier to connect musicians between different cities.

In-depth: How network latency affects your experience

Network latency is only one component of the delay you hear when performing together across the Internet.

Overall Delay = Network Latency (Ping) + Audio Processing Latency

This is why a low-latency audio interface is also an important part of the solution.

Audio processing time is typically about 10 – 15 ms but that will depend on the latency of your audio interface and the stability of your Internet connection.

With a fiber Internet connection and network latency of 2 – 5ms and audio processing times of around 10ms, the overall delay will be about 12 to 15ms which is like being about 6 to 8 feet apart in the same room.

It’s important to remember that musicians deal with latency all the time when playing together in the same room.

In a large symphony orchestra, it can be up to 100 feet from one side of the ensemble to the other. In a pit orchestra, it can be 50 or 60 feet from one end of the pit to the other. Sound travels approximately one foot per millisecond so 100 feet of distance is 100 ms of delay one way which is 200 ms roundtrip. Professional musicians, especially those with experience performing in large ensembles or on large stages, typically have no problem at all dealing with the latency of performing music together online.

FAQ: Can I perform with others over long distances?

We have demonstrated professional musicians performing together in concert separated by as much as 2500 miles (4000 kilometres).

Most of the concerts at our virtual venue feature professional musicians performing between multiple cities. Performing across long distances is absolutely possible but the delay between sending and receiving sound will increase with the distance.

Cities that are close together are quite workable even for playing in time at moderately fast tempos. Cross-continental or inter-continental collaborations will place greater limitations on what you can do together.

3. Audio Interface

  • To get the best possible audio experience, we strongly recommend using an external audio interface. These interfaces are typically connected to your computer by USB although there are other options such as Thunderbolt.
  • An audio interface will give you the best sound quality and make it a lot easier to adjust and tune both the sound you are sending and the sound you are receiving from others.
  • Even if you are using an instrument such as a guitar or keyboard which will be plugged directly into your audio interface, you’ll also need a microphone to speak to other musicians or to the audience when performing in a broadcast.

Best

  • External audio interface with onboard effects processing (recommended: Universal Audio Apollo) OR audio mixer with built-in audio interface or connected to your audio interface with 1/4 or XLR connections
  • Condenser microphone matched to your instrument and used in a quiet environment
  • High-quality headphones

Better

  • Low-latency external audio interface (recommended: M-Audio Air 192 | 4 or whichever specific model has enough channels for your needs)
  • Decent-quality dynamic microphone + XLR cable
  • High-quality headphones with 1/4″ plug

Minimum

  • Low-cost audio interface (recommended: M-Audio M-Track Solo)
  • Low-cost dynamic cardioid microphone with XLR cable
  • Low-cost headphones with 1/4″ jack

As a substitute for an external audio interface and microphone, a USB microphone can work but is not recomended. Please see below for more information.

Unusable

  • Built-in computer microphone
  • Bluetooth or wireless headphones

FAQ: Is it essential that I have an external audio interface?

If you’re only exchanging spoken word in your syncspace you may not require an external audio interface and may be able to simply use a headset or a set of headphones with a high-quality microphone.

If you’re playing music together then an external audio interface will make a big difference. Not only will the sound quality be a lot better but it will be much easier to control and monitor your sound and connect high-quality microphones including those that require phantom power. You’ll also be able to plug in instruments with line-level connections such as guitars, keyboards, and some dynamic microphones.

If you play an instrument that will plug in to your audio interface directly, you will still need to connect a microphone so that you can talk to other members of your group as well to the audience if you are broadcasting.

FAQ: Can I use a USB microphone instead of an external audio interface?

A USB microphone is essentially a microphone with some of the functionality of an external audio interface. USB microphones can potentially work but they don’t offer as much predictability as an external audio interface and there may be limitations and additional complications.

While the latency of audio interfaces is usually well known and easily measured and manufacturers typically design them for low latency and will claim low latency, the latency of a typical USB microphone is never typically advertised.

There is another problem which is that while all USB microphones can send audio into your computer, most have no way to also function as an output device. Although some USB microphones do have a headphone jack, many of these only use the headphone jack to monitor the sound going into the computer through the microphone and can’t be used for sound output from the computer. If the USB mic has some kind of mix control then it may be able to handle output.

If the USB mic has no output, you can, in theory, use the headphone jack in your computer to receive sound, even though it may add latency and the sound quality might not be the best. However, this means that you will need to use one device for input (the USB microphone) and a different device (the computer headphone jack on the computer) for output. This is easy to do on a Mac but more involved on Linux and even more involved on Windows and generally it is not a path we recommend.

Another thing to watch for with USB mics is that many of them are condenser mics. While condensers can be fabulous, for many people they are not the right kind of mic to get as they are highly sensitive and will pick up every single sound in the room including computer fans, furnaces, room fans, and everything else. A dynamic mic with a cardioid, hypercardioid, or supercardioid pickup pattern is often a much better choice for most people unless they are working in a very quiet studio-like environment.

USB microphones are generally a bit of a crapshoot and we typically recommend using an audio interface for the best results. If you are trying to find one that works we recommend looking for one that has the following features:

  • Low-latency (ideally about 10ms roundtrip)
  • Headphone jack
  • Built-in two-way audio interface with mix control to adjust the blend between the sound you are sending and the sound received from others
  • Gain control to adjust the sensitivity of the microphone

An example of a microphone which has all these features is the M-Audio Uber. However, for the price of this microphone, you could buy an audio interface such as an M-Audio M-Track Duo and a low-cost dynamic microphone. Or for the same cost, you could buy a better audio interface such as the M-Audio AIR 192 | 4 and then add a low-cost dynamic microphone.

Generally, an audio interface is a much better way to go as you have a lot more flexibility and control and the ability to use it with any professional microphone.

Test your audio setup

If you already have an audio interface and want to test it with the software you can follow the instructions below. The goal on determine whether you can run the software and send and receive audio through your hardware. We won’t try to tune the setup for audio quality or latency and instead of connecting to an audio server in a syncspace, you’ll connect to a local server that you will run on your computer.

If you subscribe to our service, we include extensive documentation to assist with setup, optimizing audio and video, and handling advanced scenarios.

Firstly determine whether you want to test using Jamulus or JackTrip. JackTrip can be tricky to setup and tune and while the latency can be slightly lower and the audio quality higher than Jamulus, Jamulus is a much easier option to start with and for many people the latency and audio quality will be more than good enough. Most of our subscribers use Jamulus.

Test your audio setup with Jamulus

a) Download and install the Jamulus software

If you don’t already have Jamulus installed on your computer, download it for Windows, Mac, or Linux here and install it on your computer.

b) Run a local Jamulus Server

On Windows or Mac, start the Jamulus Server application. On Linux, run the Jamulus executable with the -s option.

If you are running on a Mac and get the message that the application cannot be opened because the developer cannot be verified, go to your System Preferences (in your Apple logo menu) then go to Security & Privacy and on the General tab you will see a way to tell the Mac you are okay to launch the application.

c) Run the Jamulus Client

Make sure your audio interface is plugged into your computer. It is important to do this before you start the software.

Run the Jamulus client.

If you are running on a Mac and get the message that the application cannot be opened because the developer cannot be verified, go to your System Preferences (in your Apple logo menu) then go to Security & Privacy and on the General tab you will see a way to tell the Mac you are okay to launch the application.

d) Connect to the local Jamulus server

  1. Click the Connect button in Jamulus and the connection dialog will appear.
  2. In the Server Address field of the connection dialog, type 127.0.0.1 then click the Connect button under the server name field.
  3. You should see Jamulus immediately connect to your local server. A connection should appear in the Jamulus window and an entry should appear in the list at the top of the Jamulus Server.

e) Setting the right audio device(s) in Jamulus

In the main Jamulus window, click the Settings button. In the window that appears, select the Audio/Network Setup tab and make sure you have the right audio devices selected for input and output under the Soundcard Device options. If any of your devices have multiple channels, you will also see options to select specific input and outputs.

On some platforms such as Mac, different combinations of input and output will be listed. If you are using an external audio interface you should select the device options so that you are using the audio interface for both input and output.

If you are using a USB microphone: As discussed above at length, USB microphones are not the ideal path but can work in some cases. If you are using a USB microphone that does not handle audio output and you are running on a Mac, you can select the USB mic for input and your computer’s headphone jack for output. Doing this on Windows or Linux is much harder and while it is possible we don’t recommend it as it involves additional software and configuration.

It is critical that you make sure you are sending and receiving through the right devices. If you are testing through a microphone, the best way to ensure that you are sending your external microphone to Jamulus and not the computer’s internal microphone is to gently tap on your external microphone so that the noise is not so easily heard by the computer’s microphone.

In the main Jamulus window you, ensure you have Mute deselected above your name. You should be able to hear yourself in the mix coming back from the server.

Set Audio Channels to “Stereo” and Audio Quality to “High” to improve the audio quality.

f) Confirm that you can change the settings through Jamulus

In this test we are only trying to confirm that you are able to use your audio interface with Jamulus. In the setup guide for each syncspace there is detailed information on tuning. However it is important that you verify that you are able to change the Buffer Delay in the Jamulus settings window. If these options are disabled, it is possible you don’t have the right driver or the latest driver for your interface or your interface (or driver) does not have the ability to change the buffer size. If the driver for your interface doesn’t allow the buffer size to be changed by Jamulus, there may be options to change the buffer size in the software for your interface. You want to, ideally, have the ability to change the buffer size to 64. Also make sure your sampling rate is set to 48 kHz.

It should be possible to reduce the difference between the Ping Time, as displayed in the main Jamulus window, and the Overall Delay, to approximately 10ms by setting the buffer delay to 2.67ms (or setting the buffer size to 64 in the software for your interface), checking the Enable Small Network Buffer option, and possibly also unchecking the Auto setting for the Jitter Buffer and manually reducing the buffer sizes.

g) Stop Jamulus and the Jamulus Server

After you have successfully tested the audio, exit both the Jamulus client and the Jamulus Server.

Test your audio setup with JackTrip

a) Download, install, and configure JackTrip (and Jack)

If you don’t already have JackTrip working on your computer, you will find the software for Windows, Mac, or Linux here, along with instructions for installation and configuration. There are dependencies that need to be installed on all platforms so that in the end you will usually have to run other programs such as Jack/QJackCtl/jackd, in addition to JackTrip itself.

b) How to use Jack and JackTrip

As you’ll read in the instructions at the download site, JackTrip uses Jack and Jack needs to be configured using QJackCtl for Mac and Linux or the Jack Control app on Windows. When JackTrip is run you will see that there are audio connections that need to be made between JackTrip and the playbacks on your audio interface, and similarly between between the captures on your interface and JackTrip.

If you have one or two playback (output) channels and one or two capture (input) channels, the connections to them will be made automatically for you when you run JackTrip. However, if you have multiple audio interfaces and/or more than two channels, you may find that if the connections you need to make are not the first two inputs and outputs, then you’ll have to manually make the right connections. This can become a pain when you have to do it every time you connect to the server. One way to make things easier is to use a simpler setup with a one or two-channel audio interface. On the Mac, you’ll see there is an optional JMess program that can be used to save the audio assignments. It’s important to understand that the pairs of channels correspond to left and right in a stereo field. If you only have a mono input you should link this to both channels so that you’re sending the same signal to both the left and right

c) Setup jack/jackd

Run qjackctl first and click the Setup… button to open the settings dialog. Make sure you have 48000 entered for Sample Rate and 64 entered for Frames/Periods as these are the settings for our JackTrip servers.

d) Run a local JackTrip server

In a command prompt, terminal, or shell, run this command to start a local server with echo: jacktrip -S -p4

e) Connect to the local server

In a second command prompt, terminal, or shell run this command to connect to your local server: jacktrip -C 127.0.0.1

Adjust your connections in the qjacktl Connections window so that you are able to hear the echo of your own audio.

f) Stop the JackTrip client and the JackTrip server

After you have successfully tested to a local server, you can stop both the JackTrip client and server by hitting Ctrl-C or simply closing the command prompt, terminal, or shell. You can then also close QJackCtl or the Jack Control window.

4. Video Camera

  • You need some kind of camera connected to your computer. This will allow you to send a video feed to other musicians you are performing with, and to the studio if you perform for a broadcast.
  • The real-time video service runs entirely in a web browser and we strongly recommend Chrome for this.
  • If you are running the video service on a different computer than the one running Jamulus or JackTrip, we strongly recommend that this other computer is connected by Ethernet as WiFi will usually result in packet loss and video quality issues.

Best

Better

  • High-quality 1080p external webcam OR smartphone or tablet connected by USB as virtual webcam (iPhone or iPad running EpocCam Pro or Android equivalent such as DroidCam)
  • Soft, diffused light source such as light with a softbox or a lamp bounced off a wall
  • Optional: Tripod with mount for webcam or phone and USB extension cable for more options for camera placement

Minimum

  • Built-in computer webcam

Unusable

  • Running real-time video service directly on a smartphone or tablet