This page will help you determine whether you’ll be able to use syncspace.live and what you’ll need. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact us.
The summary of system requirements is that you need:
- Computer: A Mac, Windows, or Linux computer with an operating system that has had an update no more than twelve months ago and a reasonably up-to-date web browser. It doesn’t have to be a very powerful computer. An Intel i5 or equivalent with at least 4GB of RAM is a good start. Very little hard disk storage is required for the software.
- Internet connection (via Ethernet) with low-latency to one of our servers: In an ideal situation you would be located no more than 200 miles or 330 km from one our servers to perform without any limits including playing music together at very fast tempos. We are operating in many parts of the world and we are expanding all the time. If you are further away from a server it doesn’t mean you can’t perform together but it may place some constraints on what you perform.
- External audio interface: We highly recommend using an external audio interface to get the best quality sound and control over your sound. A USB microphone MAY work in some cases but they are not a well-known quantity like audio interfaces are especially when it comes to latency.
- Camera (webcam): You’ll need some type of camera if you want to use video. You can use the webcam built into your computer but often a low-cost 1080p webcam is better as many of these have better image quality and also give you more control over the camera settings. For better picture quality you can use a mirrorless or DSLR camera with a video capture device.
As syncspace.live uses the Internet to connect performers, the speed and quality of your Internet connectivity is really important. More specifically, the part that really matters is the time it takes to send data between your computer and our servers. This “network latency” is something that Internet Service Providers never really talk about and for most of the things that people tend to do on the Internet such as browsing or streaming videos, latency is never really a consideration. However high latency will translate into long delays between the time when someone makes a sound and when another person hears it. This will make it difficult to perform together across the Internet.
What kind of Internet connection do I need to use this service?
Most “broadband” connections including cable, DSL, or fiber will work fine as long as the routing of the traffic is sensible (see below). Satellite Internet connections and cellular/mobile/hotspot connections will not work as the latency is too high (read more about latency further below).
What is latency and why does it matter?
Overall latency is the roundtrip time taken to send and receive data from your computer to one of our servers. In the case of sending and receiving audio, it includes:
- The time to convert the audio of your individual performance to digital data
- The time to send that data across the Internet to a server
- The time to receive data from that server and send it back to your computer
- The time to convert that data back to audio that you can hear in your headphones.
The time taken to send and receive the data across the Internet (2 and 3 above) is referred to as the “network latency.” In an ideal situation we want the network latency to be under 10 milliseconds (ms). For many people, the latency to our servers is around 5ms.
Unfortunately, most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) never talk about the latency of their service. One of the least understood variables in network latency is that of Internet routing. Many ISPs will indirectly route traffic so that it takes an unnecessarily long path to get to a server that might just be a short distance away.
Latency is a function of your distance to a server which means your proximity to a server plays a big part. Unless there are problems with your Internet routing, generally the closer you are to a server by physical distance, the lower your latency to that server will be.
How far can I be from a server?
We generally recommend that you are no further than 200 miles or 320 kms of a server to perform music at any tempo and play without limits. If you are further from a server it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to perform through it, just that it may limit what you play and how you perform both individually and as an ensemble. Using the service to perform with people between cities is actually a feature and it can work as long as you accept how it might limit your performances.
Where are your servers located?
We are constantly rolling out to more locations but the current regions are listed here.
Can I perform together with someone else in another city?
The short answer is “yes” but depending on the distance there will likely be some limits on what you can perform together. The first thing is to select a location for the server that is as central as possible between you. The latency you each have to the server will be determined to some degree by that distance. Other factors, and in fact the one we see that has the most impact but is rarely discussed, is the routing to the server. It is possible to be down the street from the server and have terrible latency if your Internet Service Provider incorrectly routes local traffic out of town.
How much bandwidth do I need with my Internet connection?
“Upload bandwidth” is the amount of data that can be uploaded through your Internet connection in one second while “download bandwidth” is the amount of data that your connection can receive in one second. The upload and download bandwidth required to use syncspace.live varies depending on precisely which features you use and what settings you have dialled in.
Audio: Jamulus audio uses between 132 Kbps and 906 Kbps of upload and download bandwidth depending on the quality settings while JackTrip audio uses approximately 2000 Kbps (2 Mbps) of upload and download bandwidth.
Video: If you are using syncspace.live video then you’ll also need to consider the additional bandwidth it uses. Fortunately, syncspace.live video is highly configurable for both sending and receiving. It can use as much as 5 Mbps to send 1080p video while it can use as little as 500 Kbps in total to receive all video streams from other ensemble members. The highest quality version of each person’s video is always used for broadcasting while default settings will send lower-quality video streams between ensemble members. This both reduces download bandwidth consumption but also ensures that video streams are received quickly which can help with exchanging visual cues. It’s possible to change settings so that you receive higher quality video streams but obviously this will consume more bandwidth both for recipient and sender and the latency for video will be slightly increased.
Broadcasting: If you are running a Do-It-Yourself Broadcast to stream a performance, you will also need to consider this additional upload bandwidth and it may be substantial if you are on a small plan for your Internet connection. A 1080p 30 frames per second stream requires approximately 6 Mbps of upload bandwidth. Note that if you have engaged our Virtual Broadcast Service to broadcast your performance you will not use any additional bandwidth on your Internet connection for broadcasting as we will broadcast your performance from our studio.
In practice, bandwidth is rarely a problem for most broadband connections. However, if you have a smaller plan with 10 Mbps or less of upload bandwidth, running a Do-It-Yourself Broadcast while also playing with your ensemble might max out the upload component of your Internet connection. This is also possible as the actual bandwidth you are able to get with any Internet Service Provider may not always be as high as what you are supposed to get. If you don’t have a lot of bandwidth on your Internet connection and are concerned about hitting a limit when using syncspace.live, it’s good practice to ensure that no other devices are consuming substantial bandwidth on your network while you are trying to connect with your ensemble. This includes activities such as downloading large updates or streaming video.
Can I use my Internet connection through Wi-Fi?
It’s very important that you connect to your Internet router (possibly indirectly through other local area network gear such as a hub or switch) using an Ethernet cable. We strongly discourage using Wi-Fi as this will definitely degrade your experience noticeably as a result of higher latency and jitter.
If your connection doesn’t have a lot of bandwidth, we also strongly recommend that no other devices on your network are doing intense uploading or downloading, such as streaming video, while you’re using syncspace.live.
What is the overall roundtrip audio delay I can expect if I have low latency to the server?
Many users with proximity to our servers (in the same city) will see 5ms or less network latency and this can translate to 15ms or less with Jamulus and around 10ms or less with JackTrip.
As sound travels approximately one foot per millisecond, these kinds of roundtrip numbers will translate to one-way delays that are equivalent to being about six feet apart in the same room.
To get the best possible sound quality and to have the most control over your sound, we recommend that all performers use an external audio interface with their computer. These interfaces are typically connected by USB although there are other options such as Thunderbolt.
How good is the quality of the audio and video?
In terms of technical limitations, the technologies we use all employ bitrates that far exceed the platforms you would typically send a broadcast to. Jamulus can use up to 906 Kbps and in fact this is the configuration we typically recommend. JackTrip uses 2 Mbps audio. The maximum bit rate for audio for Facebook livestreams is 128 Kbps while it is 320 Kbps for YouTube livestreams. While these livestreaming platforms can’t make use of the higher resolution of our audio offerings it allows the performers to hear each other with incredible fidelity and this is both extremely comforting to then as well and also enables them to play in a very nuanced way as they can hear virtually everything between themselves.
There are no practical bitrate limits set for the quality of real-time video streams that each performer can send for broadcasting although a 1080p signal might typically be around 5 Mbps. In most cases, if you are showing multiple performers together in a single image at the same time, you will be downsampling each video feed to much smaller sizes.
In practice of course it depends a great deal on the quality that each performer is sending into the system. With decent equipment and the right setting including considered lighting of subjects and performance spaces that are quiet and not overly reverberant, the results can be excellent.
Is is 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 likely want to connect a microphone so that you can talk to other members of your group and perhaps even to an audience if you are broadcasting.
If you have an external audio interface you will usually listen to the other members of your group through headphones plugged into the audio interface.
Should I use Jamulus or JackTrip for audio?
Jamulus will meet most people’s requirements and will sound very good compared to most online meeting or video chat services. As JackTrip uses uncompressed audio, the sound is ultimately better than Jamulus and the overall latency is lower since there is no time spent compressing or decompressing the audio. However both Jamulus and JackTrip can be used to play music together and it’s still quite possible to play music at fast tempos in Jamulus if the overall delay is low enough. Jamulus is easier to configure, run, and manage and it is more tolerant of a slower or unstable network connection.
Jamulus allows each participant to craft their own personal mix so they can choose how loud each person in the ensemble sounds in the mix they hear in their headphones. This includes how much of themselves that they hear. Some musicians will choose to hear a little bit of themselves in the mix while others will mute themselves entirely so that they only hear their own sound locally. JackTrip does not offer any options for changing the mix and the only way to adjust the loudness of each person in the mix is for each person to turn up or down, much like a band would if they were playing together without a sound engineer. Our JackTrip servers are setup so that everyone hears a mix-minus-one which means they hear everyone else but themselves. A full mix with everyone is available for broadcasting.
Unless you’re already quite experienced with JackTrip we recommend most people start with Jamulus and then try experimenting with JackTrip if they have more demanding requirements they would like to meet.
Is there a recommended external audio interface?
Any audio interface seen by your operating system should work with both Jamulus and JackTrip. There are many options but one we’ve had good experience with and which is not too expensive is the Focusrite Scarlett range including the Focusrite Scarlett Solo which has inputs for both a microphone (including a 48V phantom power option) and an instrument. Low latency is important and this is not only a function of the hardware but also the drivers. You can measure the roundtrip latency of an audio interface using the RTL Utility. Additionally you want an audio interface that outputs quiet, clean, sound and the Scarlett interfaces, as well as many others, have very low noise floors.
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 with Jamulus or JackTrip 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.
The bottom line is that USB microphones are a bit of a crapshoot. We strongly recommend using an audio interface for the best results.
What are the artifacts I occasionally hear in the audio such as crackling?
These artifacts are the result of instability in the network connection. Using this technology requires a balance between audio quality and latency or delay. It’s possible to use settings that are more tolerant of variance in the latency but this will increase the overall latency or delay longer. Conversely you can reduce the overall latency but you may be more likely to hear a crackle if the latency spikes or dips momentarily. In our experience, you can perform a whole hour of music and hear very few instances of crackling as long as everyone has a good connection. When you do hear artifacts in the sound, it’s a little bit like listening to the radio in the car and going through an area where the reception is a bit weak. It soon corrects itself and the dynamic that can only come from playing together and interacting with a live audience more than makes up for these brief moments of audio glitches.
The real-time video service in a syncspace lets you exchange video with the other performers in your ensemble while also sending video to the broadcast studio.
What kind of camera do I need?
The webcam in many computers is a good start but much better results can be obtained with a low-cost 1080p webcam. The better ones (which are still not very expensive) will allow aspects of the camera to be controlled including the exposure and autofocus. Webcams that support such control can be controlled through the Advanced Camera controls in the video window launched from your syncspace. Another reason to use an external webcam is that if it has a USB cord with a decent length, you’ll have more control over the position of the camera.
Can I use a "real" camera such as a mirrorless or DLSR camera instead of a webcam?
Absolutely as long as it appears to the computer as a camera device that can be used effectively as a webcam. This is typically achieved with a video capture device such as an Elgato Cam Link . These are not very expensive and work very well.
Can I send a higher resolution stream than 1080p?
In theory yes. There’s no limit on this but in practice this will mean the video will arrive later. If all the other video feeds are much lower resolution, the broadcast studio may need to specifically delay all the other video feeds to keep everything in sync and this would also mean that the audio will need to be delayed even more than it would be delayed to sync with 1080p video.
Can I use the camera in a phone or tablet?
There are technical reasons why you don’t want to do this including the fact that iOS devices have some limitations when using our video service.
However, the main reason you don’t want to do it is that the video window used to send your video is also the same one used to view the video from all the other ensemble members. If you are broadcasting, this is also where you will see your broadcast engineer and where they will send the broadcast feed. A tablet or phone screen is way too small to see all of this. Some users will send the video window to a large screen TV so they can see everyone more easily.
If you are sending a second camera to provide an additional view to the broadcast studio, and won’t be viewing any incoming video feeds on that device, an Android phone can work.
Yes you will need a computer but it doesn’t have to be very powerful.
What kind of computer can I use?
The Jamulus and JackTrip software runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. The software is freely available. You don’t need a very powerful machine but we do recommend that you have a reasonably modern machine with an operating system version that has been updated no more than twelve months ago. An Intel i5 or equivalent with at least 4 GB of memory is a good starting point.
The real-time video service runs in a web browser and relies on a reasonably up-to-date web browser. If you are using an older machine that hasn’t had an operating system update in a while, you should at least update the browser or use a browser, such as Chrome, for which you can get the latest version.
Can I use an tablet or a phone?
No. Tablets, such as as iPads, and phones cannot run Jamulus or JackTrip and iOS also has issues running the real-time video service.