As an online teacher I have been researching which audio equipment could be the most suitable and affordable for nice lessons. By using only the computer microphone a nice full sound is hard to obtain. Playing forte gives very fast distortions. By using external microphones linked to the computer sound results can be highly improved which of course is pleasant for both student and teacher.
There are different types of microphones like dynamic, (usb) condenser and ribbon microphones. Often an usb interface is needed between microphone and computer which delivers phantom power (with condenser microphones) or transmission of electric signals. Brands like Roland, Focusrite and Motu can be mentioned. Average prices for an interface are around €60-120. Dynamic microphones are around €60-100, (usb)condenser microphones around €50-130 and ribbons – which sounds probably for brass instruments the nicest and warmest – are quite a bit more expensive and not really necessary for online trumpet lessons.
Above examples I have been testing extensively and could be interesting choices. My advice would be to read reviews about the items to see if it fits expectations both in terms of price and application. Also be careful if phantom power (+48v) is necessary because it could damage the microphone. This is a serious warning for a ribbon microphone like the budget T.bone RB 100 priced around €80. By the way condenser microphones do need phantom power. An interesting but more expensive option could be the Shure MV51 condenser microphone (€175) which is compatible directly on an iPhone or iPad and doesn’t need an external interface. Together with facetime it could be a flexible combination.
Equally important for good results is a reliable and fast internet connection. For an interference-free Zoom onlinelesson 25 mbps speed is at least required which can be measured at www.fast.com If connected additionally a RJ45 ethernet cable to the wifi router speed results might double or even triple. For an additonal €6 I have to state it helps a lot!
At regular video conference platforms its impossible to play together during lessons because of the latency on the internet. Happily apps like ‘JamKazam’ (video & audio), ‘Jamulus’ (audio) and ‘Sonobus’ (audio) can be used to play together in duos or trios with only a slight delay and can be fun during online lessons.
Dynamic microphones and Ribbon microphones might need additional power in case the main interface doesn’t supply enough. This lack of gain can be solved by adding a preamplifier connected between microphone and interface. Good results can be expected from the Triton Audio Fethead Germanium which gives a +29db gain. Attention if you use a Triton Fethead together with a dynamic microphone you do need phantom power otherwise it doesn’t work!
Behringer provides a quite good budget solution with the Tube Ultragain Mic 100 preamplifier. Gain can be augmented from +26 db till +60db. This preamp includes a 20db pad, +48v phantom power, phase reverse and a limiter. I have tested this model and it works fine. By the way with this device don’t use phantom power if you connect it to a dynamic microphone or ribbon microphone!
Behringer for sure provides some interesting budget equipment for online lessons. The B906 dynamic microphone – which I tested with good results – combined with an U-phoria UMC22 interface and amplified even more with the Tube Ultragain Mic 100 might be a powerful combination.
Mackie ProFX10 usb-mixer – my newest asset – is doing fine in programs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Installation was no problem and the right drivers for Windows10 were easily found on the Mackie website. On a Mac drivers are already pre-installed. In JamKazam my Roland rubix22 interface is doing quite alright with only 7,5 ms latency BUT the Mackie Pro is doing even better with a latency of only 4,2 ms. Very promising indeed! In Europe a Mackie ProFX10 usb-mixer costs around €235. Its recommended for recording use and livestreaming too. Several DAW programs like ‘Pro Tools’ and ‘Waveform’ are included.
On the next videos online page a comparison has been made between three dynamic microphones which I use during online trumpet lessons: a Shure sm57, an Audix i-5 and a more budget Behringer B906. The video has been recorded in combination with a Mackie ProFX10v3 usb mixer audio interface and Zoom video.
My newest assets are two Mackie microphones, see above for microphone pictures which are not expensive and very well manufactured. The Mackie EM-91CU costs around €34 and can be plugged into the computer easily and you don’t need an expensive external interface. The sound is quite powerful and maybe a bit brighter than the somewhat more expensive Mackie EM-91C which is a condenser microphone and needs an external interface with phantom power. This Mackie EM-91C costs around €80. On the next page ‘videos online’ I have compared both Mackies in a video so you can judge for yourselves. Stay tuned!