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Remote Quests: Streaming High-Quality Live Audio Over The Internet

Remote audio transmission via the internet is usually unreliable and typically requires costly ISDN lines, but things are rapidly changing for the better.

By Nicholas Radina June 2, 2017

Remote audio transmission via the internet – particularly high-quality audio – is usually unreliable and typically requires costly ISDN lines.

But continuing advances in browser technology, higher capacity network connections, and the ever-evolving Opus audio codec are changing things for the better. And based upon some recent experiences, I’d like to add another piece that’s helping to solve the puzzle.

Cleanfeed is low-latency, 2-way audio streaming software that, supported by the “cloud,” runs seamlessly on the Google Chrome browser with Windows, Mac, Android and Linux platforms. (No iOS support yet.) Simply launch Google Chrome, go to Cleanfeed.net, create an account, and off you go – send, receive and record superior live audio using only a browser.

The Cleanfeed interface is uncluttered, free of unnecessary buttons and other distractions. A bar containing a simple meter, microphone “mute” and the user name will display. The originator of the session is considered the “studio.” (Insight: The “studio” is in control in regards of bandwidth while not having to rely solely on the other participants network conditions – smart.)

To connect with one or many other users, simply choose the “+Connect” icon, which triggers a popup to email a link to others or a link to copy/paste to share. Those contacted simply clink the link, and once connected, you will see them populate your web page interface. That’s it. Of course, the usual audio recommendations apply: use headphones and a quality mic, preferably a external audio interface.

I discovered Cleanfeed while looking for a robust and high-fidelity method for remote troubleshooting and teaching. Often I help other fellow “sound nerds” with problems remotely via FaceTime or similar tools that allow me to see – but unfortunately, not accurately hear – what’s going on. I wanted a solution that would allow me to hear what my clients are hearing while not physically being able to be in the same room.

A quick web search in this quest led me to a post from Cleanfeed co-founder Mark Hills about using Linux as a robust solution for web-based audio transmission, which in turn led me to the software he’s co-developed with Marc Bakos. (Fun fact: Hills is credited, along with others, with writing the large-scale CG rendering software utilized in the movie Gravity.)

Getting Busy

A simple workflow I use now for friends/colleagues on the other end of the connection is to have them scrounge up a simple plug-and-play USB audio device (preferably with two line level inputs and two mic inputs), which is connected to and configured on their laptop(s). By the way, solid choices for routing live audio to/from applications for Mac is Loopback and for Windows is Virtual Audio Cable.

The mixing console left/right outputs (using a matrix or another option) will feed the line level inputs, providing an accurate “audio picture” of what’s coming directly out of the console.

“All-in-one” mic options include the Shure VP88, Audio-Technica AT2022 and the Neumann “dummy head.”

Using a pair of similar mics in an ORTF or X-Y configuration, or even an all-in-one stereo mic like the Shure VP88 or Audio-Technica AT2022 will do the trick. (If you’re feeling adventurous, also try the Neumann “dummy head” concept.)

The goal is attaining an accurate representation of the room and what’s coming out of the console, which in turn will translate well to your own monitoring.

Note that FaceTime and the like are still valuable from the visual perspective, allowing me to see the situation and helping the folks on the other end walk through troubleshooting steps.

Taking this a step further, when helping to troubleshoot situations with a digital console that uses a companion control software like Yamaha Studio Manager or Behringer Edit, I use a remote access software like TeamViewer to access the user’s laptop, which allows me to see and control that console from my laptop. (Yes, I’ve thought about the potential of the “mixing from my couch” scenario…)


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About Nicholas

Nicholas Radina
Nicholas Radina

Audio Engineer and Musician
   
Nicholas Radina is a long-time audio engineer and musician based in Cincinnati who also tours as the monitor engineer with the band O.A.R. He invites your input via his website at NicholasRadina.com. Sign up for his upcoming educational workshop at SoundNerdsUnite.org.
http://www.NicholasRadina.com

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