Zoom Studio Simplified

It’s been nine months of Zoom bass lessons — enough time to gestate some new ideas for getting the best, simplest rig together to be able to take a lesson, play along with a music source, and occasionally jam with some remote friends.

Here are the problems:

  • I want to be able to play my bass and have a studio microphone so I can talk to “the other end” — whether I’m counting beats or singing intervals in a lesson or talking to the drummer (not that drummers listen but still)
  • I need to be able to hear what’s happening on a Zoom lesson, and mix that output with my own inputs — Zoom doesn’t feedback your own microphone so you need to remix local monitor with remote end.
  • I use a variety of applications as “my back up band” — iTunes, iRealPro (great for jazz standards and jamming), and YouTube (music video on 50% or 75% speed is a great learning tool). Also want to be able to hear them mixed with my local inputs. Using Zoom, you can share those applications and click “share application sound” and you’ll get the application sound run into both Zoom call and your computer’s output (unlike the microphone/local inputs, which only go to the remote Zoom end).

Solution: the PreSonus AudioBox 96. It is a 2-input USB interface (driver built into Macs!) so I plug the bass into one input, the studio mic into the other (it has phantom power for the mic), then plug my headphones into the jack on the back. That’s it — plug it into a USB interface, set the Mac’s microphone to “AudioBox,” set the Mac output to “AudioBox” and adjust the line/input level fader (as well as individual input controls). I pop my laptop on a mic stand shelf, put the AudioBox on a shelf below it, and with a minimum of fuss I ha e a really high quality setup. Truth be told, the sound of my bass through this is better than listening to it via my Acoustic 30W practice amp — it has more bottom and sounds more like a 300W amp driving headphones. Best $125 I’ve spent (on music) during the pandemic.

By day: CIO for R&D at a drug company. Scalable computing, data privacy, performance. Non-day: husband, parent, phan, bass player, ice hockey coach

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