David Santy Google Plus Hangouts On Air Studio Mode Setup Guide

Google Hangouts on Air: Audio Setup Guide for Studio Mode

Get your audio dialed in for Studio Mode Hangouts On Air!

Introduction

Back in the autumn of 2012 I’d already spent dozens of hours remotely troubleshooting audio setups for artists all over the globe. I came to realize that many, many artists had the same or similar hurdles with their setup, which inspired me to write this guide.

This guide is the culmination of two years worth of performing, engineering, and producing music Hangouts On Air.

Some can spend hours trying to set up their gear with lackluster results. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be particularly expensive or complicated to arrive at a pleasant sounding setup.

Why You Need This Guide

If you’re reading this guide you’re probably already sold on how Hangouts will afford you a new way to connect with your audience.

That being said, what is more important to a musician than the sound quality of their broadcast? Without high quality audio, you can’t convey the full depth and power of your performance.

You may have already discovered that you can’t just “plug it all in” and have it work like a dream. Oftentimes what you’re hearing through your headphones isn’t what is coming through to the broadcast audience. Even more important than the equipment you use is taking the time to set everything up properly.

With this guide I hope to cover most everything you’ll need to work out your own setup for Hangouts On Air. The goal here is to give you a better idea of the capabilities, limitations and requirements of using Studio Mode for Hangouts On Air. Also, to provide some resources for further research.

Topics covered:

Please get in touch if you have any questions. Leave a comment below.

What are Hangouts On Air?

Hangouts are a feature of Google+ which allow you to video chat with a group of up to 10 people.

Hangouts on Air takes this video chat and streams it live to your Youtube account! The beauty of this is, unlike other live streaming services, you can act as the host and invite other participants to join your video stream. Fans, other musicians, whomever you like! Not only that, but your fans are able to rewind the live performance as it is happening and watch it later on your channel. Since the live stream is on Youtube, they do not need to have a Google+ account to watch and comment. Think of it as having your own mini TV station. Hangouts on Air integrate easily with Google+ Events, so you can organize events and invite users to your Hangouts on Air well in advance.

Recently, Google has increased the video resoultion of Hangouts On Air to 720p!

Voice Mode vs Studio Mode

Hangouts on Air have two modes for your outgoing audio, Voice Mode and Studio Mode. Voice Mode is optimized for voice-only Hangouts. The audio is Mono only, with a limited frequency range, automatic gain adjustment, and built in noise reduction.

All of these “features” are detrimental when it comes to playing music in Hangouts. Instruments and vocals come through garbled. Wide swaths of frequencies are cut out as well, which means bass guitar and bass drums are going to disappear in the mix. Falsetto voices, pianos, violin and other instruments which make use of upper-midrange and treble suffer the same effect.

This is where Studio Mode comes in.

Studio Mode setup does take a bit of work, but it’s well worth the investment. You get 2 channel stereo, no noise reduction, no auto-gain, and nice clear sound.

Universal Hangout Guidelines

Before I start delving into the technical stuff, here are a few guidelines everyone should follow regardless of whether you’re broadcasting music or not:

  1. Use Headphones (Speakers cause tons of echo)
  2. Mute when entering a Hangout
  3. Mute when you’re not speaking
  4. Use the Chat box instead of speaking when someone is performing
  5. Mute when you’re not speaking (oops, mentioned that already)
  6. Check the Hangout settings every time you join a Hangout

A note on using Wi-Fi for Hangouts on Air: Avoid

If you’re hosting a Hangout on Air, wire yourself in directly over ethernet whenever possible. Even if you believe no one else is using your Wi-Fi at the moment, there is a good likelihood that your video and audio quality will suffer anyway. Latency is a big problem when you’re streaming live video back and forth. As gamers know, latency is a killer. So, there’s more to it than your rated bandwidth. 3G Hotspots are also sort of sketchy.

I’m not saying you should avoid trying Hangouts on Air altogether if Wi-Fi or 3G are your only options, just that you should use ethernet whenever possible.

Next: How to start a Hangout On Air with Studio Mode

40 comments

  1. Bee

    We are having the biggest problem getting the Hangouts On Air to work at all. After logging on, starting to stream, the audio degrades after 3 to 5 minutes, resulting in a “jam” that isn’t anything anyone would want to listen to, due to the poor audio quality. It skips, scratches, and we’re amazed that any musician can get this thing to work to be able to “hang out” and perform for their fans…you’re the expert here…help! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=araEDWOL2Z4 – Example of the Problem

    • David Santy

      I did a test Hangout for 15 minutes and could not reproduce the problem you’re having. All I’m hearing is the typical distortion from the Hangout audio codec that has always been there.

      From the looks of your video your upstream bandwidth is either low or unstable. I would bet on an internet connection issue. If you had a good connection your video would be smooth but it’s very choppy.

      • Bee

        thanks for the reply =)
        We stream allot on the Internet, we have a Internet radio show that we do too on the side using the same connection., I jam on-line with others too at a place called onlinejamsessions, we stream direct to youtbe live stream too.. The only time we get choppy sound is within Google+ Hangouts, its like clock work too..it will start clear for just about 3 minutes and then gradually start degrading too full degradation at around the five minute mark.not our connection for sure..more like the hangouts app is .somehow buffering ..could the flash app that it uses somehow not be set up right, within my settings if i right click a flash app it shows a window of settings..and storage options..could it be something with that?..Im more curious then desperate about fixing it at this point..thanks for your Patience and expertize..seems no one know more then you about how all this works.thanks so much..

  2. Mark Loos

    I used Google Hangouts for an audio conference between five countries each week. We have hit and miss success with the audio quality. Would a studio mode setting help us or would the conversations create crosstalk or feedback in studio mode? If studio mode would not be the correct choice, do you have a suggestion on how to improve our success rate in using Hangouts?

    • David Santy

      Studio Mode is for studio audio equipment. You want noise reduction and auto gain that Voice Mode provides.

      Most audio problems with Voice Mode are caused by people having their audio going through speakers rather than headphones.

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    • David Santy

      Do a Google search for “Free DAW” followed by whatever operating system you’re using.

      I’ve never used any of the free stuff so I don’t have a recommendation.

    • David Santy

      Run a cable from the “Line Out” on the rear of the amplifier into the microphone/line input your computer. That’s all I can tell you without knowing more about your equipment.

  4. Wade Harman

    One thing I have been wondering about for Hangouts is how to play recorded music for show intro’s and such. There is an app in Hangouts that allows you to record music but do you know of anything I could do to hard wire sound for my show intro’s?

    • David Santy

      Hangouts doesn’t have an app for that. Take a look at the Software Routing section of the guide. You can use a combination of GarageBand –> Soundflower (or the Windows alternative), using Garageband as both mixer and media player. Mind you, you’ll need to run all of your audio through this setup including your microphone. Avoid using the mic in your webcam with this type of setup as it typically presents a ton of delay.

  5. Aubrey Sitterson

    Hi David! Thank you so much for this tutorial – it’s been incredibly helpful. I originally bought the Scarlet 2i2 on a friend’s recommendation, but had the same problem mentioned in the comments with audio channels being split. I exchanged it for the Alesis MultiMix8, and everyone works perfectly except for the monitoring.

    Even with everything turned all the way up, I can only just barely hear the loudest noises. I have a set of normal everyday use Audio Technica headphones plugged into a 1/4 inch adaptor plugged into the headphones port. They worked fine with the Scarlet mixer…Any idea what the problem could be?

    Best,
    Aubrey

  6. Gil Melo

    Do you know if the MultiMix 4 USB FX would work in the same way MultiMix 8 USB FX? Does it have a stereo mix like the MultiMix 8 USB FX? The mixer I have now I can’t hear myself and the hangout at the same time and I was wondering if the MultiMix 4 USB FX would let me do it the same way the 2i2 does?

    • David Santy

      Yes but the MultiMix 4 I’ve encountered have very noisy power supplies. Never had that problem with the MultiMix 8.

      You already have the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2? You really should be able to hear both yourself and the Hangout with it as long as Direct Monitoring is set to “On” and you have the Focusrite set as the audio output for the Hangout. If you’ve set the 2i2 as the output in the Hangout settings and you still can’t hear the Hangout, you may want to consult the “Software Routing” section of the guide to figure out how to do that.

      The problem you’re going to run into with the 2i2 is that you’ll have mic in left channel and instrument in the right channel (or vice versa), unless you’re running a stereo line input from an external mixer.

  7. Chris

    Hi,
    Thanks so much for doing this. We have a big webcast coming up Thursday night:
    http://www.media2studios.com/webcast/june-19th-chicagoland-songwriters-webcast/

    and in testing it out I had to share my screen so the other computer browser could see it. I think was in studio mode but with no audio meter next to mic?

    We are using a Roland V-4EX video mixer that looks like a USB webcam to hangouts (it has 4 hdmi inputs). Using Audio mix from a Personus 16.4.2 digital mixer

    thanks

    It might be cool to do some remote broadcasts for our webcast series.

  8. Alain Patry

    David, thanks for your tutorial! The web needed this! Although it has helped me get closer to my desired results, I’m still facing some issues. First off, I’m using Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 DSP as interface. Second, I’m using Cubase 7.5 as DAW. All I’m trying to do is sing along to tracks, with some reverb on the voice, and send it all out to Google Hangouts On Air. Prior to your tutorial I wasn’t getting the music or the VST effect (reverb) into Hangouts – only the dry signal of my mic passing thru the Saffire. I’ve now installed your suggested V-Cable and have set it up as the output bus for Cubase’s main out.

    However, I still face the following issues:
    1. The latency introduced by V-Cable is unuseable. 40 ms in my case. When I watch the test recording in GHOA, the sound that comes out of my mouth is very late (compared to my mouth movements).
    2. I cannot hear myself at all during the session – my hunch is I need to setup a second output bus and route that back to my headphones thru the Saffire’s software mixer.
    3. Playback of the Hangout seems to choke on the data – every now and then the audio seems to slow down then released. Too much data to buffer?

    And a last general question, which you may not be able to answer is, will mean I cannot use Cubase’s built-in Control Room?

    Whatever more insights you can provide would be great!
    Thanks,
    Alain

    • David Santy

      Thanks for the comment Alain,

      1) Is the latency problem you’re having still there after you adjusted the latency settings in V-cable? As I recall it was kind of a pain to get the latency setting to stick so I’d check to make sure it is in fact at the lowest setting.

      Can you not set V-cable as a VST output in Control Room?

      2) Yup, need to set an output for the mic

      3) What you’re probably experiencing is a bandwidth issue. First thing is to wire your internet in directly instead of using Wi-Fi. That being done, run a speed test (speedtest.net) to see what your upload speed is. Anything under 2Mbps and you may be having problems. 4-5 Mbps upload is closer to ideal. It could also be a problem with the consistency of your connection, despite what the maximum upload/download speeds are.

      – David

  9. Nate Maingard

    David, I can’t thank you enough for this post, it’s so very helpful! I actually purchased the exact mixer you recommended and the feedback has been incredible so far! The only thing is I can’t work out how to monitor myself through headphones while also listening to other people who are other participants in the hangout. Am I missing something very simple?

    Thank you David, you are AWESOME!
    Nate

  10. Steve S

    Hey David,

    I am trying to get this to work and I don’t see the “studio mode” selection in 1) my chrome book and 2) my Mac Chrome hangout. Does studio mode still work? I mean, is it still a feature? I’m trying to use it with my band and use my JamHub as the audio capture and monitoring tool for the full band.

    Steve

  11. Nate Maingard

    Hi David!

    Hope all is well with you :). Great tutorial man, thanks! I’m playing a show at a small venue tonight and am wanting to stream it live via hangout…Can I get the sound from the mixing desk and somehow direct that into my mac for the hangout?

    Thanks man!
    All the best
    Nate

  12. Tzvi

    Hey David, thanks for writing up this great resource! My only issue is that I really need a software workaround for Windows. Do you plan on updating this article soon? The interface I use doesn’t come with a control panel or mixer like your m-audio delta does. So I’m kinda stuck here since I’m only using one mic and my computer reads the input from the interface as stereo…resulting in the sound only emanating from one speaker.

  13. Colin Williams

    Hello David, Colin from over in the UK. Such a clear and concise tutorial, and as a singer/sound engineer myself I think you got it blob on as they say here in Blighty. Great advise on mics and mic technique. Many would fail to mention the art of using a mic for the quiet loud effect, being your own compressor. I’m a big K.I.S.S. fan and your take on micing up a simple one vox and one acoustic was right up my street. Although I did toy with the idea of two when I did my first hangout a couple of weeks ago, but I put foolishness aside and went with the one, Condensor an AKG 414 did the job nicely.
    So thanks for all this valuable stuff about about hooking stuff up and clicking dialogue boxes, the most important bit was right at the end when you talked about the ethos of the medium and that was the most informative bit for me, although I had already got that, but you said it in a real precise and may I say soulful way.
    Thanks Mr Santy

    • David Santy

      Colin, glad my guide could be of help.

      Yeah, a single omni condenser works pretty well. I use just the one microphone because I’m on a tight budget and I don’t want to throw any cheap stuff into the mix.

  14. Peter Stergion

    Thanks for this excellent write up! Can you tell me what it would be the minimum hardware setup to record an acoustic style studio mode hang out with a drummer on a djembe, bass player + vocals, guitar player + vocals, 2nd guitar player + vocals? Would I need a sperate vocal mic and instrument mic for each performer?

    • David Santy

      Do the guitars and bass have pickups in them? Unless you can DI the instruments, you would need mics for everything.

      For an acoustic group, I would also like to throw up a pair of spaced omni small-diaphragm condenser microphones as overheads to get the room sound.

      For a minimal setup though, I would add a touch of reverb to the master output to combat the dryness of direct micing everything.

      The question is, what gear do you have now?

      In total you’d need:

      • 7 microphones
      • Mixer (at least 8 channels)
      • 2 channel USB audio interface
      • Headphone mixer
      • 4 sets Headphones

      If the instruments DO have pickups, you can substitute some of those microphones with DI boxes.

  15. tom zicarelli

    Amazing tutorial. Wow Thanks.

    I cannot get the Studio mode option to show up on Hangout settings. (Chome, Mac OS Lion) The Settings always loads with Google Talk Plugin 3.13… instead of Google Voice and Video Plugin. (which has been installed). Also have checked HOA box. Haven’t been able to find a fix for this. Any suggestions? Thanks.
    Tom

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  17. Steve

    Excellent advice. I like the fact that you advise people to a) mute while people are playing and b) to use the chat window. Also, I know what you mean by using an Ethernet jack! My WiFi only allows a bandwidth of 11mbps download and it is very limited on upload, staying in the area between 0.5 and 2 Mbps! (whereas I can get 30 down and 5 up on wired!)

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