David Santy Google Plus Hangouts On Air Studio Mode Setup Guide

Google+ Hangouts on Air: Audio Setup Guide for Studio Mode

Software Routing Alternatives

Since Hangouts can not output a proper stereo mix from mutlitrack input, sometimes a bit of creative routing in software is necessary. If you’re having a problem where your microphone comes in one channel and instrument in another (or only one track comes in at all) there may be a solution here for you.

Mac OS X: Soundflower

On Mac OS X you can use a piece of software called Soundflower (Click to visit download site).

What Soundflower allows you to do is route audio from one piece of software to another, and output to any device you’d like.

Here’s the basic signal routing for using Soundflower with Hangouts:

  1. Multitrack Input
  2. Digital Audio Workstation
  3. Soundflower (which sends to)
  4. Audio interface output (and)
  5. Hangout

What you’ll be doing here is running the multitrack audio input into DAW software. I recommend using GarageBand for this purpose, as some DAWs have trouble with virtual audio devices.

Soundflowerbed

Soundflowerbed-MenuAfter you’ve installed Soundflower, go to Finder, type in “Soundflowerbed” and open. A small flower icon will appear on the top bar. Click on it. Next…

  1. Hover over “Buffer Size” and set it to 128 or lower
  2. Select your audio interface as the output (see picture)*

The buffer size is important because you’ll have delay in your monitoring if left at the default.

*This is so you can monitor the final mix that is coming out of GarageBand. If your audio interface allows you to directly monitor the inputs you will have to turn that off.

GarageBand

Open GarageBand and create a new file. Name it “Hangouts” or similar.

Now, go into GarageBand’s settings (Preferences –> Audio/Midi). Set the input as your audio interface, and the output to “Soundflower 2ch” (as pictured).
GarageBand with Soundflower for Hangouts On Air

Garageband MonitorMake sure you…

  1. Create channels for your mics/instruments
  2. Set them to the appropriate inputs
  3. Arm each track for recording (Multitrack recording must be enabled)
  4. Turn on Monitoring (select “On without feedback protection”)

Note: The last step is very inportant because if Monitoring is not turned on, you won’t be able to hear yourself or get sound into the Hangout. Look for the Monitoring option on the right-hand side panel in Garageband, near the bottom. Other DAWs may have the option on the track itself.

All of your inputs should now be coming out of the master output of GarageBand, which is going to act as your mixer. You can also add effects to taste here.

Hangout Settings

Soundflower Hangouts On Air SettingsNow go into the Hangout settings and set “Soundflower 2ch” as the input and the output to your audio interface (as pictured). GarageBand is sending the audio out to Soundflower which then sends it to your audio interface (so you can hear yourself) and into the Hangout.

Now all you have to do is set your levels.

 
 
 

Windows: VB-Cable

For Windows you can use VB-Cable from VB-Audio (download link)

Installation

Download the VB-Cable virtual audio driver .zip file and unzip its contents. Anywhere is fine.

VB-Cable comes in 32-bit (VBCABLE_Setup.exe) and 64-bit (VBCABLE_Setup_x64.exe) versions. Right-click on the version that is appropriate for your operating system and select “Run as administrator”.

After finishing the installation you may need to restart your computer.

VB-Cable Control Panel

In the directory where you unzipped the VB-Cable zip file, locate and open the program called VBCABLE_ControlPanel.exe

Click Options and select “Set max latency: 1024 smp”

VB-Cable Control Panel

It will then prompt you to restart your computer.

DAW Setup

Now go into the audio settings in your DAW and set the output device to “CABLE Input (VB-Audio Virtual Cable)”. VB-Cable isn’t an ASIO driver so you’ll have to use either DirectSound or WaveOut. It may also work with WASAPI. Mind the buffer and sample rate as lower means less latency but higher means more stability. Depends on how powerful your system is. Here’s what this looks like in Cockos’ Reaper:

VB-Cable Reaper Setup

After setting the appropriate inputs on your interface to individual channels (vocals, guitar etc) you then need to turn on record/softare monitoring. This is so the DAW will output the live signal.

Set the hardware output of the master section to “Output 1/Output 2″. Make sure no individual channels have hardware outputs enabled.

Hangout Setup

VB-Cable Hangout SettingsIn the Hangout settings, set the input as “CABLE Output (VB-Audio Virtual Cable)”. Set the output to your audio interface.

Then switch to Studio Mode.

Limitations

Currently there is no easy option for low latency monitoring of VB-Cable’s output. This means you’ll have to use the direct hardware monitoring of your audio interface. If your interface has gain knobs for each channel, you can set your mix that way and watch your meters in the DAW software to make sure you’re not peaking.

Next: Microphone Selection and Placement

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18 comments

  1. 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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  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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

  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

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