David Santy Google Plus Hangouts On Air Studio Mode Setup Guide

Google Hangouts on Air: Audio Setup Guide for Studio Mode

Microphone Selection and Placement

The first thing to be said here is that anything under $50 is garbage. Don’t buy it. It’ll sound awful or it’ll break in a week. I’ve been there. Let my wasted dollars be your gain and save up for something decent instead! Same goes for microphone cables. Anything under $10 is of questionable quality, but you don’t need to spend a fortune there.

If you first want to read up a bit on types of microphones and their polar patterns, here’s a guide from Sweetwater.

Microphone Types and Uses

Handheld Dynamic Mics

Shure SM-58
Shure SM-58 handheld cardioid dynamic microphone

The first microphone I will mention is the Shure SM57 (around $100). This’ll work great on snare drums and guitar amps, as well as being a decent live vocal mic. The Shure SM58 is basically the same microphone but with a windscreen. If you’re buying just one mic for now, I’d opt for the SM57 first as it’ll be more versatile. The SM57 is also a microphone that you can beat the heck out of and expect it to work for you every time.

The Shure SM57 is a dynamic, cardioid pattern mic. Dynamic means it doesn’t require phantom power and cardioid means it pretty much only picks up sound from in front of the microphone.

The SM-57/58 are a stage vocal standard as they have low handling noise and low sibilance. Not the best sounding microphone out there, but very forgiving. Not ideal for most acoustic instruments, though they’re commonly used on snare drums and guitar cabs.

Broadcast Standard Dynamic Microphones

Electro-Voice RE20
Electro-Voice RE20
Attn: Hangout On Air Show Hosts! These are the types of microphones you’ll want to be using when running Hangouts On Air. They are all cardioid pattern dynamic microphones and fixtures of the broadcast industry. They don’t need phantom power but they still require an outboard microphone preamp or mixer to get the proper amount of gain.

The broadcast industry standards are as follows:

Yes, they’re a bit pricey but they’re professional grade equipment and well worth the investment.

These mics aren’t strictly for speaking voice though. The Shure SM7B is also a great vocal mic, especially for singers who really belt it out. Michael Jackson used the original version, the SM7, for his vocals on Thriller. The Sennheiser MD 421 is often used on guitar amps and drums.

Large Diaphragm Condenser

Studio Projects T3 Tube Condenser Microphone
Studio Projects T3 Tube Condenser Microphone

Large Diaphragm Condenser (LDC) microphones are the most common type of microphones used for recording vocals in studio. They are higher in sensitivity and lower in self-noise than their small diaphragm (SDC) cousins, though their treble extension is not as great.

LDCs are highly directional in the upper-mid to treble frequencies, which means that on axis sounds such as singing directly into the microphone have greater presence.

Aside from vocals, LDCs are also used on instruments of all kinds, though they’re not as widely used for stereo recording as SDCs.

Recommendations

The Studio Project B1 microphone ($120) is regarded as a great budget mic for recording vocals and acoustic guitar. It’s a cardioid only microphone, so it’s not going to sound overly spacious or pick up room ambience, but it’s a step up in sound quality from a handheld dynamic.

The Studio Projects B3 ($160) is a similar microphone but offers 3 different polar patterns for just a slightly larger investment. Variable polar patterns makes this microphone more versatile. The Omnidirectional pattern, while picking up more room noise, produces a more natural sound on acoustic instruments.

I personally own the Studio Projects T3, which is SP’s flagship tube powered condenser microphone. It also offers variable polar patterns but has several steps in between Omni, Cardioid and Figure-8. These usually retail for $500 but with a careful shopping around you can find them cheaper. I use this microphone for vocals and acoustic guitar. If I had other instruments, I would use it on them too. Fantastic mic.

Small Diaphragm Condenser

Studio Projects C4 matched cardioid
Studio Projects C4 pair with Cardioid capsules

Small diaphragm condenser (SDC) microphones are used in many different kinds of stereo recording arrangements.

Though not as sensitive as LDCs (and thus higher in self-noise), their frequency response typically extends higher into the treble range than LDCs. They also do not have the directional bump to the upper frequencies which would be problematic in stereo recording.

SDCs have quicker transient response due to the lower mass of the capsule as compared to LDCs. Transient response has to do with how a microphone handles rapidly changing levels in sound waves.

Unlike speakers, bigger doesn’t mean more bass. SDCs have the same bass capabilities as LDCs.

USB Microphones

USB microphones provide a good starting point if you’ve got one already, but they’re not ideal because the upgrade potential is nil.

The biggest problem is that they’re incompatible with…well, audio equipment. For plugging straight into the computer for doing podcasting, nothing wrong with that.

Neutrik NC3FXX XLR Plug Studio Mode
Neutrik NC3FXX XLR Plug

When you’re recording music though, at some point you’re going to want to invest in a mixer and interface, maybe some outboard effects, which utilize balanced XLR and TRS connections. The XLR type connector for microphones and other balanced connectors has been around for more than half a century. If you buy a microphone made 30 years ago you’ll be able to plug it into a brand new mixing board.

Will you have equipment in ten years that will accept (and have driver support for) a USB microphone made today? Will the onboard USB interface even last that long? Is it easily repairable?

XLR microphones are future proof and will work fine with any audio equipment you invest in down the road.

Microphone Polar Patterns

There are three main types of microphones polar patterns. The polar pattern of a microphones determines from which directions a microphone will pick up sound, and its response on-axis (direct) or off-axis (indirect) sound sources.

  1. Cardioid
  2. Bi-Directional (Figure-8)
  3. Omni-Directional

Cardioid

Polar Pattern Chart CardioidCardioid microphones mostly pick up their sound from the front, with a steep falloff at the sides and rejection of sounds from the rear.

Cardioid microphones have what is known as proximity effect, which means that the bass response increases as you get closer to the microphone. This can be leveraged to thicken up thinner sounding vocals.

Most handheld microphones feature cardioid capsules for the off-axis rejection needed for stage performances, though they are common in studio LDC and SDC microphones as well.

Polar Pattern SupercardioidThere are different types of cardioid patterns aside from the standard: Supercardioid and Hypercardioid. Both have an even narrower front pickup pattern than the standard cardioid which means greater off-axis rejection and possibly less feedback. The caveat is that super/hypercardioid microphones require more care in placement to prevent fall off, especially with vocals. Unlike the standard cardioid pattern, they do pick up a bit of sound from the rear though not as much as Figure-8 or Omni-Directional mics do.

Bi-Directional (Figure-8)

Polar Pattern Bi-directional Figure-8Bi-Directional, or Figure-8, microphones pick up sound from the front and rear, while rejecting sound from the side. Figure-8 mics are used in Blumlein and Mid-Side stereo arrays, among others.

Figure-8 mics have even greater proximity effect than cardioids.

Omni-Directional

Polar Pattern Chart OmnidirectionalOmni-Directional microphones pick up sound from all directions. This isn’t to say that omnis are surround sound capable. Two or more microphones are required to get left/right and front/back spacial imaging.

Unlike the other two polar patterns, omnis do not suffer (or benefit depending on the application) from proximity effect.


Check out the HomeRecording.com Microphone Guide for more info on purchasing mics for various instruments.

Microphone Placement

Mono Placement

Acoustic Guitar With Large Diaphragm Condenser
Image Source
Acoustic Guitar

For acoustic guitars, assuming you’re not using a pickup system, you’ll want to place a single condenser microphone about a foot and a half away, level with the fretboard and pointing at where the neck joins the body or thereabouts. Here’s a good article on various mic techniques for acoustic guitar.

Vocals

For vocals with a condenser, you’ll want the mic about a foot away. Remember with cardioid pattern mics that the closer you get to the capsule the more “proximity effect” comes into play. If you get too close to the mic your vocals will be way too bassy. For reference, think about how radio DJ’s sound on the air and that’s proximity effect in action. You also need to be really, really careful with your “plosives” and sibilance when close micing vocals. Those pops of the P, hiss of the T and S etc. Pop filters help with this, but the best solution is more vocal practice.

With a handheld dynamic, you need to be a couple of inches away. Don’t eat the mic.

Regardless of what type of microphone you’re using for vocals, you need to work the mic when your voice gets louder or softer. In other words, control your level by getting closer or farther away from the mic. Don’t expect a compressor to do the work for you.

Instrument and Vocals

You can actually pick up an instrument and vocal pretty well with a single omindirectional microphone if you’re careful. This is the way I do it, for now. For closer micing, place the microphone upside down about a foot or so away from your mouth. You can also try placing the microphone about two feet away but positioned at chest level.

Stereo Mic Arrangements

Whether you choose to mic an instrument in stereo or mono depends on where that instrument sits in the mix. In a louder, more dense mix, stereo micing often isn’t necessary (except for piano). But, in a more sparse mix with very few instruments, stereo micing can add great realism to your sound. Acoustic ensembles may also benefit from using a stereo arrangement to pick up the room sound.

X-Y Technique

The X-Y technique relies on a pair of small diaphragm cardioid pattern condensers positioned at 90-135 degrees, like this:
XY Mic Technique Studio Mode Audio Guide

 

X-Y Stereo
X-Y Diagram
An X-Y setup requires a matched pair of microphones, with identical mic preamps and gain settings for optimal imaging. Without careful matching a lopsided or otherwise disfigured stereo image results.

In mixing an X-Y setup, you would pan each microphone hard left and right, or near to it.

The Rode NT4 is an example of a SDC stereo microphone that is built specifically for X-Y micing.

When using two microphones, you’ll need something called a stereo bar. The one pictured below is the size you’ll want for doing X-Y micing.

Stereo Bar Studio Mode Setup Guide
Stereo Bar by AEA/Wes Dooley

Due to the coincidence of the microphone capsules, sounds arrive at both mics nearly simultaneously which essentially eliminates phase issues. X-Y has great mono compatibility because of this.

Blumlein

Blumlein Stereo DiagramAn alternative to the X-Y stereo technique is the Blumlein method. This uses the same arrangement as X-Y where the microphone capsules are angled at about 90 degrees to one another, but using Figure-8 (Bi-Directional) microphones instead of Cardioid.

Most Figure-8 capable microphones are large diaphragm condensers which, being side-address, means the microphones must be placed one atop the other (one of them upside down) with the grilles touching.

Blumlein affords you better spacial imaging and ambiance at the cost of picking up more room noise, so this arrangement is better suited to locations where ambient noise wont overwhelm the primary sound source.

Blumlein is one of many options suitable for recording grand piano. It also has very good mono compatibility. Blumlein can be used to record individual instruments or to provide wider reinforcement to an ensemble.

Mid-side

mid-side-stereoMid-side utilizes a cardioid mic pointed forwards and a figure-8 pointed sideways so that the capsule faces are perpendicular to the sound source. Though mid-side uses two microphones it requires three channels on your mixer or DAW to work. The figure-8 microphone is routed through two channels, panned hard left and right, where one channel’s phase is reversed.

You can adjust the width of the stereo image by increasing or decreasing the level of the figure-8 channels relative to that of the cardioid. More signal on the figure-8 makes for wider stereo, and vice versa. The microphones must be setup one atop the other, as with the Blumlein method.

Mid-side is fully mono compatible.

Jecklin Disc

jecklin disc stereoJecklin Disc uses two small diaphragm omnis angled approximately 20 degrees outwards from one another with a sound absorbing disc in between. This arrangement is designed to mimic natural human hearing and as such can provide incredibly realistic imaging.

Unlike Binaural (dummy head) recording, Jecklin setups provide a useful stereo image when conveyed over loudspeakers whereas the former is really only good for headphones.

Spaced pair

spaced pair stereo cardioidSpaced pair is just that, a pair of omni or cardioid microphones spaced several feet apart from one another pointing straight ahead towards the sound source.

Often used for room reinforcement for ensembles or placement near the hammers over the soundboard of a piano.

Spaced pairs can suffer from phase issues which results in frequencies being cancelled out when folded down to mono.

But that’s not all…

These are just a few of many techniques for stereo recording. If you’d like to learn more, here’s a nice PDF Guide on different stereo and surround micing techniques.

Micing a Whole Band?

Drums

I’m a singer and guitarist, so I’ve only read about micing up a drum kit. That’s a really tricky subject. For Hangouts, all I can say is that you’ll want to attack this from a “live sound” standpoint. The very least you can do is throw up a pair of condensers as stereo overheads. It’ll work alright for a laid back jazz drummer but not a rock drummer. You’ll also need a kick drum mic, snare mic (SM57, probably) and a few others depending on your drum setup. Don’t even ask me about EQing for drums! I’m not an authority on drum sound reinforcment, so if you can point me towards good sources for this info I’d like to have a link to it here. Here’s a link to an article from Drum! Magazine on choosing drum mics for live sound.

Keyboards and Bass

Keyboards and Bass are easy becauase you can just run them through a DI box (like the Radial J48) and into the board. Keyboard players and bassists really ought to have good DI boxes as part of their kit. A little amp modeler and a DI box is a great backup option for guitarists too.

Electric Guitar

Electric guitar? Stick an SM57 (or 58) in front of the cab. Experiment with the angle of the mic and which part of the speaker cone you aim it at. Use your ears and your discretion to find what sounds best. Half the fun is in experimenting with this stuff.

I recommend the SM57 because most people have already got one. By no means is this the only microphone for the job or the best one for your setup.

Vocals

For vocals, any good quality handheld dynamic mic will do just fine. I’d avoid using a foam windscreen though because you’ll take the already rolled-off treble and muffle it even more. You don’t want your vocals to be so muddy sounding they’re unintelligible. Condenser mics are usually a poor choice for vocals in a live band situation because they’ll get too much bleed from the other instruments, though there are cardioid condenser mics out there designed for stage usage like the Neumann KMS 104.

Next: Mixdown: Getting your Levels Right

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.

  3. Pingback: What's the best way to set up Google Hangouts On Air for a band? - Quora
    • 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

  16. Pingback: How To Shorten Google+ URLs Using Your Domain Name To Make Them Look Awesome
  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!)

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>