Choosing the Right Audio Hardware

Headset, pen and keyboard

If there was ever a time where you had to pivot quickly, it was probably the spring of 2020. With mandated closures in place due to the corona-virus, small business owners closed their doors and wondered about the uncertainty of it all. Within days, entrepreneurs across the globe had to decide if they were going to take their services online … and if so, figure out how to create the best online experience for their students. Which of course involved a lot of technology (and for many people, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears!).

Going online quickly might have meant that you inevitably scrambled to use the technology you already had available, then worked tirelessly to make adjustments as you found problems. Trial and error, often followed by more error. Put simply, you were learning to fly and building the plane at the same time.

As you look ahead, online services at your studio might be here to stay, even as you transition back to in-person classes. This means there’s no better time to upgrade your education about the tech you need to create an unparalleled experience for your client-base. The good news is that implementing the right tech doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, as long as you know what you’re looking for.

You already know that good lighting and a solid high-speed internet connection are must-haves for improving your online production. With long-term sustainability now in mind for your online offerings, let’s focus on three pieces of tech that will take the quality of your audio to the next level.

Have you ever heard these comments?

The music sounds like it is underwater.

Your voice keeps cutting out.

These are two very common issues when it comes to live audio. As frustrating as it can be to get feedback from your students that they can’t hear you clearly, it’s even more frustrating for the students. Fear not! Here are three things you can buy to round out your tech tool belt and put a stop to these problems.

Audio Interface:

(price range: $40+)

One of the best purchases you can make is an audio interface. An audio interface is a device that pulls sound in from multiple sources, such as a microphone or cell phone, mixes it, and sends it to the computer internally through a USB port, and out to your online audience. The result is a much more professional sound. Alternatively, a mixer with a USB port to record out to a device also works well. 

Product Suggestions: Budget-friendly: The Behringer Euphoria UM2 will let you plug in a simple microphone and a cable to connect to your phone or other devices for music.

Higher-end model: The Behringer Xenys 1204USB is a 12-channel mixer that enables the user to plug in multiple microphones (tappers will love this) which allows for better control over equalization on each channel and an overall clearer sound quality.

Boundary Microphone:

(Price range: $150+)

An omni-directional boundary microphone picks up noise from all directions. It sits on the ground and is designed to pick up the sounds of the room, which is indispensable for tap sounds (and it will pick up your voice as well!)

Product Suggestions: Budget friendly: The Audio-Technica PRO 44 gives great sound for a relatively inexpensive price. There is no need for a separate power source; just plug it right into your audio interface or mixer.

Higher-end model: The Audio Technica U851R upgrades to include an on-device power button and has an overall cleaner sound. This comes in white or black.

Headset Microphone:

(price range $300+)

For most instructors, having two hands free is advantageous in the online format, and a headset microphone is an ideal way to get the best sound while being able to freely move around. Quality matters here, so this is a worthy place for investment.

Product Suggestions: Budget-friendly: The Shure SM31H has added support and durability for high-impact activities such as fitness and dance. This model is also moisture resistant and easily adjustable.

Higher-end model: The Shure SM35 is a step up from its sister product above, with crystal clear sound and great battery life. The SM35 is easy to use and maintains a crisp sound.

A quick note about your computer: You don’t need the latest and greatest laptop to do the job well, but speed does matter.

Wired connections are best, but when that’s not possible, stop all programs running in the background to keep your computer running at its top speed. This will make a significant difference in the end result that will take the quality of your audio to the next level.

Sometimes, life serves up opportunities for you to upgrade your education so that you can continue to serve at the highest level. This time it was a virus that made technology more important than ever. Next time, it could be a competitor’s influence in your market or some other unknown global challenge. The online world opens up a universe of opportunities to connect with your clients, and the right technology gives you the upper hand in offering a phenomenal option for distance learning.

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