Amplification for Zoom

Back to OMA Green Room

Option 1: USB Mic in front of a Good Speaker
This option works well for those set up with an analogue PA with at least one good quality speaker. Capo Dave gets good results this way. See his description with photographs.
Pros: All you need is the Shure MV5 to make your existing system seamlessly interface with the digital world.  To be accurate, the Shure MV5 will not only "hear" what is coming from the speaker, it will also "hear" your voice and guitar acoustically in the room. Not a bad thing... just a small additional "layer" of sound.

Option 2: USB Microphone
Use a USB mic to amplify your voice and guitar, and balance the sound by playing around with mic placement. You plug the mic directly into your computer, and select it as the microphone in Zoom. Guitar too loud, move it closer to your mouth; guitar too soft, move it closer to the guitar. I have been using this method for almost two years now, and the results have always been clear and reliable. I have also listened to many other players who successfully use this method.

Pros: Simple to use, clean sound, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.
Cons: You can’t use EQ or reverb, and you cannot control vocals and instrumentals separately. Your sound is exactly what you are producing acoustically

A recommended USB Microphone is the Shure MV5. You can find it on Amazon, Sweetwater, Guitar Center, etc. Approx $99, on sale at Shure for $79.

Option 3: USB Interface With Analog Mixer
Use your usual mixer, mics, DI’s, etc, and get a USB interface to take the mix directly out from the mixer and into the USB interface, then into your computer.

Pros: you can control vocal and instrument separately, and you can have access to EQ and reverb if you have that on your mixer or DI. The sound is clean and not muddied by an additional amplification such as a speaker.
Cons: A little more expensive than the USB mic, and you need to know how to use your mixer and how to control the signal chain from the mixer to interface to computer.

Note: When you use a USB interface, you can monitor your mix directly from your mixer. If you try to monitor it from the interface while in a Zoom session, you may not be able to hear anything.

A recommended USB interface is the Focusrite Scarlet 2i2. You can find it on Amazon or Sweetwater, Guitar Center, etc. Approx $160. 
Ethernet vs. Wireless
This is not related to mixing, but when you are online, it is far better to use an ethernet cable directly from your modem to your computer, rather than wireless. From our experience, using ethernet greatly reduces data dropout problems. Ethernet cables are pretty inexpensive.

Test Your System Before Open Mic America
1. If using a mixer and a USB interface OR mic’ing your speaker, then first get the best mix you can in the room or with headphones.( If you are using a USB mic plugged into the computer as your only input, then no need to do this)

2. Start a Zoom session on your computer using the Zoom app (NOT THE BROWSER), make sure original sound is ON and the right inputs are selected. If you are not using the interface, you can control the mic level in Zoom audio settings. Otherwise you have to adjust it using the interface gain.

3. Play a song and record yourself on Zoom (record button is usually in the bottom right)

4. Listen to the recording and decide what needs to change if anything. Lather, rinse, repeat! :-)