Focus: Audio Quality and Livestreaming

Introduction

As we are writing this post we are entering the second month of quarantine and confronting projections that large gatherings for live music may not return for some time—an ominous scenario for our communities. The sudden and necessary prevalence of live-streamed performances takes on greater significance as we imagine a near future of connecting with remote audiences.

Given the conditions of isolation, there is an expectation during current live-streamed performances that the artist serve simultaneously as technician and performer. At the same time, the audience members experiencing a wider selection of live performances quickly realize that the myriad solutions for live-streaming (and the equipment or applications that are readily available) do not guarantee the best quality of audio. 

When the CMC began implementing live-stream infrastructure several years ago, we connected with the co-author for this post, Pouya Hamidi. Pouya is a Toronto-based composer, musician, and audio engineer, and he has been a recurring presence in our Toronto venue for live and recorded sound. He is also the person we consult with when costing equipment and software for live audio. Pouya, like many great audio engineers, blends artistic and technical sensitivities.

In the last month we have gotten a lot (a lot) of inquiries about livestreaming, so we figured this post would be a helpful resource for artists planning solo livestream performances from home—many of the principles can also apply to more ambitious programming in future when ensembles/bands can gather together. Below you will find several headings as we outline the steps and costs that help us improve audio quality, minimize troubleshooting at the point that we go live, and make the experience for audiences/communities that much greater.

We’ve simplified this guide, but encourage you to reach out with feedback, or questions.

Let’s Review Some Basics

In order to improve the quality of live streaming audio, it is important to go over the path sound takes from the musician