If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already tried Skype, FaceTime, Google Duo, and Zoom (with advanced audio settings), and are still wishing there was a way to get higher quality sound in your online lessons.

Well, it appears that there is a way to improve things above and beyond Zoom’s advanced audio setting tweaks (which you can read about here). It’s nothing near CD-quality, of course, but the difference is noticeable – if you’re using an external microphone. If you’re just using the built-in mic on a laptop, this hack won’t make that much of a difference.

So if you have a laptop, an external microphone, headphones, and a desire to get the best possible sound in your next online lesson (or virtual concert, which might actually be a better use case), the “cleanfeed hack” below might be worth a try.

* * *

Before we dive in, much thanks to Curtis Judd, whose mention of Cleanfeed in this recent livestream on gear for online music lessons led to this fun little experiment (and my spending waaaay too much time going down this rabbit hole in the last 48 hours…).

Thanks also to Rob Knopper for the xylophone and snare drum samples – and my daughter for patiently humoring me as she served as my pianist and guinea pig for this. =)

Sound samples (piano)


*Just FYI, the clips all sound pretty much the same through your phone/tablet speakers;
to hear the difference, you'll want to put some headphones on. =)
Zoom default settings
Blue Yeti USB mic

Zoom advanced settings
Blue Yeti USB mic

Cleanfeed
Blue Yeti USB mic

Zoom default settings
Built-in laptop mic

Zoom advanced settings
Built-in laptop mic

Cleanfeed
Built-in laptop mic

Sound samples (xylophone)


Zoom default settings
AKG C414

Zoom advanced settings (mono)
AKG C414

Cleanfeed
AKG C414

Sound samples (snare drum)


Zoom default settings
AKG C414

Zoom advanced settings (mono)
AKG C414

Cleanfeed
AKG C414

How to Set Up Cleanfeed with Zoom


Step 1: Sign up for a free Cleanfeed account at cleanfeed.net
*Note that this only works with the Chrome browser (also the Brave browser if you’re anti-Chrome)

 

Step 2: Check your email inbox and confirm, etc.

 

Step 3: Log in with your username and password

 

Step 4: Allow Chrome to access the microphone

 

Step 5: Click the audio button, and then select “music optimised” under audio quality:

 

Step 6: Click the gear icon and select your desired mic

 

Step 7: Click CONNECT to create a special access link for your friend/colleague/student, so they can join you in your “studio.” The link they get is a permanent link that will stay the same in subsequent sessions, so make sure they keep the email so they can always join you here. And the cool thing is they don’t need to sign up or download anything, so for your guests, it’s super easy (maybe this would work well for a virtual “radio” concert type of thing?).

When your friend clicks on the button in the email, they’ll get to a page like this…

And when they click on start, you’ll see them show up in your room, like this…

 

Step 8: Make sure they click the gear and select the mic they want to use, and now you can minimize your browsers, and start up a Zoom meeting. (FWIW, most of what you just did is one-time stuff, that you won’t have to do again the next time.)

And once you’ve connected with each other in a Zoom meeting, click on the arrow next to the mute button, and select “leave computer audio” just to make sure you’re really using Cleanfeed for audio. Like so:

 

All done! Yeah, I know it seems like a lot of steps, but once you’ve gone through all of these hoops the first time, it’s actually pretty quick.

If you bookmark your “studio” page, and have your password manager set to auto-log you in, it’s pretty much just one-click to get in. And the same with your student(s) or guests.

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