Minimal gear for better user uptake

On my journey to making music together with others on JackTrip I encounter a number of obstacles. The knowledge gap is certainly a big one. Once people are getting interested they quickly discover another one, which is the gear required to make it work.
If it was like Zoom or WhatsApp but with ultra-low latency running on the smart phone everyone has in the pocket that would be ideal. That is maybe not even for tomorrow.
But right now, is there a minimal set-up running the desktop app that could satisfy the majority of users?
I was particularly intrigued by the examples from the knowledge base:

What kind of gear related latency (without the latency from the internet) can one expect with a recent MacBook with Apple EarPods Headphones with 3.5mm Plug, Wired Ear Buds and no external audio interface? Would it be possible with just the microphone of the EarPods to have a satisfactory experience for string or wind players or even other acoustic instruments? FarPlay seems to suggest such a minimal setup and what about this with JackTrip.
Can I tell people just buy a new Mac and EarPods and you are on board for a string or brass quartett or a gypsy jazz jam? With the proviso, of course, they have fast internet, ethernet cable and are not more than 500 miles from the server.

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Thank you for taking time and effort to post the information here. Currently I am supporting a group using similar minimal setups you described: latest MacBook/Air, built-in mic and camera, and headphones. The built-in mic has a robust dynamic range and sound and the webcam is among the best I have seen.

There are two participants using an external Blue Yeti USB microphone instead of the computer’s built-in mic. Using an external microphone is preferable to using built-ins because on a laptop, any sound made by using the keyboard will be picked up by the built-in mic. Adjusting volume levels or perhaps sending messages would be done by typing on the keyboard and heard by the mic.

If only the built-in mic is available, one option for avoiding the noise it picks up from typing on a laptop keyboard would be to use an external keyboard attached to the computer.

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thank you, @Synthia, for this information. I wonder whether one could take this exchange of experience a little further. It would be interesting to know:

  1. Were these users satisfied with their experience and could they possibly share it?
  2. What problems, if any, did they encounter and how were they able to address/solve these?
  3. What instruments/voice do they play?
  4. How far from the server are their respective locations and what latencies did they experience?
  5. Those who did not use an external USB microphone, did they use the built-in mic of the computer or the one of the EarPods?

Answers to these questions would be invaluable for a number of my correspondents who are open minded and curious but with a limited tech affinity. Such individuals often have a computer which is up for renewal (one correspondent has a Mac running still MacIOS 10.12 which I was told is not even capable of running JackTrip). They tend to be intimidated by all the hassle of setting up a new system, but if there is reasonable assurance that with minimal gear they can have a satisfactory experience that would be a game changer.

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Thank you for your inquiries Thomas! It means a lot to me and I hope will help inform others.

All of the participants cited are choristers and brand new to JackTrip. They are about 700 miles from the server. We have only had one session so far and although the latency readings were “FAIR”, the singers were able to sing in sync with each other.

Although latency readings can look unfavorable, it is entirely possible to be in sync with other players.

Another thought of is that in JackTrip, it is difficult for one to hear what they sound like to others in the session. Therefore, it is essential for others to provide descriptive feedback and possible fixes as to the quality and stability of each other’s audio.

The approach was to use their existing resources, built-in mic, not the mic on earpods, and so far we and they are happy with their sound. Using the mic on earpods will pick up the noise of bodily movement and possibly present uneven volume, timbre, and quality.

Perhaps by the end of the project, sometime in July, we will have provided their feedback here or with links to it elsewhere. I will circle back to this post as more details emerge.

Agreed that minimal gear is highly desirable. However, if folks have a negative attitude going in, I usually encourage them and say they will get better at it. But with those who and have no interest in the setup, and complain about it every time, I let them go. There is no sense in struggling with those who are unwilling to embrace the specifications and requirements involved in using cutting edge technology. It is just an exercise in frustration.

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Macs are ideal because they have a great built-in audio system (unlike Windows, which gets into the whole ASIO mess). Using just the built-in mic + analog headphones, or a purely analog headset can work very well for people.

For the best sound and integration options, dedicated external audio interfaces work best. Here are a few that we have tested and know work well, on both Mac and Windows. I recommend people in the USA contact Sweetwater to help them find and pick the best gear. Their staff is very knowledgeable and specifically trained to help with these things.

When looking to optimize latency, I recommend reviewing How to Optimize Latency When Using JackTrip.

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Thank you so much @Synthia and @miked, this is very important if we want to decrease the barriers for an easy uptake of this technology.

Less if often more.

Just to give you an anecdotal example. A friend of mine is a soloist in the permanent orchestra a great European Opera house. A very eclectic, open minded person with considerable tech affinity. I thought this friend might become an endorser of JackTrip, could lead by example and break the ice.
But the more equipment that was added to the setup the worse it got. The conclusion was, of course, less than enthusiastic.
Had there been just a Mac and a simple analogue headset it might have been a completely different story.

I suppose we need more success stories of people with minimal gear.

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I agree and feel like the biggest issues we run into are rooted in people not being familiar or knowledgeable with the gear they are trying to use with JackTrip. Learning one new thing can be hard. Learning several new things at once is really hard. Best to start off as simple as possible, using things you are already comfortable with.


I finally decided to try it out myself.
With a MacBook pro m3 I recorded myself playing trombone over a backing track uploaded to the server in Torino, Italy. Latency 12ms, No Wi-Fi, only the internal microphone of the MacBook and headphones.
It would be difficult to record a more natural trombone sound with an external mic.
I suppose any acoustic player, and not only, could feel comfortable immediately.
Leaving the price tag for the Mac aside, making music online can become something easy and natural.
There are also budget solutions and I understand @rebholland has some ideas about that.

As a testimonial I attach this little video made directly in JackTrip using my two accounts. I hope that soon there will be a full band rehearsing as if in the same room and eventually streaming concerts!
recording with minimal gear


Thank you Thomas for your efforts and sharing them here. It is true that Macs are infinitely better in every way for JackTrip and indeed, any musical endeavor. In the group I am supporting, those using Macs were up quickly and have excellent sound and video with only the built-in mic and camera. However, as you have cited, the cost can be a barrier.

The market share for Windows is significantly higher at around 72% and partially due to the lower cost. I feel it is important to keep doing my best to support JackTrip users on Windows.

And Mike has a very good point about many new JackTrippers having little knowledge of the equipment they are using for JackTrip. He and I have done a lot of research and even purchased equipment that others are using just so that we can setup and test it for them.

Learning about ones gear can be a steep learning curve, and most folks are either unwilling or feel inadequate to do the work of understanding how things work. People are conditioned to expect things to work effortlessly. I will just keep encouraging people to break that habit, help them learn, and feel empowered to educate themselves.

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@wollethom looks and sounds great! May I suggest that you also make the recording public on JackTrip, so that other JackTrippers can like/follow and reach out to you on there?

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Good suggestion @miked. It is now public.

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@Synthia your support for windows users absolutely essential and must continue. It would be very unrealistic to assume that out of a sudden everybody would migrate to Mac.

I can imagine, however, that JackTrip could be the “killer app” that makes it worthwhile to switch to Mac at least for a certain demographic, actually for anybody to whom the logistics involved in making music together physically is too heavy or impractical, people who want something simple that works right out of the box.
Taking everything it takes to make this work under windows (external audio interface, external microphone, cables) the difference in cost is not that enormous. Add to this the fact that one can get a refurbished Mac considerably cheaper than a new one, this can make it affordable to even more people.

Just for the sake of mentioning it, JackTrip also works great on all modern Linux distros (esp those that come standard with Pipewire). I appreciate that may sound scary to some people, but they have become just as user friendly as Mac or Windows. JackTrip also has very minimal resource requirements (especially audio only, which consumes <10% of a single cpu core), so it should run well on any hardware released over the past decade. You can easily piece together a new Linux computer for JackTrip for under a few hundred USD.

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No doubt there is more than one way to work with JackTrip and there are people who love piecing together computers.
As a musician I want to make music rather spend my time digging into the guts of an IT device. I want something as simple as making a phone call, switch on the thing and it works.

There are many reasons why people cannot or do nor want to collaborate but it is a pity when those who want and can are discouraged by the shortcomings of an enabling technology. What they need are over the counter, out off the box, turnkey solutions that work as expected. Why can’t there be a windows computer with everything on board to work with JackTrip? Can one buy a Linux computer ready for use with JackTrip?
I suppose that was the key to the success of Microsoft, they got into computers with word and excel that just worked fine and it was what people needed at the office and at home.

I am not interested in winning an argument, rather providing food for thought. Perhaps there are opportunities for business partnerships. There are computers for gamers. Why shouldn’t there be computers for musicians? Why shouldn’t the be there partnerships with internet access providers showcasing musicians playing together online? Partnerships with music schools, orchestras and other actors in the music business might be a possibility as well.

Have you heard of the JackTrip bridge device? We had to stop manufacturing them, but I wouldn’t rule out a comeback one day if there seems to be enough demand.

I wouldn’t want to get back into the hardware business, but happy to work with any interested partners. 100% of these is open source and anyone could do it without our help, really…

You may also be interested in this thread.

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I know about the JackTrip bridge device and those of your competitors. Listening to @rebholland these seem still to have some fan base but your market pointers are clear.

I suppose, as you said earlier, the main roadblock has to do with unwillingness to to learn how to use one’s gear properly.
A recent experience goes like this: a player of an acoustic instrument uses a Mac and despite not needing an external audio interface he connects one but does not know how to use it. End of the story: JackTrip does not work.

If this was merely anecdotal I would not be concerned about it.
I wonder if a wise use of AI could not play a great role in preventing such scenario from repeating again and again.