Sonia Connolly wrote a wonderful long list of tips to get hosts and participants up and running with Zoom in this article on the Kyklos International Folk Dancers website.

The above is a great list to get you started. However, there is a way to do better. Here are some observations:

  • If you want music to play in through the microphone into your Zoom session, you should set Original sound on, and disable background noise suppression. Sonia talks about that in her list above.
  • Playing the music on the computer that is running the Zoom session and expecting Zoom to pick up the music through the microphone input of that computer does not work. I don’t know why, but the music is almost completely inaudible.
  • Playing the music through external speakers very loudly and picking up the music through the microphone input of the computer works okay, and the resulting video/audio is synchronized properly. The sound quality is not great but it is usable.
  • Playing the music from your Zoom computer and picking it up through the Zoom application as “computer sound” gives excellent quality. The resulting video/audio is occasionally synchronized but more often it is out of sync by a noticeable amount (2 beats of the music approximately). This makes it almost impossible for someone to follow the dance leader if they don’t know the dance already.
  • Fortunately, there is another option!

Zoom Host Layout

Notes on the layout above:

  • The mixer needs only 2 inputs (headset microphone and music need to be combined); output from the mixer goes to the Zoom computer as the application’s microphone.
  • The reason for the small external speaker is so the music can be heard at this location. There are other ways to do this. For example, you could use a splitter to split the headphone out on the music computer into two outputs. Feed one to the mixer and the other to an external speaker. I don’t have a splitter like that so I didn’t try but they exist.
  • It is a rather specialized ability of this mixer to be able to output only one channel (the music) and send it to the speaker. I didn’t try sending the mixed output the speaker. You would then hear your own voice which might be disturbing?
  • The special little Steinberg interface would not be needed if you had an XLR to USB cable which exists. Or your mixer might have some other Main Out format which you could convert to USB some other way.
  • I set Zoom to use the USB input as its microphone, and I checked “Use Original Sound” and I disabled background noise suppression. All that is explained in Sonia’s article.
  • You’ll need help to set the correct mix of music and voice because you won’t be able to hear it. Start a Zoom call with someone and get them to help you with the mix.