Setting everything up

Setting up Solocontutti

How do I set up my computer to play with Solocontutti? You don't, the app should work straight away out of the box particularly if you run the wizard first. However, to get the best results, there are some things that you can tweak.

Microphones and soundcards

One of the most important things to do to have good results is to have a good microphone and a good interface for the microphone. There is no problem using the built in microphone of your computer, but the quality is usually low. Some guidance on improving our sound hardware is given below at the end of this section.

Reducing the delay

One of the most important features of Solocontutti is the extremely low delay time which makes online performance possible. You can affect this by having a low latency sound interface, but also by changing some settings. In the menu there is an option for "Preferences". Open this and you will see a panel appear and towards the bottom you will see a setting "buffer size". The lower this value, the lower the delay and the better the experience. However, depending on network conditions, the lower values may not work and you may actually need to increase this value to get decent quality. Experiment to see how low you can get this. Latency is explained in the appendix.

The soundcard

In order to get the best out of the Solocontutti app you need a good sound card. On all platforms it is possible to use both internal and external sound devices, but on Windows there are some additional issues related to types of driver.

In Windows here are basically three options as explained in the following sections. The Solocontutti app talks to sound cards using a set of drivers called ASIO drivers. ASIO is a standard created by the Steinberg corporation for very low latency sound cards, and has become the de facto industry standard for quality sound devices. If you are choosing a sound card you should choose one that supports ASIO directly. If you have a sound device and want to use that, then ASIO4ALL (see below) will allow this.

The Solocontutti app has been tested with several built in devices, consumer grade sound cards from creative and (semi)pro internal from M-Audio and external from M-Audio and Phonic.

Built in sound devices

On all devices you can use the built in sound devices that are provided with the device. Quality and latency can vary enormously. On Windows this can also be highly dependent on the driver (see above).

Prosumer sound cards for Windows PCs

On Windows PCs you often have the option of adding an aftermarket sound cound which provides much better quality than the built in devices. Some of these also support the XLR jacks which you will need for connecting a high quality microphone, which is definitely a requirement for high quality sound. The most important things to remember are:

  • You need to be able to plug in all the microphones and instruments that you need
  • It needs to fit into your PC motherboard in the right slot or alternatively just use USB.
  • On Windows the device should have ASIO drivers.
External prosumer audio interfaces

There are a large number of (semi)pro quality audio devices on the market which can be attached via a USB cable. With an adapter it is often possible to attach them to Android or iOS devices. There is a wide range of devices available in many price ranges, but in general even the most inexpensive audio interfaces can produce far better results and lower latency than built-in sound chips. The most important things to remember are:

  • You need to be able to plug in all the microphones and instruments that you need
  • On Windows the device should have ASIO drivers.
USB microphones

As mentioned below, you can use USB microphones instead of a sound card and microphone, without having to invest in two separate items. This may also be useful if you have a reasonable quality sound card that doesn't support the XLR jack for a quality microphone .

Bear in mind that on Windows this sort of hybrid configuration configuration only works with ASIO4ALL, and not with the standard ASIO drivers for your device.

Measuring Sound Card latency

The Solocontutti app wizard includes a function for estimating latency, but it is not as accurate as a loopback test. A loopback test can be done with a special audio loopback cable and a test progranm.

Headphones - listening to the music

If you are using a microphone you should always listen using headphones to avoid annoying feedback, which everyone in the session will also hear. The Solocontutti app does have a limiter function to help ensure that this does not happen, but you should be careful, especially when the gain is set high.

Microphones - capturing the sound

If you want to get the sound from an acoustic instrument or voice into the computer you need a microphone. If you have an instrument that produces an electronic output, such as a digital piano or a Silent System instrument, then you don't need a microphone and you can skip to the next subsection.

There are all sorts of microphones on the market and it is well beyond this manual to move into this subject. Built in microphones on modern devices can sometimes be quite good and are very usable when you start, but a quality microphone is definitely an improvement.

An important decision when choosing a microphone is the sound device that you have and how you will connect to it. Again, your dealer can advise you on this and there is lots of information on the web. There are also relatively inexpensive USB microphones on the market, such as the Samson C01U, which plug directly into the USB port of your computer and do not require a separate sound card to produce high quality sound and low latency. You can use the inbuilt sound card of your PC to play back sound. Note that on Windows this solution requires you to use ASIO4ALL, because the ASIO standard only allows for one device, and your USB microphone is that one device.

Connecting a digital instrument

If you have a digital instrument that has audio out (e.g. a Yamaha silent system instrument, an electronic piano or a Silent System piano) then you can connect your instrument directly to your audio device. You will need to ensure that you have the right cables to connect and do not connect the midi line as the Solocontutti app uses audio and not midi. If your instrument has stero output you should select this in the Settings window, so that the Solocontutti app takes its sound from both channels.

If you do have direct audio from your instrument, then you don't have a microphone and this means that you cannot talk to the other people that you are playing with. This is not really workable and you need some way to communicate. The Solocontutti app includes a text chat option to help, but the best solution is a microphone.

There are a number of options to connect an auxiliary microphone:

  • If your sound card has an extra input available you can connect it to that.
  • If you have a separate internal or external sound card without an extra input, but have a built in sound input on the PC, then you can connect your microphone to that.
  • You can plug the microphone into an external mixer and mix it directly in with your instrument.

ASIO4ALL on Windows

If you don't have a audio device that supports ASIO directly and cannot or don't want to pay for a new sound card, then there is a wonderful piece of free software called ASIO4ALL which will solve this problem. Basically ASIO4ALL will talk to any sound device that has a WDM driver (Windows Driver Model, windows standard for device drivers) and allows software to see it as an ASIO device. At the same time it bypasses a lot of the intermediate Windows stuff, bringing the latency down to a minimum. It won't make a high latency, low quality device better but it will make it as good as it can be and allows most sound devices to be used with the Solocontutti app.

ASIO4ALL can also be used together with devices that already support ASIO, as long as they have a WDM driver. Why would you want to do this? On a Mac it is possible to create a single virtual device by combining a number of devices together, but the ASIO standard doesn't allow this. If you use ASIO4ALL as your device driver then you can combine several devices into one. This is most useful in the case where you have a quality sound card connected to your Silent System instrument, and want to connect an auxiliary microphone onto your computer's built sound card. ASIO4ALL allows you to do this, so long as you have WDM drivers installed for all of your sound devices.

Solocontutti also support low-latency and exclusive-mode WDM drivers, and many drivers are now capable of achieving similar lateny to ASIO.

There is a separate appendix on ASIO4ALL explaining how best to use it with the Solocontutti app