This post is part of a series intended to become a Mermaid’s Tavern Guide to Zoom Singing publication for folk arts organizations, feature artists, session singers, and online audiences for folk music. We welcome comments below.
“I’m starting to do more livestreaming music on Zoom/Facebook/YouTube. What mic and camera should I buy?”
This might be the most commonly asked question I get from new Zoom singers. My answer is that it depends: on whether you’re solo, duo, or a group; whether you’re a casual session singer or a digitally touring feature artist, and how far along the gearhead path you are of setting up your own home studio. That’s a journey that never ends, so here are two rigs that will suit new budgets, and a set of resources for you to do your own research.
Let’s Cut to the Chase: What I Use Myself
As a Session Singer
This is a modest rig that you can pick up as you can afford it for under $100 each for mic, webcam, and headphones/speakers. It’s also perfectly adequate for small digital houseconcerts as a feature artist, as the Snowball and the c920 deliver bright, clean sound and video. I use this gear every day for work as well as for weekend sessions and general listening on my HP Spectre x360 15” 2-In-1 Laptop. It will work just fine on older laptops or desktops as well, Windows or Mac.
- Blue Snowball microphone (USB)
- Logitech c920 webcam
- Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II, cheap USB headset, or computer speakers
- Natural light/150w overhead light with desk lamp as fill
As a Feature Artist
This is the next step up for a simple plug-and-play home digital studio. Mic, webcam, and headphones are in the $150 range each, and the clamp lamps and lightbulbs will set you back $20 apiece. I recently upgraded to a nice new iMac Pro, but for years I ran this rig on a midline Macbook Pro. Everything here works on Windows as well.
I like the Yeti’s mute button and ability to change the pickup pattern, and I’ve come to prefer its simplicity and ease of use vs. an audio interface and analog mics (see below). The Brio webcam has a nice zoom feature to get just the right framing, and it’s even better in low light than the c920 (which is saying something). That lets me get away with inexpensive lighting, which is a boon in a small (8x8’) studio. For latency reasons, I keep the AT cans plugged in for livestreaming, but for mixing and listening, wireless headphones are great when moving around the studio.
- Blue Yeti microphone (USB)
- Logitech BRIO Ultra HD Pro webcam
- Audio-Technica ATHM50XBT Wireless Bluetooth Over-Ear Headphones, Black
- 3-point Globe Electric 56963 Metal Clamp Lamps
- Phillips Hue smart bulbs (adjustable color temperature)
For Studio Recording
As a solo vocalist, I do much of my recording with the Yeti, plain and simple. If I’m looking to fine-tune the balance between instruments and vocal, it’s back to the analog condenser mics with an audio interface. The Focusrite Scarlett bundle comes with mic and headphones, which at $200 is great bang for the buck.
Studio monitors (speakers) are a great way to get outside your headphones and hear what the mix will sound like in a larger room. I have the now-discontinued Samson Studio GT Active Studio Monitors with USB Audio Interface, but for $99 you can get the equivalent from Presonus.
- Amazon.com: Focusrite Scarlett Solo Studio (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface and Recording Bundle with Pro Tools
- Presonus Eris E3.5-3.5" Near Field Studio Monitor (Pair)
Your Mileage May Vary
Some scenarios NOT covered above:
- using a smartphone as a camera and/or microphone with a desktop/laptop
- using a second camera for closeups/camera angle variation
- details of mixing through an audio interface and/or DAW (digital audio workstation software)
- hybrid rigs that repurpose analog microphones and/or standalone video cameras
- using an analog mixer with an audio interface
- dedicated livestreaming or video software (OBS, Ecamm Live, &c)
I know, you have a closet full of sound gear gathering dust, you paid real money for it, and you know how to use it. So do I. My experienced professional advice on these scenarios is that you can spend a lot of time down a rabbit hole trying to reuse existing gear. You could be up and livestreaming for under $200 with the Session Singer rig above. Keep it simple to start. Buy a couple of pieces of plug-and-play digital tech and stay focused on making music and connecting with your audience with a website, mailing list, and tip jar. Then when you’re ready to take the next steps down Gearhead Road, perhaps your audience will have bought some CDs, donated to your tip jar, or become patron members so you can reinvest that money in more gear. Remember, in the DIY world of the digital home studio, you are the tech AND the musician. It’s all about balance.
Read on for more resources on setting up your own home studio.
Set Up a Home Studio
- Best Live Streaming Equipment for Musicians – The Crafty Musician
- Recommended Equipment ⋆ DIY Video For Bloggers
- The Bare Essentials Of A Decent Home Recording Studio – The Crafty Musician
- Top 6 Best Equipment for a Professional Home Studio for YouTube Video
Microphone Buying Guides
- Best Budget Microphones For Online Music Lessons and Recording Sessions!
- Buyers Guide – Best Mic for Zoom Calls – DIY Video Studio
- The 6 Best Microphones For Online Teaching
- The 7 best microphones to help you sound better in your next video meeting
- Top 5 Best Microphones for Zoom Meetings
Webcam Buying Guides
- 6 Best Webcams for Musicians (2020 Review)
- 7 Best Webcams for Online Teaching
- Best Webcam for Skype Music Lessons: Logitech Brio
- These Are the 7 Best Webcams for Online Teachers
Lighting Buying Guides
- 7 Best Ring Lights in 2020 For TikTok, Youtube, and Vlogs
- 8 Best Ring Lights for Videos
- Best ring lights in 2020: beautiful lighting for vlogging, video calls and selfies
- The 5 Best Ring Lights For Video
- Top 5 Best Clip On Desk Lamps For Your Money In 2020
- Top 10 Video Lighting Kits of 2020
Headphone Buying Guides
- Best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls 2020
- Best Headphones for Zoom in 2020
- Best Headphones for Zoom, Skype, Google Meet 2020
- Best studio headphones 2020: 11 recommended headphones for music production
- Best studio headphones of 2020
- Best Studio Headphones: The Ultimate Musician’s Guide
- The 8 Best Headphones for Mixing and Mastering 2020