Updated: Jun 25, 2020
In Part 3, I'll share my review of the products I tested. And I'll show you how to use the Rode Wireless Go, which is my current choice (pictured) for teaching yoga online -recorded and livestream.
You may need a different audio solution. I'll also provide suggestions for how to pick the right audio solution for you.
This post is part of a four-part series on how to teach yoga online (live or recorded):
Part 1: Hopes for Permanent Shifts - opportunities to address inequities for teachers and students
Part 2: Tech Set-up - jump back here for the audio overview and tips for video
Part 3: Audio Deep Dive (this post)
Part 4: Forget the Tech & Teach (coming soon)
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My Product Tests
I purchased a couple of products to test using the iPhone's Camera application and Zoom. It was a challenge in and of itself to find products in stock and with easy return policies these days.
In the video above, you can jump to the following product sound tests:
My baseline solution: iPad - 1:32
Rode Wireless Go's built-in lavalier mic - 1:59
My current solution: Rode Wireless Go's built-in lavalier mic with a large carpet in the room - 2:18
JLab GO Air True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds - 2:38
Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds - 2:56
Taotronics SoundElite 72 Wired Bluetooth Earbuds - 3:20
Not Tested: Apple AirPods Pro
I didn’t test Apple AirPods Pro. After researching and attending some classes, the cost seemed too high. If you look at the frequency response of the microphone, it’s optimized for conversation, which is great for phone calls. But it doesn’t do well with the lower range of sounds, which is important for chanting and om’s.
Regular Apple AirPods have a quite similar microphone as the Pro version, so you could save some money if you want an Apple product.
Sound Test: Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless Earbuds
I tested the Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless Earbuds ($120). Compared to Apple AirPods Pro it was reviewed as having an arguably better microphone and better Bluetooth connectivity - at half the cost. The Jabra Elite 65t seemed to have a smoother frequency response with more range into low frequencies than AirPods Pro. The Jabra earbuds also boasted more built-in background noise suppression from additional microphones.
At first, I was really pleased with Jabra’s natural sound quality, comfort, the free app to adjust settings, and listening sound quality. But my hair touching the outside of the Jabra Elite 65t earbuds produced static sounds. This was likely due to the additional noise-cancelling microphones. So they were out of the running.
Sound Test: JLab GO Air True Wireless Earbuds
The low-priced JLab GO Air True Wireless Earbuds ($30) are now my backup microphone option. I originally purchased them to use as my speaker with the Rode Wireless Go.
Based on price, I'd guess that the JLab GO Air would have some reliability issues, but SoundGuys rate their Bluetooth connectivity as equal to Apple Airpods Pro. The JLab's aren’t quite as good at reducing background noise and room reverb, as the Jabra Elite 65t. But they are quite decent in a pinch.
Sound Test: Taotronics SoundElite 72 Bluetooth Wired Earbuds
I purchased wired Bluetooth earbuds, because I thought the microphone on the wire closer to the mouth might produce better sound quality. Unfortunately, the Taotronics SoundElite 72 Earbuds ($46) were a no-go for my use cases. They produced more background white noise than my baseline. The Taotronics wired earbuds produced noticeable static when I spoke and when the microphone piece brushed my face (which they definitely would during yoga class).
They were really comfortable and had excellent listening quality. I like that they are harder to lose than true wireless earbuds.
Sound Test: Rode Wireless Go
Enter the Rode Wireless Go transmitter and receiver set with built-in lavalier mic ($200 + $15 cord), which is my current pick. Here are the results from the sound tests:
The Rode Wireless Go produces the richest and most natural sound of any microphone I tested. It has a smoother frequency response. So it handles the low, humming tones of chanting much better than earbuds. Some frequencies still seem to get cut off, but there is a significant improvement.
Change in volume and sound as you move your head can be managed to be relatively unnoticeable (see below).
It will pick up background noise and room reverb more than earbuds. But processing your recordings afterwards reduces background noise significantly (and I would do this anyways). Zoom's default processing also makes this a non-issue for me.
Unlike traditional lavalier mics, the built-in mic is protected by the transmitter case. I’ve experienced minimal accidental noise from clothing or moving.
It has the option to plug in a lavalier or headset microphone, if you ever want to upgrade or use it for another purpose. I may test and upgrade to a lightweight microphone headset one day to improve the overall sound quality and the volume consistency (by keeping the mic close to my mouth). There are definitely cheaper ones out there, but I’m curious to try those compared to the more expensive Rode HS2 ($300).
There was a noticeable improvement in sound quality when I added a carpet to cover a large part of my hardwood floors. This really reinforces my suggestions in Part 2: Tech Set-up.
Using the Rode Wireless Go
For an overview, skip ahead to 3 minutes and 40 seconds in the video above.
You'll first need to determine which recording devices you're going to use with the Rode Wireless Go, so that you can purchase the right cables.
Otherwise, the Rode Wireless Go is plug & play:
You turn the two units on.
They immediately auto-connect to each other.
Change the gain using the dB button on the receiver unit.
Plug the receiver unit into your recording device.
Clip the transmitter unit with mic onto your clothes.
Test and confirm the microphone is being used by your recording app.
If you’re plugging the Rode Wireless Go into a DSLR or camcorder, you won’t need any additional cables. The included TRS black ended cable will work - SC2.
If you’re plugging into a mobile device, you’ll need a TRS (black) to TRRS (gray) cable (Rode's SC7) - pictured. This cable also worked for my laptop and desktop (Dell Inspiron 7000 and Mac mini). Connect the TRS plug (black) into the Rode receiver. The TRRS end (gray) plugs into your recording device.
For iOS devices without a 3.4mm audio jack, you will also need an Apple Lightning to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter (see photo). If you need to power this iOS device while you're recording, you'll need a dual adaptor like this one: Belkin 3.5 mm Audio + Charge Rockstar.
Depending on your laptop/desktop ports, you may need a TRS to USB (or USC-C) cable instead of the SC2 or SC7. You may also want a USB cable if you want to use the audio jack for any other speakers or equipment.
I would recommend using tape or velcro to secure any cables (into the Rode receiver, into your devices, or intermediate connections). There is no locking mechanism on any of the Rode ports to prevent cables from coming out. My laptop’s 3.5mm audio port is a bit loose, so I accidentally lost audio in the middle of class. I don’t recommend it. :)
Test, test, test
Definitely take the time to test on your camera and/or through Zoom. Test the different gain and application settings in your environment.
Test whether simultaneously charging the transmitter unit while recording causes any interference. For me, the mic produced high-pitched interference when I had the Rode transmitter unit and the USB power cable plugged into my laptop. There was no interference when I used an external power source.
Test how the mic sounds in different poses. I try to talk a little quieter when I’m folded forward (e.g. child’s pose) or turn my head toward the microphone.
I place the transmitter right at or below my collar bone. I try not to lie directly on the transmitter, or it will sound muffled. I’ve noticed minimal static sounds from my clothing or movement, but I take care not to bump it too much. I also try not to wear staticky clothing.
If you plan to chant during class, test this too.
Once you have your cables & settings figured out, recording classes will be a breeze. You will want to use editing software to reduce background noise and make any other audio adjustments, just as you normally would.
Check and correct for any latency (delayed wireless transfer from transmitter to receiver that causes audio to be out of sync audio with video). Latency will exist for any wireless microphones. I have noticed varying latency with the Rode when recording (not noticeable over livestream), and, while annoying, it's easily fixed in production.
I've been using the Rode's Low or Medium gain setting for recorded classes. I've found that the Low setting provides more nuanced sounds and captures chanting better. You can amp up the overall video volume in iMovie with unnoticeable distortion.
I recommend using the Rode's Medium or High gain setting to allow students to modify the volume on their end for livestream classes, especially if you’re playing music. Ask students for feedback each class.
I’d recommend unchecking/disabling Zoom's Audio setting “Automatically adjust microphone”. Skip ahead in the video above to see how - minute 8:06. I’ve found that if it's enabled Zoom will increase the volume when I turn my head slightly away from the microphone and then way overshoot the volume when I turn my head back. So the volume will fade in and out, worsening any lavalier microphone volume changes.
If you want to hear students or music during class, you have a couple of options.
Depending on your class structure, it might be ok to tell students that they'll only be able to talk at the beginning and end of class. You can then just plug/unplug the Rode Wireless Go as you need. Students could still use the chat message functionality if anything urgent comes up. This might be good solution for teaching from a mobile device.
Or use your laptop, and select separate devices as the Microphone & Speaker. On Zoom, just click the arrow next to the mute/unmute button (see picture).
You could use cheap Bluetooth earbuds. I use the JLab GO Air ($30) - only in one ear.
You could also use your computer's speakers. I haven't noticed any feedback from Zoom when I do this, but it is possible (so test).
To play music using Spotify, try setting the in-application volume to 4 "clicks". This has usually been the correct ratio for me with Rode's gain setting on Medium. You can use Control + Up/Down arrows on your laptop to adjust the volume by "clicks". For instructions about how to share just your computer audio (not screen) on Zoom, skip ahead in my video (above) to 9 minutes and 12 seconds.
Picking Your Own Audio Solution
There are tons of different options for audio. None of them are perfect or fit for every use case.
Choosing the right audio solutio