Zoom sound mix levels

Wanted to seek some advice/discussion re sounds levels in Zoom self tests vs sound levels achieved during the OM, and I suppose, the OM sound experience in general.

I realise I’m not Robinson Crusoe here re these and similar challenges, but it’s becoming a bit frustrating that the levels I’m hearing during self testing ( ie creating a Zoom meeting, playing, recording it and listening back), are not reflected in my OM. Sorry about the long post, but thought it best to get it down in one hit. I’m reasonably comfortable now with my current setup below, as I feel it gives me alot of options along the chain, it appears stable, plus its provides an ongoing learning experience. It also provides a very easy switch between recording AVOYPS, and streaming to Zoom. I’m pretty technically savvy, but this is relatively new subject matter. I realise as well that there are many ways of doing this with different gear and setups, and I have learnt a lot through this great community in this regard.

My Setup

Focusrite -》Reaper-》OBS -》Zoom

(Using Windows 10)

Focusrite 2i2 ( Input1- Guitar, Input 2 - Mic, Headphone monitors in headphone jack)

Reaper - 3 tracks.

(i) Guitar ( + any effects )

(ii) Vocals ( + any effects)

(iii) Backing Track (optional)

All tracks routed individually to OBS via Rearoute, rather than directly via the master track. This way I can have separate inputs into OBS to individually control any settings for each track input.

3. OBS Corresponding inputs in the mixer for Guitar/Vocals/Backing Track. Webcam

Using Virtual Audio Cable and virtual camera to send all to Zoom. All global audio devices disabled in OBS. Have a compressor and limiter on the vocals, basically to help retain volume levels when I’d turn away from my dynamic mic. ( Much learning to be done there)

Zoom Speaker -》Focusrite. Mic -》Virtual audio cable. Original sound on etc.

All the above working fine, and levels all sound good during recording tests in Reaper, OBS and Zoom self test.

Now I realise local network configurations, wider network behavior, Zoom resource management etc can play a part in sound issues like dropouts, static, distortion, echoing etc. I’m not referring to those here, as I’m not having those types of issues.

I’m referring specifically to the sound levels/ mix of guitar, vocals, and any backing tracks.

In the recent OM, I did several Zoom ‘self-meetings’ to test, and then configure and fine tune my guitar/vocal/ backing track levels, so I had a good overall mix between the 3; the aim being to have the vocals sit above the guitar/backing track, with the guitar perhaps slightly more prominent than usual ( being a guitar community after all). The end result being I was happy where everything sat in the mix.

At the OM, when I started playing, the sound of my guitar was very low to my ears, almost a dry sound. ( in fact, the instant I hit the unmute button on Zoom). Vocals sounded fine, backing track sounded a bit loud but OK. Volume knob on guitar was in the right place, but while playing I did notice the guitar input on my Focusrite never hit the green light once. I saw the vocal input pumping away in the green no problem. Alerted me that something was amiss somewhere, despite all being ‘perfect’ immediately prior. Threw me out as I couldn’t ‘lock in’ to the song properly. Anyway I got through it, so no excuses there.

Immediately after finishing my performance, and hitting mute on Zoom, I strummed my guitar and the sound level returned to ‘normal’.

Just listened to the OM recording sent to performers, and the discrepancy in my levels were even more prominent than I’d heard. The guitar levels were way low, and the backing track was too high. (The backing track was a custom track, with all guitars, vocals removed, so basically just piano and drums). Vocals sounded fine.

I suppose after all this ranting, my basic problem is how can I trust my ears to get the mix levels right locally, when those levels don’t appear to be reflected in Zoom. Or more to the point, what compensatory measures may I need to undertake locally in my mixing, so I’m achieving the desired sound mix levels in Zoom?

I am missing something somewhere, perhaps in a few places, not in part due to my inexperience with the subject matter.

Appreciate any input.

Cheers, Shane.

Shane, I use Audacity for this bit bit the app itself shouldn’t matter as long as whatever app you have has a recording level monitor.


I aim for guitar around -12 average and vocals around -9 to -6.

Once set up I find it’s fine for the zoom recording but obviously the quality is reduced.

I do find that ‘on the night’ I do tend to shout louder (and try to back away from the mic to compensate)

Others may be able to offer more scientific numbers for each, I’m just learning myself.

Shout up if you ever want to try a practice zoom as the signal will have to go around the globe once at least….

A lot to think about Shane, as we discussed last night. I’ve yet to do a direct comparison between the Dry Run I recorded in a Zoom Self meeting on Friday and the OM recording. It will be interesting to see if there are differences this time. This time I did not use Reaper, as I was using the FX on the PlayAcoustic. But worthy of discussion as its something a few of us have experienced to one degree or another. Another spanner in the works for me, is setting up using headphones but performing with IEMs, so I know there will be a difference the night. Sorry for that extra curve ball ! :rofl:

Thanks for the response Dave.
Yep those levels sound similar to where I’m at. Guitar just seemed to drop suddenly for some reason.
Thanks for the Zoom invite. Might take you uo on it sometime.

Cheers, Shane

1 Like

I actually take similar approach to get a base set up regardless of using Reaper. This time I used Reaper in order to establish a starting level similar to your settings Dave. With the PlayAcoustic I set up 2 tracks in Reaper and added the Loudness Meter to each and adjusted the PA’s outputs to hit -6 and -10 (Vox then Gtr) and iron out any clipping. With that base level I’ll fine tune going PA to OBS to Zoom. My U=Phoria UMC1820’s monitor can be switch from wet to dry but I run it at the mid point and this time did not noticed degradation when I started my set but that has happened in the past. Its normally compared self and show videos where I hear the difference.

No worries on the length of post, Shane, we all learn through trying to solve these problems.

You seem on top of everything and nothing jumped out to me.

Only question coming to mind would be how the monitoring options and track arming are setup in Reaper. But given it worked in the Zoom meeting with yourself, I assume all is good.

Now this has me scratching my head. I can’t see how the Mute/Unmute of mic in Zoom can influence the signal from guitar into the 2i2. I would think that is influenced only by the guitar volume setting, 2i2 gain setting, and how ‘hard’ you are playing.

But that seems to me to be the root of the problem. When all sounded good I assume the guitar halo in the 2i2 was in the green mostly. Once that was not the case then the input from source would be low and influence all the rest downstream in the path from 2i2 to Zoom.

Wish I had an idea to throw out but I have no idea at all.

Just a quick thought, Zoom Suppress Background Noise - have you set that to Low ? :sunglasses:

I am vaguely remembering a similar problem from the early OM days and SBN had defaulted to auto and pretty much wiped the guitar out. Could be a red herring but thought I’d chuck it into the ring. :sunglasses:

1 Like

Checking, double-checking, and a fine check just to be sure seems a sound strategy to make sure the Zoom and PC sound settings are as you want them.

But still can’t link that, regardless of whether it was an issue, with the input signal strength of the guitar as reflected on the gain knob halo on the 2i2?

Yes mate Noise Suppression is set to low.

Thanks @DavidP and @TheMadman_tobyjenner for your input. It is much appreciated. Will go over all the settings again today, do some dummy Zoom meetings with my wife, and see what happens. May have been just an internal glitch somewhere, or I may have overlooked something.

Cheers, Shane

Really good explanation of your config Shane. My config is pretty similar, although some differences. I haven’t had any sound issues so some of the devil might be in that difference.

Take from this what you will, I’m reasonably new to the audio side of this but not new to the tech side (I’ve spent my career in software, networking & IT infrastructure).

Same here, with Ableton instead of Reaper.

Similar setup for me. I gathered on the OM that you don’t use direct monitoring? I also don’t use direct monitoring as I want to hear the processed wet sound, not the dry. I run 64 buffer size which I’ve not had any issues with.

This is where we’re different. A bunch similar but some variances that could be important.

  • Multiple tracks - same (although no backing track for me at OM).
  • VAC & virtual cable from OBS to Zoom - same (I noticed AV sync issues on my setup if webcam was not via OBS)
  • All other audio devices disabled in OBS - same.
  • rearoute: I route the master track to OBS via rearoute. I noticed rearoute uses networking (albeit localhost) to send the audio data. Sending it as separate streams could cause timing issues if there are any hiccups. However unlikely that is on localhost.
  • Because it’s just one input going into OBS (master), I apply no effects at all in OBS. All it does is take the audio & video signals and route them through to Zoom.
  • I apply all my effects in DAW, including sound levels. So what goes to OBS is the leveled, fully processed sound.

I wonder if you were experiencing an issue similar to what I ran into while testing. OBS has a mechanism to prevent feedback loops in monitoring. Very little info available except some forum threads e.g. Question / Help - Audio Monitoring doesn't work at all | OBS Forums. For me this exhibited as no sound at all from OBS to Zoom in testing. I could see the levels in OBS showing sound going through them, VAC was working (I tested it without OBS). OBS was refusing to monitor as it thought there was a feedback loop.

So I quit OBS … and opened it again, no settings changed… and it worked. I’m convinced OBS incorrectly silenced the monitoring.

Could be that, could be something else. As the issue is with sound levels between different streams, I would think the problem exists somewhere between DAW & OBS.

Same here, your Zoom config sounded good on the OM - sound quality was good despite the problem with levels.

So this is what stands out as strange to me. The light on your 2i2 shouldn’t be affected by DAW or OBS. It’s a hardware thing to do with the signal & AI.

Signal strength: Guitar settings of course, volume knob, pickup selection, playing style. Any amp or pedals it’s running through that could affect volume (mine routes through my amp).
AI: Input volume knob & Instrument button.

However the fact that as soon as you muted yourself again the guitar sound fixed itself makes me think that the 2i2 light was a bit of a red herring and you’d calibrated your levels with those 2i2 settings. So the AI was probably fine I reckon.

Thanks JK for your detailed response, and some handy background tech info. Much appreciated. I’m currently putting it down to a glitch on the night somewhere along my chain. Plenty of time now to test it out and confirm this.

Cheers, Shane