Elk Live keeps remote online music collaborations in sync

The coronavirus pandemic has seen many musicians going online to connect with fans, produce music and collaborate with other musicians in lockdown. But latency issues can make rocking out with bandmates over an internet connection somewhat problematic. Sweden’s Elk Audio is aiming to nip lag in the bud with Elk Live.

You may have seen videos online that make it look like all of the Zoom participants are playing live in perfect real-time sync, but each band member will actually be following a guide beat or track and the whole performance will be stitched together in software before broadcast. Actually playing online with remote band members is far from smooth, and internet connection speeds don’t necessarily have to be poor for latency to make online collaborations unworkable.

Elk Audio has developed what it calls the world’s fastest audio operating system, which was designed to run VST plug-ins and software instruments on hardware and audio devices with an internal round-trip latency of under a millisecond for a real-time feel. And it’s this OS that powers the company’s Elk Live remote collaboration service, which is made up of an interface called the Bridge and a web app.

The bright yellow Bridge is home to 24-bit/192-kHz analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog converters, and rocks a bunch of inputs and outputs – two XLR/TRS analog inputs for plugging in microphones (48-V phantom power is available) and instruments, and four analog outputs, plus a headphone jack for monitoring. There’s MIDI in/out too, along with digital audio in/out, and USB Audio.

The Bridge is connected to the internet via Gigabit Ethernet and, when not used as part of the Elk Live service, it can be used as a regular class-complaint USB audio interface.

Elk Live says that musicians can look forward to an "in the same room" collaboration experience
Elk Live says that musicians can look forward to an “in the same room” collaboration experience

Elk Audio

The Elk Live app runs online and doesn’t require installation on smartphones, tablets or computers, but a high-speed internet or 5G mobile network connection is necessary.

It can accommodate up to five players per session, and Elk says that participants within a 620-mile (1,000-km) radius can look forward to an “in the same room” kind of feel. Users can try for longer distances between session contributors, but do so at the risk of lag creeping in. The company does say that it has users “playing over twice the ‘recommended’ distance on a regular basis” though, and there are tools cooked in for perceived latency compensation.

The app includes an onboard mixer for control of the Bridge, allowing each player to send up to two channels of audio, as well as receive the same from each member in the session. And there’s video chat functionality too, so users can see, as well as hear, each other.

“The dream to connect artists and instruments across geographical boundaries and borders in the world of music has always been there, but it was not achievable until today,” said Elk Audio’s Michele Benincaso. “Elk Live brings music into the hyper-connected world, allowing us to be more spontaneous and engage with one another when creativity strikes, regardless of where we are. It offers an unrivaled, immersive experience that compliments the moments when we do play together in person.”

The Elk Live service is now available for pre-order in the US, Canada and Europe. Each member of the band will need to subscribe to the service for US$15.99 per month, and get hold of a Bridge for $399 – though there is a 20 percent discount available for a limited time. Shipping is expected to start in Q4 of this year, followed by a global rollout early in 2022. The video below has more.

Elk LIVE | play together.

Source: Elk Audio