Elk Live Bridge Review: Play Music Together Online

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Play live music together is one of the most cathartic experiences humans can have. I know this fact intimately; a choir of “Fire” by Jimi Hendrix with some cool older kids in fifth grade and I was hooked. Over the next two decades, drumming with people became a cornerstone, not only of my education and professional life, but also of my mental health. When I feel like shit, I’ll hit something with my friends to feel better again.

Then, the pandemic: no more shows to play, and I didn’t want to be within two meters of anyone inside. As a musician whose instrument takes up a good chunk of a converted garage, I was particularly screwed. It’s pretty hard to lug a drum set to the park for a jam session. The Elk Bridge, a new audio interface that lets you play with up to five people at once within a 620 mile radius in real time, would have really brought my friends and me together during a tough time.

The bridge connects to your router, pairs with a musician on the other end, and lets you play without latency, as long as it’s within the aforementioned 620-mile circle and has a reasonably fast internet connection. Can’t drive across town for a rehearsal? No problem. Does the global pandemic have people fearing for their lives and not wanting to leave the house? Hey, at least we can still jam.

Talk time

Photography: Elk Live

Have you ever tried to play music with someone on Zoom or Facebook? You have probably found a problem. Latency, or the delay between when you hear something and when you hear it through headphones or speakers, has been the enemy of digital audio recording for some time.

It’s basic physics. It takes time for a microphone to capture audio; for your interface to convert the waves into a digital signal; and so that your computer can read it. Factor in network speed and computer processing for instant streaming, and there’s never been an affordable way for musicians to play together over the Internet live.

So far. The Elk Live solves this problem by joining each of its internal interfaces directly through a peer-to-peer connection and using a proprietary operating system. Because the interfaces don’t actually touch your computer for processing, they act more like standalone servers to stream your music to the other side in real time, saving you enough time to play with others without any audio delay.

As long as you meet the distance and internet speed criteria (620 miles, plus an upload/download speed of at least 10 Mbps and less than 10 milliseconds of ping), you’ll hear the other musician as if they were in the same, truly game-changing piece for everything from workouts to live remote performances.

Live

The Elk Bridge (the name of the yellow brick you plug your microphones and headphones into) looks like any other audio interface. You’ll find two microphone/line inputs on the front, a 3.5mm and ¼-inch jack. On the back, there’s MIDI in and out, optical in and out, USB-C power input, and an Ethernet port to connect it to your router.

Unlike most audio interfaces, none of the Elk Live service software runs on your computer. Instead, you control the software through a web app (which requires a $15 per month subscription). As you play with levels and a mixer inside the app, every element of the audio processing happens inside the yellow box and is transmitted directly to someone else’s yellow box. other side.


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