Skype is a great way to communicate or record a presentation. If you are presenting at a conference or a meeting, being able to patch into a sound system to use a lavalier or handheld microphone during your Skype all can be very beneficial. This can allow others in the meeting room to hear the call and those in the remote location to listen. Skype can also allow you to record your call for archive purposes or later listening. To accomplish this you can use several methods. There are different USB devices that can be plugged into a laptop to accomplish this. From an Audio Visual standpoint, you want to do what they call a “mix-minus” feed. A “mix-minus” feed prevents audio loopback, which if not set up correctly can cause an infinite audio loop that causes one to hear themselves over and over again. It can make the call unintelligible. In this article, I will show you how to set up a Skype call or conference call through a sound system using wireless microphones and a “mix-minus feed”.
Step by Step Guide
Your first step is to download Skype. Skype allows you to make free video and audio calls to anyone in the world either one on one or group calls. It requires you to download their software or app. If you are looking for more features Skype for Business will allow you to record your calls and is great for larger groups. In this particular setup, we will be using a laptop to make the Skype call.
USB Audio Interface Mixer
Next, you need an interface box that will allow you to pass audio to and from the mixer or sound system that you want to patch into. A USB audio interface mixer works well for this application. This interface plugs into a USB port in your laptop. It will also allow you to plug in a microphone or send an auxiliary feed from another soundboard into it. The Alesis IO2 Express works well for this type of setup.
Alesis IO2 Express
- Two-channel computer audio recording interface comes complete with a copy of Steinberg Cubase LE digital audio workstation (DAW) software.
- Record up to 24-bit, 48 kHz audio into virtually any software
- High-quality A/D and D/A converters, discrete-design preamps
- 48V phantom power
- Inputs for microphones, line-level sources and instruments including guitars
- USB bus powered – no external power supply needed
The Alesis IO2 is available from these retailers.
Other USB Audio Mixers that would work.
Patching The Interface Into a Soundboard:
Setting Up the Send Feed
First, you want to use an Aux send or Effect send feed to the line input of the Alesis device. Most quality mixing boards have these outputs. For most soundboards, this is a 1/4″ output. This step will allow all of the mics that are plugged into the soundboard to be broadcast through the Skype call. If you are using a single mic you can also use the mic input of the Alesis IO2.
Inputs and Outputs on the Alesis IO2
Aux Send Feed Soundboard
Setting Up The Return Feed
Once you have the 1/4″ cable plugged out of the Aux/Effects send bus into the Alesis IO2 line input you can now proceed to set up the return feed. On the back of the Alesis IO2 are two 1/4″ main outputs. Using a male 1/4″ to 1/4″ cable plug one end out of the left channel into a free 1/4″ input of the soundboard. Make sure you are plugging into a 1/4″ line input and not an insert input. This process will allow the person on the other line of the Skype call to be heard through the sound system.
Line Input into Soundboard from Main Output of Alesis IO2
Setting Up a Mix Minus Feed
This is an important step that often gets overlooked or set up improperly. A mix-minus feed only allows the mics to be sent to the Skype call. You do not want the feed of the incoming call to be set back to the caller. This will cause an infinite loop or echo which can make the call unintelligible. Using the Aux/Effects send knobs on each input of the soundboard make sure that only the mics knobs are turned up on each of the mics you want to send to the Skype caller. The return 1/4″ input should have it’s Aux/Effects feed turn off. This will prevent the loopback feed. Also, make sure that your Aux/Effects feed main output knob is turned up. You may also want to check that your feed is being sent post and not pre-fader. Some soundboards have a switch by the Aux feed allowing you to choose.
Mix Minus Setting on Soundboard
Setting Up The Alesis IO2 Express
Now that you have your feeds set up. It is time to configure the Alesis IO2. Start by plugging in the USB cable into your laptop from the Alesis IO2. Power will be provided by the USB cable. Your laptop should recognize the device. If you look in your sound card settings, you will see the device marked as IO2.
Placing The Skype Call and Testing
Launch Skype and sign in. Then go to the menu bar and open tools then options and audio settings. There you will find options for your microphone and speaker settings. Make sure on the drop-down menu of each, that the IO2 device is selected and not your internal sound card. You can test the sound levels using the handy meters under the microphone and speaker settings. This will ensure you have good levels going to and from your call. You may have to tweak your gain and master levels on the IO2 device to obtain a good level. This is also true for the levels coming and going to the soundboard. You may have to tweak the Aux/Effects feed and inputs. To ensure everything is working you can place a Skype test call. This option is in your contacts list. The contact is called Echo/Sound Test Service. This will allow you to place a test call to Skype, record a message and have it played back to you. This will ensure that everything is working properly.
Skype Audio Settings
Skype Echo Test Call
Cables you will need:
Two 1/4″ male to 1/4″ male cables:
Using Skype for a conference call or presentation is an excellent way to communicate with those who could not make it to your presentation. This setup can also work with other conference style software and is not just limited to Skype. So next time you have a conference call or presentation and you want it to sound professional, try using this method. It can make you look and sound good.