I was on a consulting call last week with a client who had asked about how to improve the audio coming in from their co-workers on Zoom calls. Depending on what kind of space and gear your co-workers are using – computer, mic, room, children, microwave, coffee maker, air conditioner, dog, etc. – will greatly impact your own ability to hear them.
You can mute participants on a Zoom call which is great for when they’re not talking, but what if the problem is there when they talk? Maybe a low end rumble from a washing machine in the next room, or a high pitched squeal from… the washing machine in the next room. (Someone fix that washing machine already!)
While we were debating sending all their co-workers $500 audio gear, I remembered Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource sitting in my menu bar. I got my client to install it on their computer, and walked them through configuring EQ and other plugins for incoming audio that can help clean up what you’re hearing, even if your co-workers don’t care about the audio they’re sending.
(Screenshots included below are from Rogue Amoeba’s post)
Rogue Amoeba Hacked My Zoom Call
Let me put my aluminum foil hat on before I continue.
I’ll be doing future client calls from my secure bunker where amoebas can’t get to, rogue or otherwise.
Audio Units: Assemble!
A cool feature of SoundSource is it’s ability to use Audio Unit plugins – both the ones built-in to macOS for free, as well as other plugins you can purchase such as iZotope’s RX Elements Voice De-noise plugin that can dramatically clean up audio with the click of a button. RX Elements $129USD price tag might scare some folks off, but it’s indispensable for the kind of audio production and editing work I do.
Limitations of SoundSource
This isn’t really SoundSource’s fault, but one big limitation of trying to clean up your co-worker’s bad audio on your side of the call is if you have multiple co-workers, each with their own audio issues. John has a noisy, high pitched washing machine but Lucy has a super low end rumble from street noise, and Trevor has interference from the 30 computers running bitcoin in his basement. But all of their audio comes in on one (or maybe 2 stereo) channels into your headphones. There’s only so much you can fix.
But it’s a start! And can help a ton if there’s just one main audio issue you need to fix.
Check out the free trial of SoundSource from Rogue Amoeba – just remember that the audio you hear will start to degrade after 20 minutes while you’re on the trial. That’s something I forgot when demoing it with my client and we spent a few minutes troubleshooting my audio as a result!
You can also check out this video review I did of SoundSource back in 2019 – but just know that the app has seen improvements since then that are worth checking out. But the video tour will give you an idea of what’s possible: