New user experience mini-blog

Hi. Just passing on a few comments to share experiences of trying flock over the last week, in case it helps anyone here. Fyi I had never heard of Flock until 22nd March (thanks JD & KR). I make no apologies for the unstructured ‘prose’ - feel free to ask anything. Personally I use Macs most of the time (including for audio), only occasionally Windows (not for audio). I do aim to post specific issues or requests separately as required, but just wanted to share some of these first experiences, prior to being able to have a real, formal rehearsal with Flock.

I installed flock (1.3.9) - really easy on a Mac. I happened to have a decent spec empty computer ready for another use so decided to use that to try it on that. Being beta software, I was a bit cautious, especially if the intention is to ask all choral friends to install it on their computers, but being a clean machine, np to try. Anyway, I checked and the Flock application has an Apple registered Developer ID, so that’s good :slight_smile:

Very pleased to see on the Audio Settings that Flock lets you assign input & output channels. (In comparison Zoom is awful (on Macs at least); it has no feature to do that. (Perhaps will add more on another post if relevant/useful.))

---- v 1.3.9----
Wired internet connection?: Wire
Can we reach the flock server?: Yes!
Central server can reach flock app?: Yes!
How long to connect to your router?: 1.82ms
Download speed: Unknown
Upload speed: Unknown
Internet Ping: Unknown
Audio buffer size equals 128?: 128 Samples
Audio sample rate equals 44100?: 44100 Hz
Computing challenge speed test: 0.84 Seconds
---- 10----

When running Health Check, a couple of times I got data for for Internet speed tests, but most of the time I get “Unknown”. Forum documentation covers this so expect they’ll sort it in a future version.

Using gave:
PING ms: 11
DOWNLOAD Mbps: 109.67
UPLOAD Mbps 9.92
Ping time has varied more than I would ideally like, but no worse than “orange”.
So, probably good enough for an octet, definitely ok for quartet, but not enough for 16. Still, someone else in the group may have more - or it’s not expensive to upgrade slightly anyway. We don’t have a Leader in this group, so perhaps doesn’t matter who hosts Flock. Will sort that out later.

Met up with one user who had already tried flock. Both of us on Macs. We met up on Zoom, then each muted and switched to flock choir room. Really easy. Even chatting was so relaxing without the Zoom lag! We tried singing along with a SATB a cappella backing track, but the performance we unfamiliar and pulls time around quite a bit so not easy! We also tried a piano backing track but again that was not easy with just 2 out of 4 voices. Anyway it was fun and definitely promising - certainly good enough to ask others to join us.

Read loads of forum posts. Some well-written helpful stuff here. Noted the stuff about the (potential) complications setting up Windows audio. This can wait for now.

Connected a MIDI keyboard to be able to give notes. More convenient for me than the piano which is not very near a mic at the moment.

Sent out a note to other singers to recruit either really keen or tech-adept volunteers to join us. I have concerns about putting people off if too complicated to set up or by them being frustrated if tech doesn’t work properly. Also don’t want anyone to mess up their PC config for other apps. Can’t avoid Windows singers so don’t mind tackling that one early. The first 3 to reply all use Windows!

Next experiment & sing-along was with 3 of us, all on Macs. Two within 10 miles of each other (no idea how many ‘Internet miles’) and one 200 miles away from the others. Didn’t notice any difference being further away. We tried with the Leader at both ends of the 200 miles and still ok. One of others switched to a Windows set-up and this still worked fine. Undoubtedly it will take a bit of getting used to when singing like this, but unreasonable to expect it to be the same as being in the same physical - and unreasonable to expect to get used to it after only a few attempts.

Zoom video obviously way out of sync - really distracting to watch. Much better to look at your music or just listen and sing. It was suggested that this could make us better at listening anyway, so some good may result!

We created a WhatsApp group for those set up on Flock. Really just so we can meet informally to try things out. Keen to have a group of people have experienced all the set-up process so they can help others.

One of our PC users did their first install. Although they had an audio interface, it was quite old and its ASIO driver was not up to date (although only 2018). They installed ASIO4ALL, although missing the controls on the physical interface! They are up and running.

At this point I hadn’t read absolutely everything about PC installation, but perhaps the mention of having to allow incoming connections through the firewall should be part of the set-up instructions for Windows, not just in the troubleshooting guide?!

On my own I then tried various scenarios on my own at home (separate post), especially because we have a few household with more than one singer in the group.

I also installed Flock (another account!) on another Mac laptop (WiFi only) and tried to connect to another room where I was already the leader. I thought I’d read this was not supported but couldn’t find the link so tried it anyway (another post-should really link from here).

I then met up with above Windows user and we did a sing along together to a recorded performance backing track. Seems still promising, although not completely sure all our levels are set well enough to match. Need to try with a bigger group I think. We also tried them (PC) as Leader and I successful connected 2 Macs to Choir room, one wired & one WiFi - good enough to test the scenario. 2 singers not available at the time, but should be in future! (Interesting to hear the lag by speaking into the mic on one machine and listening to headphones plugged into the other! Anyway, obviously not a real situation.)

Also discussed the aspect of not hearing yourself sing. I realised that I have been using zero-latency monitoring via the audio interface (as would normally do) to hear myself sing, but better to not do this, otherwise I’m not using it like a normal Member would be doing in Flock. Also, this won’t be helping my perception of how well synchronised all our audio is.

Looking forward to reading a Flock User Guide at some point :slight_smile:

I then set up an old under-specced PC, the latter so that I could see for myself the set-up process for Windows. Set this up ok but I was unable to get the sound level loud enough in the internal microphone to get the Warmup Room circles to meet. Also it was a pain actually locating the mic level control on this version of Windows 10. When I did, even on max setting and with 20dB gain boost, it was still not set high enough though.

Briefly discussed whether individuals having their own audio interface would be practical, but this would add individual cost, add complexity to the whole set-up and cut off too many people; has to work for Flock Members without additional hardware - a big attractive feature of flock (vs alternatives I had looked at a while back).

Then talked another Windows user through installation over a normal phone call. I was able to check their PC spec and give guidance without them having to read too much off the forum - took about three quarters of an hour I think (not exactly sure!). They later tried to set up levels on the Warmup Room but are also having difficultly getting it loud enough. Hmm. Did I miss something? They did just grab any headphones they could find - from a mobile phone; including mic - but I wasn’t able to establish immediately whether this mic or a mic on the laptop was being used.

ASIO4ALL: I looked back and realise I had accidentally missed the bit in the video that sets the sample rate in the ASIO4ALL control panel to match that already entered. (Why do we need to do this in 2 places? [Edit: different for each device-this is well explained in the 2nd video-“my bad” as they say these days] Perhaps worth adding a checklist of things to do that are covered by the video on the “everything you need to know” page, or as an alternative to watching it?

(The video also says to check the “Offline settings” box. Interestingly the description in the installer says (“…start menu option (useless)”. Useless?! Haven’t yet seen this actually used anywhere else.)

Haven’t yet tried an alternative mic, but need (want!) this to work with whatever kit people have got.

Ok, on two completely different Windows laptops, we have been struggling to get mic sound loud enough in the Warmup Room without shouting. I re-read & re-watched the text & 2 (great) videos on the ASIO4ALL installation page, tried a headset with mic instead of headphones and still no improvement. Decided I would start again with this & reinstall ASIO4ALL & do all steps again. In the middle of this, I saw there was a Windows update available. I did the update and associated restart, went into Flock, then ASIO4ALL Control Panel, checked the rates, set & unset the devices and checked the levels as in the second (5-minute) video. To my surprise, the sound level is now ok! I removed the headset & tried the original headphones with the built-in laptop mic. Ok as well! We are yet to try this on the other laptop, but I am wondering whether the differences in installations & config of different laptops is too great for it always to work 1st time. I doubt the Windows update did anything, but I would wonder whether rebooting prior to the ASIO4ALL, then again after, might help (as might guidance on checking levels in Windows Sound Settings?). Don’t know. (Sorry this paragraph too long. If we learn more, probably should post separately.)

Having compared different Internet connection speeds of some of our members, plus needing to have 2 people from the same household, I do think that, if technically possible, it could be advantageous to be able to separate the musical and technical aspects of Flock Leader. Thus the “Flock Host”, a person with the best internet connection (and tech specialist if required) could host the system, but the Flock Leader - the musical leader - could be another household. Just a thought for the future anyway - need to get this version out first!

We also did try, earlier on, using the built-in metronome, but had difficulty singing exactly with it. I later read(?) somewhere that this is not working completely properly yet; probably only useful to get time, not use like a click track.

Another thing I wondered is whether the Flock Leader’s sound is actually treated exactly the same as each Flock Member: if the Leader is not just leading a rehersal but is also singing, they are not S, A, T or B. Is their sound mixed at the same level, same sync as everyone else? If the leader changes the SATB mix, does their own level change?

For much of the above, personally I have been using Macs with an external multi-channel audio interface with condenser mic. I will add some comments to an existing thread about this, but plan to experiment with a 2-in/2-out interface of a spec more likely to be acquired for use by Flock Leaders who don’t already have an interface. Probably also will try no interface.

Once we have an acceptable group set-up, it will definitely be tempting to try WiFi, not least because that would be required for iPads. (Actually, with appropriate adaptors, wired connection might work, although most people won’t already have the adaptors.)

That’s it; no more rambling. Hope someone gets some value out if this, if only the devs to see if there is anything here they have not already covered.

PS Just noticed that the home page has been updated, no longer just a holding page, but inviting new (beta) users.

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