Elk Live Bridge Review: Play Music Online Together

Play live music together is one of the most purifying experiences people can have. I know this fact intimately; a chorus of Jimi Hendrix’ “Fire” 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 bad, I go up against something with my friends to make myself feel better.

Then, the pandemic: no more shows to play, and I didn’t want to be within six feet of anyone. As a musician whose instrument takes up much of a converted garage, I was particularly screwed. It’s quite a pain 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 620 miles in real time, would have really kept my friends and me closer together during a rough time.

The Bridge plugs into your router, pairs with a musician on the other end and allows you to play without lag – as long as they’re in the aforementioned 620-mile circle and have a reasonably fast internet connection. Can’t drive around town for a rehearsal? No problem. Due to the global pandemic, people fear for their lives and don’t want to leave the house? Hey, at least we can still jam.

Talk time

Photo: Elk Live

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

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 for your computer to play it. Keep in mind network speed and computer processing for instant rebroadcast, and there’s never been an affordable way for musicians to play live together over the Internet.

Until now. The Elk Live solves this problem by connecting each of its internal interfaces directly through a peer-to-peer connection and running its own operating system. Because the interfaces don’t actually touch your computer for processing – they instead act as standalone servers to send your music to the other side in real time – saving you enough time so you can play with others without any audio lag.

As long as you meet the distance and internet speed criteria (620 miles, plus at least 10 Mbps up/down speed and less than 10 milliseconds of ping), you’ll hear the other musician as if they were in the same room, which is truly a game changer for everything from exercises to remote live performances.

Go live

The Elk Bridge (the name for the yellow brick you plug your mics and headphones into) is much like any other audio interface. On the front you will find two microphone/line inputs, a 3.5 mm and ¼ inch jack. On the back, there’s MIDI in and out, optical in and out, a 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 via a web app (which requires a $15 per month subscription). As you mess with levels and a mixer in the app, every bit of audio processing happens in the yellow box and is sent directly to another person’s yellow box on the other side.


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