When making music, it's more or less essential to hear your own sounds, so that you can adjust what you're playing to match others. We call hearing yourself "monitoring" your signal.
When we play acoustic music, we naturally hear ourselves through the air. You strum the guitar, and the sounds travel to your ears through the air and bounce off the walls back to you (reverb).
When we play on JackTrip, we can't necessarily hear ourselves well because we're wearing headphones. But we would still like to be able to hear ourselves in our headphones! There are two options for doing this:
- Direct monitoring (available on many audio devices)
- Self Volume (AKA server side monitoring)
This guide will cover the pros and cons of each:
Option 1: Direct Monitoring
Direct Monitoring is listening to your signal through your audio interface with no delay. Many audio interfaces support direct monitoring through a button or knob on the interface. When active, your inputs are routed to your headphones so you can hear what's going in.
We can't cover them all the ways that interfaces allow you to do this, but here's an example from Focusrite, a very popular interface manufacturer: https://support.focusrite.com/hc/en-gb/articles/360000706625-How-to-use-the-Direct-Monitor-feature-on-the-Scarlett-Solo-2i2-and-iTrack-Solo
- natural to hear yourself without delay
- easy to play to
- easy to hear yourself loudly
- harder to match rhythms with others
- may hear yourself too loudly compared with others
Option 2: Self Volume (Server-side Monitoring)
Self Volume allows you to control how much of your signal is sent back to you from the server (studio). The audio travels to the studio and back before it is played in your headphones, along with the rest of the audio from the other musicians.
- easier to stay in rhythmic sync
- can control how much is returned to each musician
- hear the full mix with yourself in it
- if latency is high, self-volume is hard to play with
- less natural compared with real life
- using self-volume with direct monitoring creates a chorus effect
Which should I use?
Ultimately, it comes down to what you're using JackTrip for, as well as your personal preference. And keep in mind, if the latency is low enough, the two start to sound the same as Self Volume delay approaches zero latency.
If rhythmic sync is your priority, you should turn off Direct Monitoring and only use Self-Volume.
If a natural feel is your priority, you might instead prefer Direct Monitoring with Self-Volume at 0%.
Some people prefer a mix of both. Try it both ways and see what your group prefers! Ultimately, it's whatever works for you.