The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University


Baltimore, USA




Teaching, Exploring

The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University has emerged over the decades as one of the world's preeminent and influential music education institutions. Over the past five years, Peabody has embarked on a new mission, focused on growth, excellence and innovation, and is aspiring to lead the way in adapting to the changes in the American and international music landscape. This new mission has inspired them to not only recognize emerging trends, but to become enthusiastic early adopters of technologies and techniques to help them realize their vision.

We caught up with Erich Gercke and Levi Lu to talk to them about how they first discovered Elk LIVE and how they plan to inspire their students with an entirely new way of playing together.

So, it would be interesting to know how you got started with Elk LIVE and why?

Erich Gercke: Much of our research all started during the pandemic of course. We already had some experience with low latency technologies, having put together a large LoLA (low latency) setup that involved cobbling together a large amount of specialized equipment. But it wasn’t ideal. So we began looking for a more consumer-grade option that students could basically just take home with them; something portable enough for them to continue playing while remote - partly for just convenience sake, but also due to pandemic related lockdowns. We were actively looking for solutions when we found Elk Live.

Levi Lu: Exactly! The school is always looking for solutions for students to use, and a big part of our work is to research consumer-grade, low latency audio applications. We focused on a bunch of different software and hardware applications. You might know a few of them - applications like SonoBus, JamKazam, Jamulus, Soundjack, and UltraGrid. We tested all of them, but our extensive testing showed that Elk LIVE outperformed everything else by far.

I can just straight up tell you that the latency results for Elk were around 5.69 milliseconds, single trip, and all others were over 30 milliseconds. It was very impressive!

Amazing! How did you run the tests?

Levi Lu: When we test latency, we have a sample click track that beeps every second. I send the signal to the other end and then it gets sent back. Then I record the two tracks [the local and remote] at the same time and calculate the difference between them to see the final results. 

Did you test any other aspects of the different systems than latency in your research?

Levi Lu: The actual research is focused on latency, but we have also tested the solutions with musicians who do not have a strong recording background or with music technology in general. 

And the feedback we got from using Elk LIVE is really positive. The Elk Bridge design is straightforward and the Elk LIVE studio on the web is just really easy to manipulate, operate, and easy to understand.

I’m in a band called Warp Duo. We do all kinds of signal feedback stuff. 

When we tried Elk LIVE and sent a signal through to do a feedback test, it worked like a dream, literally! We do a lot of signal processing for each other, so this is kind of like the most ideal tool for us. 

That is a very important aspect. If you can’t get started, the performance of the system doesn’t really matter. So what's the next step? How do you plan to make Elk LIVE available to your students?

Erich Gercke: We actually developed small Elk kits and made them available to our students. We even have a yellow Pelican case to match the color scheme of the Elk Live brand! In the kits, we included an AKG P220 mic, an Ethernet cable and the Elk Live charger, a shock Mount and a mic stand. We also have an XLR cable, and a pair of good headphones to go with the actual Elk Live Bridge. So it basically has everything a student will need!

So the idea with these kits is that you are going to have them as loner kits for students to take home?

Erich Gercke: Exactly! Our students can take them home, plug them into a router and be able to start playing online. I can see it being used a lot by the jazz students, who can just jam and improvise together. And then of course, when students start using it, maybe they'll think of things that we haven't even started to think of yet. 

Yeah, that part is always super cool and inspiring. Thanks so much for talking with us!

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