Beginner's Buying Guide
This page is designed to help singers new to Jamulus get the hardware they need to start. Which is:
Glossing over some technical details, Ethernet is the name for wired network connections. If you have a wireless router and a cable modem, the cable that connects the two of them is an Ethernet cable. It looks like an old-school phone cable, but wider, with more little contacts along the side. There is usually a little plastic prong that clicks into place when you insert the cable. For Jamulus to work optimally, you need to connect your computer to the Internet using an Ethernet cable.
Picking an Ethernet cable involves choosing a category, a length, and a color.
There are different categories of Ethernet cable. The higher the category number, the faster the data can be transferred. For usual home networks, you can use Cat 5 (category 5). If you have a very modern, fast router and computer, there is Cat 5e (the E must stand for enhanced or something). I have never seen or used Cat 5e, but the Internet tells me it's appropriate if you have a Gigabit Ethernet router and computer. If your computer, router, or both are more than five years old, you should probably just get Cat 5 (as I did).
The length of the cable is chosen the way you probably expect: How far do you want to sit from your Internet router? I am using a 50 foot cable, because that way I could run it around the walls of my living room to get to where the computer is. Ethernet cables can be pretty long; 100 feet is not unheard of. Don't get a cable that is much, much longer than you need, but if you need a long one, buy one. Words to live by.
Finally, color. Blue, white, green, get whichever one suits your fancy. I bought a white one so that it's less noticeable against my walls.
Putting all those together, I searched Amazon for "white 50ft cat5", and it came up with a bunch of options. Some are not white, or not Cat 5, but you just have to pick one that is, and you'll be fine. Some of them say they are Cat 5e, which is also fine; Cat 5e is equivalent to Cat 5, but faster. So if the price is right, go ahead and buy it. Some of them come with little tacks to tack the cable onto the wall, which may or may not be useful to you.
If you are using a desktop computer, or a laptop computer with an Ethernet port, then congratulations! You're done with this step.
Many people, however, use laptops without a dedicated Ethernet port. If so, you can purchase a special adapter to give you the ability to connect to Ethernet.
For Mac laptops, depending on what model you have, you can get a Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter, a USB Ethernet adapter, or a USB-C Ethernet adapter.
If you have an older MacBook, it may have Thunderbolt ports. In this picture, the lower laptop has Thunderbolt ports, marked with a lightning bolt (the upper laptop has a regular USB port). Thunderbolt ports do lots of things, like connecting to external displays. But if you're like me, you rarely use them. In that case, you can put one of the ports to good use by buying a Thunderbolt Ethernet adapter from Apple. I have one, and it works like a charm.
If you don't have a Thunderbolt port, but you have the traditional USB ports, you can get Apple's USB Ethernet adapter. This has slightly lower performance than the Thunderbolt adapter, and you may use your USB ports for other things more often. But the USB adapter is a fine way to go if that's what ports you have.
Finally, if you have a newfangled machine with USB-C ports, get the USB-C Ethernet adapter. This particular one is made by Belkin, but sold by Apple. You might be able to find other, cheaper ones, but in general I would recommend ones sold in the Apple store, as being most likely to work with your Mac.
I don't have direct experience with Windows laptops, so I don't have a particular product to recommend, but you can search for USB Ethernet dongles and order one that will hopefully work. Buy USB-C if you have USB-C ports, or original USB if that's what you have.
You need headphones. If you try to use a speaker, Jamulus will probably feed back and blow out the ears of everyone on the session. So don't do that.
On the other hand, you don't want to use headphones with a built-in microphone, like normal Apple ear buds. The built-in microphone can't handle singing. Instead, get standard microphone-less headphones. You can tell that you have the wrong kind if the plug has three plastic bands on the tip. That indicates that there's an extra area on the plug for the microphone. You want one with a plug that has two plastic bands.
Finally, don't get wireless headphones. The wireless connection introduces significant signal delay, and can be finicky to set up and use.
So with all that said, what do you need? Actually, almost anything. You can use the cheapie disposable headphones you get on airplane flights, as long as they have a standard plug. Or here's a $10 pair from Sony I found by searching on Amazon. Anything will work, as long as it isn't wireless and doesn't have a microphone.
The short answer here is that, to get started, you don't need a microphone. Start by using the built-in computer microphone, then get something better if you decide to upgrade your life.
The built-in microphones in most headsets and computer headphones are not adequate. Such microphones are not designed for a proper singing volume, and will clip and distort. And because they are integrated into the headset, you can’t compensate by moving the mic away.
The best option is a real microphone on a stand, either a USB microphone that connects directly to a computer or a regular microphone paired with a computer audio interface.
But if you don't have such a microphone, we have found that computer's built-in microphone is often good enough. It will sound tinny, but in a choral setting, the difference should not be that noticeable. To use the built-in microphone, make sure your headphones don't have a microphone in the headset. The built-in microphone does sometimes distort if you sing too loud while near the computer. We have actually had some luck taping a piece of paper over the microphone on the computer to lessen the volume. Something to try if you have distortion problems.
Like wireless headphones, wireless microphones are not a good idea, as they can introduce significant latency into your signal.