Audio Solutions

So what are audio solutions and what are their key features?

High quality audio systems are essential to ensure effective analogue, digital, tape, disk and memory recording. These features provide effective audio solutions for users. Here, we provide the most up to date analysis of all the different types of audio solutions available in the market, their uses, advantages and disadvantages. Most audio systems comprise of the essentials such as microphone, speaker and controllers to help facilitate audio solutions within an event. Audio solutions take into account the differing needs of every user in respect to these items.

Audio Solutions: Systems

Analogue Audio

When an individual speaks into a microphone, a signal is transferred from his/her mouth in the form of air pressure. This pressure passes into the microphone and is converted into an electrical signal. This is the definition of an analogue signal. The electrical signal travels through the wires and into an audio jack on the mixing console. Generally, an analogue mixing console is used to manipulate and transform these signals into its respective audio. The signal is then transmitted to other devices for further alteration and manipulation. Devices such as amplifiers help boost the sound and allow it to travel through a wire and to the speaker. From the speaker, the electronic signal is converted back into air pressure. Sounds long and complicated? This all happens in a millisecond and have almost no delay between what goes into the microphone and what comes out of the speakers.

Digital Audio

In the current market, there are few manufacturers currently making digital microphones. There are many processes that are the same as an analogue microphone, somebody speaks into the microphone, and his or her voice is converted into an analogue signal. Once the analogue signal reaches the mixer, it is then converted again into a digital signal. This signal is essentially the language known as binary; it is a language that computers use in their processing and functioning. This signal allows for a completely different interface than that of an analogue signal, as software is used to manipulate it as opposed to individual knobs and faders. Thus, to ensure a familiar interface for operators, digital consoles have faders and knobs.

However, a digital signal no longer requires any of those to manipulate it. The digital signal is manipulated to whatever output is desired, and is then output in either digital form, or more commonly is re-converted back into analogue at that point. The signal will be re-converted whether your mixer does so with the signal now, or an amplifier does so before sending it off to the speakers. An analogue signal is required as the ultimate output from the speakers, as our ears hear only in analogue. One important difference to also note is that while analogue travels without delay, there is an unavoidable amount of latency involved with digital mixers. This latency (delay) is caused by the conversion processes between digital and analogue, and can be measured typically in a matter of milliseconds.

Audio Solutions: Speakers

Active Speakers & Studio Speakers

Also sometimes called powered speaker, it has a built-in amplifier. They can be connected directly to any audio signal source without the need for an external amplifier. The advantages of an active speaker are that it is compact and simple. Furthermore, additional amplifiers can be chosen to closely match the optimal requirement of the speaker it will power. The disadvantages is that there is reduced reliability due to active electronic components within; and the need to supply both the audio signal and power to every unit separately, typically requiring two cables to be run to each speaker.

Frequency range: 20 Hz–200 kHz

Passive Speakers

They require a separate amplifier. It splits the audio signal and sends each band directly to the loudspeaker drivers, which are then sent to the speakers. The advantage is that it is more flexible and it allows for upgrades without replacement of the other components. It also allows either components to be replaced for a temporary one should it be required. The disadvantage is that you will also need to choose speakers and an amplifier that are compatible in terms of their power ratings and impedance. Furthermore, there is greater potential for signal loss over long distances.

Frequency range: 250–4000Hz

Studio speakers

Also known as studio monitor, these are speakers enclosed within a designated area. Examples include recording studio, filmmaking studio or home studios. They are designed to project sound over a short distance to prevent the room from distorting its frequency. Studio monitors benefit recording engineers by providing unadulterated sound for accurate music mixing.

Frequency range: 20 Hz–200 kHz

Subwoofer Speakers

A subwoofer speaker is a loudspeaker unit designed to produce extremely low-frequency bass sounds. Subwoofers are intended to augment the low frequency range of loudspeakers covering higher frequency bands. It can come in the form of an active or passive type. The first subwoofers were developed fairly recent in the 1960s to add bass to home stereo system. It grew in popularity in the 1970s and is now widely used for many aspects including movie theatres, concerts and nightclubs.

Frequency range: 20–200 Hz

Audio Solutions: Controllers

Working with a control surface completely changes the sequencing experience. It provides the feeling of a standalone multi-track recorder with the access to much more functions.

Some can even get play around with the filters, resonance and envelopes with the knobs on the control surface. Your song can be encoded with a great number of tweaks, so many that it would take 100 hands to do on an analogue mixer.  These can include not only volume and pan, but subtle things like slowly shifting the phase on a phase shifter while your guitar track plays, gradually increasing the reverb on the vocal in a chorus.

Audio System Controllers

Small Control Surface

Small in size and can be easily plugged into any computer beside your keyboard and mouse. Therefore, it is ideal for personal recordings. This type of control surface consists of a single fader or knob, transport control, selection, pan, solo and mute. Many manufacturers are also looking into the idea of automated fader and wireless options. These options are available in the market currently but are rarer as compared to the standard.

Desktop Control Surface

A large control surface which provides greater control and more features than a small control surface. Therefore, you will be able to have multiple tracks at once and can also specify each fader to control individual tracks. It facilitates greater editing, control and manipulation of your audio tracks. Typically, it will come with controls to navigate your software interface and switchable mode of operation. The set-up is rather simple and straightforward and they come with inbuilt templates while advanced controllers allow you to program your own templates, thus, you can get enhanced and customized work.

Audio Solution: Features of Audio Systems

Track faders

Track faders are used to adjust the volume level for each track, a key element of achieving a well-executed mix.

Mute and Solo buttons

These buttons help with mixing and gets tracks to blend well together to achieve your desired audio. Mute buttons help turn of the sound of a particular audio while solo button helps zero in on one particular audio. These buttons and features are key to ensure you achieve your desired outcome.

Record-enable buttons

Record enable buttons are rather self-explanatory. They allow recording of certain audio whether new or existing.

Track rotaries

Each channel may have a rotary, or rotaries, that are assigned different roles depending on your software’s current operation mode. In order to adjust the reverb is applied to the track, the rotary can be adjusted to control that effect. Rotaries are some of the most powerful, yet hardest to use features of a control surface. Generally, a mixing console would dedicate a rotary to each control. Rotaries are shared across many functions, and sometimes across tracks. This is one of the areas where many control surfaces compromise.

LCD display

Usually resides above the channels and serves different roles, again depending on what the software is currently doing. Sometimes it is used to provide a message or feedback to the user, almost like an alert box on the computer screen. Other times it shows the names of settings assigned to things like rotaries, and their current values.

Transport controls

Most control surfaces feature a dedicated set of buttons to control recording and playback. The play button starts playback. Pressing it again either pauses or stops playback, depending on the software application. Fast Forward and Rewind move the playback position rapidly through the song.

Audio Solutions: Systems Available in Market

Mackie AXIS system

http://mackie.com/products/mackie-axis

Tascam TEAC system

http://tascam.com/

Audio Microphone

Wired Microphone

They are used to transmit a signal to perform communication functions usually via a cable. The advantages of wired microphone are that it is generally cheaper and more reliable, thus the individual does not have to worry about frequency or battery related issues. The disadvantage is the inconvenience of the cable being attached. Should the individual be required to move about, the cable may hinder or restrict their movement.

Wireless Microphone

They use Wifi or Infrared technology to communicate among microphones. The advantage of wireless microphone is the freedom of movement and the avoidance of cable problems. For example, if the cable becomes faulty due to stress, changing the entire cable may be a lengthy process. The disadvantages are that there may be certain specifications regarding the range of the microphone and the control unit. Usage life of the microphone is also subject to the constraint of the battery life. There may also be possible interference from other radio equipment/microphones, though models with many frequency-synthesized switch-selectable channels are now quickly becoming more popular and cost effective.

Lapel Microphone

A lavalier microphone or lavalier, also known as a lapel microphone is a small microphone used for television, theatre, and public speaking applications in order to allow for hands-free operation.

Wireless lapel microphones are less conspicuous and will help your subject feel more comfortable. They can be clipped onto the user’s clothing and still be able to receive crisp and clear sound without the need to hire a crew to follow the user. It comes in two pieces, a transmitter and a receiver. The optimal place to put the microphone is in between the chest and throat. However, other areas can also be used depending on the type of microphone used and its specification. Too low and you may have to turn up the levels in your audio recorder which will pick up more room noise. It’s a good idea to start with the microphone about 8 inches below the user’s chin and then adjust it as necessary.

The receiver plugs into your audio recording device and make sure it’s turned on.

The transmitter and receiver should have matching frequencies since they talk to each other wirelessly. The frequencies should be landing between -12 to -6 decibels.

Audio Systems Available in Market

Shure: SM93

The SM93 is supplied with a sew-on mounting bracket, a mounting block with attached tie bar, and an acoustic windscreen to minimize wind noise in outdoor applications. It is also supplied with a dual mounting block with attached tie bar.

  • Subminiature lavalier design; ideal size for theater, television broadcasting, video, film, and sound reinforcement
  • Small, inconspicuous mounting hardware
  • Full, clear sound comparable to larger microphones
  • Smooth extended frequency response with presence rise specially tailored for chest-worn microphone operation
  • Controlled low-frequency rolloff reduces low-frequency clothing and room noise
  • Low distortion, wide dynamic range
  • Versatile mounting accessories allow a variety of low-visibility applications
  • Preamplifier assembly can be pocketed, strapped to the body, or clipped to belt or waistband
  • Omnidirectional condenser
  • Frequency response: 80 to 20,000 Hz

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