“The audio info I read or hear is too geeked out for me to understand,” wrote a commenter on another audio web site. The longer any of us work in this field, the more we sling around the technical words as easily as rubber bands. With that in mind, I pulled together a short list of the more commonplace terms that many of us use.
In no particular order, though with a slightly major bias towards an alphabetical listing…
Auxiliary (Commonly used phrases: “aux sends” and “aux returns”)
Auxiliary is simply the idea of “in addition to.” Therefore, a piece of auxiliary equipment is not a primary piece of equipment like a mixer or an amp but is instead something like a reverb unit or a compressor. The phrases “aux send” and “aux return” are usually used in reference to the audio signal of a particular channel.
For example, channel four on the mixer sends a signal out via the aux send port to an auxiliary reverb unit and that new modified signal returns via the aux return port.
Aux sends might also be used for sending the signal to a monitor and therefore the mixing console is configured so if you turn up the #1 aux send on the channel, it controls the volume of that signal sent to the monitor.
For some reason, whenever I heard of microphones being discussed, the polar pattern type of cardioid is mentioned the most. Microphones can pick up sound in different areas around the microphone. The areas are characterized by their shape and classified as polar patterns. For example, an omni-directional microphone can pick up sound in a complete orb around the microphone. A cardioid picks up sound primarily in front of the microphone, a little on the side, and nothing behind the microphone. If you did a cross section of that area, it would look like a valentine’s day heart. Cardioid = heart-shape.
The reason that polar patterns are important is they help control the ambient sounds that are picked up by the microphone. For example, if you are standing in front of a floor monitor, you don’t want the microphone to pick up the sounds from the monitor, so a cardioid microphone is a good choice.
Clipping (“Why’s the red light blinking?”)
Clipping occurs when an input signal is stronger than what the receiving equipment (amp circuit) is able to handle. This can be heard in distortion of the audio signal. Clipping is usually stopped by lowering the gain of the incoming signal.
This describes an audio signal that does not have any effects placed on it. “I’m sending the monitor a dry signal of the acoustic guitar.”
This describes an audio signal that does have effects placed on it. “I’m sending the recording a wet signal of the acoustic guitar.”
This describes the difference between the average sound produced out of the sound system and the loudest output level the system can handle. Think of it like headroom in your vehicle. If you are driving along and hit a small pothole and your head hits the top of the car, you don’t have a lot of headroom. However, if someone else much shorter and driving in the same make and model of car hit the same pothole and didn’t hit their head – then they have more headroom. The amount of headroom is dependent on the sound source; rock band or soft-spoken preacher.
This describes a channel output signal that is set up so that it’s affected by the channel fader. Post-fader signals are usually used to control the amount of effects. For example, this would be used if a channel was set up solely for adding reverb to the output signal.
This describes a channel output signal, such as a monitor aux send, that is set up so it’s not affected by the fader. Such as with the monitors, you might want to lower the sound of the guitar in the mix but you don’t want to lower it in the monitor.
The proximity effect is the characteristic of microphones to accentuate their bass response when the sound source is very close to the microphone. Close can be defines as within three inches. This effect can be removed using a little channel eq’ing.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list. However, it’s a starting point so the next time you are reading an article (or equipment manual) that mentions one of these words, you’ll know exactly what it means.
Question(s): What words would you add?