Are you getting ready to buy a new amp? Is your band booking some bigger venues and in need of new loudspeakers? Are you just starting out and have no idea what equipment you need? As you look up equipment details, a lot of the terminology can be pretty confusing. What do all those specs mean? What’s a compression driver? Is it different from a loudspeaker? Why is a 1000 watt power amp cheaper than a 2000 watt power amp? What's a balanced signal, and why does it matter? When you’re searching for the right audio equipment, you don’t need to know everything about audio engineering. You just need to understand the terms that matter to you. This quick-reference guide explains some basic audio terms and why they matter.
An electric current that reverses direction at a given frequency, e.g. mains power is AC.
An electronic device used to increase the amplitude of the audio signal fed into it.
The relative magnitude of the signal.
A loudspeaker system made up of a number of loudspeaker elements joined together.
A Column Array - Generally a single cabinet with the elements of the array oriented in a straight line to provide some level of directivity at a range of frequencies.
A Constant Curvature Array - An array of multiple boxes, each at the same angle of seperation between each array element.
A Line Array is a loudspeaker system made up of a number of loudspeaker elements joined in a line to create a single sound source. The loudspeakers must be close enough together to send sound waves farther than individual loudspeakers, and with a more evenly distributed sound output pattern.
A balanced signal allows for the use of long cables while reducing susceptibility to external noise. Professional audio products support balanced signals. A typical balanced cable contains two identical wires, which are twisted together and then wrapped with a third conductor that acts as a shield. Three-pin XLR connectors are the most common balanced connector, but quarter-inch (¼” or 6.35 mm) TRS connectors (tip-ring-sleeve) are also commonly used.
The range of frequencies an amplifier or transducer produces.
A continuous signal of a single frequency capable of being modulated by a second, data-carrying signal.
The designation of a unique path through a device from input to output.
Audio distortion caused by pushing an amplifier to create a signal with more power than its source can produce (i.e., overdriving an amp). The signal will cut off when it reaches maximum capacity, which produces clipping.
Also called phase cancellation. A comb filter adds a delayed version of a signal to itself, causing interference. Comb filtering can occur when two loudspeakers are playing the same signal at different distances from the listener. In an enclosed space, a listener hears a mixture of direct sound and reflected sound. Because the reflected sound takes a longer path, it sounds like a delayed version of the direct sound, which is called comb filtering.
Reducing the dynamic range of a signal for recording and then expanding it to its original value for reproduction or playback.
A small specialized diaphragm transducer which generates the sound in a wave guide or horn. They are very high-efficient compared to cone radiating loudspeakers, typically used as midrange or high frequency drivers in high power sound reinforcement loudspeakers and public address systems.
Material that allows the flow of electrical charge.
A loudspeaker system’s directional pattern, which can vary by frequency and tone.
An electrical circuit (passive or active) consisting of a combination of filters used to divide an audio frequency into segments suitable for individual loudspeaker use.
Active crossovers split frequency bands prior to amplification of the audio signal. Passive crossovers split frequency bands after amplification of the audio signal, just before reaching the individual loudspeaker components.
Passive networks may cause power loss and usually aren’t capable of the fine tuning and adjustment that an active crossover provides.
Electric current is the flow of electric charge through a conductor, such as wire.
Cycles per Second (CPS)
One cycle is the transition of a sine wave from 0 to positive crest down through 0 to the negative crst and back to 0. One full cycle is shown in this graph. Cycles per Second refers to the number of times a full cycle is repeated in the period of one second. Cycles per Second is usually expressed as hertz (Hz). One hertz is equal to one cycle per second.
An electric current that does not change direction of flow.
A logarithmic scale that is used to measure signal levels. Sound pressure level (SPL) can be measured in dB.
Good to Know: Doubling electrical power only yields an increase of +3 dB. Increasing the power tenfold will yield an increase of +10 dB and is a doubling of perceived loudness.
Decibels unloaded; reference voltage for professional applications. The reference voltage for the decibel unloaded (0 dBu) is the voltage required to produce 1 milliwatt (mW) of power across a 600 Ω load (approximately 0.7746 VRMS). The most common nominal level for professional equipment is +4 dBu.
Decibel volts; reference voltage for consumer applications. The reference voltage for the decibel volt (0 dBV) is 1 VRMS, which is the voltage required to produce 1 mW of power across a 1 kilohm (kΩ) load. The most common nominal level for consumer audio equipment is −10 dBV.
An electronic circuit that delays the audio signal for a short period. Used to compensate for time differences of multiple signals and align them into a coherent signal, e.g. in active x-overs to align the individual transducers in a cabinet, but also to align speakers placed in different locations (delay line).
Digital Signal Processor (DSP)
A device which receives an audio signal and trypicall.
Direct Box (DI Box)
A device that enables a musical instrument to be connected directly to a mic- or line-level mixer input.
The alteration of the original shape (or other characteristic) of a sound wave which changes the sound. Distortion is usually unwanted, but it may be stylistically desirable for certain instruments, such as an electric guitar. The three principal types of intentional distortion effects are overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.
The method of minimizing the effects of multipath delays that can create drop-outs of the RF signal.
Efficiency (in Loudspeakers)
Sound power output divided by the electrical power input.
The number of times a wave repeats per second, measured in Hertz (Hz).
Frequency Response is given as the range of frequencies between the points at the upper and lower ends of the sounds spectrum, where the speaker response is 3 dB below the nominal output level. This indicates that the system is starting to have a reduced output below this frequency.
Frequency Range is given as the range of frequencies between the points at the upper and lower ends of the sound spectrum, where the speaker response is 10 dB below the nominal output level. This is commonly referred to as the lower and upper limit of the system’s usable output. Anything below or above this frequency range should not be expected to be reproduced from the system.
A frequency-dependent amplifier circuit designed to amplify, pass, or attenuate certain frequency ranges.
A Low-Pass Filter allows frequencies below its cutoff to pass and progressively attenuates frequencies above the cutoff.
A High-Pass Filter allows frequencies above its cutoff to pass and progressively attenuates frequencies below the cutoff.
A Bandpass Filter passes frequencies between its two cutoff frequencies; attenuates frequencies outside the range Band-Reject Filter –attenuates frequencies between its two cutoff frequencies; passes frequencies not within the “reject” range.
Ground, or “earth,” is the point of zero voltage in a circuit or system. It’s the reference point from which all other voltages are measured. Professional audio equipment should maintain a good technical ground and operate with a good safety ground.
Units of frequency. One hertz is equal to one cycle per second.
The amount of resistance offered by an electronic circuit or device to the (AC) current that flows through it. It is commonly represented by the mathematical symbol “Z” and is measured in Ohms.
Connection from a signal source.
Inverse Square Law
Each doubling of distance from a sound’s point source results in a -6 dB change in SPL.
A circuit that allows signals below a specified input power to pass unaffected while attenuating the peaks of stronger signals that exceed this input power. A limiter is a compressor with a high ratio and, generally, a fast attack time.
An electroacoustic transducer that produces sound in response to an electrical audio signal input. May refer to individual transducers (or “drivers”) or to complete speaker systems consisting of more than one. To reproduce a wide range of frequencies, most loudspeaker systems use more than one driver. Individual drivers reproduce different frequency ranges.
A loudspeaker designed to reproduce bass frequencies.
A small loudspeaker designed for the reproduction of highfrequency sounds.
A loudspeaker designed for the reproduction of low-frequency sounds.
The value of a voltage or current waveform.
Also called a soundboard, a mixing console is an electronic device for combining, routing, and changing the level, timbre and/or dynamics of audio signals.
In wireless systems, it is interference due to multiple arrivals of the same RF signal due to reflections off nearby objects. The difference in path lengths creates different arrival times, thus causing signal cancellation and degradation.
Measurement of the resistance in an electrical conductor, which can be calculated using the R = V / I (resistance = voltage/current) equation.
The electrical output of the amplifier module based on a set of test parameters. There are many different kinds of power ratings for amplifiers and speakers, which can make comparisons difficult unless you identify the ratings that use the same test parameters.
Preamplifier; device that amplifies the weak electrical signals from microphones and pickups used to record voices and musical instruments to professional line level.
An increase in bass or low frequency response when a sound source is close to a microphone. Proximity effect is caused by the ports that create directional polar pickup patterns, so omnidirectional mics are not affected.
An electronic device, with an antenna, that receives audio waves and converts the information carried by them to an audio signal. The antenna intercepts electromagnetic waves and converts them to alternating currents, which are applied to the receiver; the receiver extracts the audio. The receiver uses electronic filters to separate the wanted audio frequency signal from all other signals.
Sensitivity (In Loudspeakers)
A certain number of decibels at 1 W electrical input, measured at 1 meter, often at a single frequency. Driver ratings based on the SPL for a given input are called sensitivity ratings.
A shielded cable is an electrical cable of one or more insulated conductors enclosed by a common conductive layer. The shield may be composed of braided strands of metal, a non-braided spiral winding of copper tape, or a layer of conducting polymer. Usually, this shield is covered with a jacket. The shield reduces electrical noise and interference. In shielded signal cables the shield may act as the return path for the signal, or may act as screening only.
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR)
A measure that compares the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise.
Path taken by a signal. This can either be from the input to the output of one device, or the path taken through many different devices (e.g., from microphone to mixing desk / signal processing devices then amplifier(s), speakers, etc.)
The effective voltage value of the signal that leaves or feeds an audio device.
Within a sound system, signals of various levels enter a mixer, but the signal that leaves the mixer is at professional “line level.” The standard is +4 dBu or -10 dBV audio levels, or approximately 1V.
The relatively low-level signal (generally -40 dBV to -60 dBV) of microphone or pickup output that must be amplified to line level, where it is more easily manipulated by a mixing console.
Signals stronger than line level that are used to drive headphones and loudspeaker. Produced by amplifiers.
Signaling Reference Voltage (dBu & dBV)
See entries for dBu and dBV
Sinusoidal (Sine) Wave
An oscillation whose waveform is that of a sine curve, e.g., a sound wave or and electrical wave. Audio signals are sine waves.
Sound Pressure Level (dB SPL)
Sound pressure level is a logarithmic measure of the effective pressure of a sound relative to a reference value. It's used to provide a measure for the "loudness" of a speaker system, stated in dB (or dBSPL).
A type of cable connector mostly used in professional audio systems for connecting loudspeakers to amplifiers. Speakon connectors are a higher current-carrying alternative to other connectors for loudspeakers. NL4 is a type of Speakon connector that has four electrical connections.
A function that mutes the audio output of a receiver when there isn’t a strong enough radio frequency (RF) signal present at the antennas. Most professional level wireless microphones have adjustable squelch.
An electronic device which produces radio frequency (RF) signal. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating current, the antenna radiates radio waves.
Consumer audio products use unbalanced connections, or interfaces. An unbalanced connection requires the use of short audio cables and is susceptible to external interference. An unbalanced interface uses coaxial wire and connectors with two electrical contacts.
Electric force or potential difference expressed in volts.
A unit of power in the International System of Units equal to one joule per second. Watts of electrical power equals volts times amperes.
A style of electrical connector most commonly associated with balanced audio interconnection.
The electrical symbol for impedance.
Frequently asked questions about Dynacord's Multi Amplifier Remote Control software
How do I switch C series to direct drive mode?
How do I configure the amplifiers for different speaker system set-ups that shall operate even without the software?
The scene manager on the operation tab allows to save settings to the user presets in the amplifiers. When you go online, only user preset that are utilized in the project get transferred (overwriting the previous content). So if you have e.g. three different speaker systems, just use different user preset per system in the project’s scene manager.
How do I read data from the amplifiers?
The 1.0 release does not include a reading from amplifiers option when going online. The project file on the computer is in any case the master of the system. So we highly recommend to have a backup of the project file always on hand with the amplifiers (especially in an installation) to avoid a service tech having to start from scratch.