Music Magazine

PA Terminology

Posted on the 10 April 2013 by Steveml
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If you are new to PA equipment, here's a terminology list :-
Basic Terminology
Amplifier - The part of the system that amplifies the sound. May be purchased independently (with a separate mixer) or can be purchased as an integrated unit (a powered mixer). 

Channels - 'Input' channels usually relate to those items coming into the amplifier/mixer (microphones, or other equipment which needs to be amplified or mixed). 'Output' channels usually relate to those items leaving the amplifier/mixer (speakers/monitors etc.)

Delay -An electronic circuit or effects unit - purpose being to delay the audio signal for a specific period of time.

Equaliser - Equipment used to alter specific frequencies of the sound, thus having a precise overall effect on the sound heard from the speakers. This equipment is commonly integrated into an amplifier or mixer, and is now seldom used as a stand-alone unit.
Fader - Another name for an audio level control. Usually refers to a straight-line slider rather than a rotary control.
Jack - Commonly used term to refer to an 'input/output' socket.
Level - Another word for signal voltage, (volume, strength or power.)
Line-In (Input/Return) - This is where a signal enters the amplifier/mixer.
Line-Out (Output/Send) - This is where a signal leaves the amplifier/mixer.
Master Volume - Microphone volumes and backing track levels can be controlled independently via the input channels, however the master volume is used to increase or decrease the sound of the overall performance (microphone and instruments simultaneously.)
Mixer - This is the piece of equipment which enables you to control various settings such as the volume of individual microphones/instruments, pan, bass, midrange and treble. There may also be onboard effects such as reverb, chorus, delay, echo etc. Many mixers are referred to as having 6, 8, 12, channels etc. This relates to the number of different microphones or instruments that can be connected to the mixer. E.g. three connected microphones would use 3 channels (or lines) of the available 8 on an eight channel mixer. A powered mixer is an integrated unit that can combine amplifier, equaliser, mixing deck and effects.
Monitors - Additional speakers, commonly placed in front of the vocalist/instrumentalist, enabling them to clearly hear their own sound/performance.
Pan - This refers to controls on the mixer used to adjust the amount of volume sent between left and right speakers. Although very useful when sound from a left or right speaker may be hindered or obtrusive, many people usually leave the panning knobs central.
Phantom Power - A system providing power for condenser microphones from the mixer. Most quality microphones are designed to use +48 VDC phantom power.
Return - A mixer line input dedicated to the task of returning sound from effects devices such as reverb units, echo units etc.
Phono Plug/Jack - Commonly found on consumer audio equipment. One of the most inexpensive connection types - use alternatives if available on your equipment.
XLR Connector - Three-pin connector used in audio for transmitting a balanced signal (microphones etc.) - also referred to as a Cannon connector.

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