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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
So in this segment I want to show you kind of the typical signal flow in a Digital Audio Workstation. It's good to understand the signal flow of the workstation in terms of kind of how things are set up, how they get hooked together, and what devices do what things. So let's start over here kind of on the left, we have Sound Sources. This reference is kind of an acoustic sound like a voice and acoustic guitar that we needed to pick up with a microphone, which we then feed into our Digital Audio Interface. Or you can have a Line Level Device, like a drum machine or a synthesizer, that you just plug on a regular guitar chord or instrument line level cord into, and connect directly to your Audio Interface.
In the Audio Interface, it does a couple of things. Most of them you'll see will come with microphone preamps which is why we can hook the mike right in. That's supposed to look like a microphone input jack. This is a helpful thing to have it. It'll also have outputs that let you feed monitors and headphones. But most importantly, your Audio Interface will convert your analog signals, which is what we have coming from our two sources into digital information A-to-D conversion. This is probably one of the most important things that happen in digital audio.
Once we convert these analog signals into digital, we can send them to our computer, and our computer can deal with them. We can record that digital information, those ones and zeros to the hard drive. Then via our DAW software, we can record, edit, manipulate, create big pieces of music, create podcasts, change the volume, the scope, the scale of all the things in there. We can really, it's nonlinear. We can really do anything we want to that sound once we have it in there, really only limited by how crazy your software is and what it's capable of.
So that's what we're going to do, a lot of the work. You can be staring at a screen most of the time in terms of kind of working with digital audio. Once we have it in there, and it is digital, we want to hear back it. We send it back to the Audio Interface, which, by the way, the interface is usually connected these days by USB 2 or by FireWire. We'll get into that more in a different section. So we feed the digital sound back to our Audio Interface, which then feeds our monitors, and allows us to hear our new musical masterpiece in the room, and play it for our mom.
So this is a good set up if you're just working with yourself, or just doing a few tracks at a time, because a lot of times your Audio Interface will come with usually just two microphone inputs. There might be more line inputs than that, and some do come with eight inputs. But if you're doing a lot of work with more tracks or full bands, you might want to look into a mixer, which we've got here in the next slide. The advantage of the mixer is that it will have more channels, and more microphone preamps, and individual control over each one of those inputs that you can do a lot of the level setting and game staging, and start to get your sounds together before you get them into the Audio Interface.
Sometimes you can run outputs to inputs. There will be inputs on your Audio Interface, and you can run right out. Sometimes there will just be a couple, and you want to bounce down a whole mix like you might use eight tracks on a drum. But only be able to bounce that down to two tracks in your software. So a Mixer can help you kind of do that. It's good for routing. Also, if you're working with a lot of people, you can also use it to develop headphone mixes on the way back out so that everybody who is recording can have different mixes, or you can have a different mix of what people are hearing while they're trying to play the music, and record it live, as opposed to the levels you've set going into actually be recorded.
I know that sounds confusing. We'll explain how you would do that in a different section. But anyway, the point is this, if you're working with a lot of microphones or a lot of inputs, mixers are a good way to help you kind of manage all those inputs. The reason I wanted to explain this to you is that understanding the signal flow of the Digital Audio Workstation will help you both get the pieces of the puzzle that you need, and pieces that work well together that will also help you troubleshoot things, and hook things up when the time comes. Sometimes, it's pretty inevitable that things kind of breakdown.
I don't want to say breakdown, but it'll be a cable that comes unplugged or something like that. The quickest way to solve those problems when all of a sudden you hit the button and nothing happens is to start to trace the signal flow. It's kind of like when you retrace your steps where I was I last, that's kind of what you're doing when you trace the signal flow to troubleshoot things. So it's worth knowing about. We'll get into all these different devices in-depth in different sections. So don't worry too much about that for now. But thinking about how things are flowing through all the components is good to know.
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