Digital Audio: Overview of a Digital Audio Workstation

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What is a digital audio workstation?

In this section we're going to look at the various hardware and software components that make up a Digital Audio Workstation. Now a Digital Audio Workstation or a DAW is just really kind of a general term to describe a system that you used to work with digital audio. It can be as simple as a piece of software just a single stand-alone piece of software, or it can involve a lot of different components, computer, external A/D converters, really high-end equipments. It can include a big control desk or a large recording console. It can also be a stand-alone unit that doesn't use a computer at all.

It can be a desktop device. In a nutshell, the DAW is what you make it. In the next few chapters, we're going to talk about all the different components that come into play or can come into play individually. So in the next several chapters, we're going to cover all the different components that you'll find in DAWs. In this section, I just want to give you a quick overview of these different components. How they fit into the system, and kind of look at how they work together. So you'll have Sound Sources, things like sound in the air, voices, musical instruments. You'll also have digital sources like WAV files, sound effects files that you're bringing in. You'll use microphones to capture sound sources.

You'll also have line level sources. Things like drum machines, or synthesizers. You'll use a lot of cables and connectors to connect these things. There are quite a few different ones out there. Plugging stuff isn't that hard, but identifying the right cable and connector the first time, and kind of making sure you have the right cables and connectors, it helps a lot. There is also the Mixer, which we'll look at, hardware and software versions of, this is the way they'll kind of help you route all your audio signals to and from your computer. Then you'll see Computer Audio Interfaces.

This is a piece of hardware that lets us get analog sound to digital, and vice-versa, in and out of the computer. Typically, you'll have adjustable inputs from microphones or other analog sources, a way of transferring digital data to and from a computer, probably be a USB or FireWire, and also outputs for connecting speakers and headphones. Then once you get things into the computer, we'll deal with actually putting the data on a hard disk, and then software to work with that data or a recording software application. You can use this software to record or capture digitized audio.

Once we get the digitized information into your computer, we'll record it on to hard disk. Then we'll use recording software or digital audio application to manipulate that sound. It's what's able to kind of see that information on your hard disk as actual sound. We'll use this to record, edit, playback, manipulate, and produce the audio. Finally, we'll feed our Monitors, which are not flat screen panels, but they're actually speakers and audio, that's always the case, monitors refer to listening back, and devices like headphones and speakers.

So your Computer Audio Interface or Mixer will have outputs to your Monitors. In the next movie, we'll look at the signal flow in a typical Digital Audio Workstation.

What is a digital audio workstation?
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What is a digital audio workstation? provides you with in-depth training on Audio + Music. Taught by Dave Schroeder as part of the Digital Audio Principles

Audio + Music
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