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main house speakers
The main loudspeakers for a sound reinforcement system. These are usually the largest and loudest loudspeakers, and are usually positioned so that their sound seems to come from the area of the main stage.

See main house speakers.

A control affecting the final output of a mixer. A mixer may have several master controls, which may be slide faders or rotary controls.

mic amp
See mic preamp.

mic level
The typical level of a signal from a microphone. A mic level signal (usually but not always coming from a microphone) is generally below -30dBu. With a very quiet source (a pin dropping?) the signal can be -70dBu or lower. It is also possible for some microphones to deliver more signal than this, in which case it may be referred to as a "hot" mic level. Alternatively, you can just say, "Boy, is that loud!"

mic pre
See mic preamp.

mic preamp
Short for microphone preamplifier. An amplifier that functions to bring the very low signal level of a microphone (approximately -50dBu) up to line level (approximately 0dBu). Mic preamps often have their own volume control, called a trim control, to properly set the gain for a particular source. Setting the mic preamp gain correctly with the trim control is an essential step in establishing good noise and headroom for your mix.

An electronic device used to combine various audio signals into a common output. Different from a blender, which combines various fruits into a common libation.

Literally, pertaining to or having the use of only one ear. In sound work, monaural has to do with a signal which, for purposes of communicating audio information, has been confined to a single channel. One microphone is a mono pickup; many microphones mixed to one channel is a mono mix; a mono signal played through two speakers is still mono, since it only carries one channel of information. Several monaural sources, however, can be panned into a stereo (or at least two-channel, if you are going to be picky) mix. Monaural sound reinforcement is common for environments where stereo sound reinforcement would provide an uneven reproduction to the listener.

In sound reinforcement, monitor speakers (or monitor headphones or in-the-ear monitors) are those speakers used by the performers to hear themselves. Monitor speakers are also called foldback speakers. In recording, the monitor speakers are those used by the production staff to listen to the recording as it progresses. In zoology, the monitor lizard is the lizard that observes the production staff as the recording progresses. Keep the lizard out of the mixer.

Short for monaural.

Probably short for multiple. In audio work, a mult is a parallel connection in a patch bay or a connection made with patch cords to feed an output to more than one input. A "Y" cable is a type of mult connection. Also a verb, as in "Why did you mult the flanger into every input in the board?"

Whatever you don't want to hear. Could be hum, buzz or hiss; could be crosstalk or digital hash or your neighbor's stereo; could be white noise or pink noise or brown noise; or it could be your mother-in-law reliving the day she had her gallstone removed.

noise floor
The residual level of noise in any system. In a well designed mixer, the noise floor will be a quiet hiss, which is the thermal noise generated by bouncing electrons in the transistor junctions. The lower the noise floor and the higher the headroom, the more usable dynamic range a system has.

pan, pan pot
Short for panoramic potentiometer. A pan pot is used to position (or even move back and forth) a monaural sound source in a stereo mixing field by adjusting the source's volume between the left and right channels. Our brains sense stereo position by hearing this difference in loudness when the sound strikes each ear, taking into account time delay, spectrum, ambient reverberation and other cues.

parametric EQ
A "fully" parametric EQ is an extremely powerful equalizer that allows smooth, continuous control of each of the three primary EQ parameters (frequency, gain, and bandwidth) in each section independently. "Semi" parametric EQs allow control of fewer parameters, usually frequency and gain (i.e., they have a fixed bandwidth, but variable center frequency and gain).

The opposite of dipping, of course. A peak is an EQ curve that looks like a hill, or a peak. Peaking with an equalizer amplifies a band of frequencies.

An acronym for Pre Fade Listen. Broadcasters would call it cueing. Sound folks call it being able to solo a channel with the fader down.

phantom power
A system of providing electrical power for condenser microphones (and some electronic pickup devices) from the sound mixer. The system is called phantom because the power is carried on standard microphone audio wiring in a way that is "invisible" to ordinary dynamic microphones. Mackie mixers use standard +48 volt DC power, switchable on or off. Most quality condenser microphones are designed to use +48 VDC phantom power. Check the manufacturer's recommendations.
Generally, phantom power is safe to use with non-condenser microphones as well, especially dynamic microphones. However, unbalanced microphones, some electronic equipment (such as some wireless microphone receivers) can short out the phantom power and be severely damaged. Check the manufacturer's recommendations and be careful!

A delay effect, where the original signal is mixed with a short (0 to 10 msec) delay. The time of the delay is slowly varied, and the combination of the two signals results in a dramatic moving comb-filter effect. Phasing is sometimes imitated by sweeping a comb-filter EQ across a signal. A comb filter can be found in your back pocket.

phone jack
Ever see those old telephone switchboards with hundreds of jacks and patch cords and plugs? Those are phone jacks and plugs, now used widely with musical instruments and audio equipment. A phone jack is the female connector, and we use them in 1/4" two-conductor (TS) and three-conductor (TRS) versions.

phone plug
The male counterpart to the phone jack.

phono jack
See RCA phono jack.

phono plug
See RCA phono plug.

A term used to describe an aux send (usually) that is connected so that it is affected by the setting of the associated channel fader. Sends connected this way are typically (but not always) used for effects. See pre-fader.

pot, potentiometer
In electronics, a variable resistor that varies the potential, or voltage. In audio, any rotary or slide control.

A term used to describe an aux send (usually) that is connected so that it is not affected by the setting of the associated channel fader. Sends connected this way are typically (but not always) used for monitors (foldback). See post-fader.
proximity effect
The property of many directional microphones to accentuate their bass response when the source-to-mic distance is small, typically three inches or less. Singers generally like this effect even more than singing in the shower.

A way of stating the bandwidth of a filter or equalizer section. An EQ with a Q of .75 is broad and smooth, while a Q of 10 gives a narrow, pointed response curve. To calculate the value of Q, you must know the center frequency of the EQ section and the frequencies at which the upper and lower skirts fall 3dB below the level of the center frequency. Q equals the center frequency divided by the difference between the upper and lower -3dB frequencies. A peaking EQ centered at 10kHz whose -3dB points are 7.5kHz and 12.5kHz has a Q of 2.

RCA phono jack or RCA jack or phono jack
An RCA phono jack is an inexpensive connector (female) introduced by RCA and originally used to connect phonographs to radio receivers and phono preamplifiers. The phono jack was (and still is) widely used on consumer stereo equipment and video equipment but was quietly fading into obscurity in the professional and semiprofessional sound world. Then phono jacks began cropping up in early project-studio multitrack recorders, which (unfortunately) gave them a new lease on life. Since so many stereo recorders are fitted with them, we decided we'd have to put a couple on our mixers for your convenience. But make no mistake: the only thing that the phono jack (or plug) has going for it is low cost.

RCA phono plug
The male counterpart to an RCA phono jack. See above.

Also called recirculation. A delay effect created by feeding the output of a delay back into itself to cause a delay of the delay of the delay. You can do it right on the front panel of many effects units, or you can route the delay return back into itself on your mixer. Can be a great deal of fun at parties.

A return is a mixer line input dedicated to the task of returning processed or added sound from reverb, echo and other effects devices. Depending on the internal routing of your mixer and your own inclination, you could use returns as additional line inputs, or you could route your reverb outputs to ordinary line inputs rather than the returns.

reverberation, reverb
The sound remaining in a room after the source of sound is stopped. It's what you hear in a large tiled room immediately after you've clapped your hands. Reverberation and echo are terms that can be used interchangeably, but in audio parlance a distinction is usually made: reverberation is considered to be a diffuse, continuously smooth decay of sound, whereas echo is a distinct, recognizable repetition of a word, note, phrase or sound. Reverberation and echo can be added in sound mixing by sending the original sound to an electronic (or electronic/acoustic) system that mimics natural reverberation, or worse. The added reverb is returned to the blend through additional mixer inputs. Highly reverberant rooms are called live; rooms with very little reverberation are called dead. A sound source without added reverb is dry; one with reverb or echo added is wet.

Radio Frequency Interference. High frequency radiation that often results from sparking circuits. This can be manifested in a number of ways in audio systems, but is usually evident as a high frequency buzz or hash sound.

An acronym for Root Mean Square, a conventional way to measure AC voltage and audio signal voltage. Most AC voltmeters are calibrated to read RMS volts. Other conventions include average volts, peak volts and peak-to-peak volts.

Sa value
A measure of the relative liveness of a room. A low Sa means a very live room, and a high Sa means a dead room. S = the total surface area of the room, and a = the average absorption coefficient of all the surfaces.

A term used to describe a secondary mix and output of the input signals, typically used for foldback monitors, headphone monitors, or effects devices. Mackie mixers call it an Aux Send.

A term used to describe the shape of an equalizer's frequency response. A shelving equalizer's response begins to rise (or fall) at some frequency and continues to fall (or rise) until it reaches the shelf frequency, at which point the response curve flattens out and remains flat to the limits of audibility. If you were to graph the response, it would look like a shelf. Or more like a shelf than a hiking boot. The EQ controls on your stereo are usually shelving equalizers. See also peaking and dipping.

slap, slapback
A single-delay echo without any repeats. Also see echo.

Italian for alone. In audio mixers, a solo circuit allows the engineer to listen to individual channels, buses or other circuits singly or in combination with other soloed signals.

sound reinforcement
A system of amplifying acoustic and electronic sounds from a performance or speech so that a large audience can hear clearly. Or, in popular music, so that a large audience can be excited, stunned or even partially deafened by the tremendous amplification. Means essentially the same thing as PA (Public Address).

An acronym for Sound Reinforcement

Just as a radian is an angular unit of measure in 2-dimensional space, so a steradian is an angular unit of measure in 3-dimensional space (solid angle).

Believe it or not, stereo comes from a Greek word that means solid. We use stereo or stereophony to describe the illusion of a continuous, spacious soundfield that is seemingly spread around the listener by two or more related audio signals. In practice, stereo often is taken to simply mean two channels.

sweep EQ
An equalizer that allows you to "sweep" or continuously vary the frequency of one or more sections.

symmetrically balanced
See balanced.

The ringing in the ears that is produced with prolonged exposure to high volumes. A sound in the ears, such as buzzing, ringing, or whistling, caused by volume knob abuse!

In audio mixers, the gain adjustment for the first amplification stage of the mixer. The trim control helps the mixer cope with the widely varying range of input signals that come from real-world sources. It is important to set the trim control correctly; its setting determines the overall noise performance in that channel of the mixer. See mic preamp.

Acronym for Tip-Ring-Sleeve, a scheme for connecting three conductors through a single plug or jack. 1/4" phone plugs and jacks and 1/8" mini phone plugs and jacks are commonly wired TRS. Since the plug or jack can carry two signals and a common ground, TRS connectors are often referred to as stereo or balanced plugs or jacks. Another common TRS application is for insert jacks, used for inserting an external processor into the signal path. In Mackie mixers, the tip is send, ring is return, and sleeve is ground.

Acronym for Tip-Sleeve, a scheme for connecting two conductors through a single plug or jack. 1/4" phone plugs and jacks and 1/8" mini phone plugs and jacks are commonly wired TS. Sometimes called mono or unbalanced plugs or jacks. A 1/4" TS phone plug or jack is also called a standard phone plug or jack.

An electrical circuit in which the two legs of the circuit are not balanced with respect to ground. Usually, one leg will be held at ground potential. Unbalanced circuit connections require only two conductors (signal "hot" and ground). Unbalanced audio circuitry is less expensive to build but under certain circumstances is more susceptible to noise pickup.

unity gain
A circuit or system that has its voltage gain adjusted to be one, or unity. A signal will leave a unity gain circuit at the same level at which it entered. In Mackie mixers, unity gain is achieved by setting all variable controls to the marked "U" setting. Mackie mixers are optimized for best headroom and noise figures at unity gain.

Acronym for very low impedance. (Impedance is measured in ohms represented by the Ω symbol, which is the last letter of the Greek alphabet. This is how the letter Z is used instead of I.) VLZ is one of the most important reasons why inherent noise levels on Mackie mixing boards are so minuscule. Thermal noise is something that's created by all circuitry and usually transistors and resistors are the worst culprits. The basic rule with thermal noise is: the higher the impedance, the more the noise. Mackie's VLZ design reduces thermal noise by making internal impedances as low as possible in as many places as possible within the console. VLZ is achieved by scaling down resistor values by a factor of three or four -- resulting in a corresponding reduction in thermal noise. This is especially true for the console's mixing buses.

Electrical or sound level in an audio system. Perhaps the only thing that some bands have too much of.

See RMS.

With added reverberation or other effect like echo, delay or chorusing.

XLR connector
A three-pin connector used in audio for transmitting a balanced signal. Sometimes referred to as a Cannon connector, named for the manufacturer who first popularized the three-pin connector. See Cannon.

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