Why Are Church Sound Systems & Church Acoustics So Confusing?

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Church Audio & Acoustics Glossary

This glossary is being put online to help with unfamiliar words when visiting this site. Since this is a web site devoted to church audio and acoustics, the glossary will cover common words used when talking about church audio and acoustics. This is only one step beyond typical glossary listings, since it's specific to churches. New words will be added as they come up; if you have any suggestions, please let us know!

There are a number of words that relate to churches in general, as well as video and lighting terms. You usually need to know a little of everything...

Many words don't have definitions yet, we're working on it. This is a project in motion; it will be updated as time permits. If you would like to contribute a definition for any words listed here, just let us know, thanks!

 

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M

MAB

    Mobile Audio Baffles. People. Rooms sound a lot different once all the MABs show up! (JT Burke, Heifer Sound)


magnetic field


mains

    1. The main speaker(s) for a room.
    2. The output and/or control of a mixer which sends the signal to the main speakers (master control).


main speaker

    The main speaker(s) for a room.


matrix


master

    1. The main control over a number of other controls on a device. Most common example is on a mixer--each channel has a fader; there is also a master fader which controls the overall output of all the channel faders. The auxilliary sends function the same; each channel has an auxilliary control, but there's also a master auxilliary control. The master control is the final overall volume control on an output.
    2. In MIDI, a device that controls another (slave).


matching transformer


MDP connector

    A connector usually used to mate with the binding posts on the output of power amplifiers. Plugs directly into the binding posts. Has two posts, one for the positive, one for the negative. Also known as a banana plug.


mechanical noise

    Noise that's produced by the physical motion of something. Most commonly refers to the noise heard from a microphone that's being handled or noise picked up by a microphone through the cable or microhone stand.


MegaHertz

    Millions of cycles per second. Abbreviated Mhz. Typically refers to the radio frequencies of wireless micropone systems.


meter

    A device that gives a definable measurement of something. In audio, usually refers to the dBm or VU meters which indicate signal level on a mixer or other device. Can be in the form of an analog meter, or digital (LED display) meter.


microphone

    A transducer which trasforms acoustical energy into mechanical energy, and then electrical energy. A device that changes sounds into tiny voltages that can then be amplified, modified, recorded, etc.
    see condensor; cardioid; dynamic; hypercardioid; omnidirectional; ribbon microphone; supercardioid


microphone clip

    1. A (usually) plastic device that threads onto the end of a microphone stand which holds a microphone. Some clips allow the microphone to just slip in, others are spring clips which require the user to open the clip with one had while inserting the microphone with the other. All clips are not the same; since microphones come in different sizes and shapes, each comes with its own specific clip. Be sure you use the right clip so the microphone doesn't fall out or break the clip.
    2. In a lapel microphone system, the plastic device that holds the microphone to a spring-loaded clothes-pin type clip. This allows the microphone to be clipped/attached to a persons clothes.


microphone element

    The part of a microphone which actually senses the sound waves and converts it to electrical energy. Separate from the body of the microphone, the windscreen, etc.


microphone level

    An electrical audio signal that's -40 dBu or lower. (Different sounds produce different output levels, similar sounds produce different output levels on different microphones.)


microphone preamp

    An amplifier which brings the low-level microphone signal up to a line-level signal. The gain or trim control on a mixer controls the amount of amplification on a mixer.


microphone stand

    An upright device that holds a microphone. Can be in the form of a single vertical pipe (fixed or adjustable in height) with a weighted base, a short fixed pipe with a base (floor stand), a 3-leg tripod base with a vertical pipe (usually adjustable in height), etc. Several additional adapters are available to allow the stand to work in different ways, i.e., booms, trees, etc. Sometimes microphone stands are used to hold signs and even small hotspot (powered or not) monitors.


microphone tree

    An adapter that fits on a microphone stand that allows a single stand to hold 2, 3, 4, 5, or sometimes even 6 microphones at once. This helps keep the number of microphone stands down, but can also create problems with all of the cables being under the same stand!


microphonic noise

    see triboelectric noise


mid


MIDI

    Accronym for Music Instrument Digital Interface. A physical and interchange standard for connecting digital instruments and devices to allow control of triggering a keyboard or multiple keyboards to play given notes. Also used for recording from the keyboard to the computer.


mini connector

    A connector that looks like a 1/4" phone connector, but is smaller. Instead of bein 1/4" diameter, a mini connector is 1/8" diameter. Used for headphone connectors especially on portable audio players (tape/CD, etc.). Available in both mono (TS) and stereo (TRS) configurations.


mini disk

    A digital audio recording format that uses a small disk similar to a computer floppy disk.
    see digital; disk


mix

    The process of adjusting levels and equalization of multiple input sources (live, recorded, or both) to produce a pleasing combination of sounds.


mix down

    To mix several input sources (usually from pre-recorded multitracks) to one or two outputs. Usually refers to recording.


mixer

    A device which takes many inputs and combines them into a single output. Different models may take either line or microphone level inputs, mix into more than one combined output signal, or change the signal's tone.


mixing console

    Refers to large mixers that have a desk-like configuration.


modulation

    Changing a radio signal so that it transmits an audio signal. When a receiver picks up the modulated signal, it converts it back into the original audio signal.


M-O-M

    Minister of Music.


monitor

    1. To listen to a specific sound or set of sounds.
    2. The system of mixer sends, equalizers, amplifiers, and speakers that allow the talent to hear themselves and others.
    3. A monitor speaker.
    see also monitor send; monitor speaker


monitor bleed

    When the signal from a stage monitor goes to a place where it shouldn't be, i.e. when the monitor sound is heard in the audience seating area.


monitor send

    A mix signal on a mixer designed to provide a feed to monitor speakers separate from the main speakers. This allows a different mix (of input signals) to go to the monitor speaker than the main house mix. Also called foldback or auxiliary. Depending on the operator, the performer, and the console being used, the monitor sends may be pre-fader or post fader. Most typical is pre-fader which keeps the level of the monitor mix the same, regardless of where the fader is set. Post-fader sends vary the output to the monitor mix based on the fader setting.


monitor speaker

    A speaker used in the monitor system. Monitor speakers are usually much smaller than the main speakers and are designed to sit on the floor and be positioned at several different angles. Some monitors are the size of a shoebox and are set on top of a microphone stand. Such monitors are called "hot-spots" because they deliver a monitor signal to a small area, usually just one person.


mono (or monaural)

    One sound, one channel, one signal, literally one ear. Can be multiple channels combined into one (mono) output or one signal feeding multiple speakers.


muddy (sounding)


mult

    Abbreviation for multiple.
    1. A multi-pair cable which conducts multiple signals in one overall cable (jacket) commonly refered to as a snake.
    2. A parallel connection of multiple audio circuits as in one output being wye-d into multiple inputs.


multi-path

    When a wireless reciever sees multiple signals arriving at the same time. These signals from the transmitter have been reflected off surfaces and are not always direct from the transmitter. Signals in phase with each other will add up while signals out of phase will cancel one another, resulting in a drop out.
    see also drop out


multi-track

    A play & record unit (tape machine) that's capable of more than one track or channel. Totally separate signals can be recorded on the same tape (on different tracks/channels) and not interefere with each other. Can be an analog tape machine, or digital on tape or to a computer or similar storage device.


music


mute

    To silence. Commonly refers to a feature on larger mixers where a button (switch) on a channel will silence (turn off) the input source (microphone, tape playback, etc.). Used so that fader and auxiliary sends (post-mute) can be turned off without having to turn down the control (fader or rotary knob) and lose the settings. Some wireless microphone transmitters have a mute switch which silences the microphone but leaves the power on to keep the reciever locked-onto the transmitted signal.


mute group

    A feature on some mixers that allows any set of given channels to be assigned to a "mute group" such that when the mute group's master button (switch) is engaged, it mutes all channels assigned to it.


 

Sources

No, we didn't write all of these definitions ourselves. What we did was take a word, read several definitions from books and listings on the internet, then write our own version. In some cases we used phrases word-for-word, but usually we reworded the definition to be more clear and applicable to church audio and acoustics.

Glen Ballou, Handbook for Sound Engineers–The New Audio Cyclopedia. Howard W. Sams & Co., MacMillan, Inc. 1991
Don & Carolyn Davis, Sound System Engineering. Howard W. Sams & Co., MacMillan, Inc. 1997
Glossary of Wireless Microphone Terms. Lectrosonics, http://www.lectro.com/wg/wgglos.htm 11/9/98
John Eiche, Guide to Sound Systems for Worship. Hal Leonard Publishing Corp, 1990
Tim Vear, Microphone Selection and Application for Church Sound Systems. Shure Brothers, 1996
Tim Vear, Selection and Operation of Wireless Microphone Systems. Shure Brothers, 1994
Microphone Techniques for Music, Shure Brothers, 1994
Joe De Buglio, Why Are Church Sound Systems & Church Acoustics So Confusing?, 1998
various handbooks and users manuals for specific equipment especially by Mackie, Spirit, Shure, and Rane.

EXTREME thanks to Stephen Lund of LaRue Electrical Specialties, who began writing a glossary of terms, never fully completed it, but has passed his words and definitions on to us for use in this glossary. There are many definitions he had written that were so simple to understand, we took them as-is without any editing. We finally finished it! (...almost) Thanks a million, Stephen!