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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,
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,
us know, thanks!
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- The condition of having an equal weight of different instruments
and/or voices so no one instrument or voice overpowers the
others. A mix is considered to be "balanced" when
all of the sounds can be heard clearly and no one sound
dominates the rest (exception: when there is a lead instrument
or vocalist, they will typically be louder than the others).
- balance control
- Typically found on consumer-level amplifiers, this knob
allows the user to select the right or left channel or anywhere
in between. The normal position is straight up; when turned
to the right (clock-wise) the right channel will remain
the same volume while the left channel will be slowly faded
out. Turning the knob to the left (counter-clockwise) from
the center point produces the opposite effect. A similar
control is found on the input channels of a mixer.
see also pan
- A wiring method using three individual wires for a single
audio signal. One wire is a ground/drain/shield wire, another
carries a positive audio signal, the third carries a negative
audio signal. The two audio signal wires carry the same
(equal) signal, but the signals are oposite polarity of
each other. At the terminating end, the two signals are
inversely combined (one of the signals is inverted and then
the two signals are summed). Why do this? Electromagnetic
interference is inducd equally on both wires--this would
normally result in a noisy audio signal. Since one of the
signals is opposite polarity (and is reversed when the two
are summed together), the interference now cancels out because
if two signals are equal but opposite in polarity, they
will cancel when summed together. Balanced lines are used
for microphone and line level signals.
see also unbalanced
- banana plug
- see MDP connector
- 1. A musical group
2. A defined portion of either the audio or radio frequency
spectrums. A specific part of the frequency spectrum such
as AM, FM, VHF, UHF, etc.
- Low audio frequencies. Often found when labeling consumer-level
- The steady pulse in music.
- What occurs when two sounds mix together and cause a regular
rise and fall in volume. This is most often heard in a band
or orcehstra during tuning. An instrument known to be in
tune plays the same note as a second similar instrument.
If the frequency is the same, the sounds will combine well.
If the second instrument is out of tune from the first,
a rhythmic beating of the sound will be heard.
- One Bel is the amount of change in the power applied to
a system that a person can detect. It's a ratio of power
difference, not a fixed value. When the ratio involves standard
units of reference, fixed values can be derived. It's a
measure of watts (power), not voltage. A Bel is usually
too large of an increment, therefore the Decibel (1/10th
of a Bel) is commonly used.
- A speaker system that's fed by two separate signals. One
signal contains all of the low-frequency material (feeds
the woofer), the other signal contains all of the high-frequency
material (feeds the horn). An active crossover is used to
split a full-spectrum audio signal into the two parts, then
separate amplifiers are used to power the woofer (low) and
the horn (high).
see also active crossover; passive crossover
- bias voltage
- A fixed DC voltage which establishes the operating characteristic
of a circuit element such as a transistor.
- bidirectional microphone
- A microphone that picks up sound equally from two directions.
A good example of this type of microphone would be if you
were able to put two cardioid microphones back-to-back.
The resulting microphone would pick up sound from two directions
and reject sound from the sides. Its common to see
such a microphone used for recording or braodcast applications.
Typical specifications are: coverage angle=90-degrees (each
side), maximum rejection=90-degrees (2-points)
see also: cardioid; hypercardioid; omnidirectional; supercardioid;
- Sound energy moving about in a most harmful and out-of-control
acoustical manner (Barry Birdwell, Birdwell Acoustics, Inc.)
- A wireless transmitter style which can be worn on the
body. The bodypack usually contains the battery, transmitter,
and is clipped to a piece of clothing. It's what a wireless
lapel/lavalier microphone is connected to.
- 1. A loud, explosive noise heard through a sound system
that can be produced by many different actions.
2. A stand for a microphone. A boom stand can be described
as being a normal straight stand with an adjustable arm
at the top. The arm can be positioned at any horizontal
angle and allows a microphone to be held several feet from
the base of the microphone stand. Boom stands are used to
mic a drum kit from overhead, a guitar, pianos, etc.
- To increase or amplify. Usually refering to a control
capable of increasing or amplifying a signal.
- boundry microphone
- A microphone designed to be placed on a surface (boundry)
such as a wall, floor, or sheet of plexiglass (or similar).
Microphones like this pick up the sound directly before
it's reflected off the surface. The size of the surface
determines the lowest frequency the microphone will pick
- braided shield
- A type of cable where the center conductor(s) are surrounded
with strands of wire that are braided together. This braid,
or mesh, is the shield that protects the signal on the inner
wire(s). Shielding is only about 90% (a foil shield is 100%
- bridged mono
- A setting on a two-channel power amplifier that joins
the two inputs as well as the two outputs. The two individual
amplifiers function as a single amplifier in a push-pull
configuration. Most often this is done to increase the power
output of the amplifier. Be sure to read and fully understand
the instruction manual on the particualar unit you're doing
this on or damage will result.
- To transmit a signal to a different location. Common use
is in radio and television broadcasting where the audio
(and picture in television) is transmitted through the air
on radio-frequencies (RF).
- bright (sounding)
- The condition when an audio signal contains a lot of high
frequencies. Often the signal is very clear and easy to
understand, although not too natural sounding.
- The set of high-frequency pulses at the beginning of each
line of video. These pulses determine the phase of the color
signal. (also what happens when an inflated balloon is touched
with a sharp pin.)
- bus assignment switch
- see assign
- An unintentional rapid repeating of a popping noise. Most
often caused by a ground loop or improper grounding techniques.
The sound can be a single low frequency, multiple higher
frequencies (harmonics), or any combination of the two.
Buzzing created by a grounding problem is often difficult
see also ground loop
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
Glen Ballou, Handbook for Sound EngineersThe 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
John Eiche, Guide to Sound Systems for Worship. Hal Leonard Publishing
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!