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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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    Generic term used to describe the people who sing, dance, act, play an instrument, etc. in a performance.


    1. On some mixers, a microphone or microphone input that allows the operator to talk to people via the main, group, or auxiliary ouputs. Much like a normal mic channel input, but only contains routing switches (usually only momentary) and a volume (gain) control.
    2. Replying to someone in a rude and disrespectful manner. Something you don't do to your parents, teachers, pastor, or God.


    1. Short for magnetic recording tape. A long plastic strip with a material glued to it that's able to have its magnetic polarity changed and later read, for archival of audio signals. Differs from disks only in the phsical shape of being a strip. Can be totally housed in a shell (called a cassette), or on an open reel.
    2. Electrical tape, duct tape, gaffers tape, masking tape, drafting tape, scotch tape, strapping tape, box tape etc.

tape duplicator

tape return

    1. The signal coming from a tape player usually to a mixing console.
    2. A line level input to a mixer specifically designed to receive signals from tape players. On mixers designed for sound reinforcement, they usually have very limited features for monitoring what was just recorded. On recording mixers, the tape returns are more elaborate to allow multitrack tape players to feed the mixer for a mixdown.



    Total Harmonic Distortion. A term refering to how much distortion is introduced by a device at a given level. Used for rating the noise level of devices.

thermal noise

thin (sounding)


    what you call things you don't know the proper name of.
    see also "doo-hickey"

three-point (lighting)


three-to-one rule




    The end most contact of a 1/4" (and 1/8" mini) phone connector to which the hot (positive) wire is attached to.
    see ring, sleeve.


    1. A sine wave of any frequency. Commonly refers to a 1Khz sine wave signal being the standard used to reference levels to (when set at 0dBm).
    2. The frequency response characteristics of a sound. The sound of something as in the sound of an instrument.

tone control

    An equalizer control. A control that changes the tone of a sound.

tone squelch

    A squelch system (used in wireless equipment) whereby the transmitter emits a tone at an inaudible frequency. The receiver, upon detecting any signal checks to see if that tone is present. If so, it allows the main signal to be heard, otherwise it stays muted.



    A device that converts one form of energy to another. Examples are loudspeakers which change electrical energy into acoustical energy and microphones that change acoustical energy into electrical energy.



    An electrical device consisting of a magnet with wires coming in and would around it on one side, then another set of wires wound around it on the other side. It allows isolation of one side to the other since the wires are not actually touching each other but it still allows (alternating) electrical current to pass. Depending on the ratio of the number of times the two different wires are wound around the magnets, it will also change the amount of voltage/wattage passed through it such tas changing a micrjophone level signal to a line level signal. Power transformers step-up or step-down electricity that's then used to power other electrical devices at a different voltage.



    In a wireless microphone system, the device that transmits the audio signal output from the microphone through the air as a radio frequency. In a lapel system it's sometimes refered to as a 'body-pack'. This is where the microphone plugs into, where a battery is stored, and where the electronics are that change the audio signal so it can be sent out an antenna and into the air to be picked up by a receiver at another location.
    see also receiver

traveling frequency

    The range of frequencies in the VHF band from 169 to 172 Mhz designated for radio devices that are not assigned to any particular use. Frequencies above this are are used for television but different cities use different television frequencies (channels). Therefore, a wireless microphone can use a television frequency that's not being used by a local TV station. However, a performance group that travels from city to city can not use any of those frequencies since they would only work in half the cities. Therefore, they use a "traveling" frequency hat will work in any city depending on who else is using that frequency near them.


    Refers to the higher frequencies. Technically, the treble cleff in music is for frequencies above 329 Hz (E above middle C), but in equalizer terms refers to higher frequencies typically above 4kHz.

tree (lighting)


    The speaker amplification method where a speaker system has three main components being the high, mid, and low. Each is powered by a separate amplifier channel (fed by an active crossover).

triboelectric noise

    The variation/modulation of cable capacitance (electrostatic charge due to friction) against the load impedance that causes the audibilty of noise from a cable when it's moved. Cable handling noise.

trim control

    The gain control on a mixer or similar device.
    see gain, definition 4


    see 1/4 TRS


    see 1/4 TS

TTY (phone device)


    Speaker drivers that reproduce high frequencies.
    see compression driver, squaker, woofer




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!