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Virtual Mixing
Sound and Technology

SPEAKERS


Audio is monitored through SPEAKERS (transducers).  Audio electrical signals must be amplified and made stronger to become loud enough to make a speaker work enough to be heard.  Speaker parts include a WOOFER that is specifically designed to accurately reproduce low frequencies, a TWEETER for reproducing high frequencies, and a CROSSOVER that electronically separates sounds into high and low frequencies so that the woofer and tweeter receive the appropriate signals.

Every type of speaker has a different tone or sound, based on construction materials, electronic designs, etc.  Also, every type of amplifier used to make sound loud enough to drive a speaker has a different tone or sound.  This means there are many combinations of amplifier and speaker that produce drastically different sounds.  Some speakers come with built-in amplifiers that are customized to complement the speaker tone.

The goal is to have speakers that provide neutral sound at various volumes, so that your work sounds consistent as people listen on different systems.  Different sounding systems will emphasize different parts a mix, such as extra bass on systems with heavy subwoofers. 

Since every combination of speaker and amplifier is different, and every different room layout of surfaces affects sound differently, it is important to listen to material you are familiar with before working in order to learn the sound of the system and room you are using. 

Many people use multiple speaker monitoring systems (such as large speakers, small speakers and tiny television speakers).  It is important to know what the final delivery system will be.  It is also important to check for mono compatibility (making sure that if stereo material is combined to mono, or only one channel, it will sound correct and not affected by out-of-phase elements that may become soft or vanish all together).

Speakers become fatigued and tired, at which point the midrange and low end that they create will be different.  Sound waves and human ears respond differently depending upon environmental conditions such as altitude, pressure and humidity.  Eardrums will vibrate differently in the case of congestion due to a cold.  Even under perfect conditions sound is perceived differently at loud and soft volumes.  This means that you can never be sure about what you are hearing.  It is important to regularly listen to reference material to “reorient” yourself to the sound of the speakers, your ears at the time, etc.

CLIPPING

When audio is amplified so much that it reaches an amplifier’s top range it will become clipped.  CLIPPING means that the peaks and valleys of the sound waves are so far beyond the capacity of the equipment that they are cut and squared off.   This will make your speakers vibrate violently rather than smoothly and is a good way to damage them.  To keep audio from clipping, professional systems utilize careful gain structure (the volume of sound at different stages of a chain) so no stages are overloaded.