Guide to Audio Basics

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chugot9218

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Great article, very informative! I had a comment that I wanted to share about my experience with Pioneer's customer service (*hint* it was horrible!) but I also did not want to jack your thread. I felt the lack and poor quality of their service was enough that I would not purchase one of their products again. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents, I noticed it was listed as a recommended receiver manufacturer ;).
 

blackhawk1928

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Well, my list is not based on the quality of customer support. Its based on how good quality the receivers and equipment actually is.

Some companies have absolutely phenomenal customer service, but the equipment has horrible quality.
 

chugot9218

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Fair enough, I did actually receive a response from a manager and he was very apologetic, somewhat alleviated my concerns, but it was also concerning that my mainboard had to be replaced after 6 months. Audio quality wise I have few complaints but also little to benchmark it against.
 

Hueristic

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First of all this was a great read, thanks a ton! Now what I'd like clarified is the SPdif section. I've found so much conflicting information on the subject that I am getting quite the headache. From what I understand it is a 2 channel (stereo) specification. But I have also read that it can and does carry other specifications compressed?

My main reason for this question is that I am trying to hook up a HTPC to a 7.1 receiver and my video is not hdmi. If I connect the hdmi from the video card then the system thinks there is another video stream (unacceptable). If I disable this display then the sound channels are also shut off. :(

 

musical marv

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Excellent and very informative.

 

Deus Gladiorum

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Excellent guide! It very much helps that I already have an understanding of video and physics, but overall this is an excellent guide to someone like me who has never familiarized himself with anything related to how audio works.

I have a suggestion though, but bare with me because A.) I'm not finished reading this and B.) it might be difficult for me to explain:

For the layman, the one question that one might ask him/herself is, "well, if digital audio is composed of only dots while analog is continuous, how are these spaces or gaps in digital filled during the conversion from digital to audio?" Personally, I assume that these filled-in gaps in analog are essentially just spots that are devoid of any actual sound that a sound system is producing, and in its place are just background noises from any number of things in nature. Would I be right on that, and if so, if it's not already incorporated into the guide, perhaps it'd be beneficial to implement it as well?
 

tomc53

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That's a very good question. You are almost right, except that the digital must get converted to alalog or we wouldn't hear it -- the analog being a speaker. when a signal is converted from digital to analog, it really just becomes a string of voltages which are the sum of the digital numbers. the sound is theorhetically just pulses, with space between. What happens in practive, however is that electronics are not perfect, and the conversions take some tie to happen, so that the actual signal curves from from one level to the next, coming out looking very much like the original analog signal that we wanted to hear.
When digital recording first started and CDs became popular, the analog recording techniques were not quite as good as the digital ones, so that CDs sounded 'better' than the old analog. Basically, the OLD analog recording devices, such as magnetic tape, could not do a truly faithful representation of the sound, but only an approximation. In Studio recording the approximation was very good, but some of us oldsters remember cassette tape, which sounded nothing like the original, and it was easy to tell a recording from live performance. (Notwithstanding the old ads "Is it live, or is it Memorex".)Since the advent of digital recording and electronic music, it becomes difficult to tell a well reproduced recording from the original.
 

shrapnel_indie

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There are still some notable corrections to be made here:

Speakers > Resonant Frequency


"That's the frequency that the object will sound, or resonate, when struck. A lightweight object will generally have a higher resonant frequency than a heavy object. The weight of the object, however, is not the only determinant of resonant frequency as the density of the object also contributes a role."

"This rating is important for speakers in particular for a couple of reasons. First, it is used to prevent a cabinet from ‘ringing’. If a note is played through a speaker and that note is at the resonant frequency of the speaker, the speaker cabinet will radiate that sound." - http://www.proaudioland.com/news/the-importance-of-a-speakers-resonant-frequency/


"This parameter is the free-air resonant frequency of a speaker. Simply stated, it is the point at which the weight of the moving parts of the speaker becomes balanced with the force of the speaker suspension when in motion. If you’ve ever seen a piece of string start humming uncontrollably in the wind, you have seen the effect of reaching a resonant frequency. It is important to know this information so that you can prevent your enclosure from ‘ringing’. " - https://www.eminence.com/support/understanding-loudspeaker-data/

Ringing is undesirable as it is a distortion. But not in the sense it goes fuzzy or blows itself a part. (although it is possible with enough power and no dampening." (Dampening tames, hinders, or weakens the movement.) Ideally frequency response should be flat (audiophiles demand this) without and distortions/colorization/boosts/cuts. Ringing is a sharp boost at the resonant frequency that makes it stand out, boosted above all others.



Speakers in general:

Modern: A subwoofer tends to cover everything that a vintage subwoofer or woofer would and is housed separately from the "channel" speakers. The channel speakers may have a mid-bass or just a midrange and a tweeter.

Vintage: A subwoofer covers the lowest of bass when present, a woofer handles the rest. Where no subwoofer exists, it's just a woofer, not a subwoofer, and it cover all of the low end.

There exists in addition mid-bass (which covers the upper part of the low end and mid-range,) mid-range, tweeter, and super-tweeter (extends the range of the tweeter for even higher frequencies.)

Speakers may have multiple woofers, mid-range, or tweeters. sometimes multiples, although there is a point where it is ridiculous and hurts overall sound. Woofers may have one or two per cabinet. One might even be what they call a passive radiator. (It looks like a speaker, but acts like a cabinet port to help improve low frequency response.) Sometimes subwoofers may be in the same box as a woofer.

Subwoofers and Woofers can be as large as 18" or as small as 3 or 4". The smaller the speaker though, the less air it moves, making it harder to hear farther away without being pushed harder.

(Historically, there are some speakers that actually were the size of the guitar amp's huge speaker in the movie "Back to the Future.")
 

pyr4midschemez

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Awesome!! Thanks for all of thos useful info. I now have a much clearer understanding of what needs to be observed, in order to obtain a favorable configuration, a safe and properly wired system, a well balanced set up for optimal sound, a satisfactory peace of mind, and happy listening ears to absorb it all! thanks a lot man...
 
Mar 22, 2018
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This is great! Excellent guide! It helps expand my knowledge of how audio works. I will be bookmarking this!
 
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