Home Music Studio: Signal Flow July 1, 2010
Signal flow is key for anyone who wants to start a home music studio. When inspiration hits and you get your ideas through all the phases of your recording understanding signal flow is important. Understanding signal flow and how all your equipment are tied together will put you in great control over your home music studio. This also applies to troubleshooting in your home music studio making it easy to improve your studios efficiency and making it easier to record when inspiration hits.
Using a computer, audio interface, speakers and microphone I can show you how to think about signal flow. It is simply about inputs and outputs, that easy. Understanding how inputs and outputs work and how they relate to each other gives you the control to add, subtract and even experiment with different pieces of equipment you might not of thought possible.
music starts with a sound source, the sound comes OUT of the instrument then goes into the microphone, the electrons move along the microphone and OUT the cable and then goes IN the audio interface or microphone preamp. So, you will connect your microphone to the input of your audio interface. Now the electrons are swimming inside your audio interface and they need to go OUT to your speakers, now your speakers are connected to the output of your audio interface. Remember that most audio equipment have both inputs and outputs available, an audio interface is an example of this.
The first thing an audio interface does is convert analogue sound waves into a digital format so computers can understand. The second function of an audio interface is to again flip the digital audio into analogue so that speakers can playback audio from your computer. The reason why I say to go the audio interface route is because of the sample rates they use to convert analogue to digital and digital to analogue. This sample rate makes a big difference for quality recordings.
In the case of an audio interface there is both an output for your speakers to connect to as well as an output to connect to a USB input or firewire input on your computer so you can get audio into your recording software.
This is the most basic set up you can find but if you wrap your head around the IN and OUT concept you can add to this diagram by adding keyboards, synthesizers , mixers, CD players, effects and so on.