Deciding The Signal Chain

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

A control room can be a stimulating place for an Engineer. The desk, decked with various gear, is a playing field of opportunities to experiment with. That’s exactly the case with the microphone locker as well. A collection of microphones, all awaiting the right opportunity to capture that perfect sound.

When it comes to the art of recording, the equipment we use and the way in which we use them plays a vital role. The Engineer should be well aware of which cables and connectors, microphone, pre-amp, etc. to use, where to use them and what the impact of each of these elements are on his sound. An Engineer must have a thorough idea of his signal chain in the studio where he works. He must anticipate different possibilities and the role each piece of equipment plays in the signal chain. This is imperative to take a call on the right combination to use for the particular session.

The Tangled Webs We Weave!

Figuring out The Puzzle

It is the experience of an Engineer that makes him a master. Only someone who has mastered the equipment at his disposal can come up with the signal chain that works for the situation. There are numerous permutations and combinations to try out. The signal chain starts with the mic, goes on to the pre-amps, outboard gear, interfaces so on and so forth. The client may be well aware of individual equipment like a mic, pre-amp, etc. But only an Engineer will know what combination would work and would deliver the right tone or a sound that works for the situation.

Don’t Limit Yourself

It should be the Engineer who takes up the initiative to try out different equipment combinations. You must be bold enough to try a different mic if your first choice isn’t delivering what you are seeking for; it is the same when a pre can’t get you the tone you want. Don’t be hesitant to brave new waters. A common error most Engineers make is to play on the safer side. Being satisfied with a tone that is just “OK” is a slippery slope. While it is important to familiarize your ears to a sound, one should never be afraid to experiment. Don’t hesitate to express yourself. If a particular sound isn’t satisfactory enough for you, let it be known and take the necessary corrective actions to get what you need. If you aren’t satisfied with the sound, getting through a session is a difficult task as recording sessions are usually long. While yes, your satisfaction is important, ensure that the client’s needs are met because at the end of the day, it is the Composer’s baby and it is he or she who takes the final call.

Reading Up

An often-overlooked content of an equipment box is the manual. They’re looked upon as boring pieces of paper with dry information. However, properly reading up on the manual of a piece of equipment will reveal to you previously unknown details. This will help you explore every possible aspects of the equipment. Knowing these details will help you make an educated decision when it comes to the signal chain.

Knowing The Way

Cables and connectors are the pathway through which the captured sound travels. In sound, the path is as important as the origin or the destination. Acquiring knowledge on Circuit Theory and their applications in the sound field goes a long way. There are a variety of cables and connectors available in the market; an Engineer should know which cables respond to the particular frequency range he’s looking to work with. For example, a thicker cable, having better conductivity, will give you a better low end.

These are just a few examples to point out the fact that the signal chain is a pivotal factor deciding how the final output turns out. The beauty of the destination depends on the paths taken and the purpose of the journey!

It’s not just the destination; but also the path you take to get there.

Grantha Tips

· The equipment we use play an important role.

· An Engineer must know the impact of each element.

· The experience of an Engineer is what makes him a master.

· An Engineer should know what combination would work on a given day.

· An Engineer shouldn’t be afraid to experiment

· Do not be satisfied with a tone that is just “OK”.

· Read up on manuals.

· Choosing the right cable for a session is vital.

· Each journey should have a purpose!

Grantha is slowly moving to technical aspects and it has much more to reveal…!

See you in the next chapter!

#bloggingtips #audioengineer #recordingengineer #recordingtips #audio #sound

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