Signal Flow

A sound goes through an elaborate process in order to go from the original physical sound to the digital recording that we can play back and listen to. The steps in that process can be illustrated by a signal flow.

Inflow

Of course, it all starts from the source, which is then received by the microphone (or pickup, in the case of certain instruments like an electric guitar). Sound energy is then converted to a low-level signal before going through your audio interface. Now, this interface can encompass either or both the preamp that converts low level to line level signal and the means to digitize an analog signal (if the interface doesn’t contain both, a separate module would be required to compensate). So, by the time a signal goes through the audio interface, it has been converted into binary data for the DAW to recognize and process accordingly.

dawinflow-edited

Outflow

The outflow after the DAW is almost like a mirror image of the inflow.

dawoutflow

The signifcant difference here is the inclusion of the monitor speakers, which in most of your cases, are your headphones. Good monitoring of audio requires accurate reproduction of sound through the monitor speakers. That is why we have been particular with what speakers you’ll be using. Cheap speakers and earphones flat out sound bad. On the other hand, those expensive computer and home theater systems are tuned to sound a certain way to make your games, music and movies sound good. Monitor speakers should ideally sound neutral, allowing you to hear exactly how audio was meant to be right off the studio.

Now, for those of you who are already rolling their eyes about having to spend more money for a pair of speakers, there is a bit of good news. In theory, you can use nearly any speakers to monitor your audio. However, you must know them — how they behave, which frequencies do they accentuate and which ones they attenuate. You may think it seems like a tedious task. You would be correct. That is exactly why there is a premium for good monitor speakers.