Professional Audio Equipment: Wireless or Wired?

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Professional Audio Equipment: Wireless or Wired?

The proliferation of home recording studios stems from more accessible audio and recording equipment, digital recording and playback rather than tape, and widely available audio mixing software programmes such as Pro Tools. Because of their ready experience with smaller and more affordable systems, even amateur audio engineers have become well versed in the use and purchase of professional audio equipment. Of course, large-scale recording projects and professional studios often depend on experienced sound technicians and their expertise with professional audio equipment.

As many of these components are available both with and without wires, it is advisable to evaluate the existing options and the pros and cons of each. The wise shopper informs him- or herself of the different professional audio equipment components, as well as their functions, features, level of difficulty, and wireless functionality. Armed with this knowledge, audio engineers can identify what best meets their needs as well as where to find it. Of course, a number of items are available at big-box music and electronics stores; however, shopping on eBay generally provides a greater array of choices,often at better prices.

A Breakdown of Professional Audio Equipment

Falling under the category of professional audio equipment are such things as digital audio workstations, multi-track recording devices, audio interfaces, mixing consoles, amplifiers and preamplifiers, monitors, microphones, and headphones.

Digital Audio Workstations

The digital audio workstation, or DAW, should be regarded as the hub of a professional audio setup in that it lies at the heart of a recording studio. The digital audio workstation allows for the recording, playback, and editing of digital audio. These days, a DAW can be a separate, external unit or a dedicated computer hardware and audio software interface; as such, the price of the DAW equipment can vary greatly depending upon its composition.

In general, an integrated digital audio workstation is composed of four parts: a control surface, audio converter, mixing console, and data storage. This full-scale, standalone model can still be found in reputable recording studios worldwide. However, many audio engineers purchasing equipment these days turn to the digital models. The computer-based DAW includes not only the central processing unit but all related software and accessories, including the Pro Tools digital audio editor, external audio interface or internal sound card, and available inputs.

DAW Remote HD, an iPad application, enables wireless control of the digital audio workstation. Through the use of this app, musicians and audio engineers alike can record directly from their instruments, bypassing the need to move back and forth to the DAW for recording management. With both HUI Protocol and Mackie Control, this low-cost tool has optimised DAW layouts and is compatible with most digital audio workstations.

Multi-Track Recording Devices

A multi-track recording device enables the recording of multiple sounds, eliminating the restriction of having to record one single instrument or vocal at a time. With this device, sound engineers can direct multiple audio channels to separate tracks simultaneously. The move to computers for this process emerged in 2000s, as hardware and software programmes were significantly advanced as to allow for high-end audio capture.

Wireless multi-track recording systems are still relatively new to the market. In general, however, they enable the recording and transmission of multi-track audio files between individual performer and master recorder.

Audio Interfaces

An audio interface is the connection between the audio source and the computer that allows for the conversion of analogue sound to digital. While this tool is what ultimately allows for recording, playback, mixing, and mastering on the computer, it also presents additional benefits, including line inputs and microphone preamps. The audio interface provides sound enhancements that greatly outweigh those available through a computer’s built-in sound card.

Wireless sound cards are readily available for computers, thereby providing a wire- and battery-free audio interface. There are systems designed specifically for iPad or iPhone use, with convenient pause, play, track selection, and volume controls. Quality wireless audio interfaces, including those from AudioLink, can connect up to eight audio receivers, enabling multi-track recording and playing.

Mixing Consoles

A mixing console goes by many names, amongst them audio mixer, audio production console, mixing desk, sound board, or frequently just mixer. This device is necessary for combining and routing both analogue and digital signals, as well as for adjusting the dynamics, levels, and timbres of audio signals. Mixing consoles are an essential part of any professional audio system, including recording studio, broadcast, live music, and film post-production environments. The three standard sections of an analogue mixing board are the audio level metering, channel inputs, and master controls.

By integrating wireless mixing consoles with the Apple iPad, engineers are able to control audio mixes remotely, without having to anchor themselves behind a console. Components such as the Mackie DL1608 offers plug-in control over dynamics, effects, EQ, and more, and support multiple iPads at once.

Amplifiers and Preamplifiers

An amplifier picks up the sound signal and magnifies it, turning music into something audiences can hear and appreciate; without it, audio would seem small and tinny instead of full and lifelike. The preamplifier is responsible for first toning, equalising, and mixing the sound signal before it is transferred to the power amplifier. Thanks to this piece of equipment, an audio engineer is able to manipulate gain, distortion, frequency response, and noise. While a preamp is not always necessary, the amplifier is a must-have.

Wireless amplifiers are readily available for home or office entertainment purposes; however, when searching for professional audio equipment, buyers may have to look a bit deeper to find a remote unit that fits their needs. To play it safe, the best bet for a professional recording studio is still the traditional wired amplifier.

Monitors

Prior to making a monitor purchase, the buyer must first determine where it is used. The same monitor that sounds great in the studio most likely does not deliver the same degree of satisfaction in a live concert environment. For the purpose of this guide, studio monitors are reviewed as a part of a professional audio equipment purchase. There are two types of studio monitors, powered and unpowered. With speaker-cabinet amplification built in, the powered studio monitor is a plug-and-play unit that virtually powers itself. A powered monitor does not require manual adjustment for crossovers, damping, overload, and wattage.

By comparison, an unpowered monitor warrants the use of a supplemental amplifier, which may cause complications or problems with regards to connectivity, output level, cables, or cooling. Regardless of the type of monitor one selects, proper studio placement is essential.

Although wireless monitors are available in both mono and stereo, those serious about their sound should select a stereo transmitter. With a five-band equaliser and multiple pass-through sockets, quality wireless monitors not only sound good but also provide an array of options for a dazzling performance.

Microphones

Microphones are an essential part of any musical performance or recording session. While the selection of a microphone generally varies based upon a vocalist’s preference, professional sound engineers select standard equipment that is right for their studio environment. The four basic types of microphones are condenser, dynamic, ribbon, and USB, each of which is outlined below for ease in comparison.

Microphone

Features

Condenser

Truer source of fidelity
High sensitivity
Available in tube and solid-state models

Dynamic

Most affordable
Lower sensitivity
Recommended for use with guitar and drums

Ribbon

More expensive
Gained popularity during the golden age of radio

USB

Analogue-to-digital converter
Onboard preamplifier
Connects directly to a mixer or external mic preamp

While the dynamic microphone is generally the least expensive, it is also the least sensitive. The digital connectivity of the USB microphone makes it a popular choice when recording. In addition, as vocalists often emit audible bursts of air when singing certain syllables, purchasing a pop filter may be a worthy studio investment.

While a wireless microphone is not a necessity in the studio, many performs prefer the lack of cords while on stage. Using a battery-powered radio transmitter, the wireless mic transmits audio to a receiver via radio waves. Depending on the quality of the product and the preference of the vocalist, wireless microphones can convey audio via AM, FM, UHF, or VHF frequencies; those using infrared light are usually cheaper but less functional. Multiple frequencies give the audio engineer a choice to ensure a clean sound that is free of interference.

Headphones

A sound engineer or producer cannot properly process music without being able to hear every chord, lyric, and nuance. While there are many manufacturers from which to choose, there are essentially five styles of headphones: circumaural, supra-aural, open air, semi-open, and closed (also known as sealed). These are discussed and compared in the following table.

 

Fit

Comfort Level

Isolation

Seal

Consistency Amongst Wearings

Circumaural

Encircle the ear

High

Good

Good

Good

Supra-aural

Rest on the ear

High

Low

No seal

Poor

Open air

Open to the outside

Highest

Poor; sound bleed-through is common

No seal

Poor

Semi-open

Encircle the ear

High

Good

Good

Good

Closed (sealed)

Forms a seal in or around the ear

Low, especially after extended wear

High

Best

Highest

As headphones are an essential and critical studio accessory, audio engineers should carefully consider their needs before making a purchase.

Wireless headphones are nothing new; however, those with comparable sound quality to corded headphones have only recently entered the arena. In a studio setting, the engineer’s best choice is generally one with a large base station. Although this model is not portable, it does generate the best sound quality without getting tied up in wires. Wireless headphones receive audio via infrared or radio frequency.

How to Buy Wired and Wireless Professional Audio Equipment on eBay

If you are new to professional audio equipment,, you should take some time to familiarise yourself with the many options on the market today. Make sure to assess your sound quality needs and to begin building your studio with only the equipment that you need; you can always add to the setup later as finances allow. If you do not foresee an immediate or identifiable need for wireless equipment, it is probably safer to go with wired; you can save money and ensure a quality sound transmission. Next, you may wish to search professional audio internet forums or survey your friends to find out what manufacturers and features they recommend.

Once you have assembled your shopping list, direct your web browser to eBay.. There, you find a vast inventory of professional audio equipment, both wired and wireless, from which to choose. You can search amongst the site’s professional audio equipment to find whatever you are looking for, be it digital audio workstations, mixing consoles, multi-track recording devices, headphones, microphones, or more. eBay listings deliver a full range of product details, including photographs, detailed descriptions, clear pricing, and seller ratings.

Conclusion

The growing affordability and usability of professional audio equipment has turned many amateur audio enthusiasts into semi-professional and professional engineers. Prior to purchasing components, however, buyers must take a frank assessment of their needs. As building an all-out, high-quality studio may be a cost-prohibitive first step, assembling a recording setup via components is often the right choice.

Most professional audio equipment today is available in both wired and wireless models. Depending on the setup and the audio engineers’ objectives, one or the other will be more appropriate to meet their needs. With each piece of equipment, from audio interfaces to amplifiers, microphones to monitors, there are pros and cons of staying with traditional wires or going wireless; amongst the primary consideration, of course, is both price and quality. After a thorough assessment of needs, buyers can find nearly everything they are looking for in professional audio equipment on the quality Internet aggregator site eBay.

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