on this page we will give definitions and detailed descriptions for some of technical jargon used in our industry.
Active and passive
Some products in the audio industry are referred to as either active or passive. Some examples are D.I. box’s, Antenna systems, loudspeaker systems and crossovers. An active system requires a power source and a passive system does not.
Amplifiers provide the power to drive the loudspeakers in a PA system. Examples include the Linea Research 44M20 which is a four channel power amplifier with on-board DSP.
Relating to the use of signals or information represented by a continuously variable physical quantity such as a spatial position or voltage.
This is the Brand name for a lighting console manufacturer. Examples of a popular Avolites desk is the Tiger Touch II
When a band refers to backline, this means the drum kit, bass amp, guitar amps and any other instrument amplifiers at the back of the stage for a live performance. Examples of popular backline brands include Marshall, Fender, Orang and Ampeg.
Also referred to as a Crowd blinder or stage blinder. In the lighting industry a Blinder is an extremely bright light, facing the audience and is usually deployed in large numbers and used as an effect to blind the crowd with a very bright wash of white light.
Boom mic stand
Microphone stands come in a few differ sizes and specifications. A boom stand is a mic stand that has an adjustable boom arm.
When we talk about channels in the audio industry, we are referring to channels on the mixing desk or line system. Each microphone on the stage will be plugged into a channel on the line system, which will feed into a channel on the mixing desk. In the lighting world we talk about DMX channels.
A channel list is a document that forms part of a technical rider for a performing artist. It will detail how many channels are required and the instruments that will appear on the channel. Most channel lists will include information regarding required microphones, mic stands and dynamics processors for each channel.
This is the brand name for a manufacturer of lighting fixtures.
This is the brand name for a manufacturer of lighting desks. Examples of Chauvet lighting fixtures are the Intimidator Spot 350 and Beam 350 moving heads.
A CDJ is a CD player that is specifically designed for DJ’s. They features pitch control to assist with beat matching. The industry standard for CDJ players is the Pioneer CDJ-2000 Nexus
If we are talking about the audio signal being clipped or clipping, what we mean is that the audio signal is being overloaded. Music content has a very large dynamic range and we must provide the audio system with a gain structure that will allow enough head-room to preserve that dynamic range.
For presentations and conferences it is common to position a small display monitor for the presenters and speakers to see content displayed on a large LED screen that could be behind them on the stage. The reason for this equipment is so the presenter doesn’t need to look behind them at the big screen.
A Comms system is a Communications network designed to provide a descreet method of communication between production staff in different areas of a venue. These systems are most commonly found in theatre performances.
Sound Engineers have various audio signal processors available including a dynamics compressor, deployed for controlling the dynamic range of an audio signal.
The crossover splits the full range audio signal into useable band-widths. Active crossovers are mains powered processors and have adjustable filters, gain and phase alignment. A passive crossover does a similar job but is not adjustable. Passive crossovers do not require mains power and are usually found inside a PA speaker to enable a two-way system to be driven with a single input.
A Decibel is a tenth of a bell and a bell is a unit of measurement for sound.
The full name for this device is a Direct Injection Box and the main job for this product is to adapt an un-balanced line-level audio signal into a balanced mic-level signal. D.I. Box’s can also be used to adapt a jack plug to an XLR and they will have useful features like ground-lift and attenuation. A D.I. Box can be active or passive. An active unit could be a rack mount multi-D.I, in which case it will be mains powered or they could be powered by battery or Phantom power.
In the audio industry we talk about digital mixing desks and digital processors.
A ‘Distro’ is short for a power distribution unit. A typical mains distro will have a 32A, 64A or 125A, single-phase or three-phase mains input and multiple outputs of a lower power rating.
A dimmer can control the intensity of Incandescent lighting.
When we are discussing the characteristics of a particular loudspeaker system, we will refer to the horizontal and vertical dispersion of the sound that eminates from the loudspeaker. We measure the volume of the speaker in decibels and we refer to the on-axis level as +0dB. The degree of dispersion indicates how far off-axis you will need to move to reach the -6dB point for coverage. The -6dB point is where the volume of the sound has dropped by six decibels.
With any DJ setup, you will require a DJ mixer. These products are used by the DJ to mix multiple audio tracks of various formats into a stereo mix before being sent to the front-of-house mixing desk for the PA system. Most DJ’s will specify a particular DJ mixer on the rider. Industry standard DJ mixers are the Pioneer DJM-900 NXS2
This is a data protocol used universally throughout the event lighting industry for controlling intelligent lighting fixtures. The connectors are male and female and look like XLR plugs but can have either 3-pins like an XLR connector or 5-pins. The DMX protocol uses 512 digital channels to send information to individually addressed lighting fixtures.
Stage-left, stage-right, up-stage and down-stage are all directions for on-stage performers. If you are standing in the middle of the stage facing the audience, Down-stage is in front of you at the front of the stage.
This acronym refers to Digital Signal Processing. Since the industry standard for loudspeaker crossovers moved from analogue to digital, the term DSP has been applied to loudspeaker management processors that now handle crossover filters, parametric equalisation, peak and RMS limiting and alignment delay.
Sound engineers have various tools they can employ to give them more control over the dynamics of an audio signal. These processors could be Noise Gates, Expanders, De-essers or Compressors.
An Equaliser is a tool to provide the Sound Engineers with control over the shape of an audio signal in respect to the frequency response. Equalisers can be Graphic EQ’s, Parametric EQ’s or shelving EQ’s
Expanders increase the difference in loudness between quieter and louder sections of audio making quiet sounds quieter and loud sounds louder.
Mixing desks and lighting desks both have faders. These are sliding controls for adjusting the output level of a corresponding channel.
Flying or Flown
If we are talking about a piece of production equipment and we are ‘flying’ or it is ‘flown’, this is referring to the practice of hanging from a hoist and suspending the item from the ceiling or a temporary structure. It is most common to fly lighting, LED screens and large PA systems such as line-arrays.
This is the name of a particular type of lighting fixture. Followspots are used to illuminate people on the stage and the spot can be moved to follow the performer on the stage. A Followspot needs to have a dedicated operator to control the movement.
This is a machine that will produce a thick cloud of Fog as a theatrical effect.
A Fresnel lantern (pronounced frez-nel) is a common lantern used in theatre, which employs a Fresnel lens to wash light over an area of the stage. The lens produces a wider, soft-edged beam of light, which is commonly used for back light and top light.
Horn loudspeakers are the best when it come to efficiency, but they are too big for woofers. The folded horn speaker design solves this.
Traditionally the term front-of-house refers to the parts of a theatre in front of the proscenium arch. In the world of sound and lighting hire, when refer to the from-of-house position, we mean the area designated for the sound engineer and lighting designers who will operate the lighting desk and sound mixing desk from a position from within the audience area.
This is a brand name of a Point-Source PA system manufacturer. Funktion-One design and manufacture world-class, high quality, point-source PA systems for medium and large scale events.
A lighting Gel is a piece of coloured transparent plastic. These are placed in front of the lens of an incandescent lighting fixture to change the colour of the light output. Gels are available in a wide range of colours.
A gobo (or GOBO) is a physical stencil or template that is placed inside or in front of a light source, to control the shape of the emitted light.
A graphic equalizer is a high-fidelity audio control that allows the user to see graphically and control individually a number of different frequency bands in a stereophonic system. A typical graphic equalizer consists of several audio filter/amplifiers, each centered at a specific frequency in the audio range. Most graphic equalizers have two identical sets of filter/amplifiers, one for each channel in a stereophonic system.
The term ‘ground-stack’ refers to a method of stacking PA speakers on the ground.
A Haze machine produces a lite mist of haze as an atmospheric effect to enhance the lighting and laser show.
Loudspeaker system manufacturers employ Horn-loading techniques to increase the acoustic output of a loudspeaker driver.
An In-Ear-Monitor system is a wireless personal monitor system and the user wears discreet earpieces. Audiowall stock the Sennheiser G3 range of IEM systems.
The effective resistance of an electric circuit or component to alternating current, arising from the combined effects of ohmic resistance and reactance.
An incandescent light bulb, incandescent lamp or incandescentlight globe is an electric light with a wire filament heated to such a high temperature that it glows with visible light (incandescence).
A phone connector, also known as phone jack, audio jack, headphone jack or jack plug, is a common family of electrical connector typically used for analog signals, primarily audio.
A Lampie is a nickname for a Lighting technician or operator.
The brand name for a manufacturer of high quality PA systems. Known as the pioneers and inventors of the modern day line-source array. Most technical riders will request L-Acoustics PA systems, they are considered an industry standard for touring, concerts and festival sound hire. Current L-Acoustics systems available are the K1, K2, Kara, Kiva and Arcs line source systems and the X series of co-axial systems.
A lighting desk is a piece of hardware with faders, buttons and touch screens; used for programming and controlling theatre and stage lighting. Examples of a lighting desk are the Avolites Tiger Touch II
A Lighting Designer works within an event production team and designs the lighting for events.
Line-array PA system
A line-array is a type of PA system where identical speaker cabinets are positioned in a vertical line. The array forms a vertical line-source. These systems are commonly found at concerts and festival stages. L-Acoustics are the industry standard for line array systems. Other popular line array systems are the Martin Audio Wavefront W8L and W8LC compact.
This is a brand of lightweight stage deck modules. LiteDeck modules are available in a range of sizes and can be bolted together to build stages of infinite size.
A Loudspeaker Management processor provides signal processing tools for managing multiple loudspeaker drivers with differing band-widths within a PA system. Common features of Loudspeaker Management processors include: Crossover filters, Parametric EQ filters, Limiters, phase and gain adjustment.
A Mix refers to a combination of audio signals mixed together on a mixing desk and combined into one output.
A device with multiple inputs and outputs and provides the facility to mix inputs together and send to various outputs. Mixers include Vision Mixers, DJ Mixers, and Audio Mixing Desks more commonly referred to as just Mixing Desks.
An Audio mixing desk mixes audio signals together. Examples of mixing desks include the Soundcraft Si-Expression-32
A Monitor could be a screen for viewing or a loudspeaker for listening.
In the live sound hire industry we have multiple Sound Engineers for different roles with in the audio production. One of the engineers will have the responsibility for the on-stage monitor mixes. At concert arenas and on festival stages it is common for the Monitor Engineer to operate from a mixing desk positioned at the side of the stage. In some situations it can be acceptable for the Front-of-house engineer to mix the monitors from the front-of-house mixing desk.
A ‘Moving Head’ is industry name for a particular type of lighting fixture. Examples of a Moving Head are the Chauvet Intimidator Beam 350 /Spot 350 or the Clay Paky Sharpy lighting fixtures among others.
A Multicore is a multi-way audio cable. A Multicore has a number of send and return channels to connect between the instruments on the stage, the front-of-house mixer and the PA system.
NL2, NL4 and NL8
These are codes for speaker connectors manufactured by Nuetrik. NL2 is a two pin, NL4 has four pins and NL8 has eight pins.
A noise gate is a dynamics processor that can automatically mute the audio signal if the level falls below a predetermined threshold. Commonly used for noise reduction and filtering background noise from microphones on the stage. A noise gate would typically be used on drum microphones for a live stage.
A Phono is a type of connector
Playback equipment refers to Turntables, CDJ players, CD players, MP3 players and other audio media players.
Par-can, Par-56 and Par-64
A Par-can is a type of incandescent lighting fixture. Par-64 are the standard for theatre and stage lighting, Par-56 are smaller and less powerful.
A Parametric EQ is a type of frequency equalisation tool available for sound engineers. Parametric equalisers have three controls, one for selecting the frequency, one for adjusting the ‘Q’ or band-width of the filter and the third will boost or cut the selected frequencies.
A Patch Engineer will organise the channel list and structure for the line system.
Phantom Power (+48V)
Condenser microphones need to be powered and they receive power down the XLR cable from the Mixing desk. This is called Phantom Power or (+48V). Active DI box’s can also be powered with Phantom Power
Pit barrier is a type of barrier designed to hold large crowds in front of a stage.
Point-source PA system
Point-source is a type of PA system design concept. Examples of point-source systems available are Funktion-One Resolution series and the Martin Audio Wavefront W8C series.
This is a brand name for a type of power connector made by Nuetrik.
A loudspeaker cabinet with an amplifier attached to the back of the box is often referred to as a powered speaker. These types of PA speakers can also be called ‘Active speakers’. Examples of a powered speaker are the QSC K8 available to hire from Audiowall.
Profile lanterns get their name from their ability to project the shape of anything placed in the gate of the lantern between the lamp and the lens.
Root Means Square
A Rider is a document that forms part of a performers contract, detailing requirements for performance. A Rider will specify food and drink that should be provided and accommodation details. A Technical Rider will include stage plots, channel lists and any technical requirements.
A Riser is a platform that is raised from the ground. Typically a live stage will have a ‘Drum Riser’.
On a festival stage it is common to have Risers with wheels attached. Equipment can be setup on the Riser backstage and pushed onto the stage during the changeover. This will help to set up the next act in the fastest time.
A Sat box is a small multicore cable, typically with between eight and twelve signal cables on each. The difference between a Sat Box and a regular multicore is the lack of returns. Sat Box’s distribute the line system from the multicore stage box around the stage. The microphones on the stage connect to the Sat box’s.
A Shelving EQ boosts or cuts frequencies above or below a preset frequency.
A Smoke Machine is a special FX machine that produces thick clouds of smoke as a Theatrical effect or for enhancing a light show.
A SpeakOn Connector is a type of connector made by Nuetrik. Available in NL2, NL4 or NL8.
Sound Pressure Level. Measured in Decibels.
Stage-left is a direction on a stage. If you are standing on the stage facing the audience, Stage-Left is on your left. If you are in the audience facing the stage, Stage-left is on your right.
A Stage Manager will ensure the smooth running of the stage show.
Stage Monitors are loudspeakers positioned on the stage for the performers to hear what they need. Examples of a stage monitor are the Martin Audio LE700
Stage-right is a direction on a stage. If you are standing on the stage facing the audience, Stage-right is on your right. If you are in the audience facing the stage, Stage-right is on your left.
A Tank Trap is a piece of rigging equipment designed to support an upright pole.
A heavy duty fork-lift truck with a telescopic boom arm.
A power source with three live feeds. Commonly used on festival power supplies, festival stages and concert stages.
A TRS plug is a type of Jack plug that has three terminals, tip, ring and sleeve.
A piece of rigging equipment used for building temporary structures for event production.
Up-stage is a direction on a stage. If you are standing on the stage facing the audience, Up-stage is behind you.
Watts is a measurement of power
A ‘Wedge’ is a nickname for a type of stage monitor that is angled to point up at the musician from the stage.
Wireless systems include wireless microphone systems and In-Ear-Monitor Systems. Examples of wireless systems include the Sennheiser G3 range.
A type of audio connector.