A LITTLE ABOUT SOUND
Very few of us actually think about how we hear sounds.
A basic understanding of how sound gets transmitted through the atmosphere
and subsequently heard by us mortals is useful.
Here is a somewhat oversimplified explanation:
Imagine whistling a single note. What happens is that air being exhaled passes
up through your throat, fills the space inside your mouth and passes through your
parsed lips. What actually creates the sound is that the exhaled air inside your
mouth builds up pressure and it is released several hundred times a second or,
to put it another way, your mouth acts as a resonator. The resulting turbulence is
pressure waves that exhale from your parsed lips. For each “high” pressure wave
there is a void just behind it or “low pressure wave.” Each high pressure wave
and subsequent low pressure wave constitutes a cycle.
If a person is whistling a Concert Pitch ‘A’ note, they are creating 440 cycles per
Because each cycle is created over
time, the rise and fall from zero (no
pressure) to high, back to zero,
then to the low pressure zone and
back to zero pressure creates what
is known as a
Our ear drums respond (vibrate,
actually) to the changes in air
pressure, and those vibrations are
then converted into tiny electrical signals and transmitted to our brain via our
Now, imagine that someone is standing on a stage whistling a single (A) note into
a microphone. The microphone works somewhat like the ear drum and converts
the pressure waves into tiny electrical pluses and minuses. Those tiny electrical
signals are then amplified about a thousand times by the sound system
amplifiers, and the resultant voltage is applied to loudspeakers. If the PA system
is connected correctly, every high and low pressure wave created by the whistler
is faithfully reproduced by the loudspeakers and the audience hears the changes
in air pressure from a hundred feet away or so, as if they were seated in front of
If you were to tap into the
amplified voltage at any
point in the PA system and
display it on an
(Right) you would observe a
What I have just described can be divided into two categories:
Is the experience of listening to the whistler without any electrical amplification.
The PA system: It converted the Live Sound into electrical signals and back again
to pressure waves via the loudspeakers.
Records and analog audio tape are two examples of storage methods used for
Live Sound that was converted to electrical signals and then back to amplified
sound by your home stereo equipment.
If you found this interesting and would like to learn more about the subject, there
are some excellent articles at the
JISC Digital Media
© 2012 Corey Bailey
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