In the world of sound, the first thing that must be taken into account are the audio connectors. Those are the responsible of carrying the audio signal to any electrical device.
One of the most important characteristics in both analog and digital connectors are the wires. We can find a long list of connectors and wires but in this article is going to be done a brief explanation of them and which are the most relevant and used for the industry specialized in sound.
Within the analogue connectors there are different wires that make possible to carry the signal. These are the most used once:
1/8” Mini Connector / 1/4” Connectors / 1/4” TIP-RING Sleeve
1/4″ TIP-RING sleeve / 1/4″ connector
These are the connectors that everybody knows like Jack; otherwise some experts say that is wrong to name them like this.
The first ones 1/8” mini are used for connecting headphones to music players or electronic devices. The second, 1/4″ are used by the majority of professional and musical equipment’s. Typically used for connecting guitars, amplifiers, etc. to professional equipment.
These types of connectors are characterized for being the most commune in the audio-visual market. We find them in any TV. The name comes from the radio that patented them: Radio Corporation of America.
Is the most used connector in audio and microphone studios. XLR have the ability to lock and transmit balanced audio signal, the signal enters twice thanks to three pin connectors and wires with three drivers.
They are most commonly used nowadays, although they have not replaced the analogue connectors. Both can coexist without problems. Sometimes the routine and habits make that we still use analogue wires today. The most important are:
S/PDIF ( Sony /Philips Digital Interface Format)
S/PDIF carry high frequency electrical signals through coaxial wires (wires that carry electrical signals of high frequency connectors with two concentric connectors that share the same centre, axis and origin). They are very similar to RCA but don’t carry HD because the bandwidth is insufficient.
TOSLINK OPTICAL / ADAT Light pipe
Responsible for carrying digital optical signals that transmit light pulses through fibber optic wire. They take an advantage of bringing the information at high speed and are immune to any electromagnetic interference.
TDIF (Tascam Digital Interface Connectors)
Is one of the formats most used by professionals for transfer more than two audio tracks simultaneously using only one wire.
These would be the most important analogue and digital connectors. What we must realize is that digital wires, still need analogue wires to capture audio signal.
Here you have a picture with all the existing connectors and a video explaining all the connectors and their inputs.
I would also like to mention the audio controller software and the plug-in interface.
The first is the software that controls the computer’s audio. The most common are:
Is a protocol for digital audio that contains a low latency (Time delays) and a high fidelity interface between a software and hardware sound card. ASIO allows musicians and sound engineers work with Windows audio software.
It is an API (application programming interface) that is used to deal with sound in the operating systems Mac OS X and iOS. Core Audio capabilities include: the recording, playback, sound effects, conversion format…
Is the driver used by Windows audio. It is a multimedia player.
The Plug-In Interface are, colloquially speaking, the programs we would find in computers. Can be seen metaphorically as a plug and socket that both must fit.
The most important are:
VST (Virtual Studio Technology)
Is an Interface popular known by making effects in instruments. Is the standard of the industry of sound.
I recommend you to watch the following video to understand more or less how it works:
AU (Audio Units)
Apple patented audio technology, which is part of the audio that offers Mac OS X. The most common are: Logic Pro, Garage Band…
RTAS (Real Time Audio Suite)
It is a plug-in that is designed to run in real time. Mimics the insertions of hardware inside a traditional mixing table.
TDM (Time Division Multiplexing)
It is a method of transmitting and receiving signals through independent synchronous switches in each end of the transmission line. It makes that every signal appears online in just a fraction of time in an alternate pattern.