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Audio Basics for Hams

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by ND4L, Aug 12, 2015.

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  1. ND4L

    ND4L Ham Member QRZ Page


    A new weekly series explaining basic concepts related to audio gear and its use has been started on the Greensboro Amateur Radio Association's website from Greensboro, North Carolina. This series will explain audio basics in an easy-to-understand way and in terms that help relate it to ham radio. Since hams don't generally aspire to become professional audio engineers, none of the posts will be overly technical or go too in-depth, but they'll give enough information to make informed decisions about what types of gear to incorporate into your shack and how to use it without needing to read volumes.

    You can check out the posts here: . They're in reverse-chronological order, so you'll probably want to start at the bottom with Part 1.
    1 person likes this.
  2. W4KVW

    W4KVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Best suggestion is to stay far far away from audio gear that should be used in a recording studio.We are on Ham Radio after all & 99.9% of the bozos using this crap sound like they are in a Portalet with their head in the hole.Any reverb makes it even worse & you can tell they love hearing themselves because they are listening with headphones & by the way they talk.You can hear them constantly adjusting some control so it sounds Perfect yet it will not be Perfect two key downs later.They constantly speak about their own audio so others will comment on it & then make more adjustments even if not needed when what they really should do is unplug the after market crap & plug the microphone into the radio itself as it was designed & they would sound just fine & the airwaves would be much better because of it.If the radio of today that you purchased needs all of that external audio processing then maybe you should have spent the money on a quality transceiver in the 1st place.You will never sound like the BBC or any other world wide broadcast station so save all of us the headaches of listening to your radio checks & crappy reverb enhanced audio & just talk on a good radio with a quality microphone that have both been properly set together & buy something New with the money from the sell of all of that worthless audio gear that you never needed in the 1st place.Glad I could be of assistance by telling the TRUTH because your friends won't because they are afraid they may hurt your feelings & it's of no concern to me. {:>)

    N6MEJ, K2NCC, VE3VV and 1 other person like this.
  3. NU4R

    NU4R XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    But Clayton! PLEASE! Tell us how you REALLY feel! No sense in holding back OM!

    73! Clayton

    Greg NU4R
  4. NU4R

    NU4R XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Looked over your link there Mr. Toth. I'm thinking the meat of this part 1 came from "elsewhere" and that I've read it before.

  5. K3KO

    K3KO Guest

    Well, it's about time somebody explained the facts of life to the "good audio" crowd. It amuses me to hear a bunch of guys (most with hearing aids and degraded hearing) trying to tweak somebody else's audio so that it sounds "good". Lets face it, with 2.5 KHz of bandwidth, one can't expect much more than communications grade audio. Lets work on not over driving the rig, keeping compression reasonable and stop shouting into the mike.
  6. K8PG

    K8PG QRZ Lifetime Member #333 Platinum Subscriber Life Member QRZ Page


  7. W8CCW

    W8CCW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Is the narrow bandwidth that is the problem or is it the narrow mind? If you already know everything why on earth do you bother commenting in a group that still is interested in learning. Those of us who have been around long enough that our original radio license tests did not have transistors on them appreciate an opportunity to learn a little bit more every day. Some of us actually build things and find out how they work!
    If you will only respond with an article related to Ham Radio that is positive in nature, I will apologize but for now I will pray for the lot of you who seem to be constipated...
    KB3ZYN, KD0TFP and (deleted member) like this.
  8. W5LMM

    W5LMM Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    LOL Clayton, you crack me up.
  9. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I disagree Clayton. I use (on TX) a 20ms delay, 3 band dynamic compression and an exciter. I also do a distortion to the low band on TX to beef up my timbre. My audio sounds just terrific. Even with a limited 3.0 KHz BW.

    BTW, I have an IC-7800, a 'quality transceiver'. Try doing your 3 band compression, and 20ms doubling with that...GL.

    There are thousands of hams that also share interest in professional recording studio audio. Some of us use those techniques to improve transmission quality on BW limited sideband. Others do a fantastic job on NBFM, and AM.

    Also, Clayton, I used binaural synthesis to improve RX intelligibillity (on the monaural. RX audio; I also use two RX diversity. If you look at my bio page you will see two speakers---the sound field is wonderfully immersive. I feel like I am part of the ionosphere ,

    That's what you are missing.---


    Chip W1YW
    KL7SG, KB3ZYN, WV3E and 2 others like this.
  10. WJ4U

    WJ4U Subscriber QRZ Page

    I want to be among the Perseids, audio-wise. How do I achieve this?
  11. W1YW

    W1YW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I can't speak for others, but BBE and Ultrafex low end boxes are popular.

    I use(TX):

    20ms DELAY: Korg SDD-2000
    3BAND COMPRESSION: TC elec Triple +
    DISTORTION (low band): Distressor EL-8

    Extreme care is needed to shield and choke against RF in these boxes. Lotsa ferrite, lotsa grounding, lotsa shield.

    This is old and low end stuff. The better dynamic range boxes are left in the studio.

    Ironically, I work mostly CW in recent years. About 10% SSB.

    Chip W1YW
    W4SEX likes this.
  12. KM6CQ

    KM6CQ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I ran across this and thought you could use it to enlighten us about what is bothering you.

    73, Dan

    Accurate - The music is unaltered by the recording or playback equipment. Ideally, to sound identical to the original music.

    Aggressive - Forward and bright sonic character.

    Airy - Spacious. Open. Instruments sound like they are surrounded by a large reflective space full of air. Good reproduction of high frequency reflections. High frequency response extends to 15 or 20 kHz.

    Ambience - Impression of an acoustic space, such as the performing hall in which a recording was made.

    Analytical - Highly detailed.

    Articulate - Intelligibility of voice(s) and instruments and the interactions between them.

    Attack - The leading edge of a note and the ability of a system to reproduce the attack transients in music.

    Attack (2) - The time taken for a musical note to reach its peak amplitude eg. notes will tend to sound more defined rather than blended with other notes.

    Balance - essentially tonal balance, the degree to which one aspect of the sonic spectrum is emphasized above the rest. Also channel balance, the relative level of the left and right stereo channels.

    Bass - The audio frequencies between about 60Hz and 250Hz.

    Bassy - Emphasized Bass.

    Blanketed - Weak highs, as if a blanket were put over the speakers.

    Bloated - Excessive mid bass around 250 Hz. Poorly damped low frequencies, low frequency resonances. See tubby.

    Blurred - Poor transient response. Vague stereo imaging not focused.

    Body - Fullness of sound, with particular emphasis on upper bass; opposite of Thin.

    Boomy - Excessive bass around 125 Hz. Poorly damped low frequencies or low frequency resonances.

    Boxy - Having resonances as if the music were enclosed in a box. Sometimes an emphasis around 250 to 500 Hz.

    Breathy - Audible breath sounds in woodwinds and reeds such as flute or sax. Good response in the upper mids or highs.

    Bright - A sound that emphasizes the upper midrange/lower treble. Harmonics are strong relative to fundamentals.

    Brilliance - The 6kHz to 16kHz range controls the brilliance and clarity of sounds. Too much emphasis in this range can produce sibilance on the vocals.

    Chesty - The vocalist sounds like their chest is too big. A bump in the low frequency response around 125 to 250 Hz.

    Clear - See Transparent.

    Closed - A closed-in sound lacking in openness, delicacy, air, and fine detail usually caused by Roll-off above 10kHz; in contrast to Open.

    Congested- Smeared, confused, muddy, and flat; lacking transparency.

    Coloured - Having timbres that are not true to life. Non flat response; peaks or dips.

    Cool- Moderately deficient in body and warmth, due to progressive attenuation of frequencies below about 150Hz.

    Crisp - Extended high frequency response, especially with cymbals.

    Dark - A tonal balance that tilts downwards with increasing frequency. Opposite of bright. Weak high frequencies.

    Decay - The fadeout of a note, it follows the attack.

    Definition (or resolution) - The ability of a component to reveal the subtle information that is fundamental to high fidelity sound.

    Delicate - High frequencies extending to 15 or 20 kHz without peaks.

    Depth - A sense of distance (near to far) of different instruments.

    Detail - The most delicate elements of the original sound and those which are the first to disappear with lesser equipment.

    Detailed - Easy to hear tiny details in the music; articulate. Adequate high frequency response, sharp transient response.

    Dry - Lack of reverberation or delay as produced by a damped environment. May comes across as fine grained and lean. Opposite of Wet.

    Dull - See Dark.

    Dynamic - The suggestion of energy and wide dynamic. Related to perceived speed as well as contrasts in volume both large and small.

    Edgy - Too much high frequency response. Trebly. Harmonics are too strong relative to the fundamentals. Distorted, having unwanted harmonics that add an edge or raspiness.

    Euphonic - An appealing form of distortion that generally enhances perceived fidelity, often ascribed to the harmonic elaborations of some valve amps.

    Fast - Good reproduction of rapid transients which increase the sense of realism and "snap".

    Fat - See Full and Warm. Or, spatially diffuse; a sound is panned to one channel, delayed, and then the delayed sound is panned to the other channel. Or, slightly distorted with analogue tape distortion or tube distortion.

    Focus - A strong, precise sense of image projection.

    Forward(ness) - Similar to an aggressive sound, a sense of image being projected in front of the speakers and of music being forced upon the listener. Compare "Laid-back".

    Full - Strong fundamentals relative to harmonics. Good low frequency response, not necessarily extended, but with adequate level around 100 to 300 Hz. Male voices are full around 125 Hz; female voices and violins are full around 250 Hz; sax is full around 250 to 400 Hz. Opposite of thin.

    Gentle - Opposite of edgy. The harmonics (of the highs and upper mids) are not exaggerated, or may even be weak.

    Grainy - A slightly raw, exposed sound which lacks finesse. Not liquid or fluid.

    Grip - A sense of control and sturdiness in the bass.

    Grungy - Lots of harmonic or I.M. (Intermodulation) distortion.

    Hard - Too much upper midrange, usually around 3 kHz. Or, good transient response, as if the sound is hitting you hard. Uncomfortable, forward, aggressive sound with a metallic tinge.

    Harsh - Grating, abrasive. Too much upper midrange. Peaks in the frequency response between 2 and 6 kHz. Or, excessive phase shift in a digital recorder's low pass filter.

    Headstage - The perception of the Soundstage while listening to headphones.

    Highs - The audio frequencies above about 6000 Hz.

    High Midrange (High Mids, Upper Mids) - The audio frequencies between about 2kHz and 6kHz.

    Hollow - Recessed mids.

    Honky - Like cupping your hands around your mouth. A bump in the response around 500 to 700 Hz.

    Imaging - The sense that a voice or instrument is in a particular place in the room.

    Juicy - Sound that has joie de vivre, energy and life.

    Laid-back - Recessed, distant-sounding, having exaggerated depth, usually because of a dished midrange. Compare "Forward".

    Liquid - Textureless sound.

    Low Level Detail - The quietest sounds in a recording.

    Low Midrange (Low Mids) - The audio frequencies between about 250Hz and 2000Hz.

    Lush - Very Rich/Full.

    Lush (2) - A "lush" sound has a sense of warmth and fullness. Notes are more authoritative and have a sense of life about them. It is a sound free of any sibilance or brightness. It does not mean colored, however. It is an open and inviting sound enveloping the listener into its soundstage. (source: unkown headfier)

    Mellow - Reduced high frequencies, not Edgy.

    Midrange (Mids) - The audio frequencies between about 250 Hz and 6000 Hz.

    Muddy - Not clear. Weak harmonics, smeared time response, I.M. distortion.

    Muffled - Sounds like it is covered with a blanket. Weak highs or weak upper mids.

    Musical (or musicality) - A sense of cohesion and subjective "rightness" in the sound.

    Nasal - Honky, a bump in the response around 600 Hz.

    Naturalness - Realism.

    Opaque - Unclear, lacking Transparency.

    Open - Sound which has height and "air", relates to clean upper midrange and treble.

    Pace - Often assoc. with rhythm, a strong sense of timing and beat.

    Piercing - Strident, hard on the ears, screechy. Having sharp, narrow peaks in the response around 3 to 10 kHz.

    PRaT - Pace, Rhythm and Timing

    Presence Range - The presence range between 4kHz and 6kHz is responsible for the clarity and definition of voices and instruments. Increasing this range can make the music seem closer to the listener. Reducing the 5kHz content makes the sound more distant and transparent.

    Presence - A sense that the instrument in present in the listening room. Synonyms are edge, punch, detail, closeness and clarity. Adequate or emphasized response around 5 kHz for most instruments, or around 2 to 5 kHz for kick drum and bass.

    Puffy - A bump in the response around 500 Hz.

    Punchy - Good reproduction of dynamics. Good transient response, with strong impact. Sometimes a bump around 5 kHz or 200 Hz.

    Range - The distance between the lowest and highest tones.

    Resolution (or Resolving) - See Definition

    Rich - See Full. Also, having euphonic distortion made of even order harmonics.

    Roll-off (Rolloff) - The gradual attenuation that occurs at the lower or upper frequency range of a driver, network, or system. The roll-off frequency is usually defined as the frequency where response is reduced by 3 dB.

    Round - High frequency rolloff or dip. Not edgy.

    Rhythm - The controlled movement of sounds in time.

    Saturation - The point at which a magnetic tape is fully magnetized and will accept no more magnetization.

    Seismic - Very low bass that you feel rather than hear.

    Shrill - Strident, Steely.

    Sibilant (or Sibilance) - "Essy", exaggerated "s" or "sh" sounds in vocals. Sibilant sounds carry most of their energy through the 4Khz to 8Khz range, but can extend to 10kHz, depending on the individual. Sibilance is often heard on radio.

    Sizzly - See Sibilant. Also, too much highs on cymbals.

    Smeared - Lacking detail; poor transient response, too much leakage between microphones; poorly focused images.

    Smooth - Easy on the ears, not harsh. Flat frequency response, especially in the midrange. Lack of peaks and dips in the response.

    Snap - A system with good speed and transient response can deliver the immediacy or "snap" of live instruments.

    Soundstage - The area between two speakers that appears to the listener to be occupied by sonic images. Like a real stage, a soundstage should have width, depth, and height.

    Spacious - Conveying a sense of space, ambiance, or room around the instruments; stereo reverb; early reflections.

    Speed - A fast system with good pace gives the impression of being right on the money in its timing.

    Steely - Emphasized upper mids around 3 to 6 kHz. Peaky, non flat high frequency response. See Harsh, Edgy.

    Strident - See Harsh, Edgy.

    Sturdy - Solid, powerful, robust sound.

    Sub-Bass - The audio frequencies between about 20Hz and 80Hz.

    Sweet - Not strident or piercing. Delicate. Flat high frequency response, low distortion. Lack of peaks in the response. Highs are extended to 15 or 20 kHz, but they are not bumped up. Often used when referring to cymbals, percussion, strings, and sibilant sounds.

    Telephone Like - See Tinny.

    Texture - A perceptible pattern or structure in reproduced sound.

    Thick - A lack of articulation and clarity in the bass.

    Thin - Fundamentals are weak relative to harmonics; bass light.

    Tight - Good low frequency transient response and detail.

    Timbre - The tonal character of an instrument

    Timing - A sense of precision in tempo.

    Tinny - Narrowband, weak lows, peaky mids. The music sounds like it is coming through a telephone or tin can.

    Tone - The sound of definite pitch.

    Transient - The leading edge of a percussive sound. Good transient response makes the sound as a whole more live and realistic.

    Transparent - Easy to hear into the music, detailed, clear, not muddy. Wide flat frequency response, sharp time response, very low distortion and noise. A hear through quality that is akin to clarity and reveals all aspects of detail.

    Treble - The highest part of music and voice. See Highs. (Most often used when referring to the treble control on amplifiers).

    Tubby - Having low frequency resonances as if you're singing in a bathtub. See bloated.

    Upper Midrange (Upper Mids, High Mids) - The audio frequencies between 2 kHz and 6 kHz.

    Veiled - Like a silk veil is over the speakers. Slight noise or distortion or slightly weak high frequencies. Loss of detail due to limited transparency.

    Warm - Good bass, adequate low frequencies, adequate fundamentals relative to harmonics. Not thin. Also excessive bass or mid bass. Also, pleasantly spacious, with adequate reverberation at low frequencies. Also see Rich, Round. Warm highs means sweet highs.

    Wet - A reverberant sound, something with decay. Opposite of Dry.

    Weighty - Good low frequency response below about 50 Hz. A sense of substance and underpinning produced by deep, controlled bass. Suggesting an object of great weight or power, like a diesel locomotive.

    Woolly - Loose, ill-defined bass.
    K2NCC and W9US like this.
  13. W4SEX

    W4SEX Ham Member QRZ Page

    Excellent response Chip.
  14. W4KVW

    W4KVW Ham Member QRZ Page

    I would expect those who waste time,money,& effort of this BS gear & of course those who sell the same crap too defend it but as I said in the real world it's a joke.I just tell it like I see & hear it & don't care if you do or do not agree with me but I'll post my opinion either way & have no reason too lie about it.I would not run the crap external boards if they were all FREE because I & nobody else needs them but they make so many feel high & mighty so they can brag about all of their Studio Audio Gear when 99% who they tell could care less.I'm not impressed & I'll stick with the AWESOME audio that I already have from the ICOM 7600 & HEIL PR-20 & of course my Naturally Awesome Radio Voice.I know that some of you guys are looking for some Bass in your transmit audio because without it you sound like your shorts are 3 sizes to small but there is no help for that so live with it & save your money.Listening to a bunch of you guys on the air is like listening to episodes of the "Three Stooges" except they just acted like they had no common sense & made big money doing it.If everything is so Awesome with all of this EQ Crap then why do those who are using it not leave it alone once it is set? They never stop adjusting as if by some magical touch it will get better & better if they just touch it one more time then it will be Perfect until the next QSO then it will all of a sudden need another adjustment & over & over & over.Ever heard of Set It & Forget It? Once it has been adjusted it should NOT need adjustment but in your confused minds it will never be right so until the day you become an SK you will keep right on adjusting because you have been brainwashed so that you just can't help yourselves.It would be much less costly if you just seek Professional help but as with any addict you think you have not got an issue but it's like not seeing the forest for the trees & you just keep on turning those knobs & sliding another control all in the name of PERFECTION that will never come.You all know who you are & I have stepped on your toes but The Truth is Good for the Soul so take it in.Now go play with your audio gear because I'll bet somehow it is out of wack & it needs adjusting & if not something is for sure wrong with it so get it checked out before somebody hears it & tells you about it On The Air & you get a severe case of Heartburn or lose sleep over it.Thanks for the laughs because "Laughter Is Good Medicine" & I love a good laugh as well as anyone. {:>)

  15. WA7PRC

    WA7PRC Ham Member QRZ Page

    That would include those of us who work(ed) in R&D for companies who manufacture Pro Sound gear. If that's the case, count me as one. I spent a couple of years at Symetrix, which is regarded well among MANY users in professional and amateur circles.

    I don't run an Icom rig like you but, it works fine, and I spent A LOT less than you. I don't use a Heil PR20 like you but, it works fine, and I spent A LOT less than you. That left me plenty of money to purchase a Symetrix 528E 'Voice Processor'.

    The unit is a single-channel (mono) unit that includes a very good preamplifier, de-esser, expander/compressor, and three band parametric equalizer. Each section may be patched into and used separately (or switched in/out) as desired. I found the expander useful to reduce gain when I pause, which reduces the effect of noise in the shack. The compressor is set to then reduce the dynamic range of the output, which keeps the modulation peaks from overdriving the rig (and amplifier) and causing splatter. ALC is neither needed nor wanted. I have the EQ setup to de-emphasize LF below about 300 Hz and emphasize a little above about 1500 Hz for DX-ing and contesting. The EQ is left switched out when ragchewing.

    There's nothing wrong with running a rig w/o any outboard equipment (and some hams go overboard with processing). However, a suitable unit(s) used properly can make a positive difference.

    vy 73 es gl,
    Bryan WA7PRC
    KB3ZYN likes this.

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