Playing our Music with Ease
According to Wikipedia, sound is a vibration that propagates as a typically audible mechanical wave of pressure and displacement, through a transmission medium such as air or water. It has two main system of measuring it, which includes frequency and decibels. Frequency is responsible for the quality of sound we hear while the decibels measure the ‘loudness’ of the sound. Humans are able to hear audio sounds within the range of from 20 Hz (hertz) to 20 KHz (kilohertz) but respond differently to each of the different frequencies. Humans are more sensitive to the 2 kHz – 4 kHz frequency range than any other frequencies.
When sound is not useful, it can be categorised as noise but when useful, we can have it in conversations, lectures, trainings, songs, speeches and other various forms. When we listen to people who are near us physically, the concept of sound is easy to grasp but when we have to transmit sounds to people across a distance or when we have to listen to a sound at a time different from when it was generated, then the type of sound equipment required to be used begins to change. Sound system is the name used to designate speakers, amplifiers and music sources, the choice of the system depends on the desired area to install it and the application it is intended for.
Sound systems usually go through four (4) stages, these include
- Sound Input
- Mixing Effects
- Sound Output
Different equipments are used at each of the different stages with some serving more than one of such functions. For both casual and amateur users, output devices or equipments are usually of greater interest to them. Some of these equipments include speakers, headsets, wireless sound players and other equipments that produce the final sound required to hear our songs, podcast, video, news, headsets and lectures. These serve various purposes depending on what they are needed for and the application for which it is to be deployed.
The choice of a sound system at any point in time is determined by the purpose for which the sound system is required. For example, when we need a sound for outdoor use, we will be looking at equipments that are different from the types that will be used indoor. The study, of the design, installation and utilisation of sound systems is a vast area of science that involves acoustics. Such designs aim to control echoes and feedbacks of sounds to enhance hearing pleasure. For an average Joe, his interest will mostly be on speakers for their homes, headsets for their mobile devices and wireless (Bluetooth) sound players. The manufacturers of these equipments are a another major factor to consider, Sony Corporation is one of such major sound equipment manufacturers that is a household name synonymous with quality sounds. Bose Corporation, Focal and Kenwood are some of the other major players in the industry, but they are not the only ones in the business, new players keep springing up daily with quality equipments that compete and sometimes outperform the major players in clarity, sound-noise (S/N) ration and cost. Playing music from an SD card, connecting with your mobile devices using Bluetooth, listening to online radios, podcast and mp4 players has never been easier as it has become today. Size is another major factor that has change today, time was when loud sounds could only be produced by very big speakers, but now-a-days, technology has made it possible for devices that are a very small fraction of such devices to produce better quality sounds, higher decibels and clearer stereo sounds.
A measure of the quality of a speaker system is the speaker’s ability to accurately reproduce the sound frequencies that it receives with a clear output sound. When speakers come in pairs, they are able produce stereo sounds and transmit audio on two completely separate channels. This means the right and left speakers transmit audio on two completely independent channels.
Speakers are either active or passive. Active speakers are speakers that amplify the sound inputs they receive and usually have a power supply while passive speakers do not have internal amplification systems. Since these speakers don’t amplify the audio signal, a high level of audio input is required which can be achieve with an audio amplifier. Stereo systems generally make audio sounds more natural with the two speaker system, while surround systems may include four to seven speakers (plus a subwoofer) to create an even more realistic experience.
Development in technology has also had its impact in the sound and audio industry. The quality of sound has continued to improve, the audio clarity keeps getting better, buffer and sub woofer also produce sounds in such a way that today’s audio sound more natural than it has ever been. Looking back at the audio engineering journey, one cannot help but be impressed with the progress made so far. The changes have mostly been driven by the rising demand for more technological sophistication in the production of audio based product for the everyday user. These devices have altered the way we listen to our audio sound systems. We now have wireless equipments that do not need to be physically connected to any player in order to hear sounds from them. We have wireless speakers, headsets and players. We also have cloud systems that make it possible to play songs direct from an internet radio. Pandora, spotify and Google Play Music All Access are the major players who take advantage of the cloud technology and stream music directly. Consumers have now begun to expect the best when they invest a lot of money in acquiring such equipments. The era of only playing songs from a headset or speaker physically connected to a phone, DVD, portable player, radio, walkman, iPod, mp3 player and radios is fading out, the age of having wireless headsets, speakers and players is now on us. We can virtually have a transmitting sound system set up within minutes using smart mobile devices as a transmitting station and wireless devices as receivers. Most of these connections are done over Bluetooth or wifi connections. Portable devices can now be carried along with you on trips to play your favourite podcast, favourite songs and trainings anywhere and on the go. You can also listen to news, live shows and weather forecast from sources online.
Some devices presently come with voice commands, with Google Home and Amazon Echo leading the pack in this venture. Whatever device you finally decide to buy, you should appreciate how far the industry has grown to get to the level where it provides a high level of enjoyment and entertainment.