The Hot and Cold of Balanced Audio

A few summers of my misspent youth found me working at an outdoor concert venue on the local crew. The local crew helps the show’s technicians — don’t call them roadies; they hate that — put up the show. You unpack the trucks, put up the lights, fly the sound system, help run the show, and put it all back in the trucks at the end. It was grueling work, but a lot of fun, and I got to meet people with names like “Mister Dog Vomit.”

One of the things I most remember about the load-in process was running the snakes. The snakes are fat bundles of cables, one for audio and one for lighting, that run from the stage to the consoles out in the house. The bigger the snakes, the bigger the show. It always impressed me that the audio snake, something like 50 yards long, was able to carry all those low-level signals without picking up interference from the AC thrumming through the lighting snake running right alongside it, while my stereo at home would pick up hum from the three-foot long RCA cable between the turntable and the preamp.

I asked one of the audio techs about that during one show, and he held up the end of the snake where all the cables break out into separate connectors. The chunky silver plugs clinked together as he gave his two-word answer before going back to patching in the console: “Balanced audio.”

Continue reading “The Hot and Cold of Balanced Audio”

Generating pink noise

[Miceuz] just finished his first surface mount electronics project. It’s a pink noise generator that is used for testing audio equipment (scroll down that link for the English version of his writeup).

Pink noise is somewhere in between red noise and white noise. Didn’t realize there were more colors than just white when it comes to noise? The benefit of testing with pink noise is that it the power of the audio signal is stable through each octave of sound – white noise increases in power with each additional octave which can damage the tweeters in a sound system.

The goal in this design was to build a noise generator that fit into an XLR connector. [Miceuz] started with an existing design, and altered it to suit his needs. Much like a condenser microphone, the pink noise generator uses phantom power instead of a standalone power source. For instance, the design he based this on required two 9v batteries. The size, the choice of case, and the absence of a battery all spell WIN for this project.