Effects and Signal Processors

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In this section we'll be illustrating the main audio signal manipulation methods and the equipment used. For convenience we'll refer to all the devices in question with the word effect. However we must point out a very important difference, namely, that effects can be divided into two categories: actual "effects" and signal processors.

Effects: these are modules that carry out a manipulation on one part of the signal. Within this kind of module the signal is split into two: one part reaches the output directly, whereas the other passes through the circuit to then be manipulated. At the module's output, a mixer allows the two signals to recombine, one not having been manipulated (called dry signal) and the other having been manipulated (called wet signal). The main characteristic of effects is that the dry signal and the wet signal sum up in parallel. The following is the electric scheme of the two sounds' composition:

Effects and signal processors - Action of an effect on the signal

Action of an effect on the signal

Signal processors: these are the modules that on the other hand carry out a manipulation on the entire signal.

Effects and signal processors - Actions of a signal processor

Actions of a signal processor

In this case the modules are disposed in series.

The evolution of electronics hand in hand with an intrinsic knowledge of sound, have allowed the creation of a series of circuits that over time have become indispensable in sound engineering. The evolution of digital electronics has further brought about progress in this sense, with the introduction of modules capable of processing the signal mathematically rather than electronically. At the moment the market is flooding with an infinite amount of different effects with all kinds of unimaginable finalities. Some of these are absolutely indispensable, others can be considered 'luxuries' to give an extra touch to ones work, others still are so peculiar that they can only be used in certain situations.

All the effects referred to in this section can be attained through electric circuits, digital circuits that apply certain algorithms, or through modules that combine the two aforementioned approaches. The electric circuits manipulate the input signal modifying its characteristics (like amplitude or frequency content). The quality of the module used in this case depends upon the quality of the single electrical components (resistances, condensers, inductances, connectors etc.) and by the quality of the circuit's design. Digital circuits operate in a completely different manner. The input signal is sampled and stored in a digital memory system (RAM) and thereafter, a digital circuit (made up of integrated circuits) carries out mathematical operations on the stored data with an algorithm that simulates a real situation [Analogue effects simulation ] .

Next we will take a look at the main effects used in sound engineering and thereafter at the most commonly used signal processors.


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