Whether you just want something simple to record your guitar at home or a professional PA system suitable for a large band, you'll see and hear many terms that, at face value, mean very little. Who needs 'phantom power' anyway?
We've included a non-exhaustive list of popular terms below. Do feel free to comment or add your own!
An Input is your sound source. This can be a guitar, a piano, a microphone, an .mp3 player... anything that creates sound needs to be plugged into an input. An Output is what sends the created sound out to external speakers, a recording desk, another amplifier or other technology. The easiest way to see this is with a Guitar Effects pedal like the Boss DS-1
As you can see, the input sound - in this case the guitar - comes in on one side, and the output sound - in this case, the altered guitar sound which now features distortion - comes out of the other side, and into the amplifier or PA system.
A channel is found on a PA system, Amplifier, Mixing Desk or similar unit. An 8 Channel device can accept 8 different inputs, a 4 channel can accept 4 and so on. Generally the more channels, the more expensive the equipment will be. Mixing desks with multiple channels are especially useful for mixing a band together, for example.
Latency is the delay it takes for a recorded sound to go from the source to the computer and be laid down on a track. More expensive audio interfaces will offer a lower latency, but the specification of the computer used can also impact on this. The higher the latency, the harder it will be to layer a recording effectively.
Phantom Power isn't nearly as exciting as the name suggests. It's a method of powering a microphone using the microphone's own cable. Most mixers provide this but often the cheaper models don't - it's important to check for this if you don't want to power the microphone with batteries or a mains plug.
This is the end of any audio cable and they're used in the Input or Output sections of technology. Guitar and many audio cable jacks are known as 1/4". The smaller, headphone sized jacks are known as 3.5mm. Microphone cables are sometimes 1/4" but are more often XLR. This is a large, round connector with 3 pins.
As the pictures show, they're quite different! Don't panic if your equipment doesn't support them though - there are many adaptors and connectors that allow you to swap between sizes and connection types without investing in new kit! See our full range here.
MIDI / USB
Midi and USB are methods of connecting technology or instruments to, most commonly, a computer or other interface to allow for recording or sampling. MIDI is most commonly found on keyboards and can be used for many applications and can be very intricate and complicated!
USB is most commonly found on interfaces and some MIDI keyboards as an alternate connection to a computer for use with sampling software like Cubase. It's become a popular choice ahead of MIDI, partly because it's less complicated.
The equaliser is often represented by sliders. It can be shortened to 'EQ' and controls the frequencies of the sound. They can range from very simple 3 channel to huge 24 channel or more allowing for very minute alterations in the sound.
The smile shape, seen above, is probably the most popular set up of an EQ as it boosts the bass (left) and treble (right) but doesn't over-egg the middle frequencies. An EQ should be set to the individual room, so by all means fiddle around and find a sound you like!
They're also seen as digital examples on most computer software and media players - similarly, they will change how the frequencies of the sound you're playing are sent to the speakers. If you want more bass, turn up the left. If you've got an annoying hiss on some old music or poor recordings, turn the top treble down a little.