Recording Studio Signal Flow: From Mic to the Monitors

Recording Studio Signal Chain
Recording Studio Signal Flow Diagram: Learn how the recording signal flows from the microphones to the studio monitors headphones.

There’s plenty of information here on this website on how to setup a recording studio, what are the equipment that you need to start recording, and so on.

However, if it’s still not clear to you as to how the recording signal flows, right from the moment its captured by the microphone and finally when it comes out from the studio monitors, here’s a nice & simple explanation.

In fact, the picture below clearly illustrates how it happens. In the future, you may want to use it as a reference.

Just follow the arrows in the diagram, starting from the Musical instruments, and you’ll understand the entire recording signal chain.

Recording Studio Signal Flow Illustration

Still not sure what’s happening? Here’s a brief explanation of what happens at every point in the recording signal chain.

  1. Music Instrument to Microphone: The microphone picks up what you play on the instrument.
  2. Microphone to Mic Preamp: The preamp amplifies the signal from the mic to the line level so that it can be amplified/heard properly.
  3. Mic Preamp to Hardware Effects: The analog signal from the mic preamp is sent to signal processors including EQ and Compression (this can also happen inside a software).
  4. Hardware Effects to A/D Converter: The analog line level signal gets sent to the A/D converter which converts the signal into a digital one.
  5. A/D Converter to Audio Interface: The digital signal gets sent to the audio interface (most interfaces have built-in converters)
  6. Audio Interface to Computer: The audio interface sends the digital signal into the computer where you can work on your favorite DAW, use your favorite plugins, and so on.
  7. Computer to Audio Interface: The new processed digital signal is now sent out of the computer to the audio interface.
  8. Audio Interface to D/A Converter: The audio interface sends the digital signal to the D/A converter which converts the digital signal back into an analog signal (so that it can be heard by monitors & headphones).
  9. D/A Converter to Headphone Amp, Monitor Management: The analog signal gets split in two directions: one to the headphone amp, and the other to the monitor management system.
  10. Headphone Amp to Headphones: The headphone amp sends the signal to the headphones.
  11. Monitor Management System to Studio Monitors: The monitor management system distributes the signal to the studio monitors
  12. Studio Monitors/Headphones to your Ears: The headphones and the studio monitors turn the analog signal back into sound, which is what we hear finally.

Not happy with the results, feel free to tweak the various elements in the signal until you get the sound you’re looking for!

Here’s another diagram that shows how the various equipment are connected in a recording studio.
Recording Studio Signal Flow Illustration

That’s actually the complete recording studio signal flow. I’m sure it doesn’t look complicated now? What do you guys think about it?

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