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Thread: Pro Level Audio vs. Consumer Level Audio

  1. #1
    Senior Member jamesdelfresco's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Philly PA

    Pro Level Audio vs. Consumer Level Audio

    Can someone please explain to me what the difference is between Pro Level Audio and Consumer Level audio.

    Do Podcasters benefit from having pro level audio?

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Houston TX
    Analog signals in/out of consumer gear are typically passed via unbalanced (2 conductor) cables terminated in RCA connectors. The nominal reference signal level is -10 dbm. This is fine for short cable runs, as you might find in the back of an old skool stereo cabinet.

    Analog signals in/out of professional gear has historically been via balanced (3 conductor) cables terminated in XLR type connectors. The nominal reference signal level is +4 dbm.

    The differences revolve around reliability and signal integrity.

    - XLRs are locking connectors that won't come loose or get disconnected by someone tripping on a cable.
    - Balanced signaling down the cable allows for balanced inputs which reject common mode noise that might be induced by a long cable run in an electrically noisy environment.
    - The higher signal level also supports the use of longer cable runs that are less susceptible to noise

    A podcaster can be successful using either type of gear. Many probably use a bit of both.

    The thing to watch out for is combining both. You need to be careful to not overdrive the input of a consumer device with the hotter output of a piece of pro gear. Or conversely, dial up some input gain to bring up the level from a consumer CD player, for example.

    Level matching is usually not a huge problem, but converting from balanced-to-unbalanced and back should be done carefully to avoid problems. There are inexpensive level matching devices that are designed to bridge these two realms reliably.

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