Understanding the Audio Signal Path - Part 1: Basic Concepts
Simply put, the signal path is the route audio takes from its source to a recording medium or monitoring device. That simple description belies a rather complicated and sometimes fraught process. Even in the simplest of signal paths—say, a direct to hard disk recording—the audio must pass through at least one amplifier and A/D converter. Using a mixer or external preamplifiers adds complexity to the route.
To mix that audio with other tracks requires a complicated mixing device or DSP engine that sums the individual tracks through a matrix of channels, sends, buses, etc., to a master out-put. Every juncture along that path requires the audio to pass through a number of circuits or DSP processes. These need to interact with each other near optimally in order to maintain the integrity of the sound.