Audio engineer

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An audio engineer at an audio console. Engineer at audio console at Danish Broadcasting Corporation.png
An audio engineer at an audio console.

An audio engineer (also known as a sound engineer or recording engineer) [1] helps to produce a recording or a live performance, balancing and adjusting sound sources using equalization and audio effects, mixing, reproduction, and reinforcement of sound. Audio engineers work on the "...technical aspect of recording—the placing of microphones, pre-amp knobs, the setting of levels. The physical recording of any project is done by an engineer ... the nuts and bolts." [2] It's a creative hobby and profession where musical instruments and technology are used to produce sound for film, radio, television, music, and video games. [3] Audio engineers also set up, sound check and do live sound mixing using a mixing console and a sound reinforcement system for music concerts, theatre, sports games and corporate events.

Equalization (audio)

Equalization or equalisation is the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an electronic signal. The most well known use of equalization is in sound recording and reproduction but there are many other applications in electronics and telecommunications. The circuit or equipment used to achieve equalization is called an equalizer. These devices strengthen (boost) or weaken (cut) the energy of specific frequency bands or "frequency ranges".

Effects unit electronic or digital device that alters how a musical instrument or other audio source sounds

An effects unit or effectspedal is an electronic or digital device that alters the sound of a musical instrument or other audio source. Common effects include distortion/overdrive, often used with electric guitar in electric blues and rock music; dynamic effects such as volume pedals and compressors, which affect loudness; filters such as wah-wah pedals and graphic equalizers, which modify frequency ranges; modulation effects, such as chorus, flangers and phasers; pitch effects such as pitch shifters; and time effects, such as reverb and delay, which create echoing sounds.

Live sound mixing

Live sound mixing is the blending of multiple sound sources by an audio engineer using a mixing console or software. Sounds that are mixed include those from instruments and voices which are picked up by microphones and pre-recorded material, such as songs on CD or a digital audio player. Individual sources are typically equalised to adjust the bass and treble response and routed to effect processors to ultimately be amplified and reproduced via a loudspeaker system. The live sound engineer listens and balances the various audio sources in a way that best suits the needs of the event.


Alternatively, audio engineer can refer to a scientist or professional engineer who holds an engineering degree and who designs, develops and builds audio or musical technology working under terms such as acoustical engineering, electronic/electrical engineering or (musical) signal processing. [4]

Scientist person that studies a science

A scientist is someone who conducts scientific research to advance knowledge in an area of interest.

Engineer professional practitioner of engineering and its sub classes

Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build, and test machines, systems, structures and materials to fulfill objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety, and cost. The word engineer is derived from the Latin words ingeniare and ingenium ("cleverness"). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master's degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice and passage of engineering board examinations.

Acoustical engineering branch of engineering dealing with sound and vibration

Acoustical engineering is the branch of engineering dealing with sound and vibration. It is the application of acoustics, the science of sound and vibration, in technology. Acoustical engineers are typically concerned with the design, analysis and control of sound.

Research and development

Research and development audio engineers invent new technologies, equipment and techniques, to enhance the process and art of audio engineering. [5] They might design acoustical simulations of rooms, shape algorithms for audio signal processing, specify the requirements for public address systems, carry out research on audible sound for video game console manufacturers, and other advanced fields of audio engineering. They might also be referred to as acoustic engineers. [6] [7]

Research and development general term for activities in connection with corporate or governmental innovation

Research and development, also known in Europe as research and technological development (RTD), refers to innovative activities undertaken by corporations or governments in developing new services or products, or improving existing services or products. Research and development constitutes the first stage of development of a potential new service or the production process.

Audio signal processing is a subfield of signal processing that is concerned with the electronic manipulation of audio signals. As audio signals may be represented in either digital or analog format, processing may occur in either domain. Analog processors operate directly on the electrical signal, while digital processors operate mathematically on the digital representation of that signal.

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.


Audio engineers working in research and development may come from backgrounds such as acoustics, computer science, broadcast engineering, physics, acoustical engineering, electrical engineering and electronics. Audio engineering courses at university or college fall into two rough categories: (i) training in the creative use of audio as a sound engineer, and (ii) training in science or engineering topics, which then allows students to apply these concepts while pursuing a career developing audio technologies. Audio training courses give you a good knowledge of technologies and their application to recording studio and sound reinforcement systems, but do not have sufficient mathematical and scientific content to allow you to get a job in research and development in the audio and acoustic industry. [8]

Acoustics science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound

Acoustics is the branch of physics that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including topics such as vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics technology may be called an acoustical engineer. The application of acoustics is present in almost all aspects of modern society with the most obvious being the audio and noise control industries.

Computer science study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation

Computer science is the study of processes that interact with data and that can be represented as data in the form of programs. It enables the use of algorithms to manipulate, store, and communicate digital information. A computer scientist studies the theory of computation and the practice of designing software systems.

Broadcast engineering is the field of electrical engineering, and now to some extent computer engineering and information technology, which deals with radio and television broadcasting. Audio engineering and RF engineering are also essential parts of broadcast engineering, being their own subsets of electrical engineering.

Noted audio engineer Roger Nichols at a vintage Neve recording console. RogStudioLongshot.jpg
Noted audio engineer Roger Nichols at a vintage Neve recording console.

Audio engineers in research and development usually possess a bachelor's degree, master's degree or higher qualification in acoustics, physics, computer science or another engineering discipline. They might work in acoustic consultancy, specializing in architectural acoustics. [9] Alternatively they might work in audio companies (e.g. headphone manufacturer), or other industries that need audio expertise (e.g., automobile manufacturer), or carry out research in a university. Some positions, such as faculty (academic staff) require a Doctor of Philosophy. In Germany a Toningenieur is an audio engineer who designs, builds and repairs audio systems.

Bachelors degree Undergraduate academic degree

A bachelor's degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to seven years. In some institutions and educational systems, some bachelor's degrees can only be taken as graduate or postgraduate degrees after a first degree has been completed. In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor's degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework, although some qualifications titled bachelor's degrees may be at other levels and some qualifications with non-bachelor's titles may be classified as bachelor's degrees.

A master's degree is an academic degree awarded by universities or colleges upon completion of a course of study demonstrating mastery or a high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice. A master's degree normally requires previous study at the bachelor's level, either as a separate degree or as part of an integrated course. Within the area studied, master's graduates are expected to possess advanced knowledge of a specialized body of theoretical and applied topics; high order skills in analysis, critical evaluation, or professional application; and the ability to solve complex problems and think rigorously and independently.

Physics study of matter and its motion, along with related concepts such as energy and force

Physics is the natural science that studies matter and its motion and behavior through space and time and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.


The listed subdisciplines are based on PACS (Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme) coding used by the Acoustical Society of America with some revision. [10]

The Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme (PACS) is a scheme developed in 1970 by the American Institute of Physics (AIP) for classifying scientific literature using a hierarchical set of codes. PACS has been used by over 160 international journals, including the Physical Review series since 1975. Since 2016, American Physical Society introduced the PhySH system instead of PACS.

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is an international scientific society dedicated to generating, disseminating and promoting the knowledge of acoustics and its practical applications.

Audio signal processing

Audio engineers develop audio signal processing algorithms to allow the electronic manipulation of audio signals. These can be processed at the heart of much audio production such as reverberation, Auto-Tune or perceptual coding (e.g. mp3 or Opus). Alternatively, the algorithms might carry out echo cancellation on Skype, or identify and categorize audio tracks through Music Information Retrieval (e.g., Shazam). [11]

Architectural acoustics

Acoustic diffusing mushrooms hanging from the roof of the Royal Albert Hall. AcousticDiscsRoyalAlbertHall.JPG
Acoustic diffusing mushrooms hanging from the roof of the Royal Albert Hall.

Architectural acoustics is the science and engineering of achieving a good sound within a room. [12] For audio engineers, architectural acoustics can be about achieving good speech intelligibility in a stadium or enhancing the quality of music in a theatre. [13] Architectural Acoustic design is usually done by acoustic consultants. [9]


The Pyramid Stage Glastofriday2003.jpg
The Pyramid Stage

Electroacoustics is concerned with the design of headphones, microphones, loudspeakers, sound reproduction systems and recording technologies. [7] Examples of electroacoustic design include portable electronic devices (e.g. mobile phones, portable media players, and tablet computers), sound systems in architectural acoustics, surround sound and wave field synthesis in movie theater and vehicle audio.

Musical acoustics

Musical acoustics is concerned with researching and describing the science of music. In audio engineering, this includes the design of electronic instruments such as synthesizers; the human voice (the physics and neurophysiology of singing); physical modeling of musical instruments; room acoustics of concert venues; music information retrieval; music therapy, and the perception and cognition of music. [14] [15]


Psychoacoustics is the scientific study of how humans respond to what they hear. At the heart of audio engineering are listeners who are the final arbitrator as to whether an audio design is successful, such as whether a binaural recording sounds immersive. [11]


The production, computer processing and perception of speech is an important part of audio engineering. Ensuring speech is transmitted intelligibly, efficiently and with high quality; in rooms, through public address systems and through mobile telephone systems are important areas of study. [16]


Live sound mixing Flickr - europeanpeoplesparty - EPP Congress Warsaw (963).jpg
Live sound mixing

A variety of terms are used to describe audio engineers who install or operate sound recording, sound reinforcement, or sound broadcasting equipment, including large and small format consoles. Terms such as "audio technician," "sound technician," "audio engineer," "audio technologist," "recording engineer," "sound mixer" and "sound engineer" can be ambiguous; depending on the context they may be synonymous, or they may refer to different roles in audio production. Such terms can refer to a person working in sound and music production; for instance, a "sound engineer" or "recording engineer" is commonly listed in the credits of commercial music recordings (as well as in other productions that include sound, such as movies). These titles can also refer to technicians who maintain professional audio equipment. Certain jurisdictions specifically prohibit the use of the title engineer to any individual not a registered member of a professional engineering licensing body.

In German, the "Tontechniker" (audio technician) is the one who operates the audio equipment and the "Tonmeister" (sound master) is a person who creates recordings or broadcasts of music, who is both deeply musically trained (in classical and non-classical genres), and who also has a detailed theoretical and practical knowledge of virtually all aspects of sound.[ citation needed ]

Education and training

Audio engineers come from backgrounds or postsecondary training in fields such as audio, fine arts, broadcasting, music, or electrical engineering. Training in audio engineering and sound recording is offered by colleges and universities. Some audio engineers are autodidacts with no formal training, but who have attained professional skills in audio through extensive on-the-job experience.

Training and background

Audio engineers must have extensive knowledge of audio engineering principles and techniques. For instance, they must understand how audio signals travel, which equipment to use and when, how to mic different instruments and amplifiers, which microphones to use and how to position them to get the best quality recordings. In addition to technical knowledge, an audio engineer must have the ability to problem solve quickly. The best audio engineers also have a high degree of creativity that allow them to stand out amongst their peers. In the music realm, an audio engineer must also understand the types of sounds and tones that are expected in musical ensembles across different genres - rock and pop music for example. This knowledge of musical style is typically learned from years of experience listening to and mixing music in recording or live sound contexts. For education and training, there are audio engineering schools all over the world. In North America, the most notable being Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida, United States, and OIART (The Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology) in London, Canada.


At the front of house position, mixing sound for a band FOH Pete Keppler with digidesign VENUE Profile live digital mixer and Genelec monitoring.jpg
At the front of house position, mixing sound for a band

In the recording studio environment, a sound engineer records, edits, manipulates, mixes, or masters sound by technical means to realize the creative vision of the artist and record producer. While usually associated with music production, an audio engineer deals with sound for a wide range of applications, including post-production for video and film, live sound reinforcement, advertising, multimedia, and broadcasting. In larger productions, an audio engineer is responsible for the technical aspects of a sound recording or other audio production, and works together with a record producer or director, although the engineer's role may also be integrated with that of the producer. In smaller productions and studios the sound engineer and producer are often the same person.

In typical sound reinforcement applications, audio engineers often assume the role of producer, making artistic and technical decisions, and sometimes even scheduling and budget decisions. [17]

Role of women

According to Women's Audio Mission (WAM), a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco dedicated to the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts, less than 5% of the people creating sound and media are women. [18] "Only three women have ever been nominated for best producer at the Brits or the Grammys" and none won either award. [19] "Women who want to enter the [producing] field face a boys' club, or a guild mentality". [19] The UK "Music Producers' Guild says less than 4% of its members are women" and at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, "...only 6% of the students enrolled on its sound technology course are female." [19]

Women's Audio Mission was started in 2003 to address the lack of women in professional audio by training over 6,000 women and girls in the recording arts and is the only professional recording studio built and run by women. [20] Notable recording projects include the Grammy Award-winning Kronos Quartet, Angelique Kidjo (2014 Grammy winner), author Salman Rushdie, the Academy Award-nominated soundtrack to “Dirty Wars”, [21] Van-Ahn Vo (NPR’s top 50 albums of 2013), Grammy-nominated St. Lawrence Quartet, and world music artists Tanya Tagaq and Wu Man.[ citation needed ]

One of the first women to produce, engineer, arrange and promote music on her own rock and roll music label was Cordell Jackson (1923-2004). Trina Shoemaker is a mixer, record producer and sound engineer who became the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Best Engineered Album in 1998 for her work on The Globe Sessions . [22]

Gail Davies was the '...first female producer in country music, delivering a string of Top 10 hits in the '70s and '80s including "Someone Is Looking for Someone Like You," "Blue Heartache" and "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)." [23] When she moved to Nashville in 1976, men "...didn't want to work for a woman" and she was told women in the city were "...still barefoot, pregnant and [singing] in the vocal booth." [23]

Wendy Waldman, who became a producer after Davies, saw that Davies had a difficult time. When Jonell Polansky arrived in Nashville in 1994, with a degree in electrical engineering and recording experience in the Bay Area, she was told "...[y]ou're a woman, and we already had one"–a reference to Waldman. [23] KK Proffitt, who is a studio "owner and chief engineer" states that men in Nashville do not want to have women in the recording booth. At a meeting of the Audio Engineering Society, Proffitt was told to "shut up" by a male producer when she raised the issue of updating studio recording technologies. [23] Proffitt said she finds "...finds sexism rampant in the industry". [23]

Other notable women include:


There are four distinct steps to commercial production of a recording: recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. Typically, each is performed by a sound engineer who specializes only in that part of production.


Correcting a room's frequency response. Roomcorrect-mag.png
Correcting a room's frequency response.

An audio engineer is proficient with different types of recording media, such as analog tape, digital multi-track recorders and workstations, and computer knowledge. With the advent of the digital age, it is increasingly important for the audio engineer to understand software and hardware integration, from synchronization to analog to digital transfers. In their daily work, audio engineers use many tools, including:

Notable audio engineers



Live sound

See also

Related Research Articles

Mixing console electronic device for combining sounds of many different audio signals

In sound recording and reproduction, and sound reinforcement systems, a mixing console is an electronic device for combining sounds of many different audio signals. Inputs to the console include microphones being used by singers and for picking up acoustic instruments, signals from electric or electronic instruments, or recorded music. Depending on the type, a mixer is able to control analog or digital signals. The modified signals are summed to produce the combined output signals, which can then be broadcast, amplified through a sound reinforcement system or recorded.

Recording studio facility for sound recording

A recording studio is a specialized facility for sound recording, mixing, and audio production of instrumental or vocal musical performances, spoken words, and other sounds. They range in size from a small in-home project studio large enough to record a single singer-guitarist, to a large building with space for a full orchestra of 100 or more musicians. Ideally both the recording and monitoring spaces are specially designed by an acoustician or audio engineer to achieve optimum acoustic properties.

DI unit

A DI unit is an electronic device typically used in recording studios and in sound reinforcement systems to connect a high-output impedance, line level, unbalanced output signal to a low-impedance, microphone level, balanced input, usually via an XLR connector and XLR cable. DIs are frequently used to connect an electric guitar or electric bass to a mixing console's microphone input jack. The DI performs level matching, balancing, and either active buffering or passive impedance matching/impedance bridging to minimize unwanted noise, distortion, and ground loops. DI units are typically metal boxes with input and output jacks and, for more expensive units, “ground lift” and attenuator switches.

Audio multicore cable

An audio multicore cable is a thick cable which contains from four to 64 individual audio cables inside a common, sturdy outer jacket. Audio multicore cables are widely used whenever multiple audio signals, for example from a number of microphones, need to be conveyed between common locations. Typical professional audio applications include audio recording, sound reinforcement, PA systems and broadcasting. The "snake" is typically used to make it easier to route many signals from the microphones or other input transducers, to the audio console or sound equipment.

Sound reinforcement system combination of microphones, signal processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers in enclosures all controlled by a mixing console that makes live or pre-recorded sounds louder and may also distribute those sounds to a larger or more distant audience

A sound reinforcement system is the combination of microphones, signal processors, amplifiers, and loudspeakers in enclosures all controlled by a mixing console that makes live or pre-recorded sounds louder and may also distribute those sounds to a larger or more distant audience. In many situations, a sound reinforcement system is also used to enhance or alter the sound of the sources on the stage, typically by using electronic effects, such as reverb, as opposed to simply amplifying the sources unaltered.

DJ mixer

A DJ mixer is a type of audio mixing console used by Disc jockeys (DJs) to control and manipulate multiple audio signals. Some DJs use the mixer to make seamless transitions from one song to another when they are playing records at a dance club. Hip hop DJs and turntablists use the DJ mixer to play record players like a musical instrument and create new sounds. DJs in the disco, house music, electronic dance music and other dance-oriented genres use the mixer to make smooth transitions between different sound recordings as they are playing. The sources are typically record turntables, compact cassettes, CDJs, or DJ software on a laptop. DJ mixers allow the DJ to use headphones to preview the next song before playing it to the audience. Most low- to mid-priced DJ mixers can only accommodate two turntables or CD players, but some mixers can accommodate up to four turntables or CD players. DJs and turntablists in hip hop music and nu metal use DJ mixers to create beats, loops and "scratching" sound effects.

Professional audio

Professional audio, abbreviated as pro audio, refers to both an activity and a category of high quality, studio-grade audio equipment. Typically it encompasses sound recording, sound reinforcement system setup and audio mixing, and studio music production by trained sound engineers, audio engineers, record producers, and audio technicians who work in live event support and recording using audio mixers, recording equipment and sound reinforcement systems. In contrast, consumer audio equipment is a lower grade of gear which is used by regular people for the reproduction of sound in a private home on a home stereo or home cinema system.

Digital mixing console

In professional audio, a digital mixing console (DMC) is an electronic device used to combine, route, and change the dynamics, equalization and other properties of multiple audio input signals, using digital computers rather than analog circuitry. The digital audio samples, which is the internal representation of the analog inputs, are summed to what is known as a master channel to produce a combined output. A professional digital mixing console is a dedicated desk or control surface produced exclusively for the task, and is typically more robust in terms of user control, processing power and quality of audio effects. However, a computer with proper controller hardware can act as the device for the digital mixing console since it can mimic its interface, input and output.

LARES is an electronic sound enhancement system that uses microprocessors to control multiple loudspeakers and microphones placed around a performance space for the purpose of providing active acoustic treatment. LARES was invented in Massachusetts in 1988, by engineers working at Lexicon, Inc.


An automixer, or automatic microphone mixer, is a live sound mixing device that automatically reduces the strength of a microphone's audio signal when it is not being used. Automixers lower the hiss, rumble, reverberation and other extraneous noise that occur when several microphones operate simultaneously.

Stage monitor system

A stage monitor system is performer-facing loudspeakers known as monitor speakers or stage monitors on stage during live music performances in which a PA system or sound reinforcement system is used to amplify the performers' singing, music, speech and other sounds for the audience. In Britain the term foldback is often used to describe the system. Monitor speakers are useful when amplified instruments are used with acoustic instruments and voice. Monitor speakers often include a single full-range loudspeaker and a horn in a cabinet. Monitor speakers have numerous features which facilitate their transportation and protection, including handles, metal corner protectors, sturdy felt covering or paint and a metal grille to protect the speaker. There are two types of monitors: passive monitors consist of a loudspeaker and horn in a cabinet ; active monitors have a loudspeaker, horn and a power amplifier in a single cabinet, which means the signal from the mixing board can be plugged straight into the monitor speaker.

Institute of Audio Research

The Institute of Audio Research (IAR) was an educational institution in New York City. Students of IAR were offered a wide variety of academic programs in the field of music production and audio engineering. Students could choose from courses in audio electronics, digital music production, mixing music, and audio processing and storage, among others.


Smaart is a suite of audio and acoustical measurements and instrumentation software tools. Introduced in 1996 by JBL's pro audio division, Smaart was a revolution for audio engineers because it was the first piece of measurement software that was available at a relatively low-price. It was designed to help the live sound engineer optimize sound reinforcement systems during the public performance unlike most earlier analysis systems which required specific test signals sent to the sound system, ones which would be unpleasant for the audience to hear. It is also intended to assist audio engineers in analyzing the output of loudspeakers, audio amplifiers and other audio gear, as well as helping the acoustician analyze room acoustics. The product has been known as JBL-Smaart, SIA-Smaart Pro, EAW Smaart, SmaartLive, and simply Smaart. An acoustician version has been offered as Smaart Acoustic Tools. Smaart is an acronym which stands for sound measurement acoustical analysis real time.

Musical "outboard equipment" or "gear" is used to alter how a musical instrument sounds. Outboard, (external effects units) can be used either during a live performance or in the recording studio. These are separate from the effects that may be applied by using a mixing console or a digital audio workstation. Some outboard effects units and digital signal processing (DSP) boxes commonly found in a studio are:

Mixing engineer person responsible for mixing the different sonic elements of a piece of recorded music into a final version of a song

A mixing engineer is a person responsible for combining ("mixing") the different sonic elements of a piece of recorded music into a final version of a song. He or she mixes the elements of a recorded piece together to achieve a good balance of volume, while at the same time deciding other properties such as pan positioning, effects, and so on.

Dan Dugan (audio engineer) First sound designer; inventor of the automixer

Dan Dugan is an American audio engineer, inventor, and nature sounds recordist. He was the first person in regional theatre to be called a sound designer, and he developed the first effective automatic microphone mixer: the automixer. Dugan's sound design work was acknowledged in 2003 with a Distinguished Career Award by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.

Professional audio store

A professional audio store is a retail business that sells, and in many cases rents, sound reinforcement system equipment and PA system components used in music concerts, live shows, dance parties and speaking events. This equipment typically includes microphones, power amplifiers, electronic effects units, speaker enclosures, monitor speakers, subwoofers and audio consoles (mixers). Some professional audio stores also sell sound recording equipment, DJ equipment, lighting equipment used in nightclubs and concerts and video equipment used in events, such as video projectors and screens. Some professional audio stores rent "backline" equipment used in rock and pop shows, such as stage pianos and bass amplifiers. While professional audio stores typically focus on selling new merchandise, some stores also sell used equipment, which is often the equipment that the company has previously rented out for shows and events.


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