Audio engineer

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An audio engineer with audio console, at a recording session at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. Engineer at audio console at Danish Broadcasting Corporation.png
An audio engineer with audio console, at a recording session at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

An audio engineer (also known as a sound engineer or recording engineer) [1] [2] helps to produce a recording or a live performance, balancing and adjusting sound sources using equalization, dynamics processing 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." [3]

Contents

Sound engineering is increasingly seen as a creative profession where musical instruments and technology are used to produce sound for film, radio, television, music and video games. [4] 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.

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,[ citation needed ] electronic/electrical engineering or (musical) signal processing. [5]

Research and development

Research and development audio engineers invent new technologies, audio software, equipment and techniques, to enhance the process and art of audio engineering. [6] 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. [7] [8]

Education

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 provide knowledge of technologies and their application to recording studios and sound reinforcement systems, but do not have sufficient mathematical and scientific content to allow someone to obtain employment in research and development in the audio and acoustic industry. [9]

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. [10] 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.[ citation needed ]

Sub-disciplines

The listed subdisciplines are based on PACS (Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme) coding used by the Acoustical Society of America with some revision. [11]

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 perform echo cancellation, or identify and categorize audio content through music information retrieval or acoustic fingerprint. [12]

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. [13] For audio engineers, architectural acoustics can be about achieving good speech intelligibility in a stadium or enhancing the quality of music in a theatre. [14] Architectural Acoustic design is usually done by acoustic consultants. [10]

Electroacoustics

The Pyramid Stage Glastofriday2003.jpg
The Pyramid Stage

Electroacoustics is concerned with the design of headphones, microphones, loudspeakers, sound reproduction systems and recording technologies. [8] 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. [15] [16]

Psychoacoustics

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. [12]

Speech

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. [17]

Practitioner

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

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," "mixing engineer" 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 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. [18]

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.

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.

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 working in the field of sound and media are women. [19] [ citation needed ] "Only three women have ever been nominated for best producer at the Brits or the Grammys" and none won either award. [20] According to Susan Rogers, audio engineer and professor at Berklee College of Music, women interested in becoming an audio engineer face "a boys' club, or a guild mentality". [20] 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." [20]

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. [21] 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", [22] 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 ]

There certainly are efforts to chronicle women's role and history in audio. Leslie Gaston-Bird wrote Women in Audio, [23] which includes 100 profiles of women in audio through history. Sound Girls is an organization focused on the next generation of women in audio, but also has been building up resources and directories of women in audio. [24] Women in Sound is another organization that has been working to highlight women and nonbinary people in all areas of live and recorded sound through an online zine and podcast featuring interviews of current audio engineers and producers.

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 . [25]

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)." [26] 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." [26] When Jonell Polansky arrived in Nashville in 1994, with a degree in electrical engineering and recording experience in the Bay Area, she was told "You're a woman, and we already had one"—a reference to Wendy Waldman. [26] KK Proffitt, 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. [26] Proffitt said she "finds sexism rampant in the industry". [26]

Other notable women include:

Sub-disciplines

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.

Equipment

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, plug-ins 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

Recording

List

Mastering

Live sound

Broadcasting

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Record producer</span> Individual who oversees and manages the recording of an artists music

A record producer is a recording project's creative and technical leader, commanding studio time and coaching artists, and in popular genres typically creates the song's very sound and structure. The record producer, or simply the producer, is likened to film director and art director. The executive producer, on the other hand, enables the recording project through entrepreneurship, and an audio engineer operates the technology.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mixing console</span> Device used for audio mixing

A mixing console or mixing desk is an electronic device for mixing audio signals, used in sound recording and reproduction and sound reinforcement systems. Inputs to the console include microphones, signals from electric or electronic instruments, or recorded sounds. Mixers may 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Recording studio</span> 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Multitrack recording</span> Separate recording of multiple sound sources to create a cohesive whole

Multitrack recording (MTR), also known as multitracking or tracking, is a method of sound recording developed in 1955 that allows for the separate recording of multiple sound sources or of sound sources recorded at different times to create a cohesive whole. Multitracking became possible in the mid-1950s when the idea of simultaneously recording different audio channels to separate discrete "tracks" on the same reel-to-reel tape was developed. A "track" was simply a different channel recorded to its own discrete area on the tape whereby their relative sequence of recorded events would be preserved, and playback would be simultaneous or synchronized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Echo chamber</span> Hollow enclosure used to produce reverberated sounds

An echo chamber is a hollow enclosure used to produce reverberation, usually for recording purposes. For example, the producers of a television or radio program might wish to produce the aural illusion that a conversation is taking place in a large room or a cave; these effects can be accomplished by playing the recording of the conversation inside an echo chamber, with an accompanying microphone to catch the reverberation. Nowadays, effects units are more widely used to create such effects, but echo chambers are still used today, such as the famous echo chambers at Capitol Studios.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Acoustical engineering</span> Branch of engineering dealing with sound and vibration

Acoustical engineering is the branch of engineering dealing with sound and vibration. It includes 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">DI unit</span> Audio signal conversion device

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stage box</span> Interface device used in sound reinforcement

A stage box is an interface device used in sound reinforcement and recording studios to connect equipment to a mixing console. It provides a central location to connect microphones, instruments, and speakers to a multicore cable (snake), which allows the sound desk to be further from the stage and simplifies setup.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sound reinforcement system</span> Amplified sound system for public events

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Waves Audio</span> Professional audio company

Waves Audio Ltd. is a developer and supplier of professional digital audio signal processing technologies and audio effects, used in recording, mixing, mastering, post production, broadcast, and live sound. The company's corporate headquarters and main development facilities are located in Tel Aviv, with additional offices in the United States, China, and Taiwan, and development centers in India and Ukraine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Professional audio</span> Activity and category of studio-grade audio equipment

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 mixing consoles, recording equipment and sound reinforcement systems. Professional audio is differentiated from consumer- or home-oriented audio, which are typically geared toward listening in a non-commercial environment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital mixing console</span> Electronic device used to manipulate audio input signals using digital signal processing

In professional audio, a digital mixing console (DMC) is a type of mixing console used to combine, route, and change the dynamics, equalization and other properties of multiple audio input signals, using digital signal processing 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 can also perform the same function since it can mimic its interface, input and output.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Live sound mixing</span> Blending of multiple sound sources for a live event

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.

An audio signal is a representation of sound, typically using either a changing level of electrical voltage for analog signals, or a series of binary numbers for digital signals. Audio signals have frequencies in the audio frequency range of roughly 20 to 20,000 Hz, which corresponds to the lower and upper limits of human hearing. Audio signals may be synthesized directly, or may originate at a transducer such as a microphone, musical instrument pickup, phonograph cartridge, or tape head. Loudspeakers or headphones convert an electrical audio signal back into sound.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Stage monitor system</span> Sound reinforcement for performers

A stage monitor system is a set of performer-facing loudspeakers called monitor speakers, stage monitors, floor monitors, wedges, or foldbacks on stage during live music performances in which a sound reinforcement system is used to amplify a performance for the audience. The monitor system allows musicians to hear themselves and fellow band members clearly.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Audio mixing (recorded music)</span> Audio mixing to yield recorded sound

In sound recording and reproduction, audio mixing is the process of optimizing and combining multitrack recordings into a final mono, stereo or surround sound product. In the process of combining the separate tracks, their relative levels are adjusted and balanced and various processes such as equalization and compression are commonly applied to individual tracks, groups of tracks, and the overall mix. In stereo and surround sound mixing, the placement of the tracks within the stereo field are adjusted and balanced. Audio mixing techniques and approaches vary widely and have a significant influence on the final product.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Smaart</span> Audio measurement software

Smaart is a suite of audio and acoustical measurements and instrumentation software tools introduced in 1996 by JBL's professional audio division. It is designed to help the live sound engineer optimize sound reinforcement systems before public performance and actively monitor acoustical parameters in real time while an audio system is in use. Most earlier analysis systems required specific test signals sent through the sound system, ones that would be unpleasant for the audience to hear. Smaart is a source-independent analyzer and therefore will work effectively with a variety of test signals including speech or music.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dan Dugan (audio engineer)</span> 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, and in 2020 with an Emmy Award for technology relevant to remote working. In 2021 he was awarded Fellowship in the Audio Engineering Society.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matrix mixer</span> Audio device that routes multiple audio signals

A matrix mixer is an audio electronics device that routes multiple input audio signals to multiple outputs. It usually employs level controls such as potentiometers to determine how much of each input is going to each output, and it can incorporate simple on/off assignment buttons. The number of individual controls is at least the number of inputs multiplied by the number of outputs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Professional audio store</span> Retail business

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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