Schools Training

Acoustic Vocabulary for Students in Audio Engineering School

16 JAN 2013
Career Path : Audio Engineering

There’s a whole other language of vocabulary to learn in audio school, but here’s some quick peeks to help you focus on your studies. This time we’re going to focus on acoustics, which actually the scientific study of all mechanical waves, but in audio engineering school is generally limited to the properties of how sound behaves in a space.


Absorption: refers to a material’s sound dampening qualities. Generally soft, dense materials with lots of give absorb better than hard, lightweight surfaces. Absorption matters when you’re figuring out the acoustics of a performance or recording space. Generally lots of reverberations is a bad thing, but for certain audio effects it may be exactly what you want.


Ambience: is the part of a sound comes from the surrounding environment. Audio engineering school teaches you to make the best out of the sounds you have. Sometimes this means looking for accidents and unique circumstances, and abandoning conventional instruments. DJ school is particularly interested in this, remixing industrial and naturally occurring sounds or distortions into musical compositions.


Ambient Field: Also known as reverberant field, this is the area where the reverberation is louder than the actual field.


Baffles: Sound dampening panels used to control where sound may go. They may bear a passing resemblance to egg crate foam.


Critical Distance: This is the area where the original sound and the reverberation is equally loud.


Delay: As well as being used to generate echo effects, a delay is also used in large venues so that the speakers produce sounds in a way that’s perceived as simultaneous, regardless of their actual seat in the hall, theatre or auditorium.


Early Reflection: The first echoes of a sound to reach the listener, caused by reflection of a single surface. Keep in mind that sound waves could bounce several times.


Reverberation: While similar to a full echo, a reverberation is the sound you hear after sound waves have bounced off something. Depending on what it bounced off, this may have made a considerable change to the quality or characteristics of the sound. If this is a desired audio effect, a special echo chamber may be used. Or, as you’ll learn in audio school, you can get the same effect through the right setting in a modern recording switchboard.


These terms are important not just in recording, but also in correctly setting up speakers for a live performance or even deciding on a venue. If you look around your audio engineering school you’ll notice certain architectural features in recording and practice spaces, both to get the best quality of sound, but also to make sure what can be noisy instruments are muffled outside the area that you don’t want them. While a soprano can only achieve a certain degree of amplitude on her own, you’ve probably heard how far an un-muffled saxophone or bagpipes can carry.



Visit Trebas Institute to learn more about audio and acoustics, including what you need to know in DJ school.