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Learning More About 'Audio'

A new year often brings new resolutions—do more exercise; eat healthier; save more money. How about this one? Get audio smarter.

Perhaps you're just starting out, or maybe you've done more video, and need some audio savvy. Even if you've been in audio for years, there are always new things to learn.


Continuing or starting your audio education program doesn't necessarily mean enrolling in college or trade school classes, although that's certainly a great option.

Audio education company Synergetic Audio Concepts (SynAudCon) recently launched two online audio courses, with two more coming down the pike.

The first is, appropriately enough, "Level 100: Principles of Audio," and continues with "Level 200: Audio Applications."

Later on they will offer "Level 300: Sound Reinforcement for Designers," and an "Introduction to Audio" geared toward those new to audio.

These fee-based courses should provide a good grounding, so to speak, in audio fundamentals, terminology, the audio signal chain, systems design, audio interfaces, gain structure, equalization, to name a few topics, all based on helping students understand underlying principles—the whys as well as the hows.

Audio education company Synergetic Audio Concepts (SynAudCon) recently launched two online audio courses, with two more coming soon. As a personal disclosure, I've taken a variety of SynAudCon's on-the-road classes over the years. They've been invaluable in learning how to take a systems approach to design and analysis.

In addition to the online courses, SynAudCon will continue to travel and offer the in-person classes that they are most noted for.

Prefer to do independent study? How about hitting the books? Audio manufacturer Rane provides an annotated list of reference books for pro audio, acoustics, electronics, and related subjects, on the reference section of its website.

Don't understand some terms? Head to the Rane Pro Audio Reference pages. Here you'll find definitions for an extensive range of entries, from the more mundane, like total harmonic distortion and decibel (with a link to a decibel calculator) to the more arcane, like Ben Franklin's armonica (yes, dear editor, that starts with an 'a') or H. D. Arnold's thermophone. Many of the listings have links to other websites with further information.

Rane also posts a series of fine technical articles, called RaneNotes, which address such topics as audio fundamentals, grounding and shielding, equalizers, and processors.


Here are some other sites worth checking out for more technical articles or tutorials relating to audio and acoustics.

Consultant Jim Brown of Audio Systems Group Inc. shares his prolific writings on his website. Topics include grounding and shielding, the "pin 1 problem," acoustics and sound system design, sound mixing, wireless mics, power line filters, RFI interference and ham radio.

ProSoundWeb Study Hall section of its website offers articles on acoustics, audio basics, cabling and interconnect, computers and networks, recording, rigging, sound reinforcement, heritage and history.

SynAudCon also has an extensive online library of articles about such subjects as acoustics, grounding and shielding, microphones, mixers and mixing, audio systems design, audio test equipment and practices, and signal processing, plus educational blogs by its members.

Sweetwater, the audio gear seller, has an "expert center" on its website, with videos by noted recording engineers, plus tech tips and an archive of the words of the day.

Many manufacturers of audio gear publish white papers, how-to articles, tutorials, application notes, glossaries, and answers to frequently asked questions on their websites. While some of these sources may be product-specific (which is very helpful if you're trying to learn a specific device), others delve into the core principles of various audio topics to help the user apply them to many different situations.

When visiting these sites look for such keywords as support, knowledge or learning center, reference or downloads to locate the list of available material. Sometimes you have to dig.

Microphone makers such as Shure Inc., AKG Acoustics, and Audio-Technica have how-to articles on microphone basics, different microphone techniques, mic placement for different instruments, wireless mic basics, how to make good recordings, plus glossaries.

Jensen Transformers Inc. has several white papers and tutorials relating to interconnection between balanced and unbalanced inputs and outputs, dealing with hum and buzz, audio transformers, and grounding and shielding.

RPG Diffusor Systems' acoustics library section of its website is a great resource for learning about the characteristics of different types of acoustical material—absorption, diffusion, and reflection, and how to apply them to real rooms.

Audio mixing console maker Yamaha Corp. provides white papers such as an introduction to networked audio and multi-channel monitoring.

In the test-and measurement-department, the Tektronix Inc. learning center portion of its websites provides a variety of application notes (put "audio" in the search window). Some of the topics include surround sound monitoring, audio loudness measuring and monitoring, A/V delay, embedded audio, audio signal analyzers, and measuring video and audio quality of experience.

And don't overlook trade publications like TV Technology, Pro Sound News or Pro Audio Review, which archive many of their articles.

As you can see there's quite a treasure trove of good sources of audio knowledge readily available on the Internet. The sites listed here are just a sampling of some of my favorites, but as you continue your audio education, I expect you'll find much more.

Mary C. Gruszka is a systems design engineer, project manager, consultant and writer based in the New York metro area. She can be reached via TV