Audio engineering is a part of audio science dealing with the recording and reproduction of sound through mechanical and electronic means. The field draws on many disciplines, including electrical engineering, acoustics, psychoacoustics, and music. Unlike acoustical engineering, audio engineering generally does not deal with noise control or acoustical design. However, an audio engineer is often closer to the creative and technical aspects of audio rather than formal engineering. An audio engineer must be proficient with different types of recording media, such as analog tape, digital multitrack recorders and workstations, and computer knowledge. With the advent of the digital age, it is becoming more and more important for the audio engineer to be versed in the understanding of software and hardware integration from synchronization to analog to digital transfers.
The expressions "audio engineer" and "sound engineer" are ambiguous. Such terms can refer to a person working in sound and music production, as well as to an engineer with a degree who designs professional equipment for these tasks. The latter professional often develops the tools needed for the former's work. Other languages, such as German
, have different words to refer to these two activities. For instance, in German, Tontechniker
(audio technician) is the one who operates the audio equipment, and Toningenieur
(audio engineer) is the one who designs, builds and repairs it.
Individuals who design acoustical simulations of rooms, shaping algorithms for digital signal processing and computer music problems, perform institutional research on sound, and other advanced fields of audio engineering are most often graduates of an accredited college or university, or have passed a difficult civil qualification test.
An audio engineer is someone with experience and training in the production and manipulation of sound through mechanical (analog) or digital means. As a professional title, this person is sometimes designated as a sound engineer or recording engineer instead. A person with one of these titles is commonly listed in the credits of many commercial music recordings (as well as in other productions that include sound, such as movies).
Audio engineers are generally familiar with the design, installation, and/or operation of sound recording, sound reinforcement, or sound broadcasting equipment, including large and small format consoles. In the recording studio environment, the audio engineer records, edits, manipulates, mixes, and/or masters sound by technical means in order to realize an artist's or record producer's creative vision. 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. When referring to video games, an audio engineer may also be a computer programmer.
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 is often one and the same person.
In typical sound reinforcement applications, audio engineers often assume the role of producer, making artistic decisions along with technical ones.
Different professional branches
- Studio engineer could be either a sound engineer working in a studio together with a producer, or a producing sound engineer working in a studio.
- Recording engineer is a person who records sound.
- Mixing engineer is a person who creates mixes of already recorded materials. It is not uncommon for a commercial record to be recorded at one studio and later mixed by different engineers in other studios.
- Mastering engineer is a person who uses the mix to create the master that is replicated for distribution.
- Game audio designer engineer is a person who deals with sound aspects of game development.
- Live sound engineer is a person dealing with live sound reinforcement. This usually includes planning and installation of speakers etc and soundmixing during the show. This may or may not include running the foldback sound.
- Foldback or monitor engineer is a person running foldback sound during a live event. The term "foldback" is outdated and refers to the practice of folding back audio signals from the FOH (Front of House) mixing console to the stage in order for musicians to hear themselves while performing. Monitor engineers usually have a separate audio system from the FOH engineer and manipulate audio signals independently from what the audience hears, in order to satisfy the requirements of each performer on stage. In-ear systems digital and analog mixing consoles and a variety of speaker enclosures are typically used by monitor engineers. In addition most monitor engineers must be familiar with wireless or RF (radio-frequency) equipment and must interface personally with the artist(s) during each performance.
- Systems engineer is a person responsible for the design setup and flying of modern PA systems which are often very complex. A systems engineer is usually also referred to as a "crew chief" on tour and is responsible for the performance and day-to-day job requirements of the audio crew as a whole along with the FOH audio system.
- Audio post engineer is a person who edits and mixes audio for film and television.
Audio Engineers come from all backgrounds such as electrical engineering or Fine Arts; many colleges and accredited institutions around the world offer degrees in Audio Engineering such as BS
in Audio Production. A great number of production mixers are autodidacts
with no formal training.
Audio engineers in their daily work operate and make use of:
Studio engineers of note
Live sound engineers of note