An audio engineer (also sometimes recording engineer) 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. 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.
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, electronic/electrical engineering or (musical) signal processing.
Research and Development
R&D Research and development audio engineers invent new technologies, equipment and techniques, to enhance the process and art of audio engineering. 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.
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:
1. Training in the creative use of audio as a sound engineer, and 2. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.