Preface to “How Audio Works”


When I started to get interested in audio eight years ago, I started from scratch. I knew nothing about any of it, so I started to absorb anything I could find on the topic – some of the sources are listed in Appendix A: List of Sources.

I decided to write down, in my own words, what I found important in my journey to a better understanding of audio. I listened to podcasts and read books and forum posts from people who knew much more than I did – or at least made me frown and jot down a question so that I could go back and verify the answer later. And before long, what started as a bunch of lines in a Word document grew into a much larger than anticipated collection of explanations, figures and tables.

As this document grew, I decided to focus on two things: first, I wanted to explain the basic technical audio stuff: is there a difference between a volume knob on a speaker and a gain knob on a preamp? How does a microphone work? How can my ears detect multiple frequencies at the same time? What the heck is impedance and should I care? Do I seriously need to put blankets up the walls in my living room? Second, because audio is technical, people feel compelled to use jargon, so I tried to reference as many cabalistic terms as possible: part of the initiation ritual in audio circles is to understand what is meant by “adding 2 dB at 300 on the 1073”. Therefore, I have added equipment tables – I hope you will find them useful.

Finally, I am completely ignoring entire library sections worth of content about audio. If it is not in here, it is simply because I was not interested in it. The intent was to have a short reference book anyway, not an Audio Codex (pun intended) of 667 pages – someone already tried.

My gratitude goes to Christophe, Enzo and Fabien who have helped me write this book by reviewing it; their invaluable work helped me gain a different perspective on the book before it is too late – much like a music mix, really.

Finally, many thanks to the people I have listened to, talked to or read from. This would have been impossible 20 years ago, in the Dark Ages of Paper and Telephone.

Thank you, interwebz.


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