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What Is Audio Engineering?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Audio engineering is a branch of the engineering field which involves the process of recording sound and reproducing it by various means, as well as storing it so that it can be reproduced later. Audio engineers work in a variety of fields, including film and television production, broadcasting, electronics manufacturing, and the music industry. In order to work as an audio engineer, it is usually necessary to have an audio engineering degree, with advanced degrees available for people who intend to perform work such as designing new audio equipment.

Audio engineers are separate from audio technicians. Many recording facilities, concert halls, and so forth retain technicians who operate audio equipment. These technicians may have advanced training, but they are not audio engineers, and the skills of an audio engineer may be required to set up the sound system, to determine the basic settings, and to train the technicians. Some technicians later go on to study audio engineering.

This field can include recording, editing, mixing, and mastering audio. Audio engineers are found working at all phases of production in any industry where sound is being recorded. Radio stations, film studios, recording studios, and so forth all retain audio engineers. This discipline may also include training and supervising audio technicians who may perform some of the daily work of audio recording and reproduction.

Another aspect of audio engineering involves the development of new audio equipment such as sound boards, radio broadcasting equipment, microphones, and so forth, along with new methods of data storage which can be used for audio. While audio engineering started out as a primarily mechanical field, today, the focus is primarily on electronic and digital techniques. Many audio engineers are also skilled with computers, as they need to use and develop software as part of their work.

Training in audio engineering is available at some colleges and universities, as well as specialized training programs. People interested in this career should be strong in math and the sciences, and they should have an interest in audio in particular. One does not need to be a musician or performer to work in audio engineering, but having an appreciation for audio art forms and an understanding of their history can be helpful. Highly talented audio engineers are, after all, artists in their own right who are involved in the production of finished works of art, from blockbuster films and obscure recordings of classical music.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a InfoBloom researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Saraq90 — On Jul 03, 2011

Audio engineering salaries are like many professions in that the salaries vary secondary to the vast array of areas the engineer could be working in. For example, you could own your own recording studio, you could engineer audio for live shows, you could work in a music conservatory, you could be a salaried audio engineer or an hourly paid contract audio engineer, etc.

By snickerish — On Jul 02, 2011

Here's a picture of an audio engineer working to record an artist in the studio. In this studio, you have of course, many people, including the artist, producer, first audio engineer, and second audio engineer (think internship).

The producer is telling the artist what they want from the artist. The first engineer is sitting behind the controls getting all of the sounds the producer wants from what the artist is doing. The second engineer is typically your engineer with little or less experience in comparison to the first engineer, so the second engineer is running all the cables and changing out the microphones, (considered 'grunt work') while he is learning how the first engineer's job skills.

The difference in the audio engineering salary between these two engineers - the second engineer typically earns 15,000-25,000/year and the first engineer earns 70,000-120,000/year.

By geekish — On Jul 02, 2011

My husband got a degree in this (well actually he was a few classes away from the degree but decided to take a job managing a band while they were on tour - a job he received secondary to the connections he made while in the program).

His reason for getting this specialized education was that he found himself, as a musician when he was recording in a studio, unable to tell the audio engineers exactly how to make the music as he wanted. Now he is able to record his own songs!

He went to MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University), which he chose because it was close to the music mecca of Nashville; but other audio engineering colleges are New York University, University of Michigan, Indiana University, Texas State University, Ohio University, and Belmont University which is located in the heart of Nashville! And although it is not a common a major as English or Education - there are many more schools that offer this degree. My husband loved it!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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