A sound starting point?
March 7, 2012 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Is there a good resource for a novice audiophile?

After reading this post, and many of the comments, specifically JackFlash's comments, I got to wondering - is there a good source out there for a guy who's pretty novice in sound/audio engineering like me? Somewhere that I can start to understand some of the nuts and bolts of the the profession?

Maybe another way of phrasing my question is.....how does one become an audiophile while not being employed in the field?
posted by drewski to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
gearslutz.com had some brilliant regulars (as well as opinionated people who know very little).
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 9:02 AM on March 7, 2012

do you want to learn about audio engineering (making records) or being an audiophile (listener with great gear and media)
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2012

You can get a free subscription to TapeOp Magazine. It's ad-supported, but there are lots of articles/interviews with producers, artists, and engineers about the gear and techniques they use.
posted by usonian at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2012

When I hear the word "audiophile" I usually associate that with a person who is "consuming" music, not a person who is producing it.

That said, if I understand correctly that you are interested in the profession of producing musing (sound/audio engineering), you should head to Tape Op. It started as a print magazine, but has since evolved to include a very robust online forum, which should be helpful to you. Just to give some background, it was started by Larry Crane, who is well respected in the industry and best known for engineering albums by Elliot Smith, Cat Power, M. Ward and others. The magazine and forum have a particular interest in vintage analog gear, so you'll find that the conversation skews that way a bit.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 9:37 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Gearslutz. And volunteer to make tea at your local recording studio.
posted by unSane at 9:38 AM on March 7, 2012

Gearslutz is a great general forum. Depending on what type or aspect of music you are into there may be appropriate additional forums that go more in depth but gearslutz will get you going.

Making friends with similar interests locally will also be valuable because gear is expensive and it's much nicer to have the opportunity to try before you buy. "Sound" is incredibly subjective and something that works well for someone else may not work for you.

A note: I'd avoid using the word "audiophile" to describe yourself, even as a listener. It has some negative connotations. It often brings to mind someone who is more concerned with the cost and cache of their system rather than the quality of sound it produces.
posted by tinamonster at 11:33 AM on March 7, 2012

ProSoundWeb, especially the "Study Hall" section, and browsing through the forums.
Electronic Musician magazine, which recently combined with "EQ" magazine.
Mix magazine, ProSoundNews, and FOH (Front of House) magazine tend to be more "high end industry professional", but you might check them out.

Many pro and semi-pro equipment manufacturers have some fairly extensive info on their websites and/or in their manuals. I've found the Rane Library particularly useful.

And, sorry, but I've got to add to the pile-on re: "audiophile." For a lot of pros, "audiophile"="a person with more money than sense, willing to swallow a bunch of pseudo-science jargon and buy a bunch of $4000 rocks to rest his power cable on to improve the "air" in his stereo system."
posted by soundguy99 at 11:41 AM on March 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

do you want to learn about audio engineering (making records) or being an audiophile (listener with great gear and media)

This. Because contrary to what most Audiophiles seem to think, they have very little to do with each other. It’s the same relationship as "movie director" to "guy who sits around bashing blu-rays for the picture quality"

I don’t know anyone who makes records who gives a shit about any of that stuff.
posted by bongo_x at 12:01 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Audophile" is almost a perfect synonym for "douchebag" in the audio engineering and production world. The main difference is that "Audiophiles" tend to be well-heeled, so you can exploit them with shiny* products made with genuine snake oil.

In addition to the suggestions already made, be sure to check out
SoundOnSound and AVP.stackexchange.com

* Not that AnalogIndustries / Audio Damage make GREAT software. But Chris spots bullshit and points it out on his blog regularly.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:24 PM on March 7, 2012

Mastering Audio by Bob Katz is a pretty great read by one of the guru's of the audio mastering world and covers some of the concepts being discussed in the other thread in a pretty easy to understand way.
posted by TwoWordReview at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding bongo_x. The overlap between 'audiophile' and 'audio engineer' is almost nil. If you want to learn to make and record music, a good beginner's guide is The Art of Mixing, it's basically Music Production For Dummies, but it's a good introduction, from there it's just a matter of getting into a DAW and experimenting, and picking up more books as you go.

If you want to get into what we were talking about in the thread, you're going to want to start with basic physics or classical mechanics, as well as single variable calculus, at the very least, both of which are available at iTunesU. Then I highly recommend Walter Lewin's class on Waves from MIT which is available on itunesU and surprisingly entertaining, even though he doesn't skimp on the math.

After that, you'd want to look at a signal processing class.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I wanted to move my audio collection (CDs, LPs, cassettes) to my computer, I found this book from O'Reilly a good start. There's nothing about production, but I better understood stuff about formats, file types, compression types, etc. after reading it.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:24 PM on March 7, 2012

What everyone says about 'audiophile' being (fairly or unfairly) a synonym for 'ignorant jerk with too much money' in the music production community is exactly right.

Guys who run studios are generally extremely knowledgable about sound but they come at it from a direction completely orthogonal to the audiophile community. For example, a huge amount of work in studios is done on fairly shitty speakers, or in mono, at rather low volume levels, sometimes barely audible. I won't go into the reasons why but they're actually very good. Yeah, they have great big monitors there, but by and large they're only cranked up for the client, not anyone who's doing serious work.

The kinds of speakers that audiophiles drool over are generally the very last ones that a studio would purchase, and vice versa. Again there are very good reasons for this which a bit of reading will uncover for you.

Studio guys are much more likely to be worried about the shape of their room and reflections from parallel surfaces than they are about the kinds of cables they use (in fact few of them could even tell you what cables they use and will just look at you funny if you ask).

So I'm serious about going and hanging out in a studio. It's actually a very enjoyable thing to do and you'll learn more than you could imagine possible.
posted by unSane at 9:40 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

More resources:

The Yamaha Sound Reinforcement Handbook is (IMO) considered one of the staple texts. Obviously it's aimed somewhat at the live sound market, but it covers a lot of audio basics (frequency response, decibels, signal flow, etc etc) in plain English.

Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Modern Recording Techniques was one of my textbooks. It's available from Amazon, but my link is to the book's own website, which has other resources & tutorials available for free.

In the last ten years there's been a virtual explosion (in the U.S.) of various colleges, universities & trade schools offering courses or degrees in audio engineering & production. Many of the schools are geared towards part-time students, so you could look into taking a class or two. Or at least see if you can find out what textbooks they're using, and get copies for yourself.

Seconding unSane's suggestion to spend time in an actual studio. If you have any friends or acquaintances who are musicians, you're probably at most 3 degrees of separation from somebody with a home studio set up in their garage or spare bedroom. Getting into a studio that's actually running as a commercial operation could be a little trickier, as to them time is money - when I was doing studio work, I was really focused on getting done what needed to get done (it was often a race against time & budget), and I wasn't really inclined to give "Audio 101" lessons. We also weren't that thrilled about using volunteers - there's really not that much work for utterly unskilled labor, and musicians often feel kind of naked & exposed during the recording process; having random people hanging out isn't really the best way to make them comfortable. Maybe your best shot there is to "roadie" for any musician friends you have who are going into a commercial studio.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:27 PM on March 7, 2012

when I was doing studio work, I was really focused on getting done what needed to get done (it was often a race against time & budget), and I wasn't really inclined to give "Audio 101" lessons.

When I started working in a studio as a paid runner I was told at some point; "It’s your job to learn how all this works, it’s not my job to teach you" in other words "I’m busy, you figure it out, and when I’m not busy I will help you".
posted by bongo_x at 10:43 AM on March 8, 2012

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