In the Clubhouse: Audio Electronics Explained – Part 1
“Well, if you want sound to go further, you don’t… Some people say it throws sound or something like that. It doesn’t, sound moves on its own. It’s a wave, but what you can do is control the dispersion of it. So if you’ve got your garden water hose and you put it on spray, it’s the same amount of water coming out, but it goes, it sprays out in all different directions, or at least quite a bit. And then if you twist it and make the setting where it goes straight out, okay, it will be more concentrated in that area. So basically what you do is you just take that acoustical power and you funnel it into different directions. So you might think it goes further, but it just makes it louder in that particular area.” — Steve Irby
Almost every Wednesday at 2 PM Eastern, I host a weekly Clubhouse called The Power of Sound, where we talk about everything related to sound, such as music, podcasting, voiceovers, public speaking, audio branding, social audio, and, of course, digital audio. If you’d like to drop by, just check the schedule in The Power of Sound House to see what’s coming up. Just lately we had a conversation (and everyone here knew that the room was being recorded so I do have permission) called Audio Electronics Explained, where we discussed the science of sound and audio equipment.
My fellow panelists in this discussion are Kicker’s founder and president Steve Irby, and audio engineer and AudioSigma founder Fernando Eid Pires. They answer questions about how our audio experiences are crafted through the innovation of the hardware we use. If you’ve ever wondered how speakers create the sound you love, or have questions about how audio interfaces work, or want to understand what audio specifications are really saying, they are the ones to ask. Both of them understand the nuts and bolts of audio gear and are sure to have the answers you’re looking for!
As always, if you have questions for my panelists, you’re welcome to reach out through the links in the show notes. If you have questions for me, visit www.audiobrandingpodcast.com where you’ll find a lot of ways to get in touch. Plus, subscribing to the newsletter will let you know when the new podcasts are available. And if you’re getting some value from listening, feel free to spread that around and share it with a friend, along with leaving an honest review. Both those things really help – and I’d love to feature your review on future podcasts. You can leave one either in written or in voice format from the podcast’s main page. I would so appreciate that.
A Thing of Its Own
The Clubhouse chat starts off with Steven and Fernando introducing themselves and telling us how they got their start, and about Kicker’s role in the audio industry. “GM is our biggest customer,” Steve explains. “We build for a number of other automakers: Toyota, Subaru, Ford, and different ones as well.” Fernando talks about his firsthand experience with digital audio, from his early days as a student in Brazil to his work today on the PodMobile device. “It’s quite different engineering for audio than anything else,” he says, “robotics, or industrial computing applications. Audio is quite of a thing of its own: I love it because it’s a blend of art with those exact engineering-type things.”
The Illusion of Sound
Steve goes on to explain how sound works, and how everything from modulation to subtle volume shifts plays into the illusion of 3D audio in the car. “If you were sitting at a concert or in a club or you’re listening to a band,” he explains, “they’re generally in front of you. So a lot of the things that we do is designing for the sound to appear to come from the front of the car.” Fernando gives us an example of how, with the right processing, speakers can trick the ears and brain into hearing sound come from a variety of directions that might have nothing to do with where the speakers are installed.
Tying the Senses Together
The conversation continues with its focus on the senses and how they can be manipulated, and we talk about my previous guest Steve Keller’s surprising research into the connection between sound and the sense of smell (in the case of a Dove campaign created at Studio Resonate). Fernando recalls a book by Dr. Daniel Amen that tied the senses together and helped change his life. “I remember one of the recommendations he had,” he tells us, “for, like, you just had like a really bad day or kind of in a difficult place is an immersion of what sounds good, smells good, temperature of the water… deliberately using as many of the senses as you can to get you to like, feel better. And of course, that, you know, will interfere with your state of mind.”
What the Numbers Mean
As the first half of our Clubhouse discussion wraps up, the topic turns to audio equipment, technical specifications, and just what all those impressive-looking numbers on the back of a microphone box are really saying. Fernando gives us a vivid illustration of just how the math behind decibel ratings doesn’t work the way we might assume and how those numbers don’t necessarily mean what they seem to say at a glance. “So my point is,” he says, “if you rely on the specifications without the knowledge of how these things actually work, oftentimes you know, oftentimes you’ll be disappointed.”
- Steve and Fernando’s backgrounds in audio technology
- How sound waves work and the key to simulating 3D audio
- The connection between sound, the other senses, and wellness
- How the noise ratings on microphones are calculated
- Making sense of audio equipment’s technical specifications
Next week the chat continues as we talk about condenser microphones, Fernando’s work on the PodMobile interface, and unraveling just what a “32-bit float audio recorder” means.
Connect with the Panelists
Kicker Website: https://www.kicker.com/
Connect with Steve Irby on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/steve-irby-aab79613/
AudioSigma Website: https://audiosigma.com/
Follow Fernando Pires on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fernando.eidpires
Connect with Fernando Pires on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pireseid/
Follow Fernando Pires on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PiresEid
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This interview episode was very skillfully made to sound beautiful by the talented Humberto Franco.