|Home | Audio Magazine | Stereo Review magazine | Good Sound | Troubleshooting
Departments | Features | ADs | Equipment | Music/Recordings | History
Handbook for Sound Engineers edited by Glen Ballou. Howard W. Sams & Company, 1,247 pp., hardback, $79.95.
Audio Engineering Handbook edited by K. Blair Benson. McGraw-Hill Pub. Co., 1,040 pp., hardback, $83.50.
The mammoth Handbook for Sound Engineers is subtitled "The New Audio Cyclopedia," an obvious and purposeful reference to Howard Tremaine's Audio Cyclopedia of earlier years. The preface, however, makes no mention of the earlier volume. The 31 chapters of this new handbook have some correspondence to the 25 chapters of the second edition of Tremaine's work, but changes in emphasis reflect the passing years and changing technology.
The handbook groups its chapters into seven parts: "Acoustics" (eight chapters), "Electronic Components .for Sound Engineering" (four chapters), "Electroacoustic Devices" (two chapters), "Audio Electronic Circuits and Equipment" (eight chapters), "Recording and Playback" (three chapters), "Design Applications" (four chapters), and "Measurements" (two chapters). The text and illustrations of the large (7 1/2 x 9 3/4 in.) pages are well produced, making for excellent legibility.
F. Alton Everest wrote the first six chapters of "Acoustics": "Fundamentals of Sound," "Psychoacoustics," "Acoustics of Small Rooms," "Common Factors in All Audio Rooms," "Acoustical Design of Audio Rooms," and "Recording Studio Design." These 150 pages contain much helpful information presented in the lucid style for which the author is well known. Propagation of sound, refraction, diffraction, and the inverse-square law are among the fundamentals discussed. The hearing mechanism; critical bands; delay effects; room characteristics; studio construction criteria; heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems; reverberation; absorption; diffusion, and designs of specific studios are among the many subjects receiving careful attention. A few additional words should have been written in the first or second chapter to warn of the limitations of a spectrum-level reference when the noise energy has a slope. Very good information and guidance is supplied on planning, design, and construction.
"Rooms for Speech, Music, and Cinema" by Rollins Brook and Ted Uzzle covers the characteristics and design of large rooms. Considering the limited space (44 pages), I found the coverage very satisfactory for such broad subjects. I did feel, however, that more discussion was needed on cinema surround-sound systems. The acoustics of outdoor performance sites would benefit from at least a chapter section, but they didn't get that. The final chapter in Part 1, "Acoustics of Open Plan Rooms," provides pertinent and cogent comments on the design of such office spaces, although success is not as easily attained as implied.
The four chapters on "Electronic Components for Sound Engineering" which make up Part 2 cover "Resistors, Capacitors, and Inductors," "Transformers," "Tubes, Discrete Solid-State Devices, and Integrated Circuits," and "Heat Sinks, Wire, and Relays." Author Glen Ballou has used the space well, and the reference material is probably sufficient for many. Other sources may be needed, however.
The electroacoustic devices covered in Part 3 are grouped under "Microphones" and "Loudspeakers, Enclosures, and Headphones." The 90 pages written by Glen Ballou cover the many types of microphones and convey useful information on specific models. Electret, PZM (Pressure Zone Microphone), and wireless microphones are among the types of units covered, with valuable details on PZM usage and well-chosen criteria for selecting wireless systems included. Pickup patterns and responses of specific models are described. Actual usage of microphones is covered to some extent, and the recommendations will guide those with limited experience.
Clifford Henricksen wrote the section on "Loudspeakers, Enclosures, and Headphones." It starts with several pages on speaker measurements and standards-an important inclusion.
The section on electromagnetic motor configurations and associated elements is essential reading for those who ought to know what's going on in there. Cone drivers, diaphragms, and suspensions are covered. Various types of enclosures, their design, and Thiele-Small parameters are discussed. Information is provided on compression drivers and various types of horns. The systems section is wide in its coverage, but depth is lacking on some points. Electrostatic and piezoelectric speakers and headphones get just a couple of pages each.
Part 4, "Audio Electronic Circuits and Equipment," constitutes one quarter of the handbook: Over 300 pages are allotted to its eight chapters. The information in the 52 pages on amplifiers, by Gene Patronis, Jr. and Mahlon Burkhard, is certainly worthwhile, with sections on the transfer function, feedback theory, and operational and power amplifiers. I felt, however, that automatic mixers got too much emphasis in the preamp section, and some large schematics were of limited interest.
The next chapter (by Ballou) is a short one on the basic types and characteristics of attenuators. The "Filters and Equalizers" chapter (also by Ballou) starts with 30 definitions and short explanations. Good coverage on passive equalizers includes constant-k and m derived filters, but, from my viewpoint, the section on active filters is too short and too much space is given to schematics of marginal interest. Parametric and transversal equalizers are not discussed-curious and unfortunate omissions. The short chapter on "Delay" (by Burkhard) could stand some expansion, but many facets of the subject get good basic explanations.
The next three chapters are by Glen Ballou, starting with "Power Supplies." It provides good overall understanding of power-supply designs and characteristics, including batteries. "Constant- and Variable-Speed Devices" describes basic motor types, but coverage is lacking on turntable and tape recorder drive specifics, such as speed control, servos, and designs for tension control. (Later chapters do have some information.) The next chapter is on "VU and Volume-Indicator Meters and Devices." The exposition on what makes a VU meter is quite clear, but a contradiction shows up in a paragraph title, "Peak-Reading VU Meters." This would be the place to discuss the standards in IEC 268-10, but no mention is made of them here.
"Consoles and Systems" is the last chapter in this part, and an impressive 127 pages it is. Steve Dove presents a lot of information in a lucid, tutorial style that more technical authors should emulate. He builds the topic by discussing the essential elements, including the history that led to particular choices. Subjects include op-amps, grounding, switching, input design, transformers, equalizers, mixing, monitoring, the console system, and console automation and computers.
Part 5, "Recording and Playback," starts with 108 pages on "Disk Recording and Playback" by George Alexandrovich. This chapter is an excellent combination of breadth and depth, providing many useful details on heads, cutting, manufacturing, turntables, arms, cartridges, mastering, preamps, noise reduction, and test records. The section on digital disc recording and playback, however, is rather short. The 43-page chapter on "Magnetic Recording and Playback," by Dale Manquen, is well written. It covers transports, tensioning, guiding, heads, noise, losses, tape, electronics, and other subjects. I do wish the subject matter had received twice the number of pages. The 14-page "Digital Recording and Playback," by the same author, also seemed constrained by lack of space, and the information on the CD is quite limited.
Part 6, on "Design Applications," has four chapters. Chris Foreman's "Sound System Design" is the first one, and its 94 pages emphasize system design for large rooms. Sections on equalization and other signal processing, test equipment, grounding and shielding, wiring, and troubleshooting add to the value of this chapter. A worthwhile inclusion is the brief coverage of design software.
Just nine pages for "Systems for the Hearing Impaired," by Rollins Brook and Lawrence Philbrick, left me somewhat frustrated, but the basic information provided will help those of limited experience. "The Broadcast Chain," by Douglas W. Fearn, gives a rather cursory look at lines, transmission, specifications, and receivers in its 16 pages, but that may be enough for sound engineers.
That is also true for the 25 pages of "Image Projection" by Ballou, covering lenses, still and motion pictures including soundtrack pickup, and projection techniques.
Part 7 has two chapters on "Measurements." Don Davis presents a good collection of background, guidance, and specific instructions in tie 43 pages of "Audio Measurements." The author puts emphasis on TEF analysis, based on Richard Heyser's work, in preference to using FFT analyzers.
"Fundamentals and Units of Measurement," by Ballou, has the expected weight on sound in its 36 pages, but information is included on electrical and general physical units.
The index for the Handbook for Sound Engineers is 21 pages long, too short for a book of 1,247 pages. The tables of contents for the chapters are quite detailed, more so than with most similar books, and that does help.
Some chapters had fairly extensive references and bibliographies at the end, but others had no listings. In general, the references were not as up-to-date as I expected. This volume offers a great deal of information and guidance, sometimes presented very well indeed by particular authors. Overall, I felt a weighting toward sound reinforcement systems, although much of the material can be applied in other areas of sound. The price is high, but the cost per helpful bit would be quite reasonable for many.
The Audio Engineering Handbook has 17 chapters, an index, and a detailed table of contents. It covers six categories: Fundamental concepts of sound, hearing, and acoustics; audio signal spectrum and transmission; digital and analog processing and recording; sound pickup, amplification and reproduction; program production, and measurements and standards.
"Principles of Sound and Hearing," by Floyd E. Toole, is the first chapter, and its 71 pages provide an excellent tutorial on fundamentals. English and metric units are both given, which is very helpful. Coverage of the subject is broad, with sections on comb filters, propagation, room modes, psycho acoustics, timbre, perceptual dimensions, ear functions, stereophonic imaging and localization, precedence effect, binaural discrimination, sound quality, listening tests, and hearing conversation. The depth of presentation is good.
"Audio Spectrum," by Douglas Preis, discusses time and frequency domains, introducing fundamental concepts of signals along with the associated math. Spectra, Fourier analysis, transforms, types of signals, linear distortion, minimum-phase systems and responses, and much more are presented. The reader will find rewards in the study and understanding of this material. Basic understanding from this well-written text is quite possible without complete comprehension of equations and the concepts expressed.
"Architectural Acoustic Principles and Design Techniques," by Richard G. Cann and K. Anthony Hoover, covers subjects that would benefit from more than the 44 pages given. There is, however, good information on absorption, noise-reduction coefficients, reverberation, transmission loss, and other subjects. Material on mechanical systems, isolation, and vibration add to the value of the chapter. The typographical error, "special handling Lucy 3-17-88" (page 3.11), was more amusing than distracting.
"Digital Audio" covers a great deal in its 82 pages. The first part, "Digital Techniques" by P. Jeffrey Bloom and Guy W. McNally, starts with discussion of digital signal fundamentals, performance targets, and the human receiver. A/D conversion, anti-aliasing, sample and hold, dither, and other subjects are covered succinctly. Professional applications include S-DAT and R-DAT, editing, and processing; motion-picture technology and transmission systems get space as well.
The second part, "Processing Circuits and Components," was written by Leonard Sherman and Jerry Whitaker and has a brief but adequate description of A/D and D/A conversion, sample-and-hold designs, delta modulation, companding, and special effects.
The fifth chapter, "Broadcast Transmission Technology" by Donald L. Markley and James R. Carpenter, supplies basic information on AM and FM theory and systems as well as TV stereo. Discussions of modulation methods and designs, transmission, and reception will improve the understanding of many audio engineers.
The first and largest part of the 94 page "Microphones and Amplifiers" chapter is on microphones and was written by Jon R. Sank, the microphone reviewer for Audio. Pressure microphones of all varieties are covered, along with velocity or pressure-gradient, bidirectional ribbon, and others.
Unidirectional principles and the various configurations are detailed.. A number of miscellaneous microphones are covered, including Calrec, wireless, zoom, and noise-cancelling. Ronald D. Streicher and Wesley L. Dooley wrote the section on stereo microphone techniques. The text is brief but to the point, with helpful, perceptive comments. Many configurations are covered, including two-microphone coincident, X-Y cardioid, spaced omnis, Blumlein, and M-S. Daniel R. von Recklinghausen uses the 30 pages on amplifiers to good advantage. Many design elements are included in discussions of various circuits. Power amplifiers get attention for dissipation, efficiency, load effects, and other factors. A lot of information and guidance is contained in this brief section.
"Sound Reproduction Devices and Systems," by Katsuaki Satoh, starts its 94 pages with operational analysis of transducers. Fundamentals of direct radiators, details on dynamic types, and coverge on suspensions and other elements help to clarify important facets. Public-address speaker systems receive fairly extensive coverage. General design guidelines, an electronic adjustment table, and other specifics are quite helpful. The section on headphones has operational analyses with equivalent circuits.
"Analog Disk Recording and Reproduction," by Gregory A. Bogantz and Joseph C. Ruda, presents good coverage in its 39 pages. Characteristics, standards, objectives and challenges, and reproduction equipment are discussed, albeit briefly. Record tracking and various types of distortion are well detailed, but recording equipment would benefit from more space.
"Digital Disk Recording and Reproduction," by Hiroshi Ogawa, Kentaro Odaka, and Masanobu Yamamoto, delivers a good collection of tutorial and reference information in its 46 pages.
Specifications, error correction, control codes, and the use of CIRC (Cross Interleave Reed-Solomon Code) for both encoding and decoding are among the subjects included. The Compact Disc system will be better understood after the material on it has been read. CD-ROM and LaserDisc systems receive brief coverage.
I liked the broad coverage of "Analog Magnetic-Tape Recording and Reproduction" by E. Stanley Busby, Jr., but I wished for more depth than the 55 pages allowed. Basic principles, recording and reproduction theory, bias, and erasure are among the first subjects included. Sections on materials, tape and its properties, and details of head design present much information succinctly. Important aspects of reproduction, recording, editing, and transport design and performance all get attention. Recording-format figures are a bit large, but I'm glad they're included. The 73 pages of "Digital Magnetic Tape Recording and Reproduction" is well used by the authors, W. J. van Gestel, H. G. de Hann, and T.G.J.A. Martens. The chapter starts with a comparison between analog and digital audio recording. The playback and recording processes are covered in detail, with discussion of heads, responses, losses, detection methods, and bit errors. There are also many applicable equations. Channel coding and error-control codes are presented in tutorial fashion, which adds to the value of this chapter. PCM (pulse-code modulation) encoder/decoders, DASH (digital-audio stationary-head) recorders, 8-mm, S-DAT, and R-DAT are discussed, as are formats and codes.
The 56 pages of "Film Recording and Reproduction," by Ronald E. Uhlig, has good breadth and depth for audio engineers. Optical and magnetic sound recording, and postproduction with single- and double-system editing, are covered briefly. Much detail is provided on optical soundtracks; film, printer and reproducer characteristics, and optical-system quality factors.
Magnetic soundtracks and theater systems get limited discussion.
The first half of "Studio Production Systems," by Ernst-Joachim Voelker, discusses the layout and fundamental properties of about 20 different studio configurations, from orchestral to announcing booths. Well-designed tables convey information on desired reverberation times, criteria for reflections, frequency responses, and noise and sound isolation requirements very quickly and clearly. The rest of the 59 pages give close attention to microphone recording in the studio, sound level conditions in studio and home, and control room design and characteristics.
"Postproduction Systems and Editing," by Tomlinson Holman, covers postproduction for motion pictures and television. A lot of information new to many of us audio types is presented in these 44 pages. Audio standards, synchronization methods and processes, editors, and the editing process are clearly explained. The discussion on pre-mix and final mixing techniques will help many to understand the possibilities and limitations for sound with pictures.
Most of the 83 pages of "Noise Reduction Systems," by Ray Dolby, David P. Robinson, and Leslie B. Tyler, are used to cover the systems from Dolby Laboratories. Dolby A-, B-, and C-type and Spectral Recording are very well described in text and illustrations quite similar to the papers presented on these systems in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society. Several pages are devoted to the dbx TV noise-reduction system used with the Zenith stereo-TV transmission system.
Very brief attention is given to the professional ANT-Telefunken C4 and dbx Type I and 321 noise-reduction systems. The dbx Type II consumer noise reduction system is hardly mentioned, and that's unfortunate. Quite a few serious amateur and semi-professional recordists use dbx II NR, and it wouldn't have taken much space to describe encoder, decoder, and basic performance characteristics.
"Audio Tests and Measurements," by Richard C. Cabot, is an excellent tutorial on the many facets of audio tests. The section on level measurement discusses types of meters; rms, average and peak detection, and the decibel. The text states that separation and crosstalk are both given in positive dB values. I wish it had emphasized the better logic and English usage to have crosstalk in negative dB values.
Relatively brief coverage is given to noise, phase, frequency, and FFT measurements, but the comments are pertinent and succinct. Nonlinear distortion fortunately gets the space it deserves.
Short but important sections are those on signal-source effects, time-domain tests, and input and output interfacing.
The coverage on impedance and wow and flutter measurements was expected, but it was a pleasant surprise to see material on audiometric tests. TDS and automated measurements get just a few pages each.
The final chapter, "Standards and Recommended Practices" by Daniel Queen, is most welcome. The author gives an excellent overview of the generation of standards, organizations, types of standards, and their use. A categorized list includes standards from national and international coordinators, professional organizations, and industrial groups. The perceptive and pertinent one-sentence comments on each standard will be helpful.
The index uses a relatively small typeface, and there are many entries in its 21 pages, although there could have been even more listings considering the length of the book. A number of the chapters use italics for new terms, many times along with a helpful definition. Most of the chapters have extensive references, some as recent as 198í-very impressive. Helpful tables and figures throughout the book clarify complex relationships.
Both of these handbooks are in hard cover and bound in stitched signatures, which ensures long life under frequent use. They both have had very good production and are very legible; the Handbook for Sound Engineers has a slightly smaller and darker typeface. The prices are close, and both books have a great deal of good material. The Handbook for Sound Engineers is the better choice for those interested in sound reinforcement and certain aspects of studios, and it has more on components and equipment.
The Audio Engineering Handbook digs more into the fundamentals of audio, including the mathematics. It is more up-to-date in the text, particularly in the digital area as well as the references.
Both books are important contributions to the literature of sound and audio.
Either one will aid the user for many years. Personally, I prefer the Audio Engineering Handbook, primarily because it has excellent chapters on areas of particular interest to me. I am, however, very glad to have the Handbook for Sound Engineers alongside on the shelf.
--Howard A. Roberson
(adapted from Audio magazine, Nov. 1990)
= = = =