The term acoustics is a popular one especially for those that are well versed in the audio production world or people that just have a genuine interest in sound.
A simple definition of acoustics is that it is a branch of physics that deals with the properties of sound taking into account production, control, reception and effects of sound.
I basically help newbie music producers with setting up their home recording studios and one of the people I recently helped brought up an interesting question that I thought would make for a great article…
The question was;
What are the 3 components of acoustics?
This article will provide information surrounding this because I feel it will be very helpful for somebody new to sound or audio production.
knowing the foundation of acoustics is important because it will make recording studio optimization easier and understandable.
Most people jump into sound and acoustic treatment of their audio production space without having concrete information about what they’re doing and why their doing it..
This post will give you enough information to help you gain a better understanding of sound and acoustics…
With that said, What are the 3 components of Acoustics?
The 3 components of acoustics are the generation or cause of sound, propagation or path, and the reception which is how sound is received by your ears.
Cause or production of sound
This is one key concept of acoustics and is concerned with the production of sound which is the initial stage in understanding the behaviour of sound..
Of course there are sounds that occur naturally and through volition.
Acoustics looks first at the pressure levels and frequencies in the sound wave. Transduction processes are also of much importance…
Acoustic wave propagation
Sound is a sequence of waves of pressure which are able to propagate through various media such as air or water. (Sound can propagate through solids as well, but there are additional modes of propagation). During their propagation, waves can be reflected, refracted, or attentuated by the medium.
Therefore an easy definition of propagation is the transfer of acoustic energy through a medium via a sound wave.
The effect in acoustic refers to how the sounds are received… this is where a process called transduction comes into play….
Transduction is simply the the process by which the ear converts sound waves into electric impulses and sends them to the brain….
Transduction in electro-acoustics is usually concerned with the conversion of sound energy into electric energy. An example of a transducer would be a microphone or a loudspeaker.
These devices are pretty much able to convert a sound into a pressure wave using an electric signal.
The most widely used transduction principles revolce around concepts you may have heard before or come across I.e. electromagnetism, electrostatics and piezoelectricity.
The transducers in most common loudspeakers like woofers and tweeters, are electromagnetic devices that are able to generate waves using a suspended diaphragm driven by an electromagnetic voice coil, sending off pressure waves.
Microphones use electrostatic capacitors…..as the sound wave strikes the microphone’s diaphragm, it moves and induces a change in voltage.
The ultrasonic systems used in medical ultrasonography employ piezoelectric transducers.
These are made from special ceramics in which mechanical vibrations and electrical fields are interlinked through a property of the material itself.
The importance of understanding the production, propagation and effect of sound is important because it helps us develop a better understanding of the subject.
We can easily conclude that assessing or manipulating any sound can be simplified into “source-path-receiver”.
Sound of course has to be generated from somewhere…which is the source,
Then it has to move through some form of path or medium so it can get to a receiver which could be a human being or a microphone.
With this logic we can then conclude that If we want to change or alter the quality or quantity of sound at the receiver, we have to make some changes to one or more of the three elements I mentioned earlier: the source, path, or the receiver itself.
****to understand the source, path and receiver better we can further our understanding of it by using real world application…
Lets take; outdoor acoustics, indoor acoustics and isolated acoustics.
You have probably noticed that as you move away from a sound source, it gets quieter… the fact is that, the intensity of any type of energy is highest closest to the source.
Since outdoors is a free field environment, the only thing that affects path is distance.
Sound in a room creates millions of reflections which are referred to as reverberation.
The amount of reverberation in a room can affect the success of the room for its intended purpose.
With regard to acoustics, the absorptive characteristics of the surfaces and the objects in a room are the key factors in determining how a room sounds.
Sound that is absorbed when it hits a surface is not always reflected back into the room. It might be turned to some other form of energy, such as heat or physical vibration, or it can simply escape the room.
When most people speak of the acoustics of a room, they are usually referring to the behavior of sound within the room.
Which is very important..
However, the movement of sound from one room to another is equally important.
In rooms that are designed for delicate audio work like recording, it is essential to keep noise from sources like traffic, airplanes, other studios, etc. from interfering.
This is where sound isolation is utilized.
Sound isolation primarily depends on two basic factors: mass and decoupling.
To achieve a high level of isolation, we need a lot of mass like a thick layer of concrete , and we need to avoid any rigid connections between one side of a wall and the other.