How Much Do You Know About Audio Engineering?


By: Zach Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Recording music has evolved a lot since the initial days of the microphone. Whether you are recording at a professional studio with a large analog console or are recording into an interface connected to your laptop at your home studio, there are concepts, terms and processes that separate the good from the great. Think you're one of the greats? Test your knowledge!

What is the typical fundamental frequency of a kick drum?

A kick drum hit in the center of the drum typically has a fundamental frequency of 60 Hz. The fundamental frequency will adjust slightly based upon the size of the drum, which typically range from 18"-22".


What is the Haas Effect?

The Haas Effect was developed by Helmut Haas in his PhD thesis to describe the effect that two sounds arriving at very close times created. When one sound occurs very shortly after another (2ms - 50ms), listeners perceive the sounds as coming from the same location.


What does it mean when someone describes a instrument or track as sounding muddy?

Songs or instrument tracks that sound muddy have too much gain in the 200 Hz - 500 Hz and can be audibly recognized by the dull and boxy sound.


What is headroom?

Headroom provides a safety net of space between your digital signal and the threshold at which your signal will clip, which occurs when your audio signal exceeds 0db.


What is the range (in Hz) of a bass guitar's fundamental frequencies?

On a 4-string 24 fret bass, the low open E string is 41 Hz and the high G string (24th fret on G string) is 392 Hz.


Which two terms mean the same thing?

A Low Cut is a term used within equalizers (EQ's) and other devices that removes (cuts) the low frequencies from the audio signal at the specified frequency. A High Pass is a similarly used term that means that the high frequencies from the audio signal will be kept (passed over), and the low frequencies will be removed.


What is the purpose of a De-Esser?

De-Essers, appropriately named, remove the S sounds and other sibilant sounds from audio signals. Sibilant sounds tend to be noises made from the mouth (breaths, gasping, etc.) and are sharply heard in contrast to other vocal noises and other instrument tracks.


A compressor becomes a limiter when it reaches or surpasses what ratio?

Limiters are designed to remove the possibility of your signal clipping or exceeding a specific threshold, and due to this they use a higher ratio than compressors in order to create a threshold at which the transient signals cannot pass.


In the context of a sound wave, which two pairs of terms mean the same thing?

When looking at a sound wave, the top half of the wave is called the compression (or the push) of the wave, and the bottom half is called the rarefaction (or the pull) of the wave.


If an input signal of -10db is sent into a compressor that has a threshold of -20db set to a ratio of 2:1, what is the amplitude of the output signal from the compressor?

To determine the output signal's amplitude: Take the difference in decibels between the input signal (-10 db in the question) and the threshold level of the compressor (-20 db in the question), and then divide that number (10) by the ratio of the compressor (2:1 in the question), and then add that divided number (5) to the input signal (10 db) to get your compressed signal's amplitude (15 db).


What does a Gate do?

Think of a Gate as the automatic doors at a grocery store: They open as they sense an object approaching and then close once that object passes through its reach completely. An audio Gate opens when it detects a signal above a certain threshold, and then closes once the signal goes beneath that same threshold.


What is the purpose of an Expander?

Expanders work just like gates, but in the opposite way: Expanders increase the amplitude of a signal once it goes beneath a certain threshold


What is a DAW?

Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) have become staples at studios everywhere from major labels to bedrooms, and provide audio engineers and musicians with a recording framework as well as tools to manipulate the audio.


What does MIDI stand for?

MIDI instruments are used in wide-ranging ways, and provide digital information for DAWs to process as opposed to audio information like a guitar or acoustic instrument that is recorded by microphone. This digital information is much easier to manipulate than audio information, which is a major appeal to using MIDI instruments.


What delay time creates a doubling effect?

When a second signal is delayed by a time under 35 milliseconds, it is so short after the second signal that it sounds as though the two signals are one signal, hence the doubling effect.


What delay time creates a slapback effect?

The slapback effect is the next longest delay after the Haas effect, which is a delay of 0ms to 35ms. Elvis is famous for using the slapback effect in his recordings.


What delay time creates an echo effect?

Echoes are the next longest delay after slapback delays, which are between 35ms and 125ms.


Does the order of your plugins on a track within a DAW make a difference on the final sound of that track?

Just like an analog audio chain, the order of the plugins in your digital audio chain has an effect on the final product of your audio chain.


What two instruments often compete for sonic space within the low Hz range of mixes?

The fundamental frequency range of a 4-string bass guitar is 40Hz to 400 Hz, and a kick drum's fundamental frequency is 60Hz.


Which one of these pieces of classic outboard gear is not a compressor?

The LA-2A and 1176 are two of the most famous and classic compressors of all time, and the dbx-160 is a close contender of its legacy as a classic compressor. The API 550A is a 500 series EQ or is featured in API consoles such as the API1608.


What is the Proximity Effect?

The proximity effect is the build up of low Hz sound material when received by a microphone.


What is Phase Cancellation?

Phase cancellation occurs when one wave is pulling while the other is pulling. The result of the opposite frequencies cancel each other out and cause a silence if the waves are perfectly out of phase or a muffled sound if slightly out of phase.


What is a guitar's fundamental frequency range (6-string, 24 fret guitar)?

The open low E string of a guitar is 82 Hz and the 24th fret of the high E string is 1318 Hz.


What is the room called where the recording console is located in a studio?

The control room is the name of the room where a recording console would be located. The live room is where the musicians perform.


What is a metronome track called in a DAW?

Click tracks feature a metronome that is set to the global BPM of the DAW.


If someone says an instrument or track sounds "honky," what frequency area is affected?

Sounds are susceptible to sounding honky if too much gain is added near 500 Hz.


When talking about Reverb effects, what is a Pre-Delay?

Pre-delay is the amount of time between the input signal and the beginning of the reverb.


How many pushes and pulls occur within a second of a sound wave that is 100 Hertz?

There are 100 pushes and pulls in one second of a sound wave that is 100 Hertz.


Technically, what is a chorus effect?

A chorus effect is the result of several modulating delays between 20ms and 50ms


What piece of revolutionary recording equipment did the engineers at Abbey Road Studios create for the Beatles?

Ken Townsend created Artificial Double Tracking (ADT) for the Beatles after John Lennon complained about having to do second and third vocal takes for doubled vocal effects.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!