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An email came in with this query:

I am requesting a list of recommended books on audio equipment that would enhance my knowledge and understanding on this subject. Thanks!


Bookworm, me, scoured his shelves and came up with the following list of must-read books for audio enthusiasts, all of which are in print and should be available in libraries, from specialist bookshops,, or from the suppliers mentioned in the text; e-book versions may or may not be avail. as of this writing. Books marked with an asterisk (*), though too technical for the general reader, will be found rewarding by those who have a good grasp of mathematics and who want to delve deep. Reading the books in the first of the list will enable readers to understand just about everything that appears in hi-fi audio publications, but all the books listed contain between their covers untold treasures.

General Audio & Hi-Fi:

• Audio Anthology: When Audio Was Young, Vols. 1,2,3,4, & 5, by C.G. McProud. 1990 1992, Audio Amateur Publications. Distributed by Old Colony Sound Lab Book Service, P.O. Box 243, Peterborough, NH 03458-0243.

• The Audio Dictionary, 2nd ed., by Glenn D. White. 1991, University of Washington Press.

• The Audio Glossary, by J. Gordon Holt. 1990, Audio Amateur Publications. Available from Old Colony Book Service.

• Bluff Your Way in Hi-Fi, by Sue Hudson & John Crabbe. 1987, Ravette Ltd., England. Available from Old Colony Book Service.

• Good Sound, by Laura Dearborn. 1987, Quill, William Morrow.

• Man of High Fidelity: Edwin Howard Arm strong, by Lawrence Lessing (life of the inventor of FM radio). 1969, Bantam Books.

• The New Sound of Stereo, by Ivan Berger & Hans Fantel. 1986, Plume (New American Library).

• Reproduction of Sound in Hi-Fi & Stereo Phonographs, by Edgar Villchur. 1965, Dover Publications Inc.

• The Wood Effect, by Clark Johnsen. 1988, available from The Modern Audio Association, 23 Stilhings Street, Boston, MA 02210.

Audio Theory & Measurement:

• The Audio Cyclopedia, Glen Ballou, ed. 1987, Howard W. Sams & Company.

• Audio Engineering Handbook, K. Blair Benson, ed. 1989, McGraw-Hill Book Company.

• Audio Test & Measurement, Richard Cabot, ed. (collected papers from the 11th AES Conference, Portland, OR, May 1992). 1992, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics, by Arthur Benade. 1990, Dover Publications Inc.

• Mastering Technical Mathematics, by Norman H. Crowhurst. 1992, TAB Books.

• Music, Physics and Engineering, 2nd ed., by Harry F. Olsen. 1967, Dover Publications Inc.

• The New Stereo Sound book, by Ron Streicher & F. Alton Everest. 1992, TAB Books.

• On the Sensations of Tone by Hermann Helmholtz. 1954, Dover Publications Inc.

• The Science of Musical Sound, by John R. Pierce. 1983, Scientific American Library (W.H. Freeman).

• The Theory of Sound ,* Vols.1 & 2, by J W.S. (Lord) Rayleigh. 1945, Dover Publications Inc.

• Time Delay Spectrometry, by Richard Heyser (collected papers). 1988, The Audio Engineering Society Acoustics

• Acoustic Techniques for Home & Studio, by F. Alton Everest. 1984, TAB Books.

• The Master Handbook of Acoustics, by E Alton Everest. 1989, TAB Books.


• The Perception of Reproduced Sound, Soren Bech & O. Juhl Pederson, eds. 1987, Gammel Avernaes, Denmark. Available in the US from Old Colony Book Service.

• The Sound of Audio, Skip Pizzi, ed. (collected papers from the 8th AES Conference, Washington DC, May 1990). 1990, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Spatial Hearing--The Psychophysics of Human Sound Localization . Bauert, Jens. 1996 MIT Press.

The LP Record (vinyl):

• Disk Recording, Vols. 1 & 2, Stephen Temmer, ed. 1980 & 1981, The Audio Engineering Society.


• Bullock on Boxes, by Robert M. Bullock III & Robert White (collected articles from Speaker Builder magazine). 1991, Audio Amateur Press. Available from Old Colony Book Service.

• Designing, Building, and Testing Your Own Speaker System, 3rd ed., by David B. Weems. 1990, TAB Books.

• Great Sound Stereo Speaker Manual, by David B. Weems. 1990, TAB Books.

• High Performance Loudspeakers, 4th ed., by Martin Colloms. 1992, Pentech Press, England. Available in the US from Old Colony Book Service.

• How to Build Speaker Enclosures, by Alexis Badmaieff & Don Davis. 1966, Howard H. Sams & Co.

• The Loudspeaker Design Cookbook, 4th ed., by Vance Dickason. 1991, The Marshall Jones Co. Available from Old Colony Book Service.

• Loudspeakers, Vols. 1 & 2, Raymond E. Cooke, ed. 1978 & 1984, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Subjective and Objective Measurements of Loud speaker Performance, by Floyd E. Toole (collected papers). 1986, available from the National Research Council Canada, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R6, Canada.

Digital Audio:

• Advanced Digital Audio, Ken Pohlmann, ed. 1991, Howard W. Sams & Company.

• Analog—Di Conversion Handbook, 3rd ed., Daniel H. Sheingold, ed. 1991, Analog De vices (Prentice-Hall).

• The Art of Digital Audio, 2 nd ed., by John Watkinson. 2001, Focal Press.

• Audio in Digital Times, Ken Pohlmann, ed. (collected papers from the 7th AES Conference, Toronto, Canada, May 1989). 1989, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Digital Audio, Barry A. Blesser, Bart Locanthi, & Thomas G. Stockham, Jr., eds. (collected papers from the 1st AES Conference, Rye N 1982). 1982, The Audio Engineering Society.

• “The Digitization of Audio,” by Barry A. Blesser. Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, Vol.26 No.10. 1978, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Discrete-Time Signal Processing ,* by Alan V. Oppenheim & Ronald W. Schafer. 1989, Prentice—Hall.

• Images of Audio, Jeff Baker, ed. (collected papers from the 10th AES Conference Lon d6n, England, September 1991). 1991, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Information Transmission, Modulation, & Noise ,* 3rd ed., by Mischa Schwartz. 1981, McGraw- Hill International Student Editions.

• Oversampling Delta-Sigma Data Converters,* James C. Candy & Gabor C. Temes, eds. (collected papers). 1992, The IEEE Press. Available from the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, 345 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017-2394.

• Present and Future of Digital Audio, Takeo Yamamoto, ed. (collected papers from the 3rd AES Conference, Tokyo, Japan, June 1985). 1985, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Principles of Digital Audio 6 th ed., by Ken Pohlmann. 2010, McGraw-Hill.

Amplifiers & Electronics:

• Analog Circuit Design: Art, Science, and Personalities, Jim Williams, ed. 1992, Butterworth-Heinemann.

• Audio IC Op-Amp Applications, by Walter G. Jung. 1987, Howard W. Sams & Company.

The Best of Analog Dialogue, Daniel H. Sheingold, ed. 1991, Analog Devices (Prentice-Hall).

• Electronic Filter Design Handbook,* 2nd ed., by Arthur B. Williams & Fred J. Taylor. 1988, McGraw-Hill.

• How to Design and Build Audio Amplifiers 2nd ed., by Mannie Horowitz. 1980, TAB Books.

• Integrated Electronics, by Jacob Millman & Christos C. Halkias. 1972, McGraw—Hill International Student Editions.

Recording & Microphones:

• Handbook of Recording Engineering, by John Eargle. 1986, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co.

• Magnetic Recording Handbook,* by Marvin Camras. 1988, Van Nostrand Reinhold.

• Microphones, Louis Abbagnaro, ed. 1979, The Audio Engineering Society.

• Microphones, 3rd ed., by Martin Clifford. 1986, TAB Books.

• Microphone Manual: Design and Application, by David Miles Huber. 1988, Howard H. Sams & Company.

• Microphones: Technology and Technique, by John Borwick. 1990, Focal Press.

• Stereophonic Techniques, John Eargle ed. 1987, The Audio Engineering Society.

• The Use of Microphones, 3rd ed., by Alec Nisbett. 1989, Focal Press.

THE BOOK SHELF [adapted from AUDIO magazine, JANUARY 1993]

The Compact Disc Handbook, Second Edition by Ken C. Pohlmann; A-R EDITIONS, 349 pp.; hardcover, $49.95; softcover, $34.95

The book offers expanded discussion of diverse disc formats coming into the market.

I had the pleasure of reviewing the first edition of this book for the October 1989 issue of Audio. At that time, I wrote in summary that it was a very good book. I can with confidence now up grade the evaluation to excellent. I had several rather minor complaints about the first edition, and all of these have been eliminated or fixed very nicely. Additionally, there has been some rearranging of the material, and several sections have been expanded. This might be expected in a book about a rapidly changing topic such as the Compact Disc and its immediate derivatives in optical recording.

Anyone with an interest in CD technology will want this edition. Those with in-depth knowledge will find it a nice review of their under standing and, because of the clarity of the presentation, will take with them some ways of describing digital processes that make it easier to ex plain CDs to others. (I have found much of this material useful in the classroom.) Those who are relatively new to this technology will find the book a good first exposure to the magic of digital sound reproduction. Even those who already have the first edition will want this version:

Besides revisions and rearrangement in the text, many of the figures are considerably improved, and the expanded sections include discussions on noise shaping, data transmission, and the diverse disc formats that are rapidly coming into the market place. The second edition is about 20% longer than the first.

Ken C. Pohlmann, as usual in his extensive, popular writing, does an amazingly good job of bringing complex technological concepts within the understanding of those who do not have advanced training in digital numerics, digital coding, and the like. That is not to say the explanations presented will completely satisfy everyone, especially those insisting on absolute mathematical, scientific, and engineering precision. Nevertheless, the explanations are quite accurate and often by analogy give the reader an under standing of the basis for the “true facts” about these processes. The discussions are never embarrassingly simplified. I found them not only quite satisfactory but in some cases enlightening.

A brief summary of the contents is vital to any book review, so here goes. Chapter 1 (only 12 pages) is a very brief introduction to the Compact Disc. Chapter 2, “Fundamentals of Digital Audio” (30 pages), is writ ten at a modest technical level but should convince readers that digital signal processing does “work.” The basics theorems of sampling and quantization are described. Chapter 3, “The Compact Disc System” (54 pages), is as good and complete a description as I have seen anywhere. It is suitable for the technically minded reader, even to the point of being quite challenging in some sections. The serious student of digital signal processing will want to pursue some of the more advanced references given. There is a good amount of discussion concerning the details of data coding and error correction, and the structure of the information in the data channel is given. Chapter 4, “CD Player Design” (63 pages), really gets to the heart of its subject. All important aspects are covered, such as the transport mechanism, servo controls, optical pickups, tracking systems, data retrieval, digital filters, and analog-to-digital conversion; also included are the newer techniques of noise shaping and low-bit conversion. Several of the figures in this chapter have been improved and explanations clarified, expanded, or in a few cases contracted in a very appropriate way.

Chapter 5, “Practical Concerns” (45 pages), is a rather nontechnical discussion of possible differences among CD players that are the result of the precise digital process used in a design and the details of how the machinery of a player is put together. This section will help place test reports, such as those found in Audio, in proper technical perspective. Described are the tiny amounts of distortion and other residual defects in the reproduction process, as well as the tests needed to define them. The chapter carefully, and correctly, sorts out the real, though slight, imperfections of the digital process from the anecdotal pseudo science that surrounds so many high-level technologies. Luddites, beware!

Chapter 6, “Diverse Disc Formats” (62 pages), is a tremendously interesting section on derivatives of the CD—or more generically, optical storage—that are be coming important for computer data, interactive audio/video, multimedia materials, television, and even still photography. While this chapter is not of immediate concern to the fan of pure audio reproduction, it is fascinating. At some point it will be hard to decide if the optical information carrier is a “disc” or a “disk.”

I have never been able to get very warm about Chapter 7, “Disc Manufacturing” (38 pages), but many readers will be fascinated to learn how relatively easy it is to digitally process audio signals because of the robust nature of digitized information. Equally impressive is the ability to mass- produce tiny physical structures: You can barely see the pits of a CD with a good microscope, but they are there—and very accurately sized and placed at that.

All in all, a very nice book, complete with improved glossary and index. I will recommend it to my students, and I highly recommend it to readers of Audio as well as others with interest in digital sound reproduction, particularly that of the Compact Disc. (A-R Editions, 801 Deming Way, Madison, Wisc. 53717.) R. A. Greiner

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Music Speech Audio by William J. Strong and George R. Plitnik; SOUNDPRINT, softcover, 521 pp., $35

This is a large-format softcover book intended as a broad-based “student friendly” text on acoustics, aimed at the college underclassman level. William J. Strong and George R. Plitnik have had more than 25 years experience teaching what they aptly call descriptive acoustics at Brigham Young University, and this book is their basic teaching guide. The current version is the third since 1977.

The book is essentially nonmathematical, but it abounds in graphics. Covered in the text are six broad areas:

Science and Acoustics. Here the authors discuss the basic physical quantities and their associated derived quantities. This serves as a primer on energy, power, and intensity—information so necessary for developing an intuitive feel for acoustics. Basic vibration is covered, as is compound vibration, a subject that helps our under standing of many musical instruments. Wave phenomena and propagation are then discussed, along with aspects of reflection, refraction, and diffraction. The authors give a clear exposition of the tricky subject of sound level a the decibel.

The Ear and Hearing. This section begins with the anatomy and basic characteristics of the ear, including aspects of critical band theory and masking. Threshold, loudness, pitch, and tone color are discussed, along with additional aspects of sound perception such as temporal and spatial judgments and nonlinear action of the ear. Musical scales and basic harmonic relation ships are covered, and the section ends with the topics of hearing impairment and noise problems in the environment.

Listening Environments. Strong and Plitnik explain how sound behaves in and out of doors and how it can be isolated. Interior sound control is covered, with emphasis on absorption and the control of reverberations. The authors then move on to the elements of auditorium design, relating some of the subjective judgments of hail acoustics to the physical phenomena responsible for them. Finally, a primer on sound reinforcement is provided.

The Human Voice and Speech. Normally given cursory treatment in basic acoustics courses, this subject receives special focus here. Physiological aspects are treated in detail, as are speech perception, defects in speech production, and electronic processing of speech. The section ends with a discussion of the singing voice.

Musical Acoustics. After introducing the musical envelope and its spectral characteristics, Strong and Plitnik discuss the entire array of traditional musical instrument types. The authors go on to cover electronic instruments and synthesizers, as well as modern principles of sampling musical waveforms for subsequent manipulation.

Electronic Reproduction of Music. This section is devoted to high fidelity and its associated control systems, media, and transducers. Readers are given helpful hints on selecting audio systems and coming to grips with problems in the listening room.

The book’s supplementary material includes reviews of basic math, symbols, quantities, units, prefixes, formulas, and functions, as well as brief discussion of ultrasound and infrasound. Also provided are a bibliography (including audio-visual resources) and an index.

I believe that many readers of Audio will find this a very informative book to be referred to time and again. (Soundprint, 2250 North 800 East, Provo, Utah 84604.)

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Handbook of Acoustical Measurements and Noise Control, Third Edition; Edited by Cyril M. Harris; McGRAW-HILL, hardcover, 1,024 pp., $89.50

This is the latest version of the classic Handbook of Noise Control (the first edition was published in 1957, the second in 1979). Dr. Cyril M. Harris wrote or co-wrote six of the 54 chapters. In the Preface, he indicates that recent developments in digital instrumentation led to the change in the book’s title. I did indeed find a lot of information here on acoustical measurements—yet Chapter 5, for instance, de scribes manually operated sound level meters but does not tell about newer digital instruments that have computing and storage features. I saw nothing in the book about music as an intrusive noise, which was the topic of two relatively recent articles in Audio (“Muffling the Neighbors:

Ten Tips to Reduce Noise,” November 1990, and “Good Walls Make Good Neighbors,” December 1990). I saw no information on applications of microcomputers to acoustical measurements and calculations. Also missing is information on analysis of room acoustics based on time-energy frequency (TEF) and time-delay spectrometry (TDS).

Generally, the chapters written or co written by Harris are a little more clear than those of his colleagues; he explains basic principles very well. Nevertheless, the other authors—a mix of professors, consultants, and industry professionals—are all recognized experts in their subject areas. This review focuses on chapters I thought would interest readers of Audio.

Chapter 1 is a good primer on acoustics, without too much math. (Both metric and “ U.S. customary” units are used here and throughout the book.) Table 1.1 could include the sound power level of normal speech, and Figure 1.1 needs something at the top of the decibel scale, such as jet aircraft noise. I disagree that the “fast” setting of a sound level meter is the basic setting (page 1.18); most noise regulations require the “slow” setting. The addition of decibel levels is treated in great detail—not with math, but by means of nomographs. However, today this addition is easy with a scientific calculator, and computation of the overall A-weighted sum of a set of octave band levels is quickly done on a computer with a spreadsheet program. These modern methods should have been mentioned as alternatives to the cumbersome and inherently imprecise nomographs.

Chapter 2 lists many descriptors for noise level. But while acousticians most often use Leq (the A-weighted, long-term average energy level) to describe noise, its definition here is well hidden under “time.” Chapter 4, on indoor sound, is clear, though the acoustical noise-reduction calculation on page 4.11 could be done more efficiently on a computer with a spreadsheet. Chapter 5, covering acoustical measuring instruments, is excellent. (Small defects: On page 5.6-2, “electronic amplification” should read “equalization.” And contrary to a statement on page 5.17, a sound level calibrator can’t work at 4 to 16 kHz because of wave motion in the cavity; typically, the highest frequency is 2 kHz.)

Though Chapter 8 tells all about FFT analyzers, it shows examples of vibration rather than sound analysis (and I have often wondered whether an FFT analyzer is a good buy if used only for sound testing). Chapter 9, on noise measurement, is clear; Chapter 12, on human noise exposure, is a must for all who listen to loud music.

Sound power and intensity testing, covered in Chapters 13 and 14, is applicable to loudspeakers, though only machinery testing is .discussed. Chapter 15 contains important basic information on the effects of noise and reverberation on speech, while Chapters 16, 17, and 18—on hearing, hearing loss, and testing—give all the fundamentals, written by the top experts, and will be of vital interest to those who value their ears. (Perhaps some nonbelievers will be convinced that loud sounds do cause hearing loss.) Consequently, Chapter 21, on hearing protection, will be important to you if you attend concerts with amplified sound or if you use machinery. The actual effects of noise on humans—annoyance, poor performance of tasks, etc.—are de tailed in Chapters 23, 24, and 25 (unfortunately, as mentioned before, music as an intrusive noise is not singled out). Chapter 26 shows the related criteria for noise and vibration exposure (nothing on music).

Chapters 27, 28, and 29 include more than you need to know about vibration control—information that nevertheless will be of great value if you want to add vibration isolators to speakers or electronics. Chapter 30, on sound-absorbing material, is simple and practical; a section on Helmholtz resonator absorbers is tacked onto the end, but sound-absorbing concrete blocks that utilize this effect are, strangely, not mentioned. Chapter 31 presents good explanations on how walls, doors, and windows block airborne sound. It is a complete cookbook, except that one would have to obtain copies of standards to learn how to determine a Sound Transmission Class from a set of measured data; the basics on this could have been included.

The topics of structure-borne sound and noise control in buildings will be of interest to those who live in apartment buildings. Many fixes are described in Chapters 32 and 33. Cures for noise from power transformers, fluorescent lamps, and HVAC systems are discussed in subsequent chapters. And Chapter 45—on plumbing noise—will be of interest if you have a problem, but sadly the author indicates that most domestic systems are inherently noisy because of economies in design.

The amount of useful information in this book more than makes up for any deficiencies. I’m glad to have it in my library, and I recommend it to audio enthusiast.

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Updated: Wednesday, 2015-04-29 15:56 PST