Years ago, I started a reference library of audio books: big books with authoritative information about acoustics, recording, music, electronics, audio, recording, vacuum tubes, etc. It was how I learned about all those things I didn't understand (bias, RIAA EQ curves, lacquers, cylinder recording, demagnetizing) and I could look up terms that I didn't know. Well, 2009 is a different time with a whole new set of technological terms and things to learn. How do you stay up to date?
Those dusty reference books don't cover dither, jitter, or lots of other things from AAC to digital zero. Can you find great pro audio and recording info on the web? Sure. Here's a list that will get you started.
The Rane Pro Audio Reference
Rane has done an incredible service to the audio industry by compiling this 21st century audio dictionary, a complete list of terms and names that is updated semiannually. It is an amazing resource and should be bookmarked by every audio engineer. If you don't know a Helmholtz resonator from a hurdy-gurdy, you need to check it out.
The Rane site also includes a list of timeless reference books (http://www.rane.com/par-book.html) that teach concepts that any audio person should know. If you don't know the names Beranek, Davis, Gerzon, or Olson, then you need to check out this list of books.
DPA Microphone University
If you don't know (or can't reliably remember) the differences between AB, MS, XY, NOS, and ORTF or didn't know those were stereo miking techniques in the first place, then you need to check out this site: a great source of info about mic techniques, surround setups and miking a grand piano.
Stan Coutant's Microphone Site
This site is one of my favorite time wasters ever. I've spent hours with this treasure trove of mic info, especially perusing vintage ribbon mics. Want to know the difference between an RCA 77- A, B, C, D, or DX? (They're less similar than you might think.) There are charts, graphs, and PDFs of original literature for a host of old microphones along with pictures of artists using them. Another amazing source for old mic photos is located at http://www.k-bay106.com/photos.htm.
Sound Studio and Audio Calculations
Need to convert dBV to dBu or dBm? Or find the wavelength of a certain frequency? You'll find calculators here for that and dozens of other useful things.
Interactive Frequency Chart
Ever wondered what frequency range a tuba occupies? How about a piccolo? This chart shows instruments on a 20 Hz to 20 kHz diagram with a frequency translator for terms like "honk, whack, and crunch."
RT60 Calculator from WSDG
This tool allows you to calculate reverb time decay by entering room type, dimensions, and wall finishes. It and many other acoustic calculators are available at the WSDG (Walters-Storyk Design Group) website. Room mode and absorption coefficient (including over 450 materials) spreadsheets for Microsoft Excel are also downloadable.
Shure Microphone Techniques: Recording
This downloadable PDF covers mic fundamentals and miking techniques, such as positioning, for a variety of instruments using (you guessed it) Shure microphones.
The library of documents from the British Broadcasting Corporation Research and Development Group
Brochures, presentations, white papers, and archives: There's enough to keep someone busy for years in this internet cache of audio wisdom from the collected minds of the BBC, the largest broadcasting entity in the world.
Sweetwater Sound's Music Technology Glossary
This is another excellent resource for information that also adds interesting tidbits about guitars and other musical instruments. Also check out the Tech Tip tab on the same page for lots of useful info on everyday topics like DAWs, sequencers, guitar pickups, compression, and more.
Mackie's Compact Mixer Reference Guide
Well, I guess it's true that Mackie "wrote the book" on compact mixers. Check out this guide to console basics starting with the first chapter, "Mixer Anatomy 101," especially if you don't know what all those lines and zigzags and arrows mean on a console block diagram. This will go a long way toward helping you understand basic signal flow in a console. It's like having a road map for your recording trip. And it's written in that inimitable and conversational Mackie style.
Armed with this list and the internet, you can spend all your spare time, even your vacation, enriching your audio knowledge. It may not make you the life of the party, but you might become the smartest engineer at the studio.
PAR technical editor Lynn Fuston is the founder of 3D Audio, Inc.www.3daudioinc.com