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Acoustics and Advanced Recording Techniques - ELE00060I

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  • Department: Electronic Engineering
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Frank Stevens
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2024-25

Module summary

This module covers the theory and practicalities of acoustics and location recording of sound and music. This will start with an introduction to the fundamentals of sound, and build to an understanding of room acoustics. This theory will be supported by a series of practical sessions devoted to the handling and analysis of audio signals.This module will also expand on the topics covered in Recording Studio Techniques to include how microphone characteristics and placement can be used to enhance or mitigate the acoustic properties of a recording space.

Related modules

This is a transition year module and will run in 2023/24 only.


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

Subject content aims:

  • To introduce the fundamentals of acoustics.

  • To develop from these fundamentals an understanding of the measurement and analysis of room acoustics.

  • To enable the students to develop skills in the handling and analysis of digital audio signals.

  • To introduce the students to advancing techniques in the placement and combination of different microphones.

  • To enable the students to develop proficiency in the use of recording technologies on location..

Graduate skills aims:

  • To establish fundamental skills in technical report writing.

  • To develop effective time and project management skills through the completion of a complex recording task

Module learning outcomes

Subject content learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Describe the recording studio environment, recording formats, and the associated signals and systems involved

  • Be able to use a software based Digital Audio Workstation environment together with a range of mixing and processing options for recording, editing and production work

  • Be able to select and use microphones appropriate for recording live and studio-based scenarios

  • Be able to mix individual component audio tracks into a two track stereo master

  • Explain the fundamentals of acoustics

  • Discuss acoustic impulse responses, the analysis of acoustic impulse responses, and the use of acoustic impulse responses in auralisation

  • Explain the practical use of digital signal processing techniques including convolution and the fourier transform

  • Be able to use MATLAB to handle and analyse digital audio signals.

Graduate skills learning outcomes

After successful completion of this module, students will:

  • Be able to write a technical report

  • Be able to produce technical documentation to support their creative output

  • Have developed the ability to self-reflect on their work

  • Be able to demonstrate their ability to work individually to complete creative and technical studio-based tasks

  • Have developed skills in technical analysis and problem solving.

Module content

  • Introduction to acoustics:

    • Fundamental properties of sound waves

    • Speed of sound

    • Frequency and wavelength

    • Decibels and SPL measurement

  • Sound in spaces: reflection, absorption, and diffusion

  • Standing waves and room modes

  • Sabine reverberation time estimation

  • Acoustic impulse responses (IRs)

  • Introduction to the acoustics of musical instruments

  • IR analysis: the Schroeder curve, RT60, EDT, clarity, definition etc.

  • Convolution and auralisation

  • Time- and frequency- domain audio analysis (the fourier transform, spectral analysis, spectrograms)

  • Audio signals in MATLAB:

    • Handling

    • Synthesis

    • Analysis

    • Resampling

    • Convolution

    • Playback

  • Digital and analogue audio signal types

  • Comb filtering and phase in audio signals

  • Microphone types, function and applications

  • Stereo microphone techniques

  • Recording instruments

  • Dynamic range processing of audio signals

  • Studio effects processing

  • Multitrack audio workflow and mixing


Task Length % of module mark
Individual Report
N/A 50
Location recording and acoustic analysis exercise
N/A 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Location recording and acoustic analysis exercise:
This assessment will be completed by students working in small groups (3-4 students). Students will choose a recording space, and survey its acoustics. This will include impulse response measurement and analysis, and must include clear identifications of how the physical features of the space correspond to features of the impulse response (e.g. strong early reflections, flutter echo etc).

The group will then record a musical performance in the space (with a minimum of 2 performers) using a set of complementary microphones. The students should then present a final mix of the musical piece, with limited use of post-processing.

They will then write a group report presenting an assessment of the recording space, IR analysis, a description of the recording and mixing of the piece, and an evaluation of the finished product. Each student will submit an individual report section offering a reflection on the process and description of their contribution to the group.

Reassessment task:
The reassessment task will be similar but reduced in scope to allow individual students to complete it.


Task Length % of module mark
Individual Report
N/A 50
Location recording and acoustic analysis exercise
N/A 50

Module feedback

'Feedback’ at a university level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme. We aim to help you reflect on your own learning and help you feel more clear about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you in both formative and summative assessments. A comprehensive guide to feedback and to forms of feedback is available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback.

The School of PET aims to provide some form of feedback on all formative and summative assessments that are carried out during the degree programme. In general, feedback on any written work/assignments undertaken will be sufficient so as to indicate the nature of the changes needed in order to improve the work. The School will endeavour to return all exam feedback within the timescale set out in the University's Policy on Assessment Feedback Turnaround Time. The School would normally expect to adhere to the times given, however, it is possible that exceptional circumstances may delay feedback. The School will endeavour to keep such delays to a minimum. Please note that any marks released are subject to ratification by the Board of Examiners and Senate. Meetings at the start/end of each term provide you with an opportunity to discuss and reflect with your supervisor on your overall performance to date.

Formative Feedback

Regular labs will allow students to engage with the module material and receive help with, and feedback on, their practical work.

Emails to the Module Staff with Questions / Comments will be answered as soon as possible.

The studio drop-in sessions will allow students to receive further support for their work on the recording studio exercise.

Summative Feedback

For each summative assessment students will receive a customised feedback sheet, showing the mark breakdown in each of the key areas being assessed along with personalised feedback and suggestions for improvement. The comments explain how well you have met the learning objectives, and also give you feedback about the things you could improve in future assignments).

Indicative reading

  • Howard DM and Angus JAS, (2009). Acoustics and psychoacoustics, 4th Ed., Oxford: Focal Press.

  • Sound recording practice’ edited by John Borwick for the Association of Professional Recording Services, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press 1996. ISBN 0 198 166087

  • Ballou, G,‘editor, ‘Handbook for sound engineers’, Focal Press, 2005, ISBN 0 240 807588 Bartlett, G, and Bartlett J,

  • ‘Practical Recording Techniques’, Focal Press, 2005. ISBN 0 240 80685 9

  • Francis Rumsey, and Tim McCormick ‘Sound & Recording – An Introduction’ 5th Edition, 2005, Focal Press. ISBN: 0 240 51996 5

  • Moylan, William, 'The Art of Recording' Focal Press, 2002. ISBN: 0 240 80483X

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.