Training Audio Engineers – Part I

Training Audio Engineers

Things were a bit chaotic yesterday. My day started early in the morning in Zürich and ended in Paris around midnight with the majority of the day in Mainz at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz Hochshule Für Musik. The mere fact that I made it to my first presentation/workshop was almost a miracle. Despite careful planning and pre-purchased tickets from the Zürich main train station to Frankfurt through Basel, I managed to miss the connecting train and was delayed by an hour getting to Frankfurt. And without my cell phone or WiFi, I wasn’t sure how I was going to let Michael Demmer, the gentleman that was so helpful in arranging my sessions, know I wasn’t going to be at the airport on time.

It’s not hard to find WiFi in large public places like the train stations and airports. It’s possible to get connected via WiFi on the train IF you have a functioning cell phone. The system here involves entering your phone number in order to receive a code, which you enter into your browser. It’s a great system if you have a functioning cell phone but without one, you’re out of luck.

I finally managed to connect with Michel using some Skype credits on the train and we met on the escalator of the train station. We arrived at the university about an hour late. I hate being late and apologized for my tardiness. The director of the studio and the students seemed to understand.

The session was broken into two separate sections. The first was held in a very crowded control room equipped with a studio grade 5.1 playback setup (which unfortunately had the left and right surround speakers placed about 140-150 degrees off the center line…20-30 degrees too far back). Moritz, the head of the audio recording program and my host, purchased a new Blu-ray player and hooked the analog outputs to his monitor system and stretched an HDMI cable to the flat panel TV at the front.

I started by introducing myself and explaining a little bit about the world of high-resolution audio. My first question to this group of 10-15 audio engineering students was what they knew about high-resolution audio. There was a long pause. I thought for a few moments that perhaps my audience didn’t understand my question or were struggling with English. Nope. They were completely unaware of the term. These audio students had no idea what I was talking about. So I spent the first hour explaining the basics of digital audio, sample rates, word lengths, and the Nyquist Theorem.

The first student question asked, “What’s the Nyquist Theorem?” It was time to reset again. So went the rest of the demonstration and presentation. In retrospect, I should have tried to gauge the experience and knowledge level of the students before launching into my discussion. They were very interested and particularly impressed once I stopped talking and started playing some examples of high-resolution music.
I switched from stereo to both of the 5.1 surround mixes available on my demonstration sampler and encouraged the students to take turns listening from the sweet spot. They seemed to enjoy the surround mixes more than the stereo.

About 2:30 pm, we took a lunch break and prepared for the afternoon recording session. I’ll talk about that tomorrow.


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

9 thoughts on “Training Audio Engineers – Part I

  • October 29, 2015 at 3:58 am

    How can anyone be an (ongoing) ‘audio engineering student’ and not know anything at all about digital and/or high-resolution audio?
    I don’t understand it, honestly!
    Don’t they have teachers at the ‘Hochschule für Musik’ in Mainz?

    • October 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

      To be fair, these are music students that are interested in recording…not tonmeisters. But I was surprised, that they hadn’t heard of the basic stuff.

  • October 29, 2015 at 5:20 am

    Mark, even High School students that were interested in audio, should have been familiar with those terms.
    It sounds to me, like this was a school where the students lead with a general level of apathy, and they will likely remain poorly connected to advances in sound.
    Find some better universities! 🙂

    • October 29, 2015 at 10:50 am

      I think I’d be hard pressed to find a high school student in the U.S. that would know about Nyquist or PCM.

  • October 29, 2015 at 8:19 am

    From my experience, high-resolution audio is CD audio that has been:

    1} noise-shape-dithered ;

    2} upsampled .

    • October 29, 2015 at 10:51 am

      I can’t say I would agree. This would still remain CD spec audio.

      • October 30, 2015 at 3:44 pm

        Unrivalled clarity of heavily upsampled audio is beneficial for everyone .

    • November 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      You have it back to front – Hi-Res audio from a hi-res recording is what you get before it is down-sampled (down-graded) to CD audio

  • October 29, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Hi Mark,

    What a great experience! I’m looking forward to hear more of your impressions.
    I’m guessing the students are familiar with 24bit and DSD downloads, DVD-audio and SACDs, or with the existence of a label such as 2L, but less with the more recent HRA marketing.
    Morten Lindberg has made an effort to promote new multi channel recording techniques, DXD, etc., and at an academic level, and I believe he has quite a following in Germany. With websites such as Qobuz, HighresAudio, and Native DSD, I would think that HRA as a marketing term and strategy should be a more widespread topic among younger people.

    Have a great trip!



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