Audio Or Sound

I have many conversations with people who don”t understand the difference between the two audible notions, and thought it might be helpful to explain the difference in some simple terms.

So what words do we use to describe what we hear?

We use phrases like music, audio, noise, static, sonic, waves and frequency to explain the audio around us. Sound, being the main umbrella word to describe anything that we can hear.

So let’s start with the battle between Audio v Sound…

Audio v Sound

Audio is anything audible that has been produced, recorded or processed by something electronic or digital. This could also be referred to as a “sound signal”.

Sound is anything audible, from any format or instrument. Music would also fall under this umbrella word, where some audio would also include digital audio, for example beats or samples. We would also find the sound of a bird singing in a tree under this umbrella of sound too.

Sound can be broken down into Wavelength, Frequency, Amplitude, Pressure, Intensity, Speed of Sound and Direction. If you think about the “Speed of Sound” this could be any natural or digitally made sounds, so it”s an easy way of remember which is which.

While audio is a sound, not all sounds are audio.

Audio Art v Sound Art
The differences are the same as above, but think more creatively and less about a sound sounding “musical” or “word-based”, something in-between is where Audio and Sound Art live.

Audio Technician v Sound Designer
As you could imagine an Audio Technician focuses on the Audio, which if we link back to the Audio v Sound means dealing with the digital and electronic recording and production. This within the role, normally means running the technician side of the processes, making sure all the equipment works and that the recording and playback levels are a good quality.

When I was a Technician I was also responsible for designing, building, setting up and breaking down equipment setups.

For the role of Sound Designer the focus is more on the design, style and creative “look” to the sound. This might be a mix of digitally produced audio, but also live and real-world music, fitting in with our previous explanation of the word sound.

I love sound designing, as it”s a great combo of creative and technical, but not having to spend as much time gaffer-taping cables down.

Helpful Words
Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB Radio)
Audio Levels
Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
Sound Art(Sub genres include Experimental Music, Sound Poetry, Noise Audio, Sound Map, Sound Sculpture, Glitch Audio and Audio Art)
Sound Wave
Speed of Sound
Sound perception (humans hearing)
Further Reading
Audio (Signal) Wikipedia Definition https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_signal
Sound Wikipedia Definition – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound

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