The Sound System Design Primer  book cover
1st Edition

The Sound System Design Primer

ISBN 9781138716889
Published March 11, 2019 by Routledge
610 Pages

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USD $79.95

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Book Description

The Sound System Design Primer is an introduction to the many topics, technologies, and sub-disciplines that make up contemporary sound systems design.

Written in clear, conversational language for those who do not have an engineering background, or who think more in language than in numbers, The Sound System Design Primer provides a solid foundation in this expanding discipline for students, early/mid-career system designers, creative and content designers seeking a better grasp on the technical side of things, and non-sound professionals who want or need to be able to speak intelligently with sound system designers.

Table of Contents



List of Figures

Preface: Why This Book? Who Is This Book For?


Introduction: What This Book Does, and How It Works

A Note on Safety


Part I: What is a Sound System?

What is a sound system? How does sound itself work? What are the components we need in order to get signal to our audience? Examining the fundamentals of sound, and all the standard components of a contemporary sound system.

Section 1: Basics

Chapter 1: The Four Standard Elements of the Analog Sound System

Chapter 2: The Four Standard Elements of the Digital Sound System

Chapter 3: What Is Sound?—Part 1: Acoustic Version

Chapter 4: What Is Sound?—Part 2: Electric Version

Chapter 5: What Is Sound?—Part 3: Digital Version

Section 2: Inputs

Chapter 6: Microphones (Wired)

Chapter 7: Microphones (Wireless)

Chapter 8: Direct Inputs (Instruments, Turntables, Etc.)

Chapter 9: Playback Devices and Systems

Section 3: Processing

Chapter 10: Preamplifiers and Mixing Consoles

Chapter 11: Effects—Part 1: Creative and Mixing Effects

Chapter 12: D.S.P.: Digital Signal Processing

Chapter 13: Effects—Part 2: System Calibration Effects

Section 4: Amplification

Chapter 14: Power Math

Chapter 15: Power Amplifiers (plus a Note on Power Conditioners,

Uninterruptible Power Supplies, and Distros)

Section 5: Outputs

Chapter 16: Speakers

Chapter 17: Monitoring Systems

Section 6: Computers and Sound

Chapter 18: Networks and Connectivity

Chapter 19: Show Control

Chapter 20: Triggers, Sensors, and Customization

Section 7: Communication Systems

Chapter 21: Audio Com Systems

Chapter 22: Paging Systems

Chapter 23: Video Com—We Know It’s Not Audio, But It’s Almost Always Our Job Anyway!

Section 8: Connections

Chapter 24: Cable Types and Their Uses

Part II: How Do You Set Up, Test, and Calibrate a Basic Sound System?

How do you assemble a sound system? How do you test your gear and troubleshoot problems? Beginning designers often have to do this work themselves, and any designer needs to understand how their system fits together. Examining the installation process.

Section 9: Installation

Chapter 25: Signal Flow, from Installation to Verification

Chapter 26: Testing and Troubleshooting

Section 10: Calibration

Chapter 27: Measurement Tools and Systems

Chapter 28: Measurement Practices, System Calibration and


Chapter 29: Acoustic Treatments and Other Solutions

Part III: What Type of Sound System Do You Need?

What are the special questions that need to be asked in each discipline? What are the differences in expected process? What are the schedules and special terms? Examining different sound system types by discipline.

Section 11: The Basic Process of System Design

Chapter 30: Understanding the Source Material

Chapter 31: Understanding the Venue

Chapter 32: Understanding the Audience

Chapter 33: Understanding the Budget and Available Resources

Chapter 34: Selecting Loudspeakers and Positions (Loudspeaker Modeling)

Chapter 35: Selecting the Remaining Equipment and Plan for Operation

Chapter 36: Refining Your Choices

Section 12: The Different Types of Sound System

Chapter 37: Concerts, Small Scale

Chapter 38: Concerts, Large Scale, and Festivals

Chapter 39: Theater—Straight Plays

Chapter 40: Theater—Musicals

Chapter 41: Conventions and Other Multi-Room Live Events

Chapter 42: Performing Arts Venues and Houses of Worship for Permanent Installation

Chapter 43: Supermarkets, Airports, and Other Retail Spaces

Chapter 44: Theme Parks, Cruise Ships, Casinos, and Other Themed Environments

Chapter 45: Recording/Mixing/Mastering Studios (Project and Commercial) for Music, Film, etc. (Including a brief note on Sound Stages for Visual Media)

Chapter 46: Corporate Offices, Hotels, Restaurants, and Other Architectural Environments

Chapter 47: Creative Systems—Multimedia Art Galleries, New Media, New Uses

Part IV: How Do You Document and Present Your Design?

What do you need to do in order to ensure you present your work professionally and effectively? Examining the process, from first meeting to final design documents.

Section 13: Technical Drawing

Chapter 48: Basic Technical Drawing Standards (Organizing and Labeling, Drawing Setup, Notes on Computer Drafting, etc.)

Chapter 49: Plan and Elevation Views (including Rack Elevations)

Chapter 50: System Block Diagrams (Audio, Control, Network Risers)

Chapter 51: Mounting Details

Chapter 52: Magic Sheets

Section 14: Other Technical Documentation

Chapter 53: Hookups and Workbooks

Chapter 54: Equipment (Hardware, Cable, RF, IP, etc.) Schedules and Facilities Impact Reports

Chapter 55: Budget Documents

Chapter 56: Technical Narratives

Chapter 57: Presentation Packaging (to Clients, Bidders, and Integrators)

Section 15: Presenting Your Work to Paying Clients

Chapter 58: First Presentations

Chapter 59: Revisions

Chapter 60: Finalizing and Signing-Off

Afterword: What Comes Next—A Path Forward for The System Designer

Bibliography and Further Reading



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Josh Loar is a sound, lighting, video, and control system designer who has designed projects all over the world, from theaters, to concerts and festivals, to corporate events and conventions, to theme parks. He has worked as a professional designer for more than 20 years. He has designed and engineered systems for clients including Walt Disney Imagineering, Lotte Group, Busch Gardens, and more. He is co-chair and co-author of the upcoming ESET (Essential Skills for Entertainment Technicians) test in audio. He is chair of the USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) Sound Graphics Working Group, working on issuing new and more comprehensive documentation standards for theatrical sound paperwork. He is an accomplished FOH (Front-of-House) and recording engineer, having worked with artists including Paul Simon, David Byrne, Mos Def, Rickie Lee Jones, Charlie Haden, Philip Glass, and many, many more (he has genuinely lost count). He is an educator who has been teaching at the university level for nearly a decade, at Yale School of Drama and now at Michigan Technological University. He is also a multimedia artist, musician, producer, director, and creator of lots of different kinds of weird art. He enjoys long walks in the woods, good whiskey, and the company of intelligent people. Check out his work at


"[This] book can be enjoyed by newcomers and seasoned pros alike. Whether looking to start a career in audio technology, or brush up on your skills, look no further than The Sound Design Primer." - Brandon Cudequest, Journal of the Audio Engineering Society