Audio Fundamentals for Recording


Authored by Dan Thompson


Course Code: OMPRD-210

Next semester
starts April 1

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Music technology has become integral to the life and work of every musician. Increasingly, all professional musicians and music producers are responsible for and expected to be able to effectively record themselves and others, navigate MIDI and audio systems, and troubleshoot their own and others’ recording set ups. Audio is at the heart of every sound system, both analog and digital, and a fundamental knowledge and understanding of audio and audio systems is a must.

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In Audio Fundamentals for Recording, you will learn to understand and manage both simple and complex sound systems, including recording studios and live sound reinforcement set ups. The ability to properly set up, operate, and manage any sound system effectively depends on a foundational understanding of both acoustical sound and electrical audio signals. This course will provide you with an in-depth look at such sound systems, both analog and digital, from initial acoustic inception, through transduction and electrical manipulation, to power and acoustic reproduction.

The course will take you through the complete audio signal chain, beginning with the acoustic source. You'll explore audio transducers including microphones and loudspeakers. You’ll then explore basic and advanced signal flow, including analog and digital consoles and digital audio workstations (DAWs), culminating in gain structures, where you'll learn to trace levels through a complete hybrid studio signal chain, from source and microphone to loudspeaker and headphones. Along the way you'll learn about basic acoustics and electronics, analog and digital formats and professional conventions, levels and metering, and DAW and console signal flow. 

Audio Fundamentals for Recording is geared towards students interested or engaged in recording themselves and/or others and interested in setting up and navigating a recording studio of any size. By the end of the course, you'll be able to configure and trace a recorded signal through a complete recording studio set up, while optimizing levels and avoiding noise and distortion. You'll be able to read and understand equipment spec sheets, studio, console, and DAW signal flows, and properly set up a basic recording studio integrating both analog and digital elements and interconnects with attention to proper impedance, interfacing, and clocking. You will have the skills to optimize gain stages and trace levels throughout the system, as well as troubleshoot potential problems. Consider this your twelve-week audio bootcamp!

Upon successful course completion, you will have gained a thorough understanding of both analog and digital audio systems. You will be able to:

  • Read as well as generate signal flows of complex audio systems
  • Navigate analog and digital audio console, control, and DAW architectures
  • Read and understand audio equipment specification sheets
  • Trace levels through sound system gain structures
  • Use Ohm’s Law to calculate voltages, current, and power in circuits
  • Manage audio levels and impedances in complex sound systems
  • Differentiate between and apply different decibel conventions
  • Apply professional metering conventions
  • Use proper grounding schemes and manage system noise
  • Differentiate between various microphone and loudspeaker types and applications
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Lesson 1: The Basics of Sound

  • What is Sound? Frequency, Wavelength, and Period
  • Frequency and Period
  • Wavelength
  • Transduction: Acoustic to Electric
  • Amplitude
  • Oscilloscope
  • Complex Waves

Lesson 2: Transducers

  • Electromagnetic Induction
  • Microphones
  • Ribbon Microphones
  • Condenser/Capacitor Microphones
  • Tube Microphones
  • Microphone Specifications: Frequency Response
  • Sensitivity and Polar Response
  • Omni-Directional and Cardiod Microphones
  • Hypercardiod and Supercardiod Microphones
  • Shotgun Microphones
  • Bi-Directional / Figure-of-8 Microphones
  • The Proximity Effect
  • Transient Response
  • Loudspeakers
  • Moving-Coil Loudspeakers
  • Electrostatic Loudspeakers
  • Baffle Types
  • Infinite Baffle
  • Bass Reflex (Ported)
  • Loudspeaker Specifications
  • Efficiency
  • Dispersion Characteristics

Lesson 3: Signal-Flow Basics

  • Signal-Flow Principles and Symbols
  • Signal-Flow Principles Review
  • Effective Steps for Generating a Signal Flow
  • Signal-Flow Symbols
  • Radio Signal Flow
  • Signal Flow for Stereo Radio
  • Home Theater Receiver Signal Flow

Lesson 4: Advanced Signal Flow

  • Mixer Signal Flow
  • Source to Destination
  • 8-Channel Mixer Signal Flow
  • Advanced Signal Flow: The Recording Console
  • Sony MXP-3000 Recording Console Signal Flow
  • Advanced Functions
  • In-Line Analog Console Signal Flow

Lesson 5: The Decibel

  • Exponent Laws
  • Logarithms
  • Log Rules
  • Calculating Logarithms
  • The Decibel Scale
  • Exponential Change in Power
  • Power vs. Voltage/Pressure
  • Sound Level, Power, and Voltage

Lesson 6: Reference Levels

  • 0 dB References
  • Signal-to-Noise and Dynamic Range
  • Inverse Square Law
  • Mic Sensitivity
  • Other Gain Stages/Faders
  • Power Amplifier Sensitivity
  • Loudspeaker Sensitivity
  • Gain Structures

Lesson 7: Basic Electronics

  • Ohm's Law
  • Circuit Interactions
  • Series vs. Parallel
  • Circuit Voltages and Currents
  • Resistance vs. Impedance
  • Series-Parallel
  • Transmission
  • Balanced vs. Unbalanced
  • Basic Electronics

Lesson 8: Digital Audio Basics

  • The A/D and D/A Conversion Process
  • Pulse Amplitude Modulation (Sample)
  • Hold
  • Quantize and Code (PCM – Pulse Code Modulation)
  • Sampling Frequency
  • Aliasing
  • Anti-Aliasing Filter (LPF)
  • D/A Process
  • Dither
  • Recording, Transmission, and Storage
  • Word Clock
  • Word Clock Transmission
  • Jitter
  • Transmission Protocols
  • Digital Audio Cables

Lesson 9: DAW Signal Flow

  • Digital Signal Routing
  • Digital I/O
  • DAW Input/Output Matrix
  • Tracks (Recording/Edit) and Mixer Windows
  • Templates
  • Audio Tracks
  • Audio Tracks vs. "Voices"
  • MIDI Tracks
  • Virtual Instrument Tracks
  • Mixer Window
  • Faders
  • Master Faders
  • Group Masters
  • VCA Masters
  • Plug-Ins and Inserts
  • Auxiliary (Aux) Inputs
  • Busses
  • Serial vs. Parallel Processing
  • Recording (Bouncing) the Mix Back Into the DAW Session

Lesson 10: Digital Consoles and Controllers

  • The Digital Console
  • Analog and Digital I/O
  • Input/Output Matrix
  • Paged Architecture
  • Select/Focus Channel
  • Channel Strip
  • The DAW Controller
  • Focus Fader
  • DAW Control Protocol
  • Synchronization

Lesson 11: The Complete Hybrid Recording Studio

  • Input Sources
  • Signal Output
  • Microphones
  • Mic Preamp Stage
  • The A/D Converter Stage
  • Recording Signal Flow
  • Monitoring Playback
  • Adding the Console/Mixer
  • Combining Signals
  • Aux Sends
  • Complete Signal Flow

Lesson 12: Live Sound Reinforcement

  • Live Sound Reinforcement Signal Flow
  • Simple System: Mixer Feeding both FOH and Monitors
  • Full Pro System: FOH Console Plus Monitor Mixer
  • Recording Live to Multitrack
  • Maximizing Signal-to-Noise Ratio
  • Gain Before Feedback
  • Microphone Choice and Placement
  • Preparing for the Final Exam
  • Study Guide: Key Topics
  • Final Exam


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Applied Mathematics for Musicians and any of the following DAW courses: Pro Tools 101Pro Tools 110Producing Music with LogicProducing Music with ReasonProducing Music with Cubase, or Ableton Live Fundamentals, or equivalent knowledge and/or experience.




  • Audio interface
  • XLR microphone and cable
  • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as necessary cables. Monitors with 8-inch woofers are recommended, such as JBL 308Ps or better.
  • Professional over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, etc.
  • One of the following three SPL metering options with A-, C-, and linear Z-weighting scales:
    • Option 1 - iPhone or iPad with one of the following apps:
    • Option 2 - Both of the following:
      • SPL/RTA software, such as Room EQ Wizard (free) for Mac/Windows, or AudioTool for Android
      • Measurement microphone, such as Sonarworks SoundID reference. (Note: Due to inconsistencies in performance, non-iOS SPL metering apps using the built-in mic are not sufficient.)
    • Option 3 - Dedicated hardware SPL meter. (Note: You may need to use the correction table in the back of your textbook to convert dBA or dBC readings to Z-weighting, as most affordable hardware level meters do not include dBZ.)
  • Recommended: Real-time analyzer (RTA). The following options (from above) also fulfill this recommendation:

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Dan Thompson


Daniel M. Thompson is assistant chair of Music Production and Engineering (MP&E) at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught advanced production, recording, and mix techniques, as well as music technology for more than two decades.

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An independent writer/producer and Latin Grammy Award-winning recording engineer, his credits include work on records, feature films, and numerous network and cable television series and movies, including ER, The Sopranos, Melrose Place, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Touched by an Angel, NCIS, and Monk, to name just a few.

Dan has authored articles on music technology for EQ and Electronic Musician, and has been a presenter and clinician on music production topics in the US, Europe, and Central and South America, including at the Panama Jazz Festival.

His book Understanding Audio: Getting the Most Out of Your Project or Professional Recording Studio (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard) is a required textbook for Berklee College of Music's MP&E classes, as well as for numerous other music production and engineering programs throughout the US and abroad. Read Less

David Lefkowitz


David Lefkowitz has been teaching in higher education since 2000. He has taught courses such as physics, acoustics, electronics, sound design for visual media, music theory, audio technology, digital audio, advanced recording, and advanced mixing. David served as the assistant department chair for the Audio Production department at the New England Institute of Art. He also moderated/coordinated for the Boston area Pro Tools User Group (PTUG) and has presented at the Parson’s Expo and at other events. He is a Pro Tools certified expert instructor.

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Under his independent business name, Lefko Productions, David worked on records with international and regional artists including Johnny A, Stuart Kimball, the Beloved Few, Entrain, Kol B’Seder, Dany Silva, Bana, and the Mendes Brothers. Bana and the Mendes Brothers were featured in the Putumayo World Disk Series. Dave was a principal business partner of Renaissance Recording Company, a commercial recording facility in Boston’s Back Bay where he worked as the chief recording engineer.

David's passions are composition and songwriting and he is currently producing his fifth full-length album. David is additionally skilled as a playwright, a show producer, a show director, and as a musical artist. Unyfi, David's audience-centered comical rock arts show featured his compositions. Unyfi performed at the Regent Theatre and at A.R.T. Oberon in 2015. Recently, David has been venturing into sound design and so far has worked on various films including Archie's Betty, Celling Your Soul, and Whaling City. David also produced and directed a film dedicated to the legendary Boston rock club "The Rat," featuring a variety of Boston rock artists including the Dropkick Murphys. He is a member of the Audio Engineering Society (AES) and Broadcast Music Inc. Read Less

Assen Stoyanov


Assen Stoyanov has worked as a tech at Westlake Recording Studios, as a Chief Engineer for Broken Wave Studios, as a freelance engineer, and as an instructor at the renowned Los Angeles Recording School. It was during this time that Assen also received his Masters in Entertainment Business from Full Sail. Assen has been the engineer for artists such as 3 Doors Down, Static-X, Larry Carlton, INXS, as well as on movies like Outfoxed, Fat Albert, and The Honeymooners. By combining his technical skills with production and creativity, Assen not only works in the studio with artists, but also writes music and designs professional audio gear. These days, Assen has the awesome job as Electronic Engineer at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. There he maintains the main studios, builds original sound equipment, and services the unique Capitol Echo Chambers.

John Escobar


Producer John Escobar is also an engineer, multi-instrumentalist, and educator. Born to a Colombian father and a Mexican American mother, he grew up in a multicultural environment across multiple continents, spending his childhood in several countries in South America and his adolescent years in East Africa. Having the privilege of experiencing life from this angle, he gained a deep appreciation for the music and sounds of the world early on.

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Escobar is well known for his versatility, which he attributes to his culturally diverse upbringing. His work has spanned many genres over the years, allowing him to work with such great artists as the multi-Grammy nominees Highly Suspect, the jazz guitar virtuoso Larry Coryell, Grammy-winning folk artist Sarah Jarosz, indie pop band Fences (featuring the Grammy-winning hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis), and classical violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, among many others. Over the last few years, he has had a chance to spend some time in academia, having taught at some of the most prestigious institutions in North America, such as Boston University, University of Southern California, Northeastern University, and Harvard University. He enjoys sharing his real-world knowledge with the up-and-coming talent in the music industry. Read Less


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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