What is acoustics ?

Hey, I don’t know what you are talking about !

Naturally, this blog targets people who naturally know acoustics since it’s their daily job. But I wanted to create this page to give some elements that can help people with knowing what is acoustics.

As always, the first thing to do is checking Wikipedia. Let’s see the definition :

Acoustics is the interdisciplinary science that deals with the study of all mechanical waves in gases, liquids, and solids including vibration, sound, ultrasound and infrasound. A scientist who works in the field of acoustics is an acoustician while someone working in the field of acoustics technology may be called an acoustical engineer. The application of acoustics is present in almost all aspects of modern society with the most obvious being the audio and noise control industries.

Wow, doesn’t seem very interesting, right ? Let’s try to define it better with a few questions :

What is a wave ? A wave is the propagation of a deformation in a medium. For example, when you throw something in the water, you can see circles growing around the point where you throw it. Basically, by throwing something in the water, you create a deformation in the water which propagates.


Plenty of waves ! Picture coming from http://sowsewso.com/2013/05/08/so-water/

In particular, the sound is a wave. But what is the deformation and what is the medium ? The deformation is the pressure of the air particles and the medium is the air. When you speak, you create an overpressure in the air that propagates towards the ear of the guy you speak with. See with this gif !


Animation showing the deformation propagating. Coming from http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/demos/waves/wavemotion.html


So basically, acoustics is studying the propagation of a deformation in a medium.

Okay, cool ! But why should we study it ?

There are many apllications of acoustics, but I want to talk about my favorite : Room acoustics.

Once again, let’s go to Wikipedia :

Room acoustics describes how sound behaves in an enclosed space.

This is very important to me. Let me give you two relevant examples :

  • Imagine that you’re working. You probably have to be focused on your task to achieve it as fast and as good as possible. But just near your office, there is the coffee machine, the photocopier or something else that always make a disturbing sound. How can you be focused with this annoying sound ? And imagine you hear this noise everytime, everyday. I bet that 3 months later, you won’t be as efficient as you should be or you won’t want to go to work anymore.
  • Imagine you’re attending a concert. There is this great jazz player that is playing in your city tonight and you don’t want to miss it. So you buy tickets and you’re placed in the back of the concert hall. But as soon as he starts playing, you realize that you can’t hear the sound as well as on the CD. You can’t hear the bass, which gives to the piece its depth, its emotion. Finally, you leave the room with the feeling that you paid a lot and you didn’t have the quality in return.

To me, we can’t accept that. I can’t accept that. We spend most of our time working, so I think we deserve to work in adapted places to feel good within the company and not being tired everytime. Moreover, as a musician, I pay a lot of attention to music and the way we listen to it. That’s why I want to work in room acoustics and why I created this blog.

And if I don’t like room acoustics ?

There are many other applications of acoustics. Take a look at “Lindsay’s Wheel of Acoustics” below. You will see that acoustics is connected with a lot of fiels and maybe it will inspire you, who knows ?


Lindsay’s Wheel of Acoustics. Click to enlarge.

This is only a small sumarry of what acoustics is. I hope you liked it and I foster you to continue searching if you did. Thanks for reading and tell me if you spotted any English mistake =)

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  • I really appreciate this post. I have been looking all over for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You’ve made my day! Thank you again

  • Graham Cowling

    You have made a good start

    • Thank you very much for your support Graham!