Acoustic vs. Acoustical

One thing that annoys me (okay, okay… one of the many things) is when people confuse “acoustic” with “acoustical”. These are not interchangeable – in the same way that “electric” is not the same as “electrical”.

An electric engineer is an engineer that runs on electricity (in other words, a robot) – in the same way that an electric train is a train that runs on electricity.

An electrical engineer is an engineer that works on things that involve electricity. For example, this is a person (who runs on food) who looks at wiring diagrams.

A person who develops loudspeakers or designs concert halls is an acoustical engineer. This is a person (who also runs on food) and works on projects involving sound and acoustics.

An acoustic engineer is an engineer that makes funny noises when struck – which is something different.

Then again, I guess if you hit any acoustical engineer hard enough, you would make that person an acoustic acoustical engineer.

  1. Gary Eickmeier says:

    I would love it if people who develop loudspeakers were acoustical engineers. They might then be able to see the relationship between the acoustics of live sound vs the acoustics of loudspeaker playback in rooms. Most of the time all I see them do is try to eliminate the room with sound deadening materials or speaker directivity or both, thinking that the direct sound from the two speakers is all we need to hear.

    If they started looking at sound fields in rooms they might begin to see the relationship between radiation pattern, reflected sound, and speaker positioning compared to live sound fields. These relationships have been explained to everyone a few times in audio history, but basically ignored by most classically trained engineers. This is a shame because it is an acoustical process, and our ears do not hear differently all of a sudden when listening to speakers in rooms. A high direct field from two points in space in a dead room sounds nothing like a huge, complex set of fields of direct, early reflected, and reverberant sound in a concert hall or other performing space.