“Audio System Engineer”—has a nice ring to it, eh? Very official sounding.
Not so very long ago there was a controversy about this title. I believe the crux of the argument revolved around the use of the label “engineer” when there was no college degree earned. But like most things, this too did pass.
What’s in a name anyway? The Audio Engineering Society (AES) has accepted me as member since 1978, and if it works for them, it works for me! (Nope – I don’t hold a college degree in engineering, or any other discipline for that matter.)
To me, an engineer is someone who has come to intimately understand the workings of a given technology along with its idiosyncrasies. This knowledge and experience is then used in a practical application of the technology toward a (hopefully) successful outcome.
I guess most of us just call ourselves whatever we want until the “Job Title Police” show up. I kind of like the sound of Audio System Engineer. And after 30-plus years of hard knocks, maybe I feel like I’m due.
But what, exactly or thereabout, does an Audio System Engineer do? Most folks have their own concept about the nature of my job and think it’s a pretty cool way to earn a living - road trips with rock stars, dining on catered meals and staying in nice hotels. (Hey, that does sound like fun. Sign me up!)
The part that goes overlooked is the tremendous amount of effort and responsibility involved, the too-numerous-to-count 12- to 16-hour days of sweat, grind and problem solving. At the same time, there’s nothing quite as rewarding as working at something you truly enjoy. In this regard, I’m blessed.
Getting back to the job title discussion, I’ve recently formulated a new one: ASE, pronounced “ace” as in spades and short for Audio System Engineer. Acronym titles are very cool and trendy, plus this one makes it sound like maybe I shot down a rogue lighting guy or two along the way.
Now that I’ve defined a new title, on to the important stuff. As in the definition of this lofty profession, at least as I see it.
A good ASE will understand many interrelated entertainment industry technologies, and how to utilize them together. Success is measured in the audible results of a performance, and perhaps the efficiency of the installation and striking of the equipment.
The objective is fairly straightforward: To provide the person mixing sound with the tools needed to excel at that craft. To accomplish this, there must be an audio system appropriate for the application, optimized for performance, installed properly and safely, and delivering the desired outcome. Oh, and without malfunction.
The caveat: the ASE should never expect to garner praise for these efforts. The person behind the console will be the hero. Mixers with a real understanding and appreciation of the system work will, on occasion, deliver kudos. Regardless, the ASE must be a good team player, taking satisfaction for things vital yet often taken for granted by most.
What about those “interrelated technologies” anyway? Like job titles, this terminology sounds a bit on the high falutin’ side. Yet any ASE worth anything knows exactly what I’m talking about.