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Audio Acoustics

MSc/PgDip

School - School of Computing, Science & Engineering

Subject area - Acoustics, Audio and Video

Start Dates(s): September

Duration:

MSc (one year full-time or 32 months part-time)
PgDip (nine months full-time or 20 months part-time)

Fees:

Part-time - £1,230 per 30 credit module

UK - £7,380

International - £13,500

Distance Learning - Full-time £7,380, part-time £1,230 per 30 credit module

In Brief:

  • An in-depth analytical treatment of audio and acoustic engineering as used in industry and research
  • You will be taught by world-class researchers with international prominence and strong industrial links
  • Strong and long-standing connections with industrial partners across Europe which inform course content, drive postgraduate recruitment, and create collaborative MSc summer project opportunities
  • Part-time study option
  • Overseas study available
  • International students can apply

Course Summary

The generation, manipulation and reproduction of high quality audio are core elements of the rapidly expanding communication, entertainment, music and sound engineering industries. This course is aimed at graduates of numerate science disciplines, who wish to make the transfer into this exciting and growing sector. Building on the engineering fundamentals you already know, it will provide you with the specialist expert knowledge required to become a future leader in audio technology. The University of Salford has a long history of research and teaching in audio and acoustics - by taking this course you will be joining a community of alumni who can be found at the heart of many leading organisations both in the UK and abroad.

You will study core topics including architectural acoustics, psychoacoustics, dynamics and vibration, computer modelling and measurement. Beyond this, the course provides specialist modules in digital signal processing and advanced loudspeaker and microphone design. Further specialisation is then developed in the Project module. 

You will be based in the university’s internationally-renowned Acoustics Research Group. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework panel praised  our outputs, saying that the Salford submission showed “particular strengths in acoustics”, and our industrial links led our REF impact case study to be singled out by the EPSRC and Royal Academy of Engineering for highlight the economic benefits of engineering and training. 

This course is accredited by the Institute of Acoustics for the purposes of meeting the educational requirements for Corporate Membership of the Institute. Graduates may attain Engineering Council registration via the Institute of Acoustics.

Course Details

This course offers a variety of flexible study formats, including full and part-time modes, either on campus or via distance learning. Those considering part-time study should bear in mind that the programme is intensive, and that generally, we advise that part-time means half time, i.e. you would need to allocate half the week to you studies ≈ 19 working hours.

Course Structure

This course comprises eight 15 credit taught modules, followed by a 60 credit project module leading to the dissertation. For full-time students, the taught modules all take place in trimesters one and two, followed by the project module in trimester three. For part-time students, the taught modules are spread over trimesters one and two of two years, followed by the project module in year three.

Please note that the ‘Measurement Analysis and Assessment’ module includes a lab week in semester 1 of year 2, attendance of which is also mandatory for distance learning students. Depending on your nationality you may require an ATAS certificate and Short Term Study Visa for this – see the Entry Requirements tab for details.

Semester 1  (for the full-time option)

In this module you will develop a systematic understanding of the physical and mathematical representations of vibrating systems and acoustic waves in 1D, 2D and 3D. You will learn about the descriptors and physical units of acoustic and vibration phenomena, and apply critical thinking to understanding of the assumptions and limitations inherent in acoustics and vibration theory. Using this, you will solve advanced problems in acoustics by application of theory and mathematical techniques.
This module aims to equip students with the necessary knowledge to specify and undertake appropriate acoustic measurements, including understanding their limitations, and being able to analyse the data they produce. You will learn how to effectively undertake standardised acoustic measurements, taking full account of uncertainty introduced throughout the process. You will also gain a comprehensive understanding of the scientific principles underlying these acoustic measurement techniques, thereby helping you to apply them better and know how to adapt them or propose new methods where appropriate.
In this module you will learn about the fundamental principles underlying electroacoustic transduction as well as investigating the interaction between a source, its acoustic environment and the listener. These effects will be described by mathematical models, which you will study both on paper and numerically by programming them using Matlab. You will also examine the practical application of loudspeaker and microphone systems, and investigate how they are used in arrays e.g. for spatial audio applications.
This module aims to give you an understanding of how acoustic signals may be handled and processed digitally, considering the benefits and limitations. You will study the decomposition of signals in frequency and their manipulation using digital filters, including design and analysis techniques. You will then go on to develop knowledge of advanced signal processing methods based on adaptive filtering and machine learning, including an awareness of their basis and limitations, whilst gaining the skills to apply them.

Semester 2

This module aims to provide you with a thorough grasp of room acoustics principles, including theoretical models for both low and high frequencies,  developing your ability to apply these in order to analyse existing rooms or design new ones.  You will study wave theory and statistical theory for acoustic enclosures, including objective descriptions of and how these tally with listeners' perceptions. Techniques for designing and applying sound absorbing and scattering treatments will be covered, and you will consider the effectiveness and limitations of these in important application areas such as musical performances spaces and critical listening rooms.
This module aims to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the principles of computer simulation methods that are commonly used in acoustics. You will develop a critical awareness of the different types of techniques available (e.g. low & high frequency models), as well as developing the ability to apply them effectively and understand their limitations. You will apply these models to practical acoustic systems, thereby demonstrating your specialist understanding and broader problem solving and numeracy skills.
This module is about linking the acoustic signals we measure to peoples’ subjective responses. You will gain an understanding of how the auditory system allows humans to perceive different attributes of the surrounding acoustic environment, and develop a detailed understanding of how low-level percepts such as pitch arise from the physiology of the ear. You will then study how these are linked to high-level attributes such as emotional response, and how this drives good subjective experiment design.
In this module you will extend the knowledge you acquired during the Loudspeakers and Microphones module to study their design principles in greater depth. You will analyse the design of electro-dynamic and distributed mode loudspeaker systems, including the interaction of the electrical, mechanical and acoustical properties to determining sensitivity, frequency response and directionality. This will include study of two-port networks methods and the method of analogues. Practical issues such as radiation efficiency and non-pistonic vibration will be considered, and analysis will be extended to vented, transmission line and band-pass systems.

Semester 3 (or year 3 part-time)

The aim of the project is for you to carry out, under supervision, an extended individual study into a topic in acoustics and/or audio. The topic will be agreed with your supervisor and can be industry based if appropriate. You will be marked on your initiative and project management, as well as your ability to bring together the skills, knowledge and understanding that you have acquired from the course. The project module is often used to further develop the specialist interests of students, for example audio systems projects in association with the BBC, Dolby or The Music Group; or room acoustic design or assessment projects in association with large consultancies.

Entry Requirements

  • A first or second-class degree in a numerate engineering or science discipline. All applicants must have a significant grounding in engineering mathematics.

Salford Alternative Entry Scheme (SAES)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English Language Requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (with no element below 5.5) is proof of this. If you need to improve your written and spoken English, you might be interested in our English language courses.

International Students - Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

International Students are required by the Home Office and/or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to apply for an Academic Technology Approval  Scheme (ATAS) Certificate before they begin studying their course. You may need to obtain an ATAS Certificate before you come to the UK in order for you to comply with Home Office regulations. Please refer to your offer conditions.

You can find out if your programme requires an ATAS by checking the FCO website at https://www.gov.uk/academic-technology-approval-scheme with your JACS code which will be on your offer letter should you choose to make an application. If you cannot find it please contact International  Conversion team at application@salford.ac.uk.  If you have any queries relating directly to ATAS please contact the ATAS team  on Salford-ATAS@salford.ac.uk.

You can apply for your ATAS Certificate via this link: https://www.academic-technology-approval.service.gov.uk/

Please note that distance learners are required to attend a lab week in semester 1 (of year 2 for part-time study), for which they may require ATAS approval and a Short Term Study Visa.

Suitable For

This course is designed for technically-skilled, numerate graduates whose first degree was in an engineering or science discipline, who wish to train to begin an acoustics and audio engineering career.

This course is also suitable for those currently working in the audio and acoustic industry who wish to expand their expertise.

If you feel you have the technical knowledge for the course but lack the engineering maths, please get in touch and we can recommend a 1 year part-time distance-learning maths course that may be suitable to help you meet our entry requirements.

For informal discussions about your suitability for this course, please contact the programme leader, Dr Jon Hargreaves.

Fees 2017-18

Type of StudyFee
Full-time£7,380
Part-time£1,230 per 30 credit module
Full-time International£13,500
Distance LearningFull-time £7,380, part-time £1,230 per 30 credit module
International Distance LearningFull-time £13,500, part-time £2,250 per 30 credit module

Additional costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We offer awards to help you study through our:

  • Vice-Chancellor's Excellence Scholarship
  • University of Salford student loyalty discount
  • Country bursary scheme for International students only

There are also other sources of funding available to you.

For more information please see our funding section

The Postgraduate Bursaries and Scholarships for 2017-18 entry are currently under review and subject to change. A revised schedule of scholarships and bursaries will be published in Spring 2017.

Teaching

The majority of teaching and learning takes place through tutorial and seminar groups. There is a strong focus on guided self-learning. Assessment is generally in the form of assignments, which improve problem solving and other skills as well as providing a strong background in the subject area. The ‘Measurement, Analysis and Assessment’ module also includes practical group work.
All students benefit from the supply of a range of high-quality teaching materials, text books and software.  Interaction with students is face-to-face wherever practical, but we also use web-based learning support packages (databases of materials, discussion boards etc.) to support the cohorts. Distance learning students are able to stream classes via our Virtual Learning Environment, either to participate live or watch back later.

Assessment

  • Taught modules are assessed through assignments
  • The project is assessed through a dissertation (weighting 80%) and a presentation (weighting 20%)

Postgraduate Staff Profile

Trevor Cox is Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford, author and radio presenter.

One major strand of his research is room acoustics for intelligible speech and quality music production and reproduction. Trevor’s diffuser designs can be found in rooms around the world. He was awarded the IOA’s Tyndall Medal in 2004. Current audio projects include Future Spatial Audio for the Home and a big data project trying to Make Sense of Sound.

Trevor has presented over twenty science documentaries for BBC radio including: Life’s soundtrack, Save our Sounds and Science vs the Strad. His popular science book, Sonic Wonderland was published in 2014.

Find out about other staff teaching on this course.

Employability

Our MSc Audio Acoustics course is designed to train graduates to meet a growing demand for audio skills in industry, and also to enable employees to reach their full potential. This postgraduate course has been used as in-service training by a number of UK and global companies (e.g. mobile telecoms). While one naturally thinks of mobile phone design as belonging to 'telecommunications', there are considerable audio engineering challenges in designing good quality sound from the small transducers used in confined spaces, often in the presence of considerable background noise. Also, increasing markets exist for sophisticated audio systems in the home (smart speakers), at work (virtual and augmented environments) and in transport (car audio or ‘infotainment’).

The audio acoustics industry is diverse. It includes major firms with 'core' audio-related market share such as Philips, Sony, Dolby, B&O and KEF. Many other businesses employ specialists in acoustics from Salford: Apple, Bentley, JLR to name a few. Building design and architectural acoustics needs specialist engineering consultants looking at room configurations and surface treatments, noise ingress and egress, sound reinforcement system design and so on, and a very wide variety of companies (Arup Acoustics are one large example in our area) employ graduates from our courses. Students also go on to study for a higher degree by research, here at Salford or elsewhere.

Career Prospects

Acousticians with engineering, science and mathematical skills are currently in short supply, and Salford MSc Audio Acoustics graduates are in a very strong position in the jobs market. The University of Salford has over 25 years’ experience of placing graduates in key audio and acoustic industries carrying out consultancy, research, development and design. These include well-known companies such as Apple, Dolby and the BBC, and with almost every major acoustic consultancy in the world.

Typically our graduates go into:

In 2013, A survey of 500 of our acoustic and audio alumni found 1 in 5 of our graduates live outside the UK and 45% are in Senior jobs or are Directors. The 6 most popular industries were: research (15%), environmental (11%), university (10%), construction (9%), architecture (9%) and consumer electronics (6%).

Alumni Profile

Anthony Churnside joined the BBC R&D's trainee technologist scheme after studying Audio Acoustics at The University of Salford.

His first placement was with the Technology Consultancy Team helping define the technology requirements for MediaCityUK.

His second placement looked at the possible future of surround sound, both in terms of what benefits it can offer our audiences and how hard it would be to incorporate into BBC production processes and the broadcast infrastructure. This project allowed him to record the Last Night of the Proms in 3D sound. The 3D sound project was recognised by the Royal Television Society and Tony was awarded Young Technologist 2010.

His final placement was with the Prototyping Team. This is a group of engineers and designers who build prototypes that explore new ways of presenting BBC content. Examples of prototypes that he has built range from a conduct your own orchestra installation for Radio 3 to a brainwave controlled remote control for a television set top box.
Tony has now completed a PhD studying at the Acoustics Research Centre at Salford University.

Links with Industry

Staff have strong links with industry either through collaborative R&D projects with industry through the Acoustics Research Centre and our commercial test laboratories. These all help to keep the MSc Acoustics up to date with the current needs of industry, incorporating the latest research findings. This course is an exemplar of the University’s Industry Collaboration Zones (ICZs) strategy - our single strategic priority.

Recent collaborative projects have included:

  • The S3A Future Spatial Audio project with the BBC
  • SALSA (Spatial Automated Live Sports Audio) system with DTS and Fairlight
  • Computer simulation of acoustics for auralisation with Arup Acoustics and the BBC
  • Integrated virtual models for acoustic design with Dyson
  • Wind turbine noise auralisation and subjective testing with DELTA and DEFRA
  • Railway noise and vibration assessment with DEFRA

In addition to the taught programme, we hold regular informal research seminars. Recent industry contributors have included:

  • RBA Acoustics (acoustic consultancy masterclass)
  • Cambell Associates (noise mapping software)
  • WSP/Parcel (environmental noise masterclass)
  • Music Group (Smart audio technology for live sound)
  • AECOM (railway noise & vibration)
  • Farrat Isolevel (structural vibration isolation)
  • Jaguar Land Rover (NVH & infotainment)
  • GRAS (measurement microphone technology)

Further Study

Some of our students go on to study a PhD at our world-class Acoustics Research Centre. We have been carrying out acoustics research for over 40 years. Our research is funded by research councils, government bodies, and industry. It has fed into audio products that companies make and sell worldwide, as well as regulations and standards used in the UK, Europe and beyond. We are also involved in public engagement - getting more people aware of and interested in acoustic science and engineering.  

Key areas include broadcast audio, building and architectural acoustics, environmental noise, soundscapes, outdoor sound propagation, remote acoustic sensing of metrological conditions, human response to sound and vibration, audio signal processing and machine learning.

The Acoustics Research Centre's research was recognised in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014). Nine acoustics staff were part of the 49 staff submitted by Salford to “Architecture and Built Environment.” The Salford submission was evaluated as having a GPA of 2.9. The REF panel singled out our outputs as showing “particular strengths in acoustics” and said that there was “outstanding impact in acoustics for the built environment.” Our REF impact case study on acoustics was subsequently used by EPSRC and the Royal Academy of Engineering to highlight the economic benefits of engineering research.

Facilities

Acoustic and audio test facilities at Salford are second to none. We have a full range of specialist test chambers: full anechoic chamber, two semi-anechoic chambers, transmission suite, two large and one small reverberation chambers, ITU  standard listening room equipeed with a 96 channel Wave Field Synthesis system, 3D Ambisonic listening booth, audiometric test facilities and a range of modern instrumentation and equipment. We are accredited to perform no less than twelve types of test and the test chambers are maintained by a team  of commercially funded technical staff. We also have a UKAS accredited Calibration Laboratory which provides a full scale commercial service to industry. All these facilities are available for students carrying out projects.

Watch our video        

See inside our Transmission Suite    

Watch our video        

See inside our Anechoic Chamber

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