Just nod your head and pretend like you know what they're talking about. "Of course it's the op amp, not the power supply!" But you really have no idea what they're talking about, do you? If you're tired of being the lost guy in the studio with regards to audio electronics, check out Electronic Concepts, Labs, and Projects by Alden Hackmann.

More than just a basic electronics textbook, Electronic Concepts is intended specifically for audio engineers, which is no surprise since the author is an electronics instructor in the Art Institute's audio engineering program. Some of the topics covered are soldering, current, resistance, circuits, multimeters, electronics principles, potentiometers, capacitors, inductors, filters, diodes, LEDs, transistors, tubes, transformers, rectifiers, and electronic troubleshooting. Whew!

At first, I quickly read through Electronic Concepts without performing the hands-on labs. Though there were definitely some "ah-ha" moments, I wholly recommend taking the time to do the exercises — which really aren't that consuming. There's a lot of technical information to take in at once. I found that the test and exercise/lab sections at the end of most chapters really drove home the theory of each topic covered.

On second read, I went through the book as if it were a course — which it really is in my opinion. If the book were a class, each chapter would no doubt correspond to a week. Though I didn't have the luxury to take four or five months to review this title, I can see the benefit of a slower pace here.

The labs do require equipment and supplies — at a minimum, a decent soldering iron, a digital multimeter (DMM), an electronics breadboard, and a bevy of resistors, LEDs, etc. Lab supply packs specifically assembled for the book are available for purchase. If you already have a decent variable-temperature soldering iron and a DMM like me, I recommend the basic $42 kit with the breadboard, as it will save a lot of time not having to source the parts yourself (though ample electronic parts sources are listed in the book).

The best thing about Electronic Concepts, in my opinion, is that most of the subject matter is geared towards audio electronics, which held my interest. By the end of the book, I truly felt that I had graduated a class in basic electronics — and I can take the course over and over again. So I guess that makes me an electronics expert? Hell no, but I am now a more knowledgeable audio engineer.

Hackmann's experience as an instructor really comes through in Electronic Concepts, Labs, and Projects. His explanations are thoroughly technical, but aren't verbose or confusing. It's a very "down to earth" and conversational read with examples that are well illustrated and easy to understand. Having been a college instructor myself, I can appreciate the "learn the theory, test the theory, and practice the theory in lab" method of instruction employed in Electronic Concepts, and I've enjoyed reading specific chapters over again. Supplemental online media includes how-to videos and other useful resources. I recommend this book as a first step for any audio worker who seeks a better understanding of what's happening under the hood of the gear we use!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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