Floyd Toole, consultant to Harman International, USA: Sound reproduction – art and science/opinions and facts

The lecture will take place in TANNA SCHULICH HALL, followed by a wine and cheese reception in room A832 & A833 (8th floor of the New Music Building).


The audio industry is a complex mixture of:

  • Art – a combination of music performance and recording engineering (microphone choice and positioning, and signal processing: manipulations of amplitude, time, space and spectrum to achieve desired artistic goals).
  • Technology - the acoustics of recording spaces, microphones, electronic apparatus and algorithms, storage media, loudspeakers and the monitoring environment.
  • Science – knowledge of hearing, what is and is not audible, human perceptions and preferences in the timbral and spatial qualities of reproduced sounds, the relationships between subjective judgments of sound and corresponding technical measurements.

In the evolution of the audio industry, trial and error and opinions have had more influence than science and confirmable facts, mostly because the latter has been lacking. The widespread beliefs that “we all hear differently” and that “we cannot measure what we can hear” have taken a terrible toll.  It is fortunate that the essential elements of music survive the abuses of variability in reproduced sounds.  Few people get to hear the acoustical/auditory experience of the art as it was created.  Science has given us new insights and the ability to do much better.  The professional music and film sound industries need to be better informed.



Floyd E. Toole studied electrical engineering at the University of New Brunswick and at the Imperial College of Science and Technology, University of London where he received a Ph.D.  In 1965 he joined the National Research Council of Canada where he reached the position of Senior Research Officer in the Acoustics and Signal Processing Group.  In 1991 he joined Harman International Industries Inc. as Corporate Vice President – Acoustical Engineering.  In this position he worked with all Harman International companies and directed the Harman Research and Development Group, a central resource for technology development and subjective measurements, retiring in 2007. He is currently a consultant to Harman.

Dr. Toole’s research has focused on the acoustics and psychoacoustics of sound reproduction in small rooms, directed to improving engineering measurements, objectives for loudspeaker design and evaluation, and techniques for reducing variability at the loudspeaker/room/listener interface.  For papers on these subjects he has received two Audio Engineering Society (AES) Publications Awards and, for service to the society, the Board of Governors Award.  For his achievements he has been recognized with both the AES Silver Medal (1996) and Gold Medal (2013) Awards.  He is a Fellow and Past President of the AES, a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America and a Fellow of CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association). He has been awarded Lifetime Achievement awards by CEDIA and ALMA (Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing & Acoustics International). He is the author of “Sound Reproduction: the Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms.” (Focal Press, 2008).  He now lives in southern California.



APA video citation:

Toole, F. (2015, May 14). Sound reproduction - art and science/opinions and facts -
CIRMMT Distinguished Lectures in the Science and Technology of Music. [Video file].
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrpUDuUtxPM