What makes a book a classic? More than anything, a classic book is one that we know and trust, a well-used book with dog-eared covers and underlined passages. Without question, Mr. Everest’s The Master Handbook of Acoustics qualifies as a classic. It was extremely well received when the first edition appeared in 1981, and strong reader demand prompted the preparation of new editions, through the fourth edition in 2001. In fact, the title was the best-selling book on acoustics for over 20 years. The acoustical engineering community grieved when Mr. Everest passed away in 2005 at the age of 95. He was a giant in the field of acoustical engineering, and a great example of the high caliber of engineers of his generation. He will be missed.
I was honored when McGraw-Hill asked me to prepare a fifth edition. I had used the Handbook for 25 years, and was well familiar with its value as a teaching text and reference book. Fully cognizant of the challenges of tackling such a project, I agreed to lend a hand. Some readers who are familiar with my book, Principles of Digital Audio, may be surprised to learn that my passion for digital technology is equaled by my enthusiasm for acoustics. I taught courses in architectural acoustics (in addition to classes in digital audio) for 30 years at the University of Miami, where I directed the Music Engineering Technology program. Throughout that time, I also consulted on many acoustics projects, ranging from recording studio to listening room design, from church acoustics to community noise intrusion. As with many practitioners in the field, it was important for me to understand the fundamentals of acoustical properties, and also to stay current with the practical applications and solutions to today’s acoustical problems.
This essential balance was the guiding principle of Mr. Everest’s previous editions of this book, and I have continued to seek that same equilibrium. A personal comment, particularly to some newbies to the field of acoustics. The question might arise, “Why is it important to study acoustics?” One reason, among many, is that you will be joining in, and hopefully contributing to, a noble and impressive scientific evolution. For literally thousands of years, acoustics and its elegant complexities have encouraged some of the world’s greatest scientists and engineers to study its mysteries. The development of this art and science has profoundly influenced entire cultures and individual lives. But in today’s binary world, is acoustics still important?
Consider this: our eyes close when we sleep and we cannot see in the dark; someone can sneak up on us from behind. But from birth to death, awake or asleep, in light and in dark, our ears are always sensitive to our world all around us. Whether we are hearing sounds that give us pleasure, or sounds that alert us to danger, whether they are sounds of nature, or sounds of technology, the properties of acoustics and the way that architectural spaces affect those sounds is woven into every moment of our lives. Is acoustics important? You bet it is.