Meet the Sound Guy

Published on August 25th, 2011
Meet the Sound Guy

He’s the guy who makes sure you can hear us on air on HIP2B² Radio. We chat to Conrad de Vries about his awesome career

What exactly does a Sound Engineer do?
A Sound engineer uses sound equipment and software to present an audience with something to listen to. We are the technical operators that record, edit, mix and burn music to a disc. Sound engineers also use live sound reinforcement equipment to serve an audience with pleasing listening material.

How I got here?
At he the age of 10 I started working as a volunteer, duplicating cassette tapes at conferences. Soon I was promoted to recording the lectures on tape and then I learned how to do live sound. I became a full-time musician for a few years, when we recorded our first album, I fell in love with music production and spent every available moment hanging around in studio’s and recording music and radio inserts using any equipment available be it a tape recorder, computer or even video cameras.

What’s the best part of your job?
Creating something out of nothing. I start with silence, and at the end of the project I sit with my family hearing a piece of music, a radio advert or a movie sound track.

What subjects did you need to pursue a career in this field?
Physics, practical electronics

Does maths or science play a major role in your career?
Maths and science are absolutely crucial. As sound engineer I deal with raw physics, long before I can answer the simple question, “Does it sound good or not?” Every manipulation of sound is an electronic function that has to be understood if you want to add value to the performance of the artists.

How much do you rely on technology to do your job?
Well unless I hand a singer a road cone to sing through, I’m completely 100% dependent on technology. The moment I stop reading and studying new trends and technology, I’ll be with out a job.

Did your love for music inspire you to become a sound engineer?
Yes indeed, I’m a performer at heart and I always want to contribute to do just to a song.

Do you get different areas of sound engineering?
There are a number of areas where you can work.
Where ever you hear sound playing through a speaker you’ll experience the work of a sound engineer or even a group of them.

There are system engineers, they choose, setup and fine tunesound systems for a live audiences, or an installation in shopping centres, movie theaters etc.

Live sound engineers are sometimes divided in two categories: front of house and monitor engineers.Front of house engineers, controls the sound in ‘the house’, in other words the sound heard by the audience.
Monitor engineers ensure that the musicians can hear their own instruments and voices onstage.

Music Production Studio engineers are divided in three groups:

Recording engineers record the best possible sound from the artist, using different types of microphones and other equipment, and digital audio recording software. The sound of each voice and or instrument is recorded onto a separate track, in the recording software.

A Mix engineer works with the recorded material as mentioned above and blend the different sounds together to create a stereo (Left and Right channel) sound.

Mastering engineers ensure that the CD tracks are all sounding like they are from the same album, the create radio edits of songs, and prepare a master that will be replicated for distribution.

The Radio Broadcast, film, TV and computer games industry require audio engineers to create suitable sound tracks

Top three favourite gadgets?
1. My Laptop (mobile broadcast unit)
2. A large diaphragm microphone.
3. A Line6 guitar amp emulator

What kind of music do you like?
Music with crying guitars. U2, Rez Band, Kings X, Neal Schon, Dan Patlansky

You should become sound engineer if you are…..?
A ‘behind the scenes’ team player, a problem solver, if you like to come up with a plan B, C, D and E when things don’t go according to plan. If you have some kind of musical and creativity in you, have a GOOD ear and if you are technically inclined, and thrive on adrenaline.

This work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 South Africa License. To view a copy of this licence, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California 94105, USA.