Sound vs. Audio: An Overview

In this post we decided to briefly overview the definitions between these two very popular terms in order to provide some context into the overall landscape of the way we hear the world everyday.

Let's begin in the urban park on the corner of San Diego's Broadway and Fourth. Here you can stand with your eyes closed and pick up information about your surroundings while experiencing an intricate, rich soundscape. Without your sight, you can still imagine a scene: people having conversations while in line for coffee, a water fountain a few yards back, and a busy street to your right. This is sound.

Audio, on the other hand, is also sound but specifically one that has been recreated, recorded, or reproduced. Let's go into a bit more detail below.

What is sound?

When you hear someone pluck a guitar string, clap their hands, or say your name, what you are hearing is vibrations. While you may not see it, these vibrations cause the molecules in the air around the object to move outward.   

This movement is called propagation. Propagation causes the sound wave to move in all directions, from one air molecule to another, with the resulting becoming a sound wave. What the sound wave is moving through is referred to as the medium.  

As the wave propagates through the medium, the air pressure around the object compresses and decompresses — think crests and troughs. As a result, when the medium around the object is compressed, the medium adjacent to it will experience decompression, and then it will reverse. These alternating compressions and decompressions create the pressured sound wave that we feel and hear.

What is audio?

As we mentioned above, audio is simply a term to define sound that has been reproduced. With microphones, loudspeakers, and mixers one can now digitally manipulate the sound of unlimited types of environments or scenarios. This technology has gone back since the first of the dynamic speakers were first put to use in the 1920s. The dynamic speaker, in a way, mimics how humans perceive sound -- but in reverse.  

In order for a speaker to produce a sound, an alternating electric current is applied to a voice coil -- a wire suspended between two poles of a magnet, and this coil is forced to vibrate, moving back and forth, and creates sound waves.


Speakers today have the ability to recreate a full, rich soundscape that can completely immerse us. However, the effectiveness of the speakers to recreate sound in all directions is often directly based on the number of speakers and their positions around you. This can be quite limiting.

Headphones pose an even greater challenge to enabling 3D audio, as many can only reproduce stereo with 2 channels of audio. This is because the speakers (or drivers) are only pointing sound directly toward your ear, and do not take into account how your ear interacts with sound in the real world.

At OSSIC, we're developing technology that is able to push past stereo and bring full 3D audio back to headphones. By using advanced algorithms that learn about the way you hear the world everyday, we're able to enable accurate 3D audio to your ears — the result of which can be exciting to experience.

To learn more about our latest developments with 3D audio, sign up for the newsletter below or check out our homepage.