To truly enjoy this hobby, I need to learn electronics. Any book recs?

I am at square zero in terms of understanding this stuff, and I am tired of navigating by Braille.

I want to find a class or a book that can give me at least the basics of how these circuits work to produce sound.

I would appreciate any suggestions of books, channels or classes that can help.


Start with understanding electricity and physics.  Most adults who don't understand anything about technical stuff made a conscious decision to eschew math and science at a young age.   It may be your brain is more suited to non-science areas as many are.  Good luck with your quest.  

Get an electronics 101 book and learn the functions of resistors, capacitors, transformers, etc..

My complaint about Robert Harley's book(s) is that he doesn't explain how components work internally (at least, in the books I've seen).


I  started on Robert Harley’s book, it’s  basic enough to get you started, before going to more technical stuff. I like it a lot.

As a prerequisite or companion to Robert Hartley’s book, you can look at Radio Shack’s “Getting Started in Electronics”. It is taught at a “for dummies” level but is quite an incredible wealth of information. 

Interesting question. If you want to become proficient at choosing components that sound great then you want to learn about the high end from Robert Harley’s book: The Complete Guide to High End Audio. This is because the electrical circuits are not really direct insight into how stuff sounds… so much of it is material science, vibration control and proprietary stuff. Correctly choosing and setting up systems is about the dimensions Robert’s book speaks to.


Now if you are just interested in electronic design for fun. Different story… go for it. Just be a bit careful, unless you are choosing really inexpensive components be a bit careful on choosing components by the specific design. 


I would start by learning how to read schematics.

Here is a "very" basic video which gives an idea of how important this will become when looking @ your own gear (especially basic vacuum tubes based designs).

This said, complex SS gear (like my CAL CD deck) makes my head spin.



Rob Harley’s book is a great read and should provide a good foundation for

sound understanding then get a book on temporal masking but first get a book that explains the dB scale!

a book on the dB scale is imperative 

Contact Ralph Karsten at Atma-Sphere. I'm sure he can recommend some books on electronic theory, circuit design, etc. Forget about books aimed at audiophiles, like the one by Robert Harley; that's not technical information, it's hi-fi consumer advice.  

Your basic premise is flawed unless your enjoyment of the hobby is based on how things work, rather than music to be enjoyed, or used as an escape.

Try 'The art of electronics' by Horowitz and Hill.  It's a classic work that covers a lot of ground.

Also I recommend 'tube cad journal' on the net by John Broskie, this is proper electronics but not mired in jargon and maths.

Elliot Sound Products web pages are excellent.

John Linsley-Hood wrote for a number of magazines and published books on schematics for audio components, including:

  • The Art of Linear Electronics (Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann, 1993)
  • Audio Electronics (Oxford, Newnes, 1995)
  • Valve and Transistor Audio Amplifiers (Oxford, Newnes, 1997)


My local community college has a pretty strong electronics program that I am about 3/4 through - for me it is Macomb in Michigan. It was worth the time to really learn the stuff - not just the theories and math, but building stuff in the lab also.


For a few years before his tragic passing in 2019, Roger Modjeski of Music Reference was teaching a class on audio electronics in Berkeley/Oakland. If I was living in the Bay Area then I would definitely have enrolled.

For an introduction to his thinking on amplifier design, search for his talks at the annual Burning Amp Festival, held in San Francisco. There are videos of his hour-long presentations viewable on YouTube, as are those of Nelson Pass.

Bruce Rozenblit's Tubes and Circuits.

Bruce sells /  designs the Transcendence OTL amplifier kits.


I highly recommend Sound Improvement Secrets for Audiophiles. Sounds cheesy but the author, Igor S Popovich, is a highly accomplished amplifier designer. He goes into quite a bit of electrical theory. He even gives plans for cheap DIY cables that he claims outperform the big name fancy ones. 

OP, do you harbor aspirations of designing and/or modifying audio gear? If not, perhaps a solid understanding of acoustics and psychoacoustics would be more beneficial than tackling the electrical engineering, at least from an audio hobbyist or consumer perspective. WRT this, I'd recommend the seminal work by Floyd Toole, Sound Reproduction: The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms , now in its 3rd Edition.

Forget about books aimed at audiophiles, like the one by Robert Harley; that’s not technical information, it’s hi-fi consumer advice.

I agree!


@rumblestrip I think part of the enjoyment is parsing the impact of different electronics and for me it is fun to understand how the different pieces work together. 

I don't want to be an engineer, but maybe I'll want to do own maintenance etc.

Thanks everyone for the great ideas!

@adambennette  is right. 'Art of Electronics' by Horowitz and Hill. Three editions plus a lab workbook were published. I have them all, and you can pry them from my cold dead eyes..

It was the first mainstream source to recognize that all components are not equal, and that their departures from ideal is what gives them their sound. And that was 40 years ago.

Accurate and accessible, takes you as far as anyone outside NASA needs to go.

To actually do anything, you will need some stuff called ’test equipment’. Can’t go wrong with pieces from Fluke, Hewlett / Packard (now Agilant), Tektronix. I prefer the old stuff, 30-50 years old. Better built, mostly repairable, great ’feel’ to the knobs.

Easier to use, too - unless you like scrolling through layers upon layers of windows and screens. And more accurate unless you spend a king’s ransom - but then, the old stuff cost a king’s ransom back in the day. My old Tek storage oscilloscope cost more than the big Mercedes when new.

You will need a power supply, multi-meter, oscilloscope, and signal generator, all lower bandwidth stuff since you’ll be doing audio. Low bandwidth is cheaper too. And a good soldering station (solder / desolder) is useful - don’t scrimp, get a good one. Best in my experience, which includes the better known brands, is JBC made in Barcelona, available from Accessotronic.

As for projects, consider the J.L Hood class A amplifier for Quad ESL’s. Very simple and pretty design, good and clean sound, easy to make and very easy to try out different types of components for their sound. Sanken transistors make them sing.

Welcome to DIY !!!

Several here have mentioned Robert Harley's book(s). Well, I'm skeptical of their value, for several reasons. I've posted this "review" on Audiogon before, but here is part of it again for this context.


Robert Harley’s The Complete Guide to High-End Audio has been praised on this forum as a kind of bible for audiophiles. It’s certainly as massive a tome at the Bible. And, depending on your religious views, it is perhaps almost as full of Revealed Truth or tendentious myth (take your pick). Moreover, I’ll concede that Mr. Harley frequently reminds us, after going into great detail about some aspect of music reproduction technology, that the last thing the reader should do when listening is to focus on the details he’s just described—that we’re all in it for the music, not for the equipment. Yes, he says this frequently (he says everything frequently). And yet…


The book, in its Fourth Edition, is 529 pages long (the Table of Contents alone is 9 pages long). They’re big pages, too. Some of them—for the most part, the best of them, in my opinion—are “technical,” explaining the theory of acoustics, “Sound and Hearing,” basic facts about the physics of electricity, and so forth. Harley writes clearly, but evidently has a mind that is organized like the architecture of a Gothic cathedral, displaying the analytical excesses and mania for hierarchies of Medieval Scholasticism. Like a lawyer, Harley seems to think that every particular detail must be made explicit, even in situations where symmetry (e.g., left and right speaker terminals) make half of those specifics clear without actually specifying them. This habit gives very little credit to the reader’s intelligence and makes Harley’s prose tedious. There are chapters (each with multiple sub-headings) on Choosing a System; Preamps, Power amps and Integrated amps; Speakers; Disc Players, Transports and DACs; Music Servers; Turntables, Tonearms and Cartridges; Tuners and various kinds of internet radio; Cables and Interconnects; Home Theater; Multichannel Audio; Setup “Secrets” (in two separate chapters, one of these covering “Audiophile Accessories”—i.e., tweaks); Specifications and Measurements—and, of course, Appendices (A-C) on various topics not, presumably, already covered. Need I say that there’s also a Glossary? Harley leaves no stone unturned. And yet…


I find the book exasperating, and a manifestation of many of the problems with audiophilia in general that lead music lovers down rabbit holes of fetish. Here are a few specific problems.


Let me begin by repeating myself, thereby following Harley’s example. Everything Harley says, he says again and again, first in “introductory” chapters, then in the pages of chapters devoted to the topic at issue (where the basic points are repeated several times), then again in “Summaries” of those chapters, and then yet again in subsequent chapters where the topic that had already been discussed to death might possibly be construed as relevant. But maybe “discussed to death” is undue praise, since mere repetition of the same points is not, after all, a way of exhaustively examining any question. If ever there was a book that could more profitably be read quickly and cursorily than carefully, this is that book; it would be far more useful if it were less than half as long. And, besides the chapters on technical matters I’ve already referred to, there is really very little in it that goes much beyond common sense.


Indeed, the theoretical sophistication evident in the technical sections rarely seems to be much in evidence in the evaluations or recommendations of particular choices facing the would-be purchaser. And “purchaser” is the operative term here: again and again, I have the feeling that Harley is a shill for the audio equipment industry—not for any particular company, mind you, but of the industry as a whole, since his book rarely discourages any possible equipment purchase. This is not to say that he doesn’t tailor his advice for one sort of listener or another; you’ll find plenty to confirm your choice of vinyl over digital (or vice versa), of tubes over solid state (or vice versa), of SET amplifiers, or Class A, or Class D, or expensive cables or power cords, without reference to particular manufacturers. If you want to BUY, there will be pages in Harley’s book that will encourage you to do so.


But this enthusiast’s all-in attitude runs into various rhetorical problems, as it must. To cite just one example: superlatives like “extraordinary,” “outstanding,” “significant,” “spectacular” are used so often, at every stage of the music reproduction process, that it becomes impossible to know what sort of weight to give them in any particular context. If power cords can create a “spectacular” improvement—but so can interconnects, and speaker cables, and power conditioners, and well-made racks—it’s hard to know how much weight to give big-ticket items like amplifiers and speakers and other basic elements of one’s system, not to mention undeniably important elements like room acoustics and proper speaker placement. According to Harley, they’re all capable of making “spectacular” or “significant” improvements to sound quality. But “spectacular” is a strong word; there aren’t many that are stronger. If an AC power cord can create such an effect, it’s hard to know what adjective to choose in order to distinguish a boom box or an MP3 on cheap ear buds from an uncompromising rig that costs tens of thousands of dollars. That might perhaps be described as a “spectacular” difference—although even here, such a superlative is in questionable taste. I know plenty of talented musicians and passionate music lovers who can enjoy even difficult to reproduce music on cheap ear buds almost as much as they would on a system most of us would call “spectacular.”


And then, despite his analytical care and thoroughness, Harley often contradicts himself, both in the specific recommendations he makes, and even in his own application of his knowledge of audio science in particular circumstances. For instance, in discussing bi-wiring, Harley offers a (possibly) plausible explanation of how and why it makes a beneficial difference—and then declares that “no one knows how or why” bi-wiring works! Here is the relevant passage: “In a bi-wired system, the power amplifier ‘sees’ a higher impedance on the tweeter cable at low frequencies and a lower impedance at high frequencies. The opposite is true in the woofer-half of the bi-wired pair. This causes the signal to be split up, with high frequencies traveling mostly in the pair driving the loudspeaker’s tweeter circuit and low frequencies conducted by the pair connected to the loudspeaker’s woofer circuit. This frequency splitting…reduces magnetic interactions in the cable, resulting in better sound. The large magnetic fields set up around the conductors by low-frequency energy can’t affect the transfer of treble energy. No one knows exactly how or why bi-wiring works [wait a minute! Didn’t he just explain “how” and “why” bi-wiring works?], but on nearly all loudspeakers with bi-wiring provisions, it makes a big improvement in the sound. Whatever your cable budget, you should bi-wire if your loudspeaker has bi-wired inputs, even if it means buying two runs of less expensive cables.”


Even on its own terms, The Complete Guide to High-End Audio is self-defeating. Most of the “audiophile values” Harley identifies and cherishes are subjective, not objective, and so not the kinds of things one can hope to demonstrate or prove. At the very outset of the book, he quotes the Hungarian-born scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi (also recently mentioned by our own Mahgister); that got my attention, as I studied Polanyi’s work with one of his disciples at the University of Chicago when I was a grad student. But Harley doesn’t seem to take to heart Polanyi’s main contribution to the philosophy of science: that objective facts cannot account for what is most valuable in human culture. Rather, it is not science, but art—poetry, music, myth, religion, and other “acts of imagination”—that can provide the foundation of meaning in life. Harley’s attempt at a systematic compendium of objective facts, although it fails even to be this, more conspicuously betrays his own many pleas that the reader not heed measurements, statistics, and other facts but return to the music.


Just as Wine Spectator is wine porn, and Stereophile, The Absolute Sound, and (gasp!) Audiogon are audio porn, Harley’s book will find its enthusiasts. Harley speaks of “audiophile values,” and pays lip service to the music repeatedly, but perhaps it’s time to think in terms of “audiophile virtues” instead. Don’t get me wrong: I’m no prude, and audiophilia is a relatively victimless vice, if you can afford it and your wife can tolerate it. But the analogy is not gratuitous. Didn’t we all get “into audio” because we love music? Shouldn’t a healthy love of music recognize that, although endless purchasing and tweaking may bring slight improvements in sound quality, the false promise of that ever-elusive fantasy Object of Desire is a distraction from a reality which is, for all of us audiophiles, already far sexy enough? I can’t speak for you, obviously, but speaking for myself, it’s high time to get back to the music!

I purchased, but couldn’t get into Art of Electronics, I’ve never read Harley’s book, but I did sign up for a course at my local community college. Wound up joining the program and starting a new career.  Your Mileage May Vary, but it was only after a year of study that I finally grasped the significance of Ohm’s Law and understood its implications for most of the topics in electronics. It was a mystical experience. 

Yes, V=IR sounds simple, but it's really not about V (voltage) but about voltage DROP, which equals current x resistance. The real power of Ohm's Law comes when you can accommodate reactance in addition to pure resistance (reactance encompases capacitance and inductance).

I'm sure you know that, oldrooney, I just wanted to give the OP the flavour of the adventure.

Since I just purchased it and have not dug in yet, I can’t yet recommend it, but wanted to pass along.   I just bought Ethan Winer’s “The Audio Expert” (2nd Ed., 2018).   Beware…this book is not casual reading.   It’s 780 pages, with over 400 images, and looks to double as a college textbook.   But, having spent a bit of time scrolling through, it’s chock full of a wide array of detailed information (hopefully useful info).   As soon as I’m able to consume it, I’ll circle back with my thoughts & impressions.   Given its value just strictly as a reference book, I’m very comfortable with the cost (just under $50 new). 

There is an accompanying publisher website where you can view more info —


A description of the book from the website:

The Audio Expert is a comprehensive reference book covering all aspects of audio, with both practical and theoretical explanations. It’s written for people who want to understand audio at the deepest, most technical level, but without needing an engineering degree. The Audio Expert explains how audio really works in much more depth than usual, using common sense plain-English explanations and mechanical analogies, with minimal math. It uses an easy to read conversational tone, and includes more than 400 figures and photos to augment the printed text.

However, this book goes beyond merely explaining how audio works. It brings together the concepts of audio, aural perception, musical instrument physics, acoustics, and basic electronics, showing how they’re intimately related. It also describes in great detail many practices and techniques used by recording and mixing engineers, including video production and computers. This book is meant for intermediate to advanced recording engineers and audiophiles who want to become experts. There’s plenty for beginners too.

One unique feature is explaining how audio devices such as equalizers, compressors, and A/D converters work internally, and how they’re spec’d and tested, rather than merely describing how to use them. There’s plenty of myth-busting and consumerism too. The book doesn’t tell readers what brand power amplifier to buy, but it explains in great detail what defines a good amplifier so people can choose a first-rate model wisely without over-paying.

Most explanations throughout the book are platform-agnostic, applying equally to Windows and Mac computers, and to most software and hardware. Many audio and video examples are included to enhance the written text. 

The new edition offers many updates and improvements throughout. New content expands the Acoustics and Electronics chapters, and includes sections about SPL meters, coding an equalizer, comparing microphone preamps, testing loudspeaker isolation devices, plus incorporated chapters on MIDI Basics, Computers, and Video Production. There’s also new audio myth-busting, and much more!



Part 1 Audio Defined -

Chapter 1: Audio Basics

Chapter 2: Audio Fidelity, Measurements, and Myths

Chapter 3: Hearing, Perception, and Artifact Audibility

Chapter 4: Gozintas and Gozoutas

Part 2 Analog and Digital Recording, Processing, and Methods -

Chapter 5: Mixers, Buses, Routing, and Summing

Chapter 6: Recording Devices and Methods

Chapter 7: Mixing Devices and Methods

Chapter 8: Digital Audio Basics

Chapter 9: Dynamics Processors

Chapter 10: Frequency Processors

Chapter 11: Time Domain Processors

Chapter 12: Pitch and Time Manipulation Processors

Chapter 13: Other Audio Processors

Chapter 14: Synthesizers

Chapter 15: MIDI Basics

Part 3 Video Production -

Chapter 16: Video Production.

Part 4 Transducers - 

Chapter 17: Microphones and Pickups

Chapter 18: Loudspeakers and Earphones.

Part 5 Room Acoustics, Treatment, and Monitoring - 

Chapter 19: Acoustic Basics

Chapter 20: Room Shapes, Modes, and Isolation

Chapter 21: Acoustic Treatment

Chapter 22: Room Measuring

Part 6 Electronics and Computers -

Chapter 23: Basic Electronics in 60 Minutes

Chapter 24: Test Procedures

Chapter 25: Computers

Part 7 Musical Instruments -

Chapter 26: Musical Instruments


Any questions, or if anyone wants to borrow it when I’m done Lol, shoot me a msg.  

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P.S. just noticed you can download the first 60 pages or so of the book as a PDF sample, from the above-mentioned website, for those who want to sample the writing.   


this is not going to translate into practical experience you would be better served by apprenticing at a high end store 

this way you can learn that loudspeakers all sound different

amplifiers sound different 


what kinds of gear sounds good or bad to you 

Why be another hum drum  tech stiff??


why not talk about great music instead ?


if you want to try the Harley book, I can send you the fifth edition (one edition back from most current); it’s just taking up room and I don’t need it.   Where are you located?   PM me if you want.