Sound Recording PhD

Why choose this course?

Since the Institute of Sound Recording (IoSR) was created in 1998, it has become known internationally as a leading centre for research in psychoacoustic engineering, with world-class facilities and significant funding from research councils and industry. 

We’re interested in human perceptions of audio quality, particularly of high-fidelity music signals. Overall perceived quality depends, at least in part, on perception of lower-level timbral and spatial attributes such as brightness, warmth, locatedness and envelopment. In turn, these attributes depend on acoustic parameters such as frequency spectrum and inter-aural cross-correlation coefficient. Using a combination of acoustic measurement and human listening tests, we are exploring the connections between acoustic parameters and perceived timbral and spatial attributes, and also between these perceptual attributes and overall quality and listener preference. From our findings we are developing mathematical and computational models of human auditory perception, and engineering perceptually-motivated audio tools. 

Our work combines elements of acoustics, digital signal processing, psychoacoustics (theoretical and experimental), psychology, sound synthesis, software engineering, statistical analysis and user-interface design, with an understanding of the aesthetics of sound and music. 

Our world-class facilities include industry-specification sound-recording studios and edit suites, and an ITU-R BS.1116 standard critical listening room equipped with a 22.2-channel reproduction system. 

Our research aims to provide tools to assist in any area where assessment of the quality of audio as perceived by human listeners (either overall or in terms of specific timbral or spatial attributes) is desirable but, for one reason or another, potentially problematic; and to provide complementary tools to allow appropriate adjustment where the assessed quality is not as it should be. More generally, we aim to engineer perceptually-motivated signal analysis, processing and control systems. If we have a single over-arching goal then it is simply this: to make sound better.

What you will study

Our Sound Recording research degree will prepare you for success at each stage of your project. The structure is designed to provide intensive graduate preparation for a future career and is suitable for either part-time or full-time candidates. 

Completion of the programme requires submission of a thesis and an oral viva with external examiners. 

The normal length of study leading to a PhD is three years full-time (or around 33 months to 48 months). Part-time PhD study normally takes six years (45 months to 96 months). The normal length of study leading to a MPhil is two years full-time (21 months to 36 months). Part-time MPhil normally takes four years (33 months to 72 months). The differences between an MPhil and PhD is in the volume, originality and significance of the work you will do. 

You’ll begin your project with a thorough review of previously-published academic literature in relevant areas, which will lead to a critical/analytical report. The conclusions to this report will suggest an appropriate next step, which will normally be some sort of experimental study designed to test a hypothesis you have formulated from your literature review. 

Your study might involve software design, acoustic measurements, listening tests, etc. The results of this study will be written up in another report (and possibly as a conference paper) which will include a discussion of their significance to your project. Your literature review and experimental study, perhaps together with some additional reading or experimentation, will lead to either: 

  • MPhil: A thesis (around 50,000 words) drawing appropriate conclusions, and a viva examination. Alternatively, it may be possible at this stage to transfer to PhD registration. 
  • PhD: A full progress report drawing appropriate conclusions, refining research questions and detailing a research plan to allow these questions to be answered, together with a viva examination. 

For a PhD, once you’ve completed a satisfactory progress report and viva examination, you’ll carry out the research plan defined in your progress report. This will lead to further literature-based and experimental research, conference (and possibly journal) publications, and your final PhD thesis (around 70,000 words) and a viva examination. 

Throughout the project, you’ll get regular guidance through meetings with your supervisor(s). Your progress will be reviewed formally twice a year, and you’ll benefit from internal seminars to share and discuss findings with other research students. Your training needs will be identified and met by the University's internal postgraduate research training, modules from the University's taught degree programmes, external courses or guided reading.

Postgraduate research students are strongly encouraged to work here at the University. We have shared office space for all our research students, and it can be very valuable to work alongside others with similar interests and complementary expertise. It’s also useful to be close to the Institute of Sound Recording’s academic staff, our technical facilities and the University's Library and other learning resources. Depending on the nature of your research project, however, it may be possible do much of it away from the University, as long as you stay in regular contact with your supervisor(s) and can come to the University for a few days in April-May and October-November for our research seminars and progress reviews, which happen twice a year. 

PhD students in all programmes can expect three levels of research training: University-level, faculty-level and subject-specific. 

University-level training is provided by the Postgraduate Skills Development Programme and the University Library including a PhD induction, workshops on writing skills and preparation for the confirmation and viva. There is also an annual student-led University postgraduate conference. faculty-level training is offered in the form of interdisciplinary seminars, reading groups, visiting speaker events and conferences. You will also receive subject-specific training that will vary depending on your programme. You may participate in research ‘intensives’ featuring formal presentations of work by students, keynote seminars, study groups on current themes in audio research, and research skills training sessions. You may meet regularly for debate and discussion and participate in formal presentations of research.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 48 months January
PhD Full-time 48 months April
PhD Full-time 48 months July
PhD Full-time 48 months October
PhD Part-time 96 months January
PhD Part-time 96 months April
PhD Part-time 96 months July
PhD Part-time 96 months October
Stag Hill

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees.

The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

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Research facilities

PhD students have access to office space, PCs and a range of research tools and resources, from transcription equipment to data analysis software.

Our facilities include three studios, edit rooms and a listening room. The edit rooms are used for a wide range of audio post-production tasks and our ITU-R BS.1116 critical listening room and audio laboratory (designed and built by Munro Associates) are used by students and researchers to undertake experimental work involving audio measurement and subjective listening tests. 

The ITU-R standard is the most critical international standard for listening rooms, with strict criteria for low noise, controlled reflections, dimension ratios and reverberation time. Our listening room is air conditioned to provide a comfortable working environment and is equipped with a flexible range of reproduction systems from stereo to multichannel including elevated loudspeakers. This enables listening tests on multichannel surround sound to be carried out effectively. 

The room contains a loudspeaker mounting system that can be rigged with a large number of loudspeakers. It is usually configured for 22.2 reproduction, using 22 Genelec 8330A loudspeakers and 2 Genelec 7350A subwoofers. The system includes distributed bass management and built-in time alignment and equalisation of level and frequency response. The system is flexible enough to allow almost any multichannel loudspeaker arrangement, and additional loudspeakers can be added for any format (up to 72 Genelec 8020 loudspeakers). 

There is also a pair of B&W 801 loudspeakers with a Chord amplifier for 2-channel stereo, and a set of 5 Genelec 1032A loudspeakers and a Genelec 1094A subwoofer for 5.1 surround sound. 

The Institute of Sound Recording also has a wide range of test and measurement equipment that can be used in the listening room or around campus, including:

  • Prism DScope 3 audio test system
  • Audio Precision 2700 audio test system
  • MLSSA measurement equipment (running on PC)
  • B&K 2033 real time audio analyser
  • Neutrik Cortex MK2 binaural recording and measurement system
  • B&K acoustic test equipment and microphones
  • Neutrik Acoustilyzer acoustical analysis system
  • Lindos MiniSonic MS20 audio test system
  • A selection of scopes, oscillators, audio test sets 

The Department of Music and Media is unique in owning a large range of professional quality microphones that can be used by our students. The extensive range covers all the major brands from classic valve microphones to the latest designs. As the choice of microphone is vital in recording, we pride ourselves on having a range of microphones which let our students achieve the highest possible professional standards.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Department of Music and Media.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a high level of academic achievement in relevant science/engineering subject areas and a clear aptitude for research are required. Typically this will mean a first or high upper second-class Bachelors degree with a significant final-year project or dissertation, or a Masters degree achieving or approaching distinction, with a significant research project element.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above.

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Auditions will be held for entry to some programmes.

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time January £3,146 £12,000
Full-time April £2,100 £8,000
Full-time July £1,050 £4,000
Full-time October To be confirmed £16,000
Part-time October To be confirmed £8,000
Part-time January £1,575 £6,000
Part-time April £1,050 £4,000
Part-time July £525 £2,000

For fees payable in 2018/19, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2018 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Funding and studentships

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Studentship

Supervisor(s) To be confirmed
Application deadline 18 March 2018

TECHNE Doctoral Training Partnership

Supervisor(s) To be confirmed
Funding Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Application deadline 28 January 2018
Opportunities across all subjects

Contact us

Admissions enquiries

+44 (0)1483 682 222

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