Trevor Cox

I am a Professor of Acoustic Engineering at the University of Salford where I carry out research and teaching focussing on architectural acoustics, signal processing and audio perception. I am also an author and radio broadcaster having presented many documentaries on BBC radio and written books for academics and the general public.

greenwich foot tunnel

Architectural Acoustics

Acoustic Absorbers and Diffusers Cover
My work on diffusers is summarized in my academic book Acoustic Absorbers and Diffusers, which was co-authored with Peter D’Antonio, has the most citations in  my publications listed in Google Scholar. The most satisfying part of this work is seeing my research turned into actual designs which have been used in performance spaces worldwide.

Some current research projects

Clarity

One in six people in the UK has some level of hearing loss. Yet only 40% of people who could benefit from hearing aids have them, and most people who have the devices don’t use them regularly. A major reason for this is the perception that hearing aids perform poorly.

A critical problem for hearing aids is speech in noise, even for the most sophisticated devices. A hearing aid wearer may have difficulty conversing with family or friends while the television is on, and hearing public announcements at the train station. Such difficulties can lead to social isolation, and thereby reduce emotional and physical well being. Consequently, how hearing aid devices process speech in noise is crucial.

The Clarity Project‘s approach is inspired by the latest developments in automatic speech recognition and speech synthesis, two areas in which public competitions have led to rapid advancements in technology. We want to encourage more researchers to consider how their skills and technology could benefit the millions of people with hearing impairments. We will do this by running a series of machine learning challenges, begining in 2021.

New face masks to overcome communication issues

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the wearing of face masks/coverings (unless exempt) are now mandatory on public transport, in shops, hospitals and other situations in the UK. But face masks create challenges, especially for people with hearing impairment. The masks attenuate high frequency sound, and also prevent lip reading.

This project, led by Michael Stone at University of Manchester, is developing new types of face masks that overcome these communication problems.

Inventive Podcast

Engineering is at the heart of being human. For millions of years we’ve been inventing things. From stone tools through to modern smartphones, we’ve created technology that have made life better and have radically changed society.

The Inventive Podcast is a co-creation between engineers, fiction writers and award-winning radio producers. We mix fact and fiction to create engaging stories about engineers and how their work is changing the World. We cast brilliant, inspiring and diverse engineers who have fascinating stories to tell. We commission award-winning writers to produce a piece inspired by the engineer or their work. Through this, we inspire our listeners about the contribution engineering makes.

The Inventive Podcast Season 1 June 2021

Public engagement

Author

My second popular science book, Now You’re Talking was published in 2018. My first popular science book Sonic Wonderland/The Sound Book appeared in 2014. I have also written articles for New Scientist and the Guardian. In 2015 I was given the ASA Science Writing Award for acoustics professionals.

Radio presenter

A recent documentary was on Compression vs Art for BBC Radio 4. A more complete radio biography can be found here. I’ve also been involved in numerous media stories as an interviewee, with the most popular being a debunking of the phrase ‘a duck’s quack doesn’t echo’.

Work with schools

I helped develop extensive teaching resources for schools, the latest reached more than a quarter of a million pupils. I have developed and presented science shows seen by 17,000 children, including appearances at the Royal Albert Hall, the Purcell Rooms at the South Bank Centre and the Royal Institution.

Perceptual measurements across the Internet

I run a popular site which hosts web experiments which test people’s responses to sound. sound101.org hosted the hugely popular experiment into the Worst Sound in the World. On the site you’ll also find some other research experiments to try.

Other

  • Former President of the Institute of Acoustics (IOA).
  • Awarded the Tyndall Award by the IOA as well as their award for Promoting Acoustics to the Public.
  • Honorary Fellow of the IOA.
  • Ex-convener of ISO Working Group WG25
  • Associate Editor of Acta Acustica 2000-13

Social Media

My favourite video from my YouTube channel (done as part of a Comic Relief project):

Other contacts

  • T.J.Cox@salford.ac.uk
  • 0161 295 5474
  • 07986 557 419
Follow me

71 comments

  1. Pingback: Guardian Reviews
  2. During my childhood, there was “barking sand” on a small beach on the Green Bay arm of Lake Michigan (U.S. state of Wisconsin). I think it was at a park called Newport. It was a plain flat beach. The area is called Door County and is largely limestone.
    Steve Schmidt – srschmidt@copar.com

  3. I’ve enjoyed the fascinating interviews with you on Science Friday and other NPR programs! Your discussions brought to mind Joseph C. Douglas’s article “Music in the Mammoth Cave: An Important Aspect of 19th Century Cave Tourism,” Journal of Spelean History, July-September 1998 (vol. 32, no 3–viewable online). Having spent time in Mammoth, the world’s longest known cave, I can only imagine some of the sound effects described. I look forward to reading The Sound Book.

  4. Just listened to your fresh Air interview (in Canada even!). As a French horn it was fascinating and educational. Now looking for your explanation why the horn is the most pleasing instrument to listen to! (Difficulty is a different issue) 😀

  5. I recently heard your interview on Fresh Air, and enjoyed it immensely! Your field seems very interesting, and I look forward to purchasing your book. Thanks!

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  7. Trevor, your book is incredible. I am just getting to the part in the “Placing Sound” chapter with the cool graphs of your saxophone. I am glad I heard the interview on NPR.
    Is the bibliography good in your book? i haven’t even had a chance to look but I am ready to get a similar book.

    1. Glad you like it. There is extensive referencing in the notes that should give some pointers to more detailed reading. (But not really a bibliography)

  8. Trevor, I just finished reading your book, “The Sound Book”. As a scientist with background in underwater acoustics, and as a composer, I found your book to be fascinating. Unfortunately, for the average reader, the book may be a bit disappointing. It is difficult for many to imagine what the sounds are really like..May I suggest that you publish your book as an audiobook, and include recordings of all the locations?

  9. You might consider any of the Galapagos Islands for a truly quiet experience. No air traffic at all, no boat noise, and no population. I have experienced Kelso Dunes, and the Olympic National Park, and these are no comparison to the quiet of Galapagos.
    Gerald G. Brown
    National Academy of Engineering
    Distinguished Professor
    Operations Research Department
    Naval Postgraduate School
    Monterey, CA 93943
    ggbrown@nps.edu

  10. Have you heard (and seen-the delight of the stone-skipping man is another auditory wonder!) the sound of stones skipping on a frozen lake? Buzzy- vibrating surprise. Facebook video.

  11. Just heard you (for the first time in 30 years!) on Radio 4 – very good, hope you enjoy it when your music fast ends.

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  13. Hi Trevor,
    I’ve just listened to your Radio 4 feature and I really enjoyed it. Listening to you brought back all my memories and experiences I had when working for about 10 years as a sound engineer back in Germany.
    I have some thoughts about bad sounds you mentioned and why for example we don’t like the sound of chalk screeching on a blackboard. Back in the 90ies I worked as a sound recordist in a Munich studio specialising in recording sounds for films – so everything but music and speech. The key to this type of recording is to *not* see how the Geräuschemacher (Foley artist) is creating the sounds! Example, if you need a car screeching round the corner he would use a rubber glove and drag it across a window glass. If you don’t know how it’s done it sounds 100% like a car screeching round the corner. If you see what he was doing it sounded 100% like a rubber glove on a window glass.
    If you only hear the sound of a piece of chalk screeching on a blackboard it will sound nasty but bearable (your brain will interpret it to whatever comes to your mind eg a scream). If, however, you hear *and* see or being told that someone is screeching the chalk across the blackboard it’s pure pain because you immediately associate this with your own fingernail being bent backwards and ripped into pieces. The association here is more about self inflicted pain rather than a scream.
    I agree with all you said about listening what’s around you. It’s something we should all do more often. It has a calming and healing effect. I do on a regular basis – just listening, no matter where you are.
    Best wishes
    Stephane

  14. I enjoyed your profile on Radio 4’s “The Life Scientific”. Have you ever considered taking up the challenge of tracing the exact source of the sound of the so-called singing fish in Batticaloa Lagoon in Sri Lanka? I heard them myself in the sixties, and my father made a recording which I still have. There are also recordings on YouTube, and there was a Radio 4 programme about “The Singing Fish of Batticaloa” (available on iPlayer), but I don’t think anyone has ever determined precisely where the sound comes from.

  15. Dear Trevor Cox,
    I am from Germany and just I am reading your beautiful book.
    Very good, indeed!!
    I have a question.
    You are writing about the reflecting sound in front of stairs. The decreasing frequency of the echos is because the way of the reflections are larger with the number of steps.
    I think it is the damping along the large way, because the high frequencies are more damped than low frequencies.
    Is it right?
    Sorry about my bad English ;-(
    Thanks for an answer!!
    Best regards.
    Ulli Voogdt

  16. Re stonehenge sound experiments…..are you checking out things like eg overtoning western shamanic ..Eskimo breathing shamanic etc a..cymbals gongs…..drumming reverberations eg native american to eastern europe siberian frame drumming….how would it sound if stones ceremonially covered in ice as winter solstice seems to be an important seasonal date not summer….imitated animal sounds vocally…or distorted sounds using animal bones eg skulls horns shaken etc in ceremonies that could be used like horns…could stones be dressed in soft and hard materials to affect sound reverberations or used to refocus sound…..if there is evidence the stones were worked with bone and flint tools could those sounds be recreated at ceremonies…could stones be rubbed with animal bones ……..are there separate or different sound effects within the circle good and above(ie sound effects by people creating sound sounding on lintels) and even outside circle too……so there is a progression of sound that is ceremonial going into the circle after procesional ceremonies…..good luck!

    1. Also check out the Dragon project re rollright stones I think led by Paul Deveraux….and about 20 years ago a group of “modern Essenes” did ceremonies and actually took a photo of stonehenge with a dome of light sitting on top of the lintels they say had created!!!!!!! No kidding I have seen the photo in one of their newsletters…..

  17. Hello, I’m a journalist for a scientific program aired by Radio-Canada, the canadian public broadcaster. I’m preparing a topic to talk about how the human voice is unique for each individual, and how our ears/brain can recognize the subtle differences between each voice.  So I’m looking for an expert in that field and was wondering if you would have any time until next tuesday for a quick phone interview (around 20 minutes) to answer my questions. That won’t be aired, it is only for my research. 
    If this is not possible for you, would you happen to know another expert that might have the knowledge to answer my questions?
    Thanks a lot

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