This thesis investigates the suitability of the Audio Mixing Interface (AMI) for popular music production. By considering the strengths and weaknesses of the AMI alongside user wants and needs, this thesis provides valuable insights into the AMI’s current state and potential future developments. The motivation for this research arises from the observation that while the AMI has undergone incremental improvements, its core characteristics have remained largely unchanged. In contrast, other technologies, such as digital cameras, have evolved to better meet user needs and offer additional functionalities. This raises the question of whether the capabilities of advanced technologies employed in modern AMIs have been fully realised. Based on the concept of usability, and informed by user centred approaches, six experiments were conducted. The first two experiments considered data visualisation first principles in formal usability evaluations. The third experiment used a questionnaire to better understand the values of the popular music producer and provide a subjective assessment of current AMIs. To explore the mental models adopted when mixing, the fourth experiment employed an established design thinking methodology in a series of participatory workshops. The fifth experiment used a novel AMI with and without supporting visual information to elicit which visual feedback was most required when mixing. The users workflow was also analysed. The sixth experiment entailed a perceptual evaluation of the mixes produced in the previous experiment by a panel of critical listeners. The purpose of this experiment was to assess the impact of depriving the user of supporting visual information on the mixes produced. These six experiments show that the strength of current AMIs lie in their efficiency, dependability, attractiveness, perspicuity, and stimulation, leading to high satisfaction ratings. Despite these strengths, there are notable weaknesses. There is a necessity for improvements in learnability, interface clutter, multi-channel management, enhanced methods of interaction, and the realisation of higher-level sonic intentions. In terms of user wants, there is a desire for an interface that facilitates the execution of premediated mix decisions, with more importance placed on technical interactions than creative interactions. The users also want an overview of all channel settings combined with the ability to focus on individual channels. In terms of user needs, supporting visual information is desirable but not essential with the most important visual aids relating to EQ and dynamic range compression. By addressing these aspects, future AMIs can be designed that better align with user requirements and expectations, ultimately enhancing the usability of the AMI for popular music production. These insights can also guide the design and development of assistive tools that support and empower users, enabling them to better, and more easily realise their intentions when mixing.
Date of Award2 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJonathan Wakefield (Main Supervisor), Austin Moore (Co-Supervisor) & Hyunkook Lee (Co-Supervisor)

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