Laws For Audio Engineers
Years ago, Mickey Knight, Diacoustic Lab, purveyor of styli, lacquer blanks, and Gear created this list of laws applicable to Audio Engineers[1]. The list was then distributed at an AES convention in the 1970s when many of the persons on this list were the goto guys in their respective games. The list was too good to let it fade into obscurity, so I've put it online. I've tried my best to identify the people who either adopted or invented the various laws, and for the rest, I rely on my readers, like you.

If you have a new law to be added, or further information about a person quoted in the list, you are welcome to submit it to the for consideration and possible addition. For existing entries, it would be worthy to add information to the "claim to fame" column. For new submissions, information about the source's claim to fame (meaning their connection to Audio Engineering) is required. If you have something to add about an existing contributor, especially one where nothing is know about them, please send it along.

Updates, new additions and/or new information are indicated by a date in the right-column. If the information needs confirmation, the date is followed by question marks.

Rick Chinn
Uneeda Audio
AES PNW Webmaster

Name Law Claim to Fame
Grundman's Law Under the most carefully controlled conditions of presure, temperature, humidity and other variables, the system will perform as it damn well pleases. Bernie Grundman, Mastering Engineer & Educator
Knight's Law A pat on the back is only a few centimeters from a kick in the pants. Mickey Knight, creator of this list.
Hidley's Law Nothing is impossible for a man who doesn't have to do the work. Tom Hidley, Studio designer, Westlake Audio
Duncan's Law When in doubt, mumble. Kent Duncan, Kendun Recorders. Recording and Mastering Facility
Evan's Law Every man has a scheme that will not work.
See also O'Donnell's Law 
Hulko's Law A theory is better than its explanation. Lee Hulko, mastering engineer, Sterling Sound, one of the original owners.
Storyk's Law The amount of work done varies inversely with the amount of time spent in the office. John Storyk, Studio Designer.
Woram's Law Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. John Woram, Engineer and Author
Propounded by Sci-Fi writer, Arthur C. Clarke, 1962.
Nordahl's Law Everything goes wrong at once. Tore Nordahl, Studer & Neve. Now a consultant.
Emmerman's Law In a crisis that forces a choice to be made among alternative courses of action, people tend to choose the worst possible course. Mack Emmerman, Criteria Studios, Miami FL.
Tarsia's Law The obvious answer is always overlooked. Joe Tarsia, Sigma Sound, Philadelphia.
Tarsia's 2nd Law When booking recording studios, pick any two out of three:
  Fast | Cheap | Good
  • You can get your product fast and cheap... but it isn't going to sound good.
  • You can get it cheap and good... but it won't be done fast.
  • You can get it good and fast... but it won't be cheap.
Also applies to many other time/cost/quality decisions.
Mike Tarsia, Sigma Sound, Philadelphia.
Previn's variant of Tarsia's 2nd Law Do you want it good, or do you want it Thursday? Andre Previn
Classical and film composer
Submitted by Tim Whittaker (2014)
Snoddy's Law It works better if you plug it in. Glenn Snoddy, recording engineer. Discoverer of Fuzz as an effect. Fuzztone Origin 
Harrison's Law There is always an easy answer to every problem - neat, plausible and wrong. Dave Harrison, Harrison consoles, inventor of inline console topology.
Meadow's Law It won't work. Glenn Meadows, Masterfonics
Westlake's Law The first 90 percent of the project takes 90 percent of the time, and the last 10 percent takes the other 90 percent. Westlake Audio, purveyor of Gear and studio systems. Likely attributable to Tom Hidley, who was the owner of the company.
Harned's Law Once you open a can of worms, the only way to recan them is to use a bigger can. Jeep Harned, founder of MCI.
Schnee's Law Anything that begins well will end badly. (note: the converse of this law is not true.) Bill Schnee, Engineer and Producer
Stone's Law Necessity is the mother of strange bedfellows. Chris Stone, founder and owner of the Record Plant.
aka Farber's Fourth Law.
Golden's Law A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
aka Segall's Law.
John Golden, mastering engineer: Artisan Sound Recorders, Kendun, K-Disc, and John Golden Mastering.
Perry's Law If the facts do not conform to the theory, they must be disposed of. Ken Perry, Mastering Engineer.
Garay's Law An object will fall so as to do the most damage. Val Garay, Engineer and Producer
Kelsey's Law Make three correct guesses consecutively and you will establish yourself as an expert.  
Lightner's Law If it happens, it must be possible. Bill Lightner: mastering engineer @ K-Disc.
Steele's Law Social innovations tend to the level of minimum well being.  
Guy's Law The probability of a given event occurring is inversely proportional to its desirability. Richard Guy?
Moyssiadis' Law As soon as you mention somethng, if it's good, it goes away; if it's bad, it happens. Dave Moyssiadis, mastering and recording engineer
(2009) ??
Capps' Law If it can find a way to wear out faster, it will. Capps makes disc recording styli.
Lippell's Law If a research project is not worth doing, it is not worth doing well.  
Neumann's Law Whoever has the gold makes the rules.
(see also: Temmer's Law) 
Georg Neumann, microphone God.
Calbi's Law Nothing is as easy as it looks. Greg Calbi, mastering engineer: The Cutting Room @ Record Plant NYC, Sterling Sound, Masterdisc. (2009)
Marino's Law Everything takes longer than you think it will. George Marino, mastering engineer: The Cutting Room @ Record Plant NYC, Sterling Sound.
Todrank's Law There are two types of people: those who divide people into two types, and those who do not. Bob Todrank, purveyor of Gear.
Brosious' Law The components you have will expand to fill the available space. Ham Brosious, then with Audiotechniques, Gear Purveyor. Now with Digibid, Gear Purveyor of the new Millennia.
n.b. Ebay ended up eating Digibid's lunch. They are now toast.
Ingoldsby's Law You cannot determine beforehand which side of the bread to butter. Brian Inglodsby, MCA.
Merten's Law The more time you spend in reporting on what you are doing, the less time you have to do anything. Stability is achieved when you spend all your itme reporting on the nothing you are doing.  
Sax's Law All laws are basically false. Doug Sax, The Mastering Lab
Zentz's Law Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out. Alan Zentz, Mastering Engineer and studio owner.
Ludwig's Law The other line moves faster Bob Ludwig, Mastering Engineer
Dozier's Law Negative expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yield negative results. LaMont Dozier, Producer & Songwriter.
Rettinger's Law Nothing is ever a complete failure. It can always serve as a bad example. Michael Rettinger, Acoustician.
Ricker's Law Experiments should be reproducible. They should all fail the same way. Stan Ricker, Mastering Engineer, half-speed mastering God.
Boden's Law If an experiment works, you must be using the wrong experiment.  
Hansch's Law Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Jo Hansch, mastering engineer: Festival Records-Australia, Kendun, Artisan Sound Recorders, K-Disc, Dinkum.
Eberle's Laws
  1. Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it makes it worse.
  2. No matter what results are expected, someone is always willing to take it.
  3. No matter what occurs, someone believes it happened according to his pet theory.
  4. No matter what the result, someone is always eager to misinterpret it.
See also: O'Donnell's Law 
Appears to be part of Murphy's Laws.

Fulginiti's Law In a heirarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion. Greg Fulginiti, mastering engineer, Sterling Sound, Artisan Sound Recorders, Masterdisk
Reese's Law There are two sides to every argument, unless a person is personally involved, in which case there is only one. Mike Reese, mastering engineer: The Mastering Lab
Leek's Law An experiment may be considered if no more than half your data must be discarded to obtain correspondence with your theory.  
Cato's Law The merchandise you need the quickest will be shipped the slowest way. I hope this isn't OJ's pal, Cato!
Gray's Law In any collection of data, the figures that are obviously correct beyond all need of checking contain the errors.
Corrollary 1: No one you ask for help will see the error either.
Corrollary 2: Any nagging intruder who stops by with unsought advice will spot it immediately
Kevin Gray, mastering engineer. (2009)
Simpson's Law There is a quantity which, when multiplied by, divided by, added to or subtracted from the answer you get, gives you the answer you should have gotten.  
Berrra's Law
Mark's Law
In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is. Yogi Berra
Contributed by Jay Mark, 2009.
Attributed to Yogi Berra, 2009.
Anderson's Law Nothing takes 5 minutes. Jim Anderson (2009)
AES Past President
Karl's Law When time is of the essence, all fixes have failed, and the show must go, then: one man's buzz is another man's line noise. Karl Johnson, (2009)
Audio Engineer
Hufker's Law If at first you don't succeed, you're using the wrong hammer. Eugene Hufker
Contributed (2009) by his son, Barry,
Hufker Recording
St. Louis, MO
Stamler's First Law 80% of the problems in audio are caused by a bad connection someplace. Contributed by Paul Stamler, (2009)
Stuart's Law The worse they are, the more verses they know. John Stuart, recordist of more folksingers than you can shake a stick at. (2009)
Temmer's Law If I don't make or sell it, it isn't any good. Stephen Temmer, Gotham Audio, importer of Neumann  Microphones.
Chinn's Law of Overkill If it's worth doing, then it's worth overkilling. Rick Chinn (2014)
Uneeda Audio (and purveyor of this list)
Wilcox' Law In any endeavor, two thirds of the work is done by one-third of the participants. Peter Wilcox
Wannabe dobro player (by his own admission) (2009)
Blasingame's First Law When operating in the vacuum of a studio, time moves faster than anywhere else in the Universe. Joe Blasingame, (2009)
Blasingame Audio Productions
St. Louis, MO
Blasingame's Second Law No matter how fast and effective an audio engineer works, to the paying client it's like molasses. Joe Blasingame 2009
Mortensen's First Law When using recorded music as a test source, the moment when you are finally ready to begin the test always coincides with the end of the song/CD. Dan Mortensen, Dansound. (2008)
Simpson's Law (a corollary to Mortensen's first law) When you reach for the knob, the _____ player stops playing. Keith Simpson (2010)
Mortensen's Second Law Someone, out of your field of vision, always unknowingly chooses to drop or knock over an object, creating a very loud abrupt BANG!!! at the exact moment you plug or unplug a connector. Good luck figuring out what the hell it was. Dan Mortensen, Dansound. (2008)
Chinn's variant to Mortensen's Second Law When you're repairing someone's amp, and they're watching, they invariably blow a stream of smoke over the patient, which makes you wonder if some part just let out its magic smoke. This was more common in the 70s than now, since smoking has been banned in most public places (YAY). Rick Chinn, Uneeda Audio, and purveyor of this list.
Jaeger's Law The evaluation sample is always in the 99th percentile of the performance range. Rene Jaeger (2010)
Analog Design Engineer
Loud Technologies
Welti's Law If you've worked through the problem forwards and backwards, checked your math, consulted your intellectual superiors, and made invocations to the Gods, and still your hardware setup is giving the wrong result, you will find that it's a bad cable. Todd Welti (2009)
Staff Scientist
Harman International
von Recklinghausen's Law If it measures good and sounds bad, it is bad. If it Measures bad and sounds good, you've measured the wrong thing. Daniel von Recklinghausen (1925-2011)
Technical Director, H.H. Scott and many other companies.
Source: obituary, JAES, September 2011.
Molberg's Law If it sounds good, it is good! Keith Molberg
M. Mus. Professor of Recording Arts @ Briercrest College and Seminary
Submitted by Brendan Clace (2011)
Boden's Law of ProTools Everything's easy, all the time. Mike Boden (2011)
Recording Engineer
Pfaffle's Law Digital audio does not exist unless it has been backed up 3 separate times on 3 separate drives Tom Pfaeffle
Late owner of The Tank Studios (RIP)
(who was murdered in a bizarre incident)
Submitted by Art Arzaga Jr. (2011)
Olmstead's Law After all is said and done, a hell of a lot more is said than done! Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903)
Journalist and Landscape Designer (did Central Park in NYC)
Submitted by Hugo de la Cerda, 85dBpost (2011)
Trimble's Law Anytime there is a button somewhere, some idiot will try to mess with it. Tom Trimble
Director of Student Unions, University of Toledo
Submitted by Jeff Moss (2011)
Gaston's Law If you can't figure out why you're not hearing anything, it's because one (and only ONE) button needs to be pushed. The angrier you become, the more obvious the button. Leslie Gaston (2010)
Assistant Professor of Recording Arts, University of Colorado
Chinn's Corollary to Gaston's Law In any DAW or digital mixing surface, the button you can't find is on the menu you just visited (and going backwards in the UI is impossible). Rick Chinn (2011)
Uneeda Audio (and keeper of this list).
Murphy's Monitor Law The monitor levels decrease as soon as the show starts Ralph Kaiser (2012)
TD, University of Guadalajara
Rubel's Law of Production Great music poorly recorded will always be great; crappy music wonderfully recorded will always be crap. Mark Rubel, Instructor & Co-Director (2014)
The Blackbird Academy
Murphy's Law of Inanimate Reproduction if you take something apart and put it back together enough times, you will now have enough parts leftover to make another one, but neither one will work. Tim Franquist (2014)
Independent Live Sound Engineer
Poole's Law (for monitor mix engineers) A positive movement of an eyebrow superseeds any movement of a fader or pot. Mikey Poole (2014)
Independent Live Sound Engineer
Hawley's Law of Differences Given any two arbitrarily similar sounds, there will always be at least one audio engineer who will claim to be able to hear the difference. Scott Hawley, PhD (2014)
Teacher of acoustics and electronics for audio engineering students.
Belmont University, Nashville.
O'Donnell's Law of Independent Behavior Everyone is entitled to their own wrong way of doing things. Casey O'Donnell (2014)
House Engineer at Hard Rock Live, Orlando
Phillips Law of Reverse Mixing Often the best fix for not being able to hear someone is to turn down something (or many somethings)... rather than turning up what you don't hear. Mark Phillips (2014)
Professor of Music, Ohio University
Hogan's Law of Time However much time you have is how long it will take Teri Hogan
President & CEO
Sound Services, Inc.
Past contributor to Live Sound International
More laws? try: 
Jim Dickinson's Production Manifesto 
Jack Clement: Cowboy's rules for band members 
[1] Email from Greg Fulginiti.

Last modified 05/04/2014. 00:47:36