This paper treats the basics of thermoacoustic engines. The set of differential equations, which describes the dynamics of the individual components, is condensed in a single high-order differential equation which determines the time dependence of all dynamic variables. From this relation analytical expressions are obtained for the damping coefficient, the oscillation frequency, and the onset temperature that allows stable oscillations. Also transient effects are discussed based on numerical integration of the dynamic equations. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.