Complete Audiophile Terminology Guide (Ultimate List)

Audiophile’s Complete Terminology Guide

A

Accuracy is the ability of the equipment to reproduce the recording. However, it may not be a precise presentation of the original.

ADSR. A acronym for Attack, Decay and Sustain.

AES / EBU is the Audio Engineering Society / European Broadcasting Union. It is a standard for digital audio signals to be exchanged between professional audio equipment. AES3 can carry two channels PCM audio across multiple transmission media such as balanced lines, unbalanced and optical fiber.

Aggressive – Reproducing audio in a bright and forward-looking manner.

Airy – Describes the openness and space in the product. This is usually used with open back headphones or live music.

Airy – Reproducing audio in an open, fresh and free manner around instruments or vocalists. Airy isn’t limited to the upper frequencies of the treble range, it can be heard throughout the frequency spectrum.

ALAC – Apple Lossless Audio Codec. A reference audio codec implementation and format that Apple has created. It is claimed that audio files compressed by this codec will only be half the size of uncompressed data.

Alive – High quality sound reproduction that gives the impression that musicians and instruments are alive.

Ambience is the overall impression, feeling, and mood created by an environment or acoustical area, such as the performance venue in which a recording was made.

Amplifier (or amplifier) – An electronic device that boosts the power of, or in this case an analog signal to the speaker. It is a two-port circuit that makes use of electric power from the power supply to increase its amplitude. Click here for amplifiers.

Amplitude – A wave’s displacement from its mean value. It refers to how many air particles have been displaced. Sound perceives it as the sound’s loudness. The louder the sound is, the greater the amplitude.

Analog (Audio – Sound that was recorded onto an analog media like tape or vinyl. Sometimes, imperfections in the recording can lead to audio artifacts during playback.

Analog-to-Digital Converter (ADC). An apparatus that converts sound signals between analog and digital for storage purposes. Digital to Analog Converter, (DAC).

Analytical – Sound with a strong emphasis on detail. It is achieved by boosting high frequencies.

Monkey’s Audio’s APE codec provides lossless audio compression. APE files can also be converted into exact copies of the original digital recordings. APE is less compressive than FLAC, but offers better support. It can also be difficult to decode.

Apple Lossless Audio Codec Apple has developed an audio compression format, which is supported by iOS.

Articulate: Clear, intelligible reproduction of details. It is easy to follow the individual voice or instrument within a group.

Analog Signal Processing (ASP) – An analog signal can be described as a continuous stream data. This is usually represented along an electric circuit, which in this case, is in the form voltage or current. Analog signal processing involves altering the signal via electrical means, such as changing the voltage, charge or current. These include crossover filters in loudspeakers and the “bass, tone, and volume” controls for stereos. The “tint” controls on TVs can also be used. Also considered capacitors, resistors, and inductors (passive), and active elements such as transistors/operational amplifiers.

Attack – The first, energetic moment in which an instrument is bowed and blown, struck or picked; see decay.

Attack. A system’s ability reproduce attack transients by accumulating sound when you pluck, strike, or blow on a musical instrument.

Attenuator. A device designed to lower the volume of an audible signal (e.g., volume control on an amp).

Audio-Enthusiast is a person who is passionate about music and gear. This includes obsessing over the specs and capabilities, dissecting and searching for the next WOW moment, product, or song.

Audiophile – A person who is interested in the accurate reproduction of real-life instruments and vocals. They enjoy analyzing each listening moment and dissecting the music through their gear, looking for naturalism or realism.

B

Balance – Equality in reproduced sounds

Balance – The tuning of a headphone. A balanced headphone wouldn’t have one frequency that is dominant, but instead all frequencies would be “balanced.”

Balancing (Audio), a way to connect audio equipment using impedance balanced lines. The three-conductor connectors used in balanced connections are usually an XLR or TRS jack (a plus, a negative, and a grounded). If you use a long cable, balanced audio can also reduce the noise. Balanced connectors for headphones that are most frequently used include the 4-pin TRRS, XLR, and Pentaconn. While the standard XLR or TRS are balanced, you will typically need two for a pair (i.e. You will need one TRS cable to fit the left earcup, and one TRS for the right. This is the same for 3-pin XLR connectors.

Balanced Armature driver – This type of driver is most often used in hearing aids. Because they can only reproduce a small portion of the audible spectrum, balanced armature driver are much more accurate in sound reproduction. It is not possible to use more than one balanced driver per earphone in order to cover the entire spectrum of sound. Balanced armature drivers can sound more natural because of the need to use a cross-over circuit that splits the sound between drivers.

Bass Range – 20hz-300hz

Bass. Bass refers to the lower end of audible frequencies. Usually, it is between 60 and 250Hz. This frequency can be measured in terms of weight (quantity) or clarity (quality).

Bit Depth – This is the number of samples that are recorded (digital audio). The greater the amount of information (higher bit rates, depth and sample rates) the better the quality will be and the larger the file size.

Bit Rate – Refers to the rate at which data is stored per second (digital sound).

Bleed: Undesirable merging sound between frequency ranges

Bloat – A lack of clarity and definition in mid-bass. A bass that is too loud can make the signature sound heavy and out of tune. Bloat is frequently associated with darker or more warm sound signatures.

Bloom – Excessive body weight or excess note weight.

BNC – A type of locking connector that can be used for digital connections.

Body – Represents the sound of an instrument or vocal in a realistic reproduction.

Boomy – An exaggerated, enhanced sound that dominates the mix.

Boosted: Overly exaggerated emphasis.

Brain Tickle is an audio phenomenon that creates a warm and tingling sensation in your head that can travel down your spine. This may also be called a brain massage.

Breakup – A diaphragm’s surface begins to move in a different direction, causing distortion. Breakup is common in dynamic drivers that operate at high volumes. This happens because the diaphragm’s forces increase. Breakup is less likely in low volumes, planar magnetic and electrostatic headphones drivers.

Brightness / Brightness – An increase in the upper frequencies and upper-mid range. Brightness is a popular feature, but can also be unpleasant due to the possibility of treble peaking.

Brilliance-High frequencies up to 20kHz. Is this not enough? Sound will be muffled. Too much? It will be heard hissing and sibilance.

Buzz. Buzz is a low frequency sound with a distinctive spiky character.

C

Cable Attachment Style: There are two types of wire headphones:

Caps – A shorthand for a capacitor. Capacitors temporarily store energy in a device, which can serve a variety of functions, including an amp power supply or DC coupling.

The Center Stage. The soundstage portion that is located halfway between the loudspeakers.

Characteristic. The characteristic of a reproduced sound that determines its quality. Examples include frequency response and sound staging.

Chi-Fi. Chi-Fi stands for low-cost Chinese audio equipment such as in-ear monitors, headphone amplifiers, and earbuds. Most of these products are made by unknown brands. While some products have high audio quality and are comparable to those of well-known brands, quality control is often a concern.

Circum-aural – Full-size headphones that fit over an ear.

Clarity – Articulation of reproduced sounds that are clear of distortion; sounds crystal-clear; see transparent.

Clarity – Macro details in sound. Each sound can be heard clearly.

Clean. Clean.

Clinical – Clean and uninvolved to the max; see sterile.

Coherent. Natural-sounding reproduction, characterized with good timing and excellent imaging.

Cold – The Upper Treble is at the Maximum

Color. Adjustment to the original sound frequency, timbre, or sound; it may produce pleasant output.

Coloration is the effect of a product on the music. It is the opposite to neutral. Many aspects can alter the tone, responsiveness, or frequency response of the music/audio.

Comb Filtering. Once recognized, it is a distinctive hollow coloration. It is due to interference between identical signals. If the time between the signals is constantly changed, the peaks or dips can move, leading to phasing and flanging.

Compressed – Incapacity to reproduce sound openly and airily, which could cause finer details or decrease in importance.

Congested. Noise, distortion, poor frequency reproduction and congested. This makes it difficult for you to hear details.

Congestion – A lack of clarity from overlapping sounds. Congested sound signatures can cause loss of detail and clarity. This makes it difficult to distinguish instruments. They may also be called muddy, muffled, or muffled.

Control – Ability of reproducing sound that is clear, focused, and detailed.

Cranial Geometry – The unique contours and features of the human brain that can influence the “fit” of a headphone or its comfort level around the head. These characteristics make certain headphones more suitable for people with different head shapes and sizes. Headphones that are not designed to fit the unique geometry of a user’s head and ears can cause the “sealing condition” to be affected and the sound to leak out. If this happens, the headphone’s remarkable sense of presentation may be affected and its comfort level may be reduced.

Crisp – Reproducing sound clearly with sharp focus and detail. It can sometimes be irritating in the middle of the treble (10k-14k) if it is boosted.

Critical Listening is a style of music listening that emphasizes nuance and microdetails.

Cups – Refers to the outer shell of the drivers on headphones that are over/on ear. Closed-back headphones refer to them as “cups”, while open-back headphones are known as “grills”.

Customs are shorthand for custom in-ear monitors. Audiologist usually takes custom-fit impressions and sends them to a factory where they are turned into molds to fit the IEM driver. They provide greater noise isolation and a better fit. Also known as “CIEMs.”

D

D/A Digital to Analog is a shorthand to describe the digital to analog conversion path.

DAC – Digital to Analog Converter – A device that converts digital information into an analog signal. The majority of audio stored today is digital data. The DACs are responsible for converting digital audio into an analog signal that is amplified to a speaker output or headphone output. While DACs are common in today’s electronics they are often found in standalone or external DACs. However, these DACs are generally superior to their internal factory counterparts. Find out what a DAC is. To learn more.

Damping. Amplification is the ability to control a woofer’s movement after a signal has ceased.

DAP – Digital Audio Player – Simply put, it’s a device capable of playing digital files. DAPs of higher end include high-quality digital to analogue converters and headphone amplifiers that can drive powerful, high-end headphones. This is not to be confused (in this context) with an iPod or other MP3 player devices. High fidelity DAPs can play high resolution format files like WAV, FLAC and FLAC. Find out what a DAP is. To learn more.

Dark. Higher frequencies can produce a rich, warm sound with a relaxed and rich quality.

Dark/Darkness – A quality of sound that has a distinct bass and recessed highs.

Dead. Dull or lifeless sound.

Decay is the release of energy after an instrument has been bowed, struck, struck, picked or pluck; see attack.

Decibel (dB). – This is a measurement of the sound volume or how loud something sounds.

Deep bass. Sounds below 40Hz

Definition – The quality of a reproduced detail that has been clearly defined using sharp, edged images. This allows the listener/listener to discern and/or follow melodic lines from individual voices and/or instrumentals; see focus, resolution.

Delicacy. The extent to which a device can reproduce the subtle details in sound, such as the friction between fingers when playing a guitar or the harp.

Density is the ability to reproduce the feeling that a note played by an original instrument or vocal is firm and solid; see Weight.

Depth – Ability to show the overall size of a stage from front to rear.

It is detachable and can be used interchangeably.

Detail – The most delicate and subtle parts of an original sound. These are usually the first things that I lose my imperfect components.

Diffuse. Diffuse refers to a sound reproduction that is not clear and detailed. The sound that results is confused or muddled.

Digital (Audio), Sound which has been recorded or converted into digital data. Digital audio is encoded in continuous sequence as numerical samples. A CD contains 44,100 samples per second with a 16 bit sample depth.

Digital to analog converter (DAC). An audio device that converts digital audio signals to analog. This is essential because headphones and speakers cannot use digital signals. High-quality DACs are generally the best for high quality speakers.

Dirty. Reproduction of spicky, fuzzy or cruddy sounds

Distortion is an Audible signal change that is unintentional. It can be audible in a variety, such as harsh, strident or fuzzy.

Driver – A speaker inside a headphone, in-ear monitor (IEM), or headphone. There are many types, sizes and quality options. Find out more information about IEM drivers and types of headphone drivers.

Driver. The transducer element of a speaker converts audio signals from electric energy to sound (mechanical energies). It’s often round, and some call it the speaker.

Dry. Absence of reverberations and harmonics

DSD – Direct Stream Digital – This trademark is used by Sony and Philips to refer to their system of digitally recreating audible sounds for the Super Audio CD (SACD). DSD differs from PCM. A DSD recorder uses delta-sigma modulation.

DSP – Digital Signal Processing. Audio signals can be either in digital or analog formats. Processing can occur in either one of these domains. Analog processors deal with the signal directly, while digital processors process the digital representation mathematically. A digital representation is a sequence of symbols usually in binary numbers that expresses an audio waveform. This allows digital circuits to be used for signal processing, such as microprocessors, digital signal processors and general-purpose computer.

Dull – A reproduction sound without soul; boring; uninspired.

Dynamic – Reproduced sound with punch and slam. Most noticeable in the bass, but can also be found in mid-range and treble.

Dynamic Driver: This is the most popular driver type. They are able to reproduce most of the audible sound spectrum. They are usually larger and more detailed that balanced-armature drivers. They oscillate the voice coil using static magnetic fields to create sound waves.

Dynamics – The volume at which a sound or musical note is heard.

E

Earphone/Earbud/In-Ear Monitor (IEM) – A stereo speaker system that is worn inside the ear canal.

Echo. Echo refers to the reflection of sound on objects, which causes it to be repeated.

Effortless: Ability to reproduce sounds easily without straining or exertion.

Electrostatic Driver– A headphone driver that uses a thin diaphragm suspended in between two electrified plates. They move the diaphragm using static electricity. There are no moving parts. The diaphragm can be moved almost without distortion, but they require special amplifiers.

Energy – Reproduced sound that creates an impression of life, action, or movement.

EQ stands for Equalization. A method that adjusts the relative volume of audio frequencies using software or hardware.

  1. Abbreviation for equalization. It is the process of adjusting audio frequencies’ relative volumes using hardware or software. Read

Ergonomic Flexibility is a headphone’s ability fit in any scenario, no matter whether it is at home, at work, or on-the-go.

Ergonomic Scenario is a situation or application that optimizes the use of a headphone for maximum performance and best sonic results.

Error of Commission. Degradation of sound caused by the addition of signals not present in the initial signals. Coloration and distortion are two examples.

Error by Omission A loss of data that results in a degradation of sound. Examples include treble and smearing.

Euphonic: An emphasis on pleasant richness rather than accurately reproducing sound.

Extension – Sound reproduction that goes beyond the normal frequency range.

Extreme Highs All frequencies above 10,000 Hz.

F

Far-Field. The distance from which you can hear the sounds coming from your speakers and echoes. But, reflections are the dominant.

Fast – Rapid – Reproduction of sound while imitating reaction time; also see slow

Fidelity. Fidelity is the ability to accurately reproduce audio data. The accuracy of sound reproduction is greater with hi-fidelity (hifi) equipment.

FLAC – A free lossless audio codec that encodes audio for lossless compression. It’s also open-source with royalty-free licensing. The reference implementation is free software. FLAC supports metadata tags, album covers art, and fast searching.

Flat – A frequency range that is straight and without peaks or dips. Gives the impression that every sound reproduced is the same level. Flat sound is not the exact same as natural or neutral.

Focus – refer to Definition and Resolution

Forward – A more intense overall presentation. Described as the opposite of laid back and relaxed.

Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) available for free A lossless audio coding format that supports fast seeking, cover artwork, and metadata tagging.

Frequency Range. A range of frequencies, with unspecified upper or lower limits.

Frequency response – This is the measurement of how accurately a part reproduces audio frequencies that are listed as variances within a range. A frequency response between 20Hz and 20kHz +-0.5 can increase or decrease a signal by as much as 0.5 decibels. The ideal frequency response is flat or close to zero, meaning that the output is identical to its input.

Fun – A description for a sound that is often achieved by increasing the lows or highs and receding of the middle range. This sound signature is called V shaped.

Fuzz. Fuzz can be described as a course of blurred sound texture.

Fuzzy – Reproduced sound with a coarse edged texture.

G

Gain – The increase in the audio signal by an amplifier. Normally expressed in dB, the signal can be increased or decreased by volts input/volts output.

Glare – Reproduced sound that is hard edged to low/mid-treble.

Glassy – Reproduced sound that is extremely bright. It is usually found in the upper middle range/presence range of 5k-8k.

Grainy is a sound that sounds like it has been reproduced but with an overly coarse texture.

Granulation. The process of breaking down an audio file into small segments.

Grill – This refers to the outer casing of an open-back headphones. You will find the grill on the outside of your drivers if the headphone has an open or semi-open design.

Gritty – A reproduction sound with an excessively rough texture.

H

Hangover. Reproduced sounds that last longer than expected are known as a hangover. A hangover reduces audio detail.

Hardwired. Hardwired headphones may be “Hacked” to improve performance.

Harsh: A sound that is reproduced and has an unpleasant abrasive tone. Sharpness is caused by raising the mid or upper treble.

Hash. It is the coarse texturing and spiky appearance of sound signals. It is caused by severe distortion or transient content.

Haze. The smearing audio detail.

Hazy – Reproduced sound with a mildly coarse texture but not as rough as fuzzy.

Headphone – Stereo speaker system worn over or on the ear. Headphones can be purchased here.

Headphone. Headphones are a pair of earphones that are joined together by a band over the head.

Headroom. Headroom refers to the ratio of the system’s ability to handle the most undistorted audio signals to the average level it is designed for. A system that runs out of headroom can cause distortion.

Heavy – High note density/weight, unnatural reproduction of instruments/vocals; see hefty.

LoFi vs. hiFi – If high fidelity means that the original recording is accurately and realistically reproduced, then low fidelity would be defined as a lower quality sound than the standard. Low fidelity environments are where imperfections of recording and production are evident. Inconsistencies in notes and environmental interference are acceptable and normal.

High Fidelity or hi-fi. High quality sound reproduction. Hi-fi devices can reproduce the original recordings in a realistic and accurate way. Lo-Fi is the opposite.

High Frequency. A sound that sounds authentic and almost true to life, typically higher than 2kHz. High-quality audio equipment is also included.

High-end audio – This is the equipment used to reproduce sound recordings accurately. The high-end components include turntables. Equalization devices, digital to analog converters. Preamps and amplifiers. Speakers. Subwoofers. Acoustic room treatment is also worth considering as it can help optimize a listening space.

High-resolution Audio. Audio with a higher sample rate than 44.1kHz and a depth of at least 16 bits. Also called high definition (HD) audio.

Highs. The higher frequencies.

Hot – Extremely boosted Triple.

HRA – High Resolution Audio – Hi Res Audio (HRA), which is lossless audio, reproduces the full sound spectrum from recordings that were mastered from higher-than-CD quality music sources. It closely matches the sound quality that engineers and musicians recorded at the time.

I

IC – Short for Interconnect Cable. Two analog connections for right and left stereo audio channels, terminating in XLR or RCA connectors.

IEM – In-ear-monitor is short for “In-Ear-Monitor”. Also known as earphones. There are two types IEMs. One is universal, which can be used in most ear canals. The other is custom, which can be custom-molded by an audiologist to fit the specific impressions of the ear canal. Click here to view IEMs.

Imaging – A left-to right localization of sound. The ability to locate instruments in an imaginary soundstage.

Impact – The reproduction of a concussive force that delivers instantary visceral pressure. This is visible in all frequency ranges with varying degrees.

Impedance – Indicates the amount of power required to drive. The driver needs to produce the highest quality sound and volume possible, so the higher the impedance the better. The resistance of an AC circuit to electrical current. For instance, the greater the headphone’s impedance, then the less current flows through it.

Impedance. This is the difficulty of powering a driver. High impedance indicates that you require more power in order to achieve higher quality sound and volume from your driver.

Impulse. A sudden, brief burst sound signal; a transient.

Inaudible. Too subtle or non-existent to be conscious of.

In-Ear Monitor (IEM/Earbud/Earphone). An ear-worn stereo speaker system. Also known as an “earpiece”.

Infrasonic. Below the audible range; inaudible.

Inner Detail. High-resolution systems reproduce the subtle sonic characteristics of a sound.

Interconnect Cable (IC). Double analog connections, which terminate in either RCA (or XLR) plugs for the left or right audio channels.

Intolerable . Unlistenable

Involvement. This is the level at which a sound attracts an audience or triggers emotion feedback.

Involving – Ability to communicate the performance to the listener in a way that creates an emotional response.

Isolation is a condition that prevents sound from leaving the ears.

J

Jitter is a loss of one or more samples from a bitstream in playback on a digital device. This can cause noise. You can get it from a variety of reasons, such as sync/wordclock error or buffer issues. However, it can happen with any digital device and creates noise. It is important to have more data, or better quality recordings, in order to reduce jitter.

Judgement – A listener’s assessment on how their perception of a sound element compares to their notion of perfection.

K

Kraftwerk. The pioneer in electronic music.

L

Laid-Back: Reproduced sound that’s overly warm and recessed, but not too much; it is soothing and non-fatiguing.

Layering – Reproduction of various levels and rows within the soundstage; ability reproduce the impression that levels, rows, or distances between vocalists are being achieved.

Layering – The reproduction of depth or receding distance that audibly places rows after rows of performers.

Lean – Reproduced sound with a lackluster emphasis on bass; lighter note density or weight

Lifeless – Reproduced sound lacking conviction, focus, and involvement. See dull.

Light – Reproduced sound, similar to lean but with boosted treble.

Linear – Reproduced sound that is well-balanced, extended, and coherent.

Listening Fatigue: A psychoacoustic phenomenon resulting from prolonged listening. Although the distortion content is not audible but can be heard subliminally, it is still noticeable. Headaches and nervous tension can result from psychological and physical discomfort.

Listening Style is the way that a user prefers music to be heard. Users might prefer to listen to music more analytically. Or they might prefer to relax and let the music take them away. There are many ways to listen to music.

Loose – Reproduced sound with no control and definition. Most noticeable in bass, but it can be heard throughout the frequency spectrum.

Lossless – Music file compression that doesn’t remove data to compress it. Examples include FLAC, WAV, MQA, etc.

Lossy is a music file compression method that removes the most audible sounds from music files in order to compress them. Like lossless formats, compression cannot be reversed. Examples include MP3, AAC, Ogg, etc.

Lossy. Compression of music files can lead to data loss. It produces smaller files than lossless techniques. OGG, MP3, or AAC are just a few examples.

Low-Level Detail – The most subtle elements of musical sound. These include the fine details of instrumental sounds as well as the tail of decay reverberation.

Lush – A reproduction sound that is rich and warm; luxurious.

M

Mellow. A warm, rich sound.

Microphonics – Frictional sound produced by the movement of the cable against other objects or itself. The physical vibrations are converted to electrical signals by the rustling sound. This noise, also known as cable noise, can be minimized by using shielding on higher-quality cables.

Mid Range – 300hz-8k

Midrange. Audio frequencies from 250 to 6000Hz. Also known as mids.

Midrange/mids– This is the range between bass to treble that contains most vocal and instrument information. This is where the human ear has the greatest sensitivity and responsiveness.

Monophonic. A system with only one speaker.

A relative new driver type, the Moving Armature Driver. Moving armature driver’s aim is to reduce the number of balanced armature drives in an IEM and increase their frequency response.

MP3 – MPEG-2/2.5 Audio Layer III. A common coding format used for digital audio. This format is well-known for its small file sizes and ability to set customizable parameters.

MQA – Master Quality Authenticated – This lossless codec is approximately one-third of the size of FLAC format. It uses a digital fingerprint to verify that the file was obtained from the original master recording. MQA files are compatible with FLAC encoders, but need MQA decoders for full access.

Muddled – A sound reproduction that is presented in a confused and disorderly fashion. This is typically found within the soundstage.

Muddy – A blurred presentation of the sound. A synonym for clear and clean.

Muddy. Muddy is a blurred reproduction of a sound; weak harmonics; the opposite from crisp.

Muffled: Reproduction sound that makes it seem like it’s hidden behind a wall, or a person’s hand.

Musicality or musicality. A pleasant sound.

N

Nasal – Reproduced sound that has the quality and character of someone talking with their nose blocked. Closed off. A measured peak in upper midrange is followed by a complementary drop.

Natural – In relation to the relative perceived reality of the music.

Natural – Realism: reproduced sound that matches real life audio every day; see sterile.

Near Field. A listening distance from which you can hear the sound directly from the speakers. Look far.

Neutral – Reproduced sound without coloration that isn’t natural. See natural; see uncolored.

Neutral. It is free from coloration or distortion.

Noise – Any spurious background sound, usually of a random pitch: hiss or crackle, ticks and pops, etc.

Noticeable. Any audible sonic quality.

Nuance. Different shades of sound; characteristics of different notes in an Audio Signal

O

Ohm – Unit for measuring electrical resistance or impedance.

One-Note: An exaggerated note, which dominates and overwhelms the rest in the frequency range. This is most evident in bass but can be found all over the frequency range.

Opamp – Operational Amplifier. A high-gain, electronic voltage amplifier with a variable input and a usually single-ended output. This allows an operational amplifier to produce an output voltage that is often hundreds of thousands higher than the potential difference between its input and output terminals. This versatility is why the operational amp is so popular in analog circuits.

Open – Sound reproduction with no limitations. See natural.

Openness. Pleasant soundstage, with good sound presentation. It allows for plenty of space among the instrumentation.

Out-of-phase. This is due to the polarity in channels within a two-channel system. It lowers the frequency and produces a “phasey” sound.

The Overblown Bloated. Extremely rich.

Overdamped. Excessive damping.

P

Pads – The padding on the earcups for headphones. Also known as earpads.

Palpable. Palpable.

PCB – Printed circuit Board – To electrically connect or mechanically fasten the components to the printed board, they are usually soldered on to the PCB. It is used in many electronic products.

PCM – Pulse Code Moderation – The standard digital audio format used in computers and CDs. It’s a digital representation of sampled analog signals. Two properties determine the fidelity of a PCM stream to the original analog signal. These are the sampling rate (number of samples taken per second) and the bit depth (number of digital values that can each be represented).

Perspective. The depth of information layering.

Phantom Image. A reproduction of sound which appears to be from another source.

Phasey. It creates pressure in the ears. It happens when you listen to loudspeakers in different phases.

Phasing. Look up comb filtering.

Picket-fencing. The stereo channel will waver as you move laterally. This depends on where your loudspeakers are relative to each other.

Pinched – Reproduced sound that has been overly compressed, congested or lacks the ability to reveal an open sound.

Pin-Point: Ability to show details in the soundstage which give the impression that they are focused and targeted. See specific.

Pinpoint Imaging. Stable, precise and focused stereo imaging.

Pitch Resolution. The clarity of the pitch for perceived bass notes. A poor pitch resolution makes it hard to discern notes. However, a good pitch resolution allows you count the cycles.

Planar Magnetic Driver– A popular headphone driver that features magnets on each side of a flexible diaphragm with tiny, electrically charged wires. Planar magnetic drivers can be precise and have a wider range, but they tend to be heavy and large. All drivers, orthodynamic, isodynamic and mageplanar, operate on the same planar magnetic design.

Plastery. A strong reverberation marked by an “a” coloration (as “bat”) Sometimes experienced in plaster-walled, bare rooms.

Polite – Reproduced sound that’s not too exhausting.

Pop. A midrange pulse, often followed by an “aw” or “o sound. Usually results from LP blemish.

Power Range. The frequency range that is between 200 Hz – 500 Hz which affects the sound reproduction of power instruments in an orchestra (brass instrument).

Preamplifier/Preamplifier- This is a switch that routes one or several signals to the amplifier. Preamplifiers reduce noise and interference, while also boosting the signal to adjust the voltage and volume control for the amplifier. Preamplifiers are often able to switch between audio sources (radio or tape, CDs, etc.). Click here for preamplifiers.

Preamplifier (Preamp). An audio switch that routes audio signal to the amplifier. It reduces noise and interfering. It amplifies and adjusts the voltage for volume control. Preamps allow you to switch between musical sources.

Precedence effect. A tendency in the ears to identify the direction that a sound was first heard as its source.

Presence range. It’s the frequency range from 1000 Hz through 3000Hz. It forms the lower-treble section of the audible frequencies. It controls the level of sound presence.

Presence. The degree of reality and aliveness in sound reproduction.

Printed Circuit Board (PCB). A board that holds in place electrical components. It is used to connect electrical components in electronic products.

Pristine. Reproduction of sound is clear and transparent.

Pulse Code Modulation (PCM). This digital audio format is used to digitize sampled analog signals. Common in computers and CDs.

Pumping. Pumping.

Q

Qualifier– A term that is attached by the listener to an observed sonic defect in order for them to get a sense of its magnitude. Example: muddy, harsh, undefined, etc.

Quality. The way a listener perceives a particular sound in relation to their expectations of what it should sound like. This is the degree to which it achieves perfection.

R

Range. The difference in the maximum and lowest frequencies of a sound.

RCA – A type of coaxial connector for unbalanced digital connections. The center pin is used to send the signal, and the outer sleeve connects to the ground.

Realistic – Ability to reproduce sound with the feeling that it is real.

Recessed. A decrease in frequency range relative to other frequencies, such as a recessed middlerange.

Relaxed. A gentle/ rolled off treble reproduction results in a not-fatiguing, but not overly detailed sound.

Release: Lower the sound intensity to zero amplitude.

Resistance – An element’s physical property to resist electron flow. It can be measured in Ohms.

Resolution – Microdetails for sound. The “texture” or sound.

Resolving. The ability of a device to reproduce and separate sounds from different instruments.

Resonance. A sound with deep, full and reverberating quality.

Revealing: Ability to reproduce sound and detail in a precise and focused way.

Reverb – Short for reverberation. A decreasing series of echoes spaced sufficiently close in time so that they combine into a smooth decline.

Rhapsody. Free-flowing instrumental piece with dramatic mood changes.

Rhythm. The controlled reproduction in music of sounds at specific times; the pattern of sound.

Rich. Rich.

Roll-off is also known as rollout. A frequency response that gradually falls below or above a given frequency limit. A cutoff, in contrast, is an abrupt loss of frequency above or below a given frequency limit.

Round. High frequency rolloff or dip

Rumble – Reproduced sound that creates an impression of physical vibration or shake in a bass range.

S

S/PDIF – This stands for Sony/Philips Digital Interconnect format (more commonly known under the name Sony Philips Digital Interface).

Sample rate – The number of samples that were taken in one second (digital sound)

Sealing Condition: This feature locks the sound in (also known as “isolation”) and prevents it being lost outside the headphone.

Seamless – Impression that soundstage, image and audio are seamless.

Seismic. Extremely low bass volume

Sense of Presentation – The way that a sound is presented or oriented to the listener. It can affect the way listeners perceive a sound’s source, and provide a sense that the sound is being made.

Sensitivity (or sound output) is measured in decibels (dB). Sensitivity is the volume of a headphone at a certain power level. It is usually 1 milliwatt. The other ways to describe sensitivity are efficiency or sound pressure level (SPL).

Separation: The ability of gears to create a natural, accurate space between instruments and vocalists. See soundstage, imaging layering, airy.

Sheen – Reproduced sound in the upper treble range. It has a subtle brilliance and isn’t too overbearing.

Shrill – Reproduced sound in the mid- and treble ranges. It is either piercing or stabbing. See strident.

Sibilance – A reproduction sound that emphasizes the “s” and/or “t” sounds. It is only heard in range 5k-8k.

Sibilant: The unpleasant, high-pitched peaks that are often too frequent and can cause discomfort to the ear.

Sizzle – Reproduced sound that emphasizes 5k-8k in a natural, accurate manner. Overemphasis can cause sibilance.

Slam has impact

Slow – Impression and reproduction of sound while taking a long time to react; see fast

Smear: Reproduced sound without definition or refinement.

Smeared. It lacks detail, excessive leakage between microphones, or poor transient response.

Smooth – Defines the quality of sound reproduction without irritating qualities. It is also free from high-frequency peaking and makes it easy to listen. A slow and uninvolving character is not always a good sign for a system.

Sonic. Relating sound.

Sound Signature – The unique sound quality of a headphone or music player, DAC or audio cable. Some audio products have a stronger bass while others are more focused on the treble. The overall sound profile of audio products helps audiophiles fine tune the listening experience. This can be done by pairing the correct headphone cable, DAC or music device with their headphones. Find out more about sound signatures in our Guide to Sound Profiles.

Soundstage – A description of the sound space created by a driver. A large soundstage makes it easier for listeners to identify different positions for different sounds. It also helps make the sound more real. The better the soundstage is, the more realistic it will be.

Soundstage. Soundstage is the 3D sound space that a driver creates. A large soundstage can make sound more natural.

Source – The first device of the signal chain that emits an analog signal.

Spacious. Provides space, comfort, and ambiance around instruments.

Spatial Awareness: Ability to project images in a convincing, natural soundstage.

Specific – refer to pin-point

Speed – Speed is the rate at which a focus and definition are completed. It can be either “fast” (or “slow”)

Stereo System. A system of electronic components used for audio reproduction. This system includes the source components (such a CD player), an amplifier, and speakers.

Stereo. Stereophonic sound refers to a sound transmitted through two or more speakers that surround the listener and creates the illusion it is coming from multiple sources.

Sterile – Reproduced sound that is neatly presented in a clear and transparent manner without natural reproduction.

Strained – Reproduced sound that gives off the impression that the body is being stretched to its limits and giving it all even though it’s not being stressed.

Strident – see shrill

Sturdy. Sound is strong and solid.

Sub-Bass. The audio frequencies are between 20 Hz – 80 Hz.

Subtle: A reproduction sound that is very subtle, but barely audible.

Supra-aural: Headphones that fit against the user’s ears. Also known as “on the ear.” This is the most commonly used type of fitting in the consumer market.

Sustain is the steady-state at the peak of an amplitude sound.

Sweet Spot is a description of the central point between two speakers where an individual can fully hear the stereo mix as intended by the mixer.

Sweet. Low distortion; not piercing.

Synergy – A combination of audio components that have a greater effect than their individual effects. A synergy can be described as a DAC and a headset amplifier.

T

Tempo. Tempo refers to the speed of sound measured in beats per minutes (BPM).

Texture – A reproduction sound that gives the impression the instrument or singer is whole or solid.

Texture/Texturing is a perceptible pattern or structure in a reproduced audio, even though it may be random. Texturing gives the illusion that the energy continuum is made of discrete particles like the grain in a photograph.

THD is for Total Harmonic Disstortion. This is the measurement of how much equipment distorts the signal.

Thick – Reproduced sound with an excess of weight; see weight and density.

Thin – Reproduced sound without weight; see Weight; See Density.

Thump. Strong bass and subbass.

Tight – Reproduced sound that gives the impression of freedom but is controlled; see control.

Timbre – The reproduction of identifiable characteristics of an instrument that allows the listener or player to identify or distinguish them or follow them throughout a musical composition.

Tonal quality – This refers to the quality of the note reproduced; it sounds correct and accurate.

Tonality – Tonality can be used to refer to music. It is the quality or tone of the instrument. Audio refers specifically to the reproduction of the original sound and accuracy.

Tone – The actual note being played in the music; it is the reproduced note in key.

Tracking – Ability for a product follow and present the audio cues in the recording.

Transient – The leading edge of percussive sounds.

Transient Response. Ability of an audio system or device to react to rapidly changing inputs, voltages, or dynamics.

Transparent – Described as clear sounding presentations; being able distinguish between details and quality.

Transparent. A lack of distortion or little to no distortion allows you to hear the details in music.

Treble – The higher range of notes, located above the midrange. Are you not satisfied? Music will not be clear. Too much? You will feel tired.

Treble Range 8k-20k

TRS – Tip Ring Sleeve connector. Most common connector for headphones. You can choose between 3.5mm (1/8″) & 6.3mm (1/2″) connector sizes.

Tube/Tube Amp– A vacuum tube that was used to amplify sound prior to the invention the transistor. Tube amplifiers are very popular due to their beautiful harmonics and coloration. Tube amplifiers are made up of tubes that can be used in either power rectification or amplifying the signal.

Turntable – This device is a derivative of the phonograph and was originally used to record and reproduce sound. It has been called the turntable (since 1887), the gramophone, and then the record player (since 1941). The device that plays back the record is called the turntable. The tonearm is a lever that holds the pickup cartridge in place.

U

Ultrasonic. Ultrasonic is a frequency that exceeds 20000 Hz.

Uncolored – see neutral; See natural

Underdamped. Underdamping is characterized by inadequate woofer damping. See damping.

Uninvolving – Product that fails impress or bores the listener; see involving.

Upper – Refers only to the specific spectrum or full range; the top half of the range.

Upper Bass. Frequencies between 80 Hz & 160 Hz

Upper Highs and Treble – The range of frequencies between 10kHz to 20kHz is denoted by the term “treble”.

Upper Highs/ Upper Treble. Frequencies between 10000Hz and 20000Hz

Upper Middles/ Upper Midrange. Frequencies between 665 Hz & 1300 HZ

Upper Mids and Middles, Midrange – Denoted as the frequency range between 650Hz & 1300Hz.

V

Veiled: Reproduced sound that lacks focus and detail.

Veiled. Clearance is affected by background noise and insufficient detail.

Voltage is the electromotive force/pressure that ‘pushes’ large quantities of electrons. It can be measured in units of volts.

V-shaped: This describes a sound signature that has the bass and treble boosted while the midrange is recessed. This is often considered a “fun” sound.

W

Warm. Pleasant bass with sufficient low frequencies and good fundamentals.

Warm/Warmth is a sound with fullness and engaging vocals. It also has a bumped mid-bass and clear midrange. Warm sound is described as “cozy”/”pleasant,” while excessive warmth can be described “laid back”/”lush.”

Watt – Voltage times current. The rate at which energy is used. R.M.S. is sometimes used. root mean square

Watt. The mathematical product voltage and current; the rate that a device consumes energy.

Waveform Audio file Format (WAVE) – Also known by its file extension, WAV, Waveform audio file format is a standard Microsoft and IBM audio format for storing audio bitsstreams on PCs. WAV is an instance RIFF (Resource Interchange File Format) that has been defined by IBM. A WAV file can contain compressed sound, but the most popular WAV format is the uncompressed audio of linear pulse-code modulation format (LPCM). LPCM also serves as the standard audio coding format in audio CDs.

Waveform Audio File Format (WAVE/WAV). The file extension “.wav”, which is used for audio bitstream storage on PCs, is commonly used. This codec was created by Microsoft and IBM. It can be found mostly in the uncompressed linear pulse-code modulation (LPCM), used extensively in audio CDs.

Weight – A feeling of solidity or foundation that was reflected in music through extended, natural bass reproduction.

Weighty. It has a pleasing frequency response (below 50%) and produces controlled, deep bass. This is a sign of heavy or powerful audio equipment.

Wet. Reverberating; a sound that is decaying. A sound with decay, also known as a reverberant sound.

Width: Ability to project an overall view of the stage side-to-side.

Width is the apparent lateral spread for a stereo picture. If the image is properly recorded, it should sound no wider than what it sounds originally.

Width. In stereo reproduction, a sense that space is left to right (horizontal). Comparable to depth, which refers the space between the front and the back.

Windows Media Audio Lossless (WMA). Microsoft has created a lossless audio format. Most commonly used with Windows PCs.

Withdrawn. Extremely relaxed.

WMA – Windows Media Audio Lossless. A proprietary lossless audio compression technology created by Microsoft that competes against FLAC and Apple Lossless Audio Codecs.

Woolly. A loose bass.

X

XLR is a connector that is commonly used in professional audio. It usually has a 3- or 4-pin configuration, which is used primarily in balanced audio. One pin carried the in phase signal while the other carried the out-of-phase signal. The ground pin is on 3-pin sockets. The 4-pin XLR is used for headphones and runs L+ L+ R+R-.

XLR. A type of cable used in professional sound equipment like mixers, amplifiers, and soundboards. It comes in either a 3- or 4-pin configuration. The 3-pin version carries one pin the in-phase and the other the outside-of-phase signals, while the third connects with ground. The most popular configuration for headphones is the 4-pin.

Y

Y-Cord. A type of cable with three connectors that can send one output to both inputs. It can be used as a signal splitter using spliced cables.

Z

Zippy. A moderate top-octave emphasis.

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