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Northern Oak

Description of Sound - The Audiophile Way

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I often hear people describing sound using words like "forward", "bright", "warm" and many others. Yet, it is up to our imagination to be able to "audio"-lize what exactly they meant. Some may tell you the amp sounds warm but when you ask them what warm actually meant, they cannot describe that to you. wacko.gif


Last night, I happened to chance upon a magazine that has a glossary page that I felt was pretty comprehensive, although I must admit that some descriptions do not help at all.


Anyway, for the benefit of those who are lost like me :

(Copied word for word from the magazine)


Aggressive - Forward and bright sonic character

Ambience - Impression of an acoustic space, such as the performing hall in which a recording was made.

Analytical - Highly detailed

Articulate - intelligibility of voice(s) and instruments and the interactions between them.

Attack - The leading edge of a note and the ability of a system to reproduce the attack transients in music.

Balance - essentially tonal balance, the degree to which one aspect of the sonic spectrum is emphasized above the rest. Also channel balance, the relative level of the left and right stereo channels

Body - Fullness of sound, with particular emphasis on upper bass. Opposite of thin.

Boxy - The sound of a loudspeaker with audible cabinet resonances

Bright - A sound that emphasizes the upper midrange/lower treble.

Dark - A tonal balance that tilts downwards with increasing frequency. Opposite of bright.

Decay - The fadeout of a note, it follows the attack.

Definition (or resolution) - The ability of a component to reveal the subtle information that is fundamental to high fidelity sound.

Depth - Perception of music being produced behind the loudspeakers and inhabiting a reproduction of the acoustic space of the original recording.

Detail - The most delicate elements of the original sound and those which are the first to disappear with lesser equipment.

Dry - A sound that is devoid of "juice", which usu. comes across as fine-grained and lean. Also a loss of reverberation as produced by a damped environment.

Dynamic - The suggestion of energy and wide dynamic. Related to perceived speed as well as contrasts in volume both large and small.

Euphonic - An appealing form of distortion that generally enhances perceived fidelity, often ascribed to the harmonic elaborations of some valve amps.

Fast - Good reproduction of rapid transients which increase the sense of realism and "snap".

Focus - A strong, precise sense of image projection.

Forward(ness) - Similar to an aggressive sound,a sense of image being projected in front of the speakers and of music being forced upon the listener.

Grainy - A slightly raw, exposed sound which lacks finesse.

Grip - A sense of control and sturdiness in the bass.

Hard - Uncomfortable, forward, aggressive sound with a metallic tinge.

Harsh - Grating, abrasive

Imaging - The sense that a voice or instrument is in a particular place in the room

Juicy - Sound that has joie de vivre, energy and life.

Low-Level Detail - The quietest sounds in a recording.

Musical (or musicality) - A sense of cohesion and subjective "rightness" in the sound.

Naturalness - Realism

Opaque - Unclear, lacking transparency.

Open - Sound which has height and "air", relates to clean upper midrange and treble.

Pace - Often assoc. with rhythm, a strong sense of timing and beat.

Presence - A sense of instrument and voice occupying a place in the listening room.

Presence Range - The upper midrange

Seismic - Very low bass that you feel rather than hear

Sibilance - An emphasis of the "S" sound, often heard on radio.

Snap - A system with good speed and transient response can deliver the immediacy or "snap" of live instruments.

Speed - A fast system with good pace gives the impression of being right on the money in its timing.

Sturdy - Solid, powerful, robust sound.

Thick - A lack of articulation and clarity in the bass

Thin - Bass light

Timbre - The tonal character of an instrument

Timing - A sense of precision in tempo.

Transient - The leading edge of a precussive sound. Good transient response makes the sound as a whole more live and realistic.

Transparency - A hear-through quality that is akin to clarity and reveals all aspects of detail.

Veiled - Loss of detail due to limited transparency.

Warm - A fullness in the lower midrange/upper bass.

Weight - A sense of substance and underpinning produced by deep, controlled bass.


And finally, Newbie - A person that usually don't understand the terms above and very likely to burn their pockets in the coming months.


Excuse typo and grammar. yes.gif

Edited by Northern Oak

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Excellent find Northern Oak. Now we can all 'tune' along the same lines. Was it Stereophile?

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That is even more detailed. I haven't heard many of the terms before compared with the above.

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wow........I did have a book calleed guide to high end audio by robert harley which describes the terms too.....but typing ahhhh unsure.gif


I guess northern oak's post is more than sufficient w00t.gif

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Guest Rudi

Nice list. Juicy is the only term I could not agree on, for me juicy means fat or evn perhaps too fat like actually phatt if you like it this way..


Seems like a gd place to introduce oneself ;)


Just saying hello, I am new here and I am blowed away by the resources you have gathered on these forums :study:

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