Audio Terms, Audio Descriptors

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An audio tester said he once received a request from the audience to have a “rich” sound like the live band he used to hear. Does he use “rich” as a compliment? Meanwhile, reviewers sometimes use that word to refer to the poor quality of a set of speakers.

This expert got to know what the audience meant. Turns out, he meant it was a full sound with lots of deep basses. He pointed out that even if performance or a recording has these characteristics, good speakers can reproduce them almost as well. Still, the word “rich” should not be used because it can become an idea to enhance the bass sound color, good for this type of music but not good for other music. Words like “rich,” “ripe,” or “chesty” are used to refer to speakers that place too much emphasis on high bass, making the bass sound unnatural.

Therefore, the audiophile world needs a common voice with a standard glossary.

Airy: The instruments sound like they’re surrounded by a vast atmosphere. Good reproduction of high frequencies. Extended high-frequency response to 15 – 20 kHz.

Bassy: Low frequencies below 200 Hz are emphasized.

Blanketed: The highs are weak, sounding like a blanket over the speakers, not letting the sound out.

Bloated: Mid-range bass, about 250 Hz. Low frequencies are not broken; there is resonance; it sounds like you are singing in a jar.

Blurred: The fast response is very poor, the stereo image is blurry, out of focus, the sound does not sound out in detail.

Boomy: The bass is about 125 Hz. No fracture, resonance phenomenon.

Boxy: There is resonance as if the music is trapped in a box.

Breathy: can be heard clearly with flute and saxophone. Good response at high and mid-high frequencies.

Bright: Emphasis on high frequencies.

Chesty: It sounds like the singer has a big chest. There is a spike in the low-frequency response from 125 – 250 Hz.

Clear: Clear, clear sound.

Colored: Unreal, unnatural. The frequency response is not flat; there are many peaks and pits.

Crisp: Extended high-frequency response.

Dark: Opposite of Clear. Weak high frequency.

Depth: Sense of distance (near to far) of different instruments.

Detailed: Easy to hear the small details in the music. Full high-frequency response, fast response, very crisp, sharp.

Dull: Same as Dark.

Edgy: Too many high frequencies. Distorted.

Fat: Watch Full and Warm. A bit late and distorted.

Full: Good low-frequency response. The male voice is full, around 125 Hz. Opposite of Thin.

Gentle: Opposite of Edgy. High and mid-high frequencies can be weak.

Grainy: Music sounds like it’s split into many small parts rather than “flowing” as smoothly as a continuous stream.

Hard: Too many high mids, usually around 3 kHz.

Harsh: Too many high mids. A peak in frequency response from 2-6 kHz.

Muddy: The sound is not clear, distorted.

Muffled: The sound also sounds like being covered with a blanket. High frequencies and high mids are weak.

Rich: There is distortion.

Smooth: Easy to listen to.

Sweet: Sweet, not harsh, glare. The frequency response has no peaks. Little distortion.

Tight: Detailed, solid, good low-frequency response.

Transparent: Easy to hear, detailed, clear, with very little distortion and noise.

Warm: Good bass, not thin.

Weighty: Good low-frequency response below 50 Hz.


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