Audiophile jargon explained

August 9, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

16 comments on “Audiophile jargon explained”

  1. Like any hobby, field, business or discipline, each has it’s own jargon.
    If you are drawn, interested or passionate within any of the above, you will, as a matter of course, familiarise yourself with said (the appropriate) jargon.
    Your willingness, & the speed with which you learn the appropriate jargon, is directly proportional to your level of interest in said hobby, field, business or discipline.

  2. We inevitably have to be somewhat creative to be able to describe a subjective experience in terms that others will understand. This is very much true in a field like wine, where we might say that a wine has flavours of tropical fruit or gooseberries, or earthy tones. Nobody in their right mind is going to put earth/dirt in a wine, certainly not a Californian or Australian one, and no pineapples or gooseberries will have been harmed in the creation of the wine.

    The terms that Paul describes are useful in defining the subjective experience. A hologram is created by capturing the interference pattern between an image and a reference wave and reconstructed by illuminating the captured pattern by the reference wave. There is no way that audio is literally holographic, but we accept the term as denoting vivid 3D sound imaging.

    It’s a mistake to interpret the subjective description as relating directly to the engineering of the system, in the same way that we don’t actually look for gooseberries in the wine. A case in point is “fast bass”; we’ve heard the sound, and admired the systems that create it, but there is actually nothing fast about the bass end of the spectrum, and the normal laws of physics and engineering apply. The description doesn’t help us design the system.

    1. Yes, I second that! Well explained Mark (and Paul McG as well).

      Another important concept that we sometimes attempt to explain with a word is ‘blackness’ (there are probably some variations which don’t immediately come to mind).

      I think I’ve experienced an improvement in ‘blackness’ with my system. My description of the phenomenon is the startling aural void that you can sometimes sense between musical notes. Those palpable moments of silence between sounds that feel like deep and wide chasms of aural darkness that enhance the overall sensation of ‘being there’.

      What’s seems to be happening technically, as it’s been explained to my satisfaction by some whose opinion I trust, is a reduction in the level of background noise, the so-called noise floor, to near subliminal levels. This can be manifested by other subtle acoustic characteristics of performers or venue.

  3. I have a problem, not with the terminology, but with the implication that the terms identify and replicate the live listening experience. “Soundstaging” in particular is a complete misnomer. As applied to a hifi system, it has virtually nothing to do with a live musical event. What it might reveal is how the recording engineer staged the use of recording booths, layered multi tracks, panned tracks, etc. But putting the listener in front of an actual orchestra or even a small jazz combo in a club? Nonsense. The interplay of musicians in real life, the decay of individual instruments, the envelopment of the room, the cues from living human beings around the listener, combine in a live experience in ways that cannot be recorded by microphones. At best, in recordings by master engineers, what a really high end system can do with some success, is tell us what the microphones heard, not what a human being actually experienced.

    1. ‘Soundstaging’, to me, is the ability for me to hear the separately defined positions of the musicians & their instruments within the reconstructed music presented in front of me by my home audio set-up & this includes ‘hearing’ the drummer performing behind the other musicians.

    1. Secretguy: My view is that pace, rhythm and timing is the audiophile’s attempt to describe the subjective experience of listening to a stereo system with particular qualities. I don’t question that the listener is hearing something, but at the same time we do know that the good qualities of the auditioned system are not really the result of accurate timing.

      I was listening to the famous bass player Leland Sklar on my phone. He was playing along with one of his (many) classic tracks and I thought that his timing was surprisingly poor. He’s amazing, so I imagined that he had a problem with his recording method. When I swapped to full range reproduction over decent speakers it was perfect. I guess that the missing low bass not reproduced by the phone was somehow making the rest of the performance appear to be less good than it really was.

      1. Good afternoon Mark!
        Both of your comments, makes perfect sense.
        Here is why I say this. A recording is as good as the producer that produced it.
        Most high end systems don’t have a problem reproducing what the microphones picked up.
        But that is a very grate feet for cheaper systems to pull off.
        Now, lets take a look at the sound systems that’s built in to every cellphone in the world.
        Those systems are always gonna fall short of what a good pare of speakers can deliver to your ears.
        The problem with the sound, falls on just the loud speakers that are built in to the phones in the first place.
        In 2013, when they first came out, I heard one of the HTC1 phones that had the Beats by Dr. Dray system built in to it.
        It was said that they were suppose to deliver true hifi sound.
        But if you asked me, I didn’t hear that.
        For one thing, those tiny little speakers were too close together.
        Perhaps the sound was in stereo.
        But stand about 5 inches or more away from the phone, the sound will reach your ears in mono.
        Bass? deep sound staging?
        What was that with that HTC1 phone?
        You either had to connect it to a larger sound system either via Bluetooth, or a 1 8th inch to RCA stereo adapter cable.
        Then and only then, you got the true hifi sound from that phone.

      2. MT,
        I thought that ‘3D holographic soundstaging’ & ‘pinpoint imaging’ from a home audio set-up was just an audiophile’s dream (load of crap); until I heard it for myself back in 1993.

  4. Soundstage and Holography ? On my stereo I get a great sense of this if I sit in the sweet-spot. But at my buddy’s I can get up and move around the group and Still have a holo. This blew my mind.

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