Audiophile lexicon

June 13, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

Every special interest, hobby, or endeavor has its own words. Stamp collectors covet their “prexies,” “speedies” and “Zepps” and coin collectors, their “cuds,” “red books” and “wire rims.”

What seems obvious to us are about as clear as mud to others. I mean, “prexies,” “speedies” and “Zepps” are likely as mysterious as “transparency”, “sweet spot”, and “slam”.

Over the years, I have come to realize that enticing into the fold would-be audiophiles with the promise of hearing for the first time an extended soundstage, or uncovering levels of inner details is as likely to be successful to a philatelist as their promise of showing me their prized frama.

If you’re reading this post you’re likely already immersed in the lexicon of high-end audio, so we’re all speaking the same language.

I just wouldn’t be surprised if you get a few scrunched eyebrows the next time you use a term like “veiled” or “hooded” to describe what you hear.

Most people aren’t going to be in the sweet spot of understanding our language.

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30 comments on “Audiophile lexicon”

  1. I was a keen philatelist in high school & I have no idea what drew me to that hobby.
    I can’t even say that I got into it because of some girl that I really fancied.
    I guess that I was just young & bored, because as soon as I graduated I sold the lot off & put every cent towards building my home audio set-up.
    (18 doesn’t seem a lifetime ago; it IS a lifetime ago)
    Numismatics never interested me.

    Language is always interesting; the way people communicate.
    Best example, for me, is when 2, or 3, audio-nuts are sitting in & around the sweet-spot, listening intently, & a specific aural event happens & all 3 of you, without saying a word, just look at each other knowingly…now THAT’s communication 🙂

    ‘Etched sound’?…anyone? 😉

    **Cricket Steven**
    Jolly good sir!
    I’m chuffed to read that you & your young men have
    a game to engage your senses in (thumbs up emoji)

    1. Waiting for us to lose in the next hour or so, but a good crowd and an historic curry last night. (See photography in the forum).

      Cricket of course has the most bizarre language understood only by the 2 billion or so lovers of the game.

      1. I have no idea why Gazza gets called the GOAT, when it should be Muralitharan.
        How’s Ben Stokes’ hand?
        He should break the other one to keep some balance at the pub 🙂

        1. His hand is fine. Was seen batting and bowling in the nets last week. Won’t save us from the Indians. I agree on Murali. Best stat: 67 5’fers. Warne next on 37.

        1. “Curry” is used as a generic term for sub-continental food. Having travelled and eaten in various areas from Kashmir in the north to Sri Lanka in the south, Pakistan in the west to Bhutan in the east, it is so varied to give it one name is almost an insult, but it’s convenient.
          “Historic” was introduced to the restaurant lexicon by Michael Winner, the film producer and Sunday Times restaurant critic for some 40 years. It is a rarely used compliment. Birmingham is half Asian, so the curry competition is tough, but the Viceroy Tandoori gets a perfect 5.0 on Tripasdvisor and well deserves it. The food is as good as it looks.

          1. Being in the U.K. I ‘got it’ but Paul’s comment highlights the difficulty with some translations.

            I can speak three foreign languages, American, Canadian and Australian, but not fluently 😉

            Good old Michael Winner, what a character.

        2. Paul next time you are in England ask for Vindaloo curry. Charming word.
          That is what I did as a young visitor.
          I have a historic memory of it.

  2. My two favorite topics here – music and language! But this post has me pondering the life cycles of my hobbies more than the linguistics. Personally, my audiophile interest and engagement is strongest in the winter months when it’s too cold and nasty to enjoy the outdoors. While I enjoy music year round, my engagement with the gear is more seasonal. I live in Lexington KY where we have four seasons. Its a nice place to live. The Lexipros far outweigh the Lexicons. 😉

      1. all good FR! Just been super busy with work and two teenagers!!! one of which just got her drivers license. So instead of upgrading speakers, I’m helping buy a car that will soon be scratched and dented, lol! Still DJ’ing but not as much. I’m searching for an upscale venue to play for adults that dont request top 40 crap and rap, ugh!

    1. B-o-b you have delights ahead. Lexicon Valley podcast looks at language and its vagaries.
      In a presentation style that we wish our lecturers possessed. Plus he is passionate about his show musicals.

      “Passionate” is so degraded now.
      My supermarket is passionate about saving the planet by not selling drinking straws.

  3. Possibly off topic but something that makes me crazy which isn’t too hard to do. Not sure why people use the term hobby when it comes to being an audiophile so I did some digging online just now and came up with thiis:

    https://medium.com/@danit712/hobby-vs-passion-defbcea864e9

    I think the word hobby trivializes the love of music through audio equipment.

    When it comes to audio lexicon, I am starting to use the term soundfield instead of soundstage more often. Either term seems fine but something about soundfield reaches deeper down into my being. It’s not even a valid spelling but an audio designer that I admire very much has used it and I decided it may be more appropriate.

    I also think slight differences in terminology in conversation are easily understood by audiophiles.

    1. Hi stimpy2,
      May I suggest that there are 2 parts…
      1/ the music &
      2/ the audio gear
      & that it’s the audio gear (part) that is the hobby.

      1. Not to me FR. Audio equipment has been my passion as well as loving music is my passion. I’m only speaking for myself but I believe I am not alone. Same thing with photography, cooking, wine, constructing fighter kites fast sports cars and I could probably think of many other passions I have that involve physical property. For over 22 years, I owned for holistic pet supplies stores and they were my passion. Not only to help animal lovers and there animal companions but to find a long and less harmful products. It was my passion to do this to help my customers help their animals to Have a longer and happier life. Finding those products was my passion and creating a few was also my passion. I think the word hobby trivializes Passions like audio. What children love to do versus what adults love is what I feel is the difference

    2. I agree with you Stimpy. Definitely different words for a reason. Music for me is a year round passion. I play music as a musician. I entertain people with music as a DJ. I dance to music as a free spirit. And yes, I listen to music as an audiophile. But when it comes to the gear, I tinker, tweak and trade as a hobbyist. I could never claim the technical aspect as a passion amongst the company of Paul and his team at PSA who devote their lives to study, design, engineering, testing, and manufacturing.

  4. There is a big difference between the terms used by the stamp collectors and coin collectors and the terms used by audiophiles. The terms used by the former are words which are made up and do not mean anything except to the users. The terms used by audiophiles are well understood and easily remembered being commonly used words, with a little explanation. Now if audiophiles used words like zing, ping and ting it would be a problem. Regards.

    1. In that case the deduction must be that I’ve got a problem, I use them all the time 😉
      Ama-zing, the feeling I get when listening to music, well reproduced.
      Am-ping and dam-ping, essential for the above.
      Finally ting, used on its own, only this afternoon. I was engaging in what you might call evaluation listening and I used it to describe the extended reverb of the jingles on a tambourine as they gently decay, specifically on MCC’s ‘Late for your life’.
      I’m sure there’s a better word. Anyone got any suggestions?

        1. Ha. That word has crossed my mind a few times (look what you started) but not this time. Why not though, it’s a great word with a certain hidden mystique about it 🙂

  5. What many of those who write about high end audio don’t seem to understand, is that even among those of us who love the sound of music on a high end system, many of the terms that are commonly used remain utterly obscure. I subscribe to Stereophile and The Absolute Sound and have for many years and still often find myself wondering, “What did that mean?”

  6. I believe that you have to have a clear mind whilst listening to your high-end system and not worry about any other things.
    That said, electric car drivers (Paul) might have range anxiety but what about listeners do they have tube life anxiety, cartridge life anxiety, breakdown anxiety?
    Ooop I’ve now made everyone here neurotic – damn you AllanG 🙂

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