Sounds Like? An Audio Glossary Glossary: R-S


reaction A counterforce imparted to a speaker enclosure in response to the air resistance to the motion of a moving diaphragm or cone. On a thick carpet, a reacting enclosure will rock slightly back and forth, impairing LF quality and overall detail. See "spike."

realism A subjective assessment of the degree to which the sound from an audio system approaches that of live music. This has meaning only when the recording purports to reproduce an acoustical event taking place in a real acoustical space. See "quality."

recessed Very laid-back.

reflected sound A sound which reaches the ears after being reflected from at least one boundary surface. See "critical distance," "far field," "near field," "precedence effect." Compare "direct sound."

resolution See "definition."

reticent Moderately laid-back. Describes the sound of a system whose frequency response is dished-down through the midrange. The opposite of forward.

revealing Pertaining to a loudspeaker or a system as a whole: Outstandingly detailed and focused; analytical. Compare "pristine."

reverberation A diminishing series of echoes spaced sufficiently closely in time that they merge into a smooth decay.

rhythm See "timing."

ringing The audible effect of a resonance: coloration, smear, shrillness, or boominess.

rolloff (also rollout) A frequency response which falls gradually above or below a certain frequency limit. By comparison, the term cutoff (often abbreviated to "cut," as in "bass cut") implies an abrupt loss of level above or below the frequency limit.

rosinous (or resinous) Describes the "zizzy" quality of bowed strings, particularly of cellos or violas.

rotated The sound of a frequency response that is linear but tilted. See "tilt."

rough A quality of moderate grittiness, often caused by LP mistracking.

rounding, rounding-off The shearing-off of sharp attack transients, due to poor transient response or restricted HF range. See "slow," "speed."

row-A sound Sound which is up-front, forward.

row-M sound Sound which is laid-back, distant.

rumble An extraneous low-frequency noise, often of indeterminate pitch, caused by physical vibration of a turntable or of the room in which a recording was made.


scrape flutter Roughness and veiling of analog tape sound due to discontinuous movement of the tape across the head ("violining").

screechy The ultimate stridency, akin to chalk on a blackboard or a razor blade being scraped across a windowpane.

seamless Having no perceptible discontinuities throughout the audio range.

seismic Describes bass reproduction which creates an impression that the floor is shaking.

severe Very annoyingly audible. See "audibility."

sheen A rich-sounding overlay of velvety-smooth airiness or guttiness. A quality of outstanding HF smoothness and ease.

shift See "soundstage shift."

shrill Strident, steely.

sibilance A coloration that resembles or exaggerates the vocal s-sound.

silky Pertains to treble performance that is velvety-smooth, delicate, and open.

silvery Sound that is slightly hard or steely, but clean.

single-mono Sound reproduction through a single loudspeaker system. Compare "dual mono."

size See "width."

sizzly Emphasis of the frequency range above about 8kHz, which adds sibilance to all sounds, particularly those of cymbals and vocal esses (sibilants).

slam British for impact.

slap In an acoustical space, a repeated echo recurring at a rate of about 3 per second, common to moderate-sized, bare-walled acoustical spaces. See "hand-clap test." Compare "fluttery," "plastery."

slight Easily audible on a good system but not necessarily on a lesser one. See "audibility."

slow Sound reproduction which gives the impression that the system is lagging behind the electrical signals being fed to it. See "fast," "speed," "tracking."

sluggish Very slow.

smearing Severe lack of detail and focus.

smooth Sound reproduction having no irritating qualities; free from HF peaks, easy and relaxing to listen to. Effortless. Not necessarily a positive system attribute if accompanied by a slow, uninvolving character.

snap A quality of sound reproduction giving an impression of great speed and detail.

sock A quality of sound reproduction giving a sensation of concussive impact.

soft Very closed-in, markedly deficient at the extreme high end.

sodden, soggy Describes bass that is loose and ill-defined. Woolly.

solid-state sound That combination of sonic attributes common to most solid-state amplifying devices: deep, tight bass, a slightly withdrawn brightness range, and crisply detailed highs.

sonic detail See "detail."

soundstaging, soundstage presentation The accuracy with which a reproducing system conveys audible information about the size, shape, and acoustical characteristics of the original recording space and the placement of the performers within it.

soundstage shift Apparent lateral movement of the soundstage when listening from either side of the sweet spot.

spacious Presenting a broad panorama of ambience, which may be wider than the distance between the loudspeakers.

sparse Less cold than "pinched" but more than "thin."

spatiality The quality of spaciousness.

specific, specificity The degree to which a phantom image exhibits a definite and unambiguous lateral position, without wander or excessive width.

speed The apparent rapidity with which a reproducing system responds to steep wavefronts and overall musical pace. See "fast," "slow."

spike 1) The "tick" sound of a pulse. 2) A sharp-tipped, conical supporting foot which allows the weight of a loudspeaker to be passed through carpeting to rest firmly on the underlying floor. Used to minimize speaker-enclosure reaction.

spiky Pertains to a coarse texturing of sound characterized by the presence of many rapidly recurring sharp clicks. Like the sound of tearing cloth, only crisper.

spitty An edgy "ts" coloration which exaggerates musical overtones and sibilants as well as LP surface noise. Usually the result of a sharp response peak in the upper treble range.

spread See "stereo spread."

state-of-the-art Pertains to equipment whose performance is as good as the technology allows. The best sound equipment money can buy.

steely Shrill. Like "hard," but more so.

stentorian A quality of great power and authority from a loudspeaker; like the voice of God. Loud and attention-getting.

stereo imaging The production of stable, specific phantom images of correct localization and width. See "soundstaging," "vagueness," "wander."

Stereophile 1) The original magazine of subjective reviewing. 2) An audiophile who owns a stereo system.

stereophonic A two-channel recording or reproducing system. Compare "binaural," "monophonic." See "dual mono," "single mono."

stereo spread The apparent width of the soundstage and the placement of phantom images within it. Generally, a group of instruments or voices should uniformly occupy the space between the loudspeakers. Compare "beyond-the-speakers imaging," "bunching," "hole-in-the-middle."

stereo stage The area between and behind the loudspeakers, from which most phantom images are heard.

sterile Pristinely clean but uninvolving.

strained Showing signs of audible distress during loud passages, as though the system is verging on overload. Compare "ease," "effortless."

strident Unpleasantly shrill, piercing.

sub-bass Infrasonic bass.

subjectivist A person who has found that measurements don't tell the whole story about reproduced sound. Compare "mystic," "meter man," "objectivist."

subliminal Too faint or too subtle to be consciously perceived. Compare "inaudible." See "listening fatigue."

subsonic Slower than the speed of sound through air. Often used incorrectly to mean infrasonic.

subtle Barely perceptible on a very good system. See "audibility."

suckout A deep, narrow frequency-response dip.

supersonic Faster than the speed of sound through air. Sometimes used incorrectly to mean ultrasonic.

sweet Having a smooth, softly delicate high end.

sweet spot That listening seat from which the best soundstage presentation is heard. Usually a center seat equidistant from the loudspeakers.

syrupy Excessively sweet and rich, like maple syrup.

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