Sounds Like? An Audio Glossary Glossary: B-C


balance 1) The subjective relationship between the relative loudness of the upper and lower halves of the audio spectrum; "tonal balance." 2) The relative loudness of the instruments in a performing group. 3) Equality of signal level between the left and right stereo channels, which centers the soundstage and allows mono program material to image at the center. Also called channel balance.

ballsy Describes a system which is stentorian, punchy, and visceral.

banger A very loud LP surface-noise pop.

bass The range of frequencies below 160Hz, characterized by low pitch.

beyond-the-speakers imaging The placement of phantom images or spatial (stage boundary) information beyond the positional limits of the loudspeakers.

billowing, billowy Excessively reverberant.

binaural Literally hearing with "two ears," refers to a recording/playback system which presents the listener's ears with the acoustic waveforms they would have received at the original event. Only currently achievable with a "dummy-head" microphone and playback via headphones.

bloated 1) When describing a phantom image: excessively wide. 2) When describing sound in general: overly rich, warm, and reverberant.

bloom A quality of expansive richness and warmth, like the live body sound of a cello.

body A quality of roundness and robustness in reproduced sound. "Gutsiness."

body sound Of a musical instrument: the characteristic sound of the material of which the instrument is made, due to resonances of that material. The wooden quality of a viola, the "signature" by which a brass flute is distinguishable from a wooden or platinum one.

boomy Characterized by pronounced exaggeration of the midbass and, often, dominance of a narrow range of bass frequencies. ("One-note bass.")

boxy 1) Characterized by an "oh" vowel coloration, as when speaking with one's head inside a box. 2) Used to describe the upper-bass/lower-midrange sound of a loudspeaker with excessive cabinet-wall resonances.

breakup The sound of severe analog-disc mistracking.

breathing From a dynamic noise-reduction system: audible changes in the level of background hiss in accordance with changes in signal volume. See "pumping."

bright, brilliant The most often misused terms in audio, these describe the degree to which reproduced sound has a hard, crisp edge to it. Brightness relates to the energy content in the 4kHz-8kHz band. It is not related to output in the extreme-high-frequency range. All live sound has brightness; it is a problem only when it is excessive.

bunching 1) In double-mono repro~duction, the imaging of all sounds from a small area between the loudspeakers. Tight (narrow) bunching in A+B mode is essential for good imaging specificity in stereo. 2) In stereo reproduction, excessive center fill with inadequate spread. Compare with stereo spread.

buzz A low-frequency sound having a spiky or fuzzy character.

bypass test Directly comparing the output signal from a device with the input signal being fed to it, by putting the device into and then out of the signal path and observing the difference.


center fill Correct image placement between the loudspeakers of sound sources which were originally located at or near center-stage. See "localization," "stereo spread."

center stage That part of the soundstage that is midway between the loudspeakers.

chalky Describes a texturing of sound that is finer than grainy but coarser than dry. See "texture."

characteristic One of the basic constituents of reproduced sound, which contributes to its perceived quality. Frequency response, loudness, extension, soundstaging, and resolution are sonic characteristics.

chesty A pronounced thickness or heaviness from reproduced male voice, due to excessive energy in the upper bass or lower midrange.

chocolatey Like "syrupy," but darker and more full-bodied.

circularity The paradox of subjectivity: "You can't judge a recording without reproducing it, and you can't judge a reproducer without listening to a recording."

clean Free from audible distortion.

click A small, sharp impulse that sounds like the word "click."

clinical Sound that is pristinely clean but wholly uninvolving.

closed-in Lacking in openness, delicacy, air, and fine detail. A closed-in sound is usually caused by HF rolloff above 10kHz. Compare with "open," "airy."

coarse A large-grained texturing of reproduced sound; very gritty. The continuum of reproduced sound seems to be comprised of large particles. See "texture."

cocktail-party effect The auditory system's controllable ability to separate-out, on the basis of direction alone, one sound source from many coming from different directions. It allows you to follow one voice among the others at a noisy cocktail party.

cognitive dissonance A conflict between observations, as when a sound has the timbre of a close listening seat but the perspective of a distant one.

coherent 1) Pertaining to a multi-way loudspeaker's sound: seamless from top to bottom; showing no audible evidence of a crossover or of different driver colorations in different frequency ranges. 2) Pertaining to the soundstage: Phantom imaging that reproduces within the stereo stage the original lateral positions of the performers. See "bunching," "hole-in-the-middle."

cold The same as "cool," only more so. Having somewhat excessive upper-range output and weak lower-range output.

coloration An audible "signature" with which a reproducing system imbues all signals passing through it.

comb filtering A hollow coloration that, once recognized, is unmistakable. Caused by a regularly spaced series of frequency-response peaks and dips, most often due to interference between two identical signals spaced in time. If that time difference is continually changed, the comb-filter peaks and dips move accordingly, giving rise to the familiar "phasing," "flanging," or "jet plane" effect used in modern rock music.

congested Smeared, confused, muddy, and flat. Totally devoid of transparency.

consonant Agreeable to the ear; pleasant-sounding. Compare "dissonant."

conspicuous Very audible. See "audibility."

continuity 1) Of the soundstage: the reproduction of the original lateral positions of the stereo images. See "bunching," "hole-in-the-middle," "stereo spread." 2) Of a multi-way loudspeaker: uniformity of coloration from the operating range of one driver to that of the other(s).

control The extent to which a loudspeaker sounds as if it is "tracking" the signal being fed to it. The sound is tight, detailed, and focused. See "damping."

cool Moderately deficient in body and warmth, due to progressive attenuation of frequencies below about 150Hz.

crackle Intermittent medium-sized clicks. The usual background noise from much-played vinyl discs.

crisp In reproduced sound: sharply focused and detailed, sometimes excessively so because of a peak in the mid-treble region.

cupped-hands A coloration reminiscent of someone speaking through cupped hands or, if extreme, a megaphone.