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  • Audio Jargon

    I wanted to share something that Christian just posted and something that I have had strong feelings about for over 20 years since Jack English and I discussed the subject.

    08-16-2017, 01:01 AM
    Just not a term I use to describe the sound quality of music...too subjective like most audiophile review word jargon. Reviewers have a tough job putting those words into meaningful context that readers can understand and relate too when listening to music through stereo systems...just my jaded opinion of course...:wink:
    Are we shooting ourselves in the foot with trying to attract new people into the industry with our ever increasing use of new terminology and complexity to describe the sound of audio? I know I have shared reviews with my wife or even clients with a passing interest in audio and/or music and almost always get a that's nice and interesting but don't understand a lot of the terms. Do we need to change our reviewing style? Do we need to simplify things.

    I know that I started this sub forum so we could all be on the same page when describing the sound of our audio equipment. But am I worrying about the wrong people? Should we be more interested in people just coming to the hobby or interested outsiders?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
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    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
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    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
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    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
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  • #2
    In the end, I don't know if it really matters what adjectives we use to describe the sound we hear. Even people who claim to be died in the wool hardcore audiophiles don't agree on all the words used in the audiophile vocabulary. If you are trying to attract new people into this hobby, they probably aren't going to understand most of the words we throw around to describe the sound of components. I somehow doubt that audiophiles will ever be "all on the same page" because we so seldom agree on anything.

    And never mind the words we use to describe the sound with regards to newcomers into the hobby, the most important thing that newcomers have to decide is which audio tribe they are going to join. And man do we have lots of tribes to join. And each tribe is broken into sub-tribes which further complicates things for newbies. So maybe you need to decide which tribe you are talking to and adjust your language accordingly.
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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    • #3
      When discussing audio terminology, I relate to Kate Bush's album titled "50 Words For Snow". It should be obvious that terminology is determined by context. If you lived your life in the arctic, snow is not just white. We music lovers/audio enthusiasts live or lives with a more focussed interest in "sound". We hear (see) the fifty words for sound.
      Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
      Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
      Analog 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable w/ 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Silver Cube Phono Preamp
      Analog 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable w/ 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
      Analog 3: Studer A810 R2R tape w/ Bridge Console. Using built-in tape preamp
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      • #4
        Almost by definition, jargon is for insiders, people already in the know. It can't be expected for newcomers to know or understand what the terms mean or how they are used. The tough part becomes how to make it either interesting enough to encourage newcomers to learn, or to find more commonly understandable terms to describe the things we use audio jargon for instead.
        Steve Lefkowicz
        Senior Associate Editor at Positive Feedback
        -
        Analog 1: Linn LP12 (MOSE/Hercules II), Ittok, Dynavector 10X5 MK.II Low, iPhono2/iPowerX; Analog 2: Pro-Ject RPM-1 Carbon, Talisman S, iFi iPhono.
        Digital: Samsung 300E5C notebook, JRiver Media Center 28, Tidal HiFi, Qobuz Studio), iFi NEO iDSD, iFi iUSB3, iPurifier2, Audioquest Jitterbug.
        Electronics: DIY passive line-stage, Antique Sound Labs MG-SI15DT-S, Burson Timekeeper Virtuoso
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        Speaker cables: WyWyres Diamond, Morrow Audio SP4, Vermouth Audio Red Velvet, Audioquest Type 5
        Digital cables: Aural Symphonics USB, iFi Gemini twin-head USB.
        Accessories: Sound Organization turntable shelf, Mondo racks, Pangea Audio Vulcan rack, Pi Audio Group Über BUSS, Monster HTS2000 power conditioner, Kinetronics anti-static brush, Pro-Ject VC-S record cleaner, Spin Clean record cleaner.
        Headphones: Schiit Valhalla amp, Burson Conductor Virtuoso Amp, Meze Audio 99 Classic and 99 Neo, Beyerdynamic DT770Pro 600 ohm, DT770 Studio 80 ohm, 1More Triple Driver Over Ear, 1More Triple Driver IEM

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        • #5
          Thanks Myles for drilling down on this subject....
          It seems to me that more objective, simpler descriptors might help attract more into the hobby. I would imagine someone not in to hi end audio reads a review and their head is spinning not understanding many of the terms used to describe how the equipment sounds compared to similar competitive products.
          Christian
          System Gear

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          • #6
            Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
            I wanted to share something that Christian just posted and something that I have had strong feelings about for over 20 years since Jack English and I discussed the subject.

            08-16-2017, 01:01 AM
            Just not a term I use to describe the sound quality of music...too subjective like most audiophile review word jargon. Reviewers have a tough job putting those words into meaningful context that readers can understand and relate too when listening to music through stereo systems...just my jaded opinion of course...:wink:
            Are we shooting ourselves in the foot with trying to attract new people into the industry with our ever increasing use of new terminology and complexity to describe the sound of audio? I know I have shared reviews with my wife or even clients with a passing interest in audio and/or music and almost always get a that's nice and interesting but don't understand a lot of the terms. Do we need to change our reviewing style? Do we need to simplify things.

            I know that I started this sub forum so we could all be on the same page when describing the sound of our audio equipment. But am I worrying about the wrong people? Should we be more interested in people just coming to the hobby or interested outsiders?
            Funny that the forum software doesn't carry over a quote inside a quoted message in a preview. When I saw that, I added Christian's quote manually and it still doesn't show in the preview but it did in the published version Anyway...

            1. Do other hobbies dumb down their vocabulary for the sake of those who do not understand it? Should there be a section in magazines or e-zines for "beginner reviews." Should we warn newbies "No you probably want to avoid Roy Gregory or Martin Collums until you've been at it for a while." I grant you I still don't understand half of what John Atkinson writes (even outside the technical section) - so many words to cross out to reach a declarative statement, but .... if I'm interested in the product, I'll still read him.

            2. Do you want to read reviews at a level to what you'll find in audio forums, just (hopefully) with better grammar, punctuation and spelling? (Paragraphs are visual gestalts as well as conceptual poles - you know who you are.) The democratization of reviews that came with the internet meant that, just like a guy with a truck and a decal can be a contactor, anybody with a hosting service and an html editor can give it a go.

            I agree that formal/published reviewers don't always use terminology the same as their peers but in theory reviewers are internally self-consistent and have thought about the meaning of the terms they use.

            3. Is the purpose of a review to attract the uninformed?

            4. There are reviews, reviewers, and publications that already operate at differing levels of erudition. They don't label themselves as such, but it becomes obvious in short order. It didn't take me long to grasp that Audio and The Absolute Sound were on different planes.

            5. Part of participating in a hobby and enjoying it is learning new terminology, the guild-speak if like. While I don't require my doctor to have a BA in Latin, I expect him to use the "scholarly" language of physiology and medicine rather than the language of a TV commercial.

            6. Three-quarters of the battle for newbies is learning to trust what they hear with their own ears, but that requires a vocabulary sufficient to discriminate a soundstage from a saxophone from a melody. The fact that this doesn't happen overnight is not a reason for throwing out the vocabulary and taking up with slop words like "musical" or "slam." Yes, you actually do have to work at it. Or there are plenty of - pardon me for this - plenty of dealers who will set you up over the phone. "But I just want to listen to music." Maybe you'll be happy with a radio. Sure, you don't need to know the infield fly rule to enjoy baseball, but if you're into it and listen to enough broadcasts and go to enough games, you'll run across it eventually and probably appreciate it for what it is for understanding the game, even if you think its crazy.

            7. I think its fine to go outside the audiophile vocabularly if you can do it and generate a level of understanding roughly equal to those who do know how to use it. I struggle with this all the time. How can I describe what I hear in a way that conveys what I hear. Writing about sound is difficult really difficult. I have a theory that we spend so much time with soundstage and dimensionality because we often use visual words for that and at a certain level visual stuff comes easier for us.

            Non-visual stuff and psychoacoustic palaver is harder to get across partly because we can't point at it. But that does not mean we can't offer ostensive definitions. A good review should offer an example of what its talking about - a track of music with as much specification as possible - "the transients of the high-hat work right after the line of sha-do-bees." That way the newbie or anybody else can play that track to see if they hear or "get" what the review describes. Most reviewers, me too, can do a much better job of this. And for crying out loud - don't be like Valin and use an unobtainable or pre-release recording that nobody can access - use something reasonably obtainable and/or well known - KOB or Scheherarazade or Maxwells Silver Hammer - you get the idea. *

            I'll wind this down... We don't need to race to the bottom with the audiophile vocabulary. Everybody is in favor of clear, objective language, but again its not so easy. If you think you have it - take some lines out of a review that you think would be off-putting to a new comer and re-write them in your clear objective language and post some before-and-after examples here so we can learn from them. I'm sure I've said enough to irritate just about everyone. /rant off

            ----------------------------
            * cant remember the piece of gear but here's kind of an example: "
            side 2 of Graceland. "I listen for the syncopation of the drums and accordion during the funky, quick-time Zydeco riff at the start of "That Was Your Mother"; the subtle differences in ambience during the Ronstadt-Simon duet on "Under African Skies" that tell me each sang from his and her own booth; the speaker-to-speaker arc laid out by Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Simon singing "Homeless" a cappella -- a performance flecked with subtle throat and lip chirrups and trills; the background strumming of acoustic guitars from Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas as they double Simon on "The Myth of Fingerprints." "






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            • #7
              Pretty good post there, Tima.
              Writing about music is still a form of scholarship, literature or journalism. It is no substitute for hearing the sounds and illustrating the differences. You are crossing the boundaries from one medium to another. (The reason why Dr. McCoy would never go through the transporter on Star Trek).
              Writing about music-making gear has certain objective facts and other information that ought to be covered- what it is, how it works (including any features) what it costs and how it sounds.[1] It's the latter that seems to be the hang up.
              Sometimes, the easiest way to convey a sensory impression is to make a comparison.
              Jargon is not exactly the same as "terms of art," for example, in the legal or medical professions, in science or technology, certain words have very specific meanings. They are a short hand way of describing something known to others schooled in the field. I don't think "jargon" in audio journalism, and specifically in the context of how a piece of gear sounds, has one meaning. Adding more words doesn't always make it clearer, either.
              There are certain conventions to different types of writing. Most legal and technical writing is straightjacketed. I try to teach my students to avoid sounding like lawyers while teaching them a substantive area of the law-(I don't teach legal writing, but much of it is wretched and even worse when a young lawyer in training is trying to imitate a lawyer).
              Concision is an attribute.
              Making the complex simple to understand is a gift.
              And good writing- forget the subject matter- is damn hard.
              Fremer said, not without controversy a few years ago, that audio reviewing was "informed entertainment." I initially thought he was diminishing what he does, but after thinking about it (I could have said "on further reflection," but that sounds stilted), he is probably right. "Informed" is obviously essential. "Entertainment" probably is too- not in the clown nose, slap-stick variety show sense, but simply to keep readers engaged.
              There are some reviews and reviewer 'styles' that seem to meander, to use an awful lot of words, and sometimes, I get lost. (I used to have this problem with the Village Voice- I'd read an article there and be mystified about what I just read). Ditto a lot of what passes for "news and information" today doesn't observe the basics- it refers to people by last name that are never identified earlier in the article, or creates such a confusing jumble that I have to find another source to get the information.
              Reading should be a thing of joy.
              Reading about something you care about should be even more enjoyable at the same time it informs. I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. The jargon is almost the least of it as far as I'm concerned. Sometimes, the jargon is simply an easy substitute for less gifted writing. How many veils can one lift?
              That's a rhetorical question.
              _____________________________
              1. I realized that, as originally written, I was suggesting that 'how it sounds' is an objective issue. Although it is anything but, aren't there some things about how a piece of gear sounds that are arguably objective (and I'm not talking about measurements). For example, what if the piece in question sounds bright on the top end-- yes that 'seems' like a subjective opinion, may be gear/cable/system/room and source material dependent but what if it is, in fact, bright on the top end, proved through measurements, repeated evaluations reaching the same conclusion by different reviewers on different systems and say, an admission by the designer that he/she made it so. Is that then still just a subjective impression supported by objective evidence?
              Last edited by Bill Hart; 09-19-2017, 01:06 AM. Reason: I like footnotes; self-explanatory.

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