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Audio Glossary and Definitions

Audio Glossary & Definitions

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A-B Test:
A test by which an observor subjectively compares the performance of two components of the same type; for example, a test between two different speakers. For the test to be scientifically valid, the inputs, levels, and listening conditions should be matched.

ABX Comparator: A device that randomly selects between two components being tested. The listener doesn't know which device is selected.

Alternating Current

Acoustic Coupling:
The interaction between two or more speakers stacked together in a PA system which may produce a sound different to (and often better than) the sound produced by the individual speakers.

Acoustic Feedback: A phenomenon where the sound from a loudspeaker is picked up by the microphone or other transducer, like a phono cartridge feeding it, and re-amplifys it through the same loudspeaker only to return to the same microphone to be re-amplified again, etc.. Each time the signal becomes larger until the system runs away and rings, or feeds back on itself producing the characteristic scream or squeal found in sound (mostly, PA) systems. These buildups often occur at particular frequencies called feedback frequencies.

The area of study which deals with the behaviour of sound. Also the effect a given environment has on sound.

Acoustic Suspension:
A type of speaker enclosure that is completely sealed with no port or other device to let air inside the enclosure flow outside the enclosure.

Active Crossover:
Uses electronics supplied with a power source and acting on the sound to shift sound reproduction tasks from one speaker driver to another.

Short for Audio Interchange File Format, a common format for storing and transmitting sampled sound, developed by Apple Computer and the standard audio format for Macintosh computers. Files are 8-bit mono or stereo and generally end with a .AIF or .IEF extension. Normal AIFF does not support data compression so files tend to be large, but another format called AIIF-Compressed (AIFF-C or AIFC) does support compression.

Aliasing: - See "Digital Aliasing"

AM: Amplitude Modulation - A method by which information, usually speech, is mixed with a radio frequency carrier signal to modulate that carrier with the audio information. Used in medium wave, short wave broadcasts as well as in amateur radio, citizens band radio and non licensed communications services.

Ambience: The subjective quality of a space; the feel of the space achieved through a mixture of all elements and characteristics affecting the space.

Abbreviation for ampere, the unit of electrical current. Also an abbreviation for amplifier.

Unit of electrical current.

A device which increases or boosts the level of an input signal by increasing its amplitude.
Amplifier, Power: An amplifier without tone controls, usually with a higher power output than a line amplifier or pre-amp. Commonly used to drive loudspeakers.

Amplification Classes: All sound is a sinosoidial waveform. It has alternating peaks and valleys. The center point of each wave is the zero, or switching point that separates the positive (top) from the negative (bottom) portion of each wave.

  • Class A: When a tube or transistor amplifier operates in Class A, the output tubes or transistors amplify the entire waveform without splitting it into positive and negative halves.

  • Class B: Class B amplifiers have their tube control-grids or transistor bases biased near plate- or collector-current cutoff, causing plate- or collector-current to flow only during approximately 180 degrees of each RF cycle. That causes the DC-source-power to RF-output-power efficiency to be much higher than with Class A amplifiers, but at the cost of severe output cycle waveform distortion. That waveform distortion is greatly reduced in practical designs by using relatively high-Q resonant output "tank" circuits to reconstruct full RF cycles.

  • Class AB: In Class AB, used in the overwhelming majority of amplifier designs, the signal is split into two halves, positive and negative, and each half is sent to a tube or transistor circuit for amplification. Both sides work in tandem, and the two halves are recombined at the output section to reconstruct the whole signal. This technique increases the amount of power that can be applied, but increases distortion. Class A amps usually provide lower, often imperceptable distortion, but at the expense of reduced power output.

  • Class C: Class C amplifiers are biased well beyond cutoff, so that plate- or collector-current flows less than 180 degrees of each RF cycle. That provides even higher power-efficiency than Class B operation, but with the penalty of even higher input-to-output nonlinearity, making use of relatively high-Q resonant output tank circuits to restore complete RF sine-wave cycles essential. High amplifying-nonlinearity makes them unsuitable to amplify AM, DSB, or SSB signals. However, most Class C amplifiers can be amplitude-modulated with acceptably low distortion by varying plate- or collector-voltage, because they generally are operated in the region of plate- or collector-saturation so that the RF output voltage is very closely dependent upon instantaneous DC plate- or collector-voltage. They also are commonly used in CW and frequency-shift-keyed radiotelegraph applications and in phase- and frequency-modulated transmitter applications where signal amplitudes remain constant.

  • Class D or High Current operation is essentially rapid switching, hence the term switching power amplifier. Here the output devices are rapidly switched on and off at least twice for each cycle. Theoretically, since the output devices are either completely on or completely off they do not dissipate any power. If a device is on there is a large amount of current flowing through it, but all the voltage is across the load, so the power dissipated by the device is zero; and when the device is off, the voltage is large, but the current is zero. Consequently, class D operation (often, but not necessarrily digital) is theoretically 100% efficient, but this requires zero on-impedance switches with infinitely fast switching times -- a product yet to be made; meanwhile designs do exist with efficiencies approaching 90%. This is a design that is increasimgly popular for use in bass systems, where maximum power is necessary, and slightly elevated levels of distortion are easily tolerated.

  • Class E: The class-E/F amplifier is a highly efficient switching power amplifier, typically used at such high frequencies that the switching time becomes comparable to the duty time. As said in the class-D amplifier, the transistor is connected via a serial LC circuit to the load, and connected via a large L (inductor) to the supply voltage. The supply voltage is connected to ground via a large capacitor to prevent any RF signals leaking into the supply. The class-E amplifier adds a C (capacitor) between the transistor and ground and uses a defined L1 to connect to the supply voltage.
    The class-E amplifier was invented in 1972 by Nathan O. Sokal and Alan D. Sokal, and details were first published in 1975.

  • Class F: In push–pull amplifiers and in CMOS, the even harmonics of both transistors just cancel. Experiment shows that a square wave can be generated by those amplifiers. Theoretically square waves consist of odd harmonics only. In a class-D amplifier, the output filter blocks all harmonics; i.e., the harmonics see an open load. So even small currents in the harmonics suffice to generate a voltage square wave. The current is in phase with the voltage applied to the filter, but the voltage across the transistors is out of phase. Therefore, there is a minimal overlap between current through the transistors and voltage across the transistors. The sharper the edges, the lower the overlap.

  • Class G amplifiers (which use "rail switching" to decrease power consumption and increase efficiency) are more efficient than class-AB amplifiers. These amplifiers provide several power rails at different voltages and switch between them as the signal output approaches each level. Thus, the amplifier increases efficiency by reducing the wasted power at the output transistors. Class-G amplifiers are more efficient than class AB but less efficient when compared to class D, without the negative EMI effects of class D.

  • Class H amplifiers take the idea of class G one step further creating an infinitely variable supply rail. This is done by modulating the supply rails so that the rails are only a few volts larger than the output signal at any given time. The output stage operates at its maximum efficiency all the time. Switched-mode power supplies can be used to create the tracking rails. Significant efficiency gains can be achieved but with the drawback of more complicated supply design and reduced THD performance. In common designs, a voltage drop of about 10V is maintained over the output transistors in Class H circuits. The picture above shows positive supply voltage of the output stage and the voltage at the speaker output. The boost of the supply voltage is shown for a real music signal.

Amplitude: The 'level' (perceived as 'volume') of an electrical or acoustic signal. Shown as the value of the vertical axis on a typical graph of a sound wave.

Any quantity which varies continuously without distinct steps. For sound waves in air, this refers to the continuous variation in air pressure; for an audio signal, this refers to the continuous variation in current or voltage.

Analog-to-Digital Converter: Electronic equipment used to change or convert an analog (waveform style) signal into a digital signal (made up of 1s and 0s).

Analyzer (Audio - Hardware): Device that measures amplitude, bandwidth and distortion characteristics of an audio signal.

Analyzer (Audio - Software): Software program designed to run on a computer that measures amplitude, bandwidth and distortion characteristics of an audio signal.

Anechoic Chamber: A specially designed room in which there are no reverberations of sound waves.

Anechoic Frequency Response: The frequency response of a speaker in an anechoic chamber with no room interactions with the sound.

Abbreviation for 'Artists & Repertoire', and referring to the responsibility of an individual or company for management of both talent (Artists) and the material they write or perform (Repertoire).

Articulation: A term used to describe clear and well understood audio reproduction in speech.

To reduce the amplitude of an electrical signal usually by using a volume control, fader or 'pad'. Also to reduce sound levels acoustically through the use of acoustic absorbers, resonators or structural materials.

Short for audio, a common format for sound files on UNIX machines. It is also the standard audio file format for the Java programming language. AU files generally end with a .au extension .

Audio: The audible frequency range of sound waves.

Audiophile: A person who is particularly interested in and appreciative of audio.

Audio Generator: A piece of test equipment that produces audio tones from DC to well above human hearing.

Audio Input: In an audio/video system, the audio input is a connection on an electronic device allowing electronic signals with audio information sent by another component to enter.

Audio Output: The connection point from which an audio signal is electronically transferred via a wire from one audio component to another; the origination point of an audio signal as it travels over a wire.

Audio Rack: A stack of audio processors electrically wired together mounted inside a specially made cabinet that houses the equipment.

Audio Rectification: Spurious demodulation of interfering radio-frequency voltages in an audio system.

Audio Scrubbing:
See 'Scrubbing'.

Short for Audio Video Interleave, the file format for Microsoft's Video for Windows standard.

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Originally, the line or equipment, such as amplifiers, set up along the back of the stage. Stacks of amps/speakers were often used as much for the look they created as the sound they put out, dressing up the stage and giving it a more theatrical appearance. Loosely, backline is now taken to mean all the artist's stage equipment which is not part of the 'sound reinforcement'.

Baffle: Front panel of a speaker enclosure on which the drivers are placed.

Balance: (1) A term describing the level comparison between two audio channels such as right or left. (2) A term describing the mix of different frequencies to attain evenness between low, mid and high frequencies. (3) A term describing a way of feeding a signal with a separate positive, negative and grounded lines. (See below)

Balanced Line:
A pair of ungrounded conductors ('hot' and 'cold') whose voltages are opposite in phase but equal in magnitude. At the destination end, the phase of the 'cold' is reversed thereby doubling the signal strength and cacelling any induced noise. Balanced lines therefore reduce interference from external sources like radio frequencies and light dimmers.

Balanced Modulator: A circuit that receives both an oscillated RF carrier frequency and audio signal at the input and produces only the sum and differences of the carrier plus and minus the audio frequencies, canceling out the carrier frequency.

With a balanced modulator, only the sum and the difference components ("lower sidebands and upper sidebands") of a modulated RF carrier signal appear at the output. The carrier signal has been cleverly balanced out ("cancelled") and does not appear at the output, resulting in a Double Sideband, suppressed carrier RF signal.

Banana Connector: A speaker wire termination consisting of a single, fat shaft which bulges on the sides similar to a banana and inserts in 5-way binding posts.

Band: A grouping of frequencies in the audible frequency spectrum.

Bandwidth: The frequency range across which an audio system can reproduce sound.

Band Pass Filter: A circuit that discriminates between frequencies and allows only the predetermined spectrum of frequencies to pass, eliminating those below and above the desired band.

Basket: A component of a speaker driver which holds the various portions of the driver together.

Lower register of pitch; also a stringed musical instrument designed to play low frequency sounds; also a voice lower in pitch than a baritone.

Bass Reflex: Type of speaker enclosure which uses a port to increase bass output for a given power input resulting in 2 to 3 dB (decibels) more sound pressure than a similar sealed enclosure (also known as an acoustic suspension enclosure).

The use of separate amplifiers to power woofers and tweeters.

Binding Post: A means of connecting speaker wire to an amplifier or speaker.

Bipolar Speaker: Type of loudspeaker that directs sound in two directions using speaker driver on two sides of the enclosure opposite one another operating in phase (meaning that they both push out at the same time and they both come in at the same time).

Bit: The smallest piece of digital data; bits are represented by a one or a zero.

Bit Rate: The number of bits transferred in one second by a digital device such as a CD player.

Bi-wire: Technique used in connecting speakers to amplification sources in which two wires are run from each amplifier terminal to the corresponding speaker terminal instead of one.

BNC: (Bayonet Fitting Connector) A professional quality cable termination which is used primarily in labs and professional studios as an interconnect.

Bookshelf Speaker: A speaker of a small size, usually under 18 to 24 inches in height, which is best suited to sitting on some sort of stand be it a bookshelf, table, speaker stand or other object.

Board: Alternative name for mixing console or mixing desk.

Boundary Effects:
Reverberations and sound irregularities caused by sound waves bouncing off hard surfaces, namely walls, floors and ceilings.

Bridge (Bridging): Amplification term used to describe the process whereby two channels of amplification are combined to operate as a single mono channel.

Bright: Sound quality having a harsh or brittle high-end with too much focus on the upper frequencies.

Brown Noise: Broadband test noise where the amplitude has a linear -6dB per octave attenuation as frequency increases.

Buckshot: A non-technical slang term specifically used to describe a radio frequency signal that is distorted causing the RF bandwidth to exceed the original audio bandwidth contained in it, thus causing interference to adjacent radio frequencies. (See also "Splatter")

Bump In / Out:
The installation and removal of production equipment and services at a theatre venue.

A signal-carrying conductor or electrical pathway designed to carry multiple signals. e.g. a mixing console auxiliary bus may carry signals derived from several channels on that console

Butterworth Crossover: Type of crossover that uses a low-pass filter design, which results in no amplitude anomalies in the frequencies passed on by the filter (the passband).

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Brand name of multipoint connector used for professional audio equipment - see XLR.

Capacitor Microphone:
See Condenser microphone.

"Heart" shaped pattern exhibited by some microphones which reduces pick-up from the sides and back.

Carousel Changer: Type of optical disc player/transport (namely CD) that holds multiple discs on a rotating platter enabling the component to play numerous discs without the user needing to manually switch discs.

Cartridge (Phono Cartridge): Device used with record players that holds the stylus or needle and attaches to the tonearm of the record player converting signals from the record grooves into electrical energy that can be played on an audio system.

Cassette: Plastic container holding a magnetic tape, which contains audio or video signals that can be read and played back when the tape is pulled over a magnetic reader of the appropriate type.

Cassette Deck: Audio component that accepts standard audiotape cassettes from which it reads information or to which it records information.

Compact Disc

CD Changer: Type of compact disc player that holds more than one disc internally and that can swap discs to play various discs without the need for the user to physically swap discs or add discs.

CD-R: (Compact Disc Recordable) Form of compact disc consumers can record on using special CD "burners" or CD recorders. Can be recorded on only once and then becomes "Read Only" and is commonly used for music playback and data where high comparability is required..

CD-RW: (Compact Disc Re-Writable) Form of compact disc consumers can record on using special CD "burners" or CD recorders. Can be written to several times and is commonly used for archiving data.

CD-ROM: Compact disc read only memory; CD that cannot be written to or recorded making it useful only for data retrieval.

Center Channel: Third front audio channel (in addition to main stereo left and right channels) found in surround sound audio systems with the primary task of reproducing movie dialogue (what the actors are saying) thus locking the voices to the screen for all listeners.

Center Channel Speaker: Speaker used to output information from the center channel in a surround sound audio format.

A single module of a professional audio console, lighting control console, power amplifier, lighting dimmer or multi-core control cable, designed to carry one signal only and keep it separate from signals in other channels.

Slang for musical technique.

A combination of two or more notes played together.

Circuit Breaker:
An electrical switch that automatically breaks a circuit if the current through it is too high, then can be manually reset. Performs the same function as a fuse, without the need for replacement after activating.

Click Track:
A regular sound, such as from a metronome, usually recorded on one track of a multitrack and used to indicate the required tempo for recording musicians.

Audible distortion occurring when the peaks of an amplifier's output are flattened ('clipped'). When the input is too high, an amplifier has insufficient power to accurately reproduce the output waveform.

Coaxial Cable:
Specific type of cable design with two conductors, one running through the center of the cable surrounded by some form of non-conductive insulator with a second braided conductor wrapped around the insulation material and serving double-duty as a shield against interference.

Co-axial Speaker:
Type of speaker driver in which a high frequency driver (a tweeter in most cases) is placed inside a low or mid frequency driver in the place of the dust cap.

Combinator: A Behringer made 5-band stereo compressor designed for jobs like mastering or full-mix processing. (See also "Dual Combinator")

Compact Disc (CD):
Thin, round, reflective disc that stores digital data in the form of microscopic pits and lands representing 1's and 0's that can be read and decoded by laser light.


This is a device that compresses and expands audio signals, sometimes simultaneously, sometimes as individual processes in one box. The term is a composite of COMPressor/expANDER.

An individual piece of equipment in an audio or audio/video system.

Compression (Audio):
The process of reducing the dynamic range of a given analogue audio program by making the loud parts quieter and the quiet parts louder.

Compression (Data):
The process of packing digital data, such as computer files, more efficiently for the purpose of storage or transmission. Commonly referred to as 'stuffing' or 'zipping' a file.

Compression (Audio/Video Files):
A process of temporarily or permanently reducing audio data for more efficient storage or transmission. A temporary reduction in file size is called 'non-lossy' compression, and no information is lost. A permanent reduction in file size (such as with mp3 files) is called 'lossy' compression, and involves discarding (supposedly) unnecessary information which is irretrievably lost.

Compression Ratio:
(See "Ratio")

A type of dynamic range processor which reduces the gain of audio signals which are over an adjustable 'threshold' level, therefore reducing the dynamic range. Generally allows the operator control over threshold, ratio, attack and release times. Both analogue and digital types are available.

Concert Pitch:
A standard for the tuning of musical instruments, internationally agreed in 1960, in which the note A above middle C has a frequency of 440 Hz. The tuning used with middle 'A' corresponding to a frequency of 440Hz.

Condenser Microphone:
A mic that depends on an external power supply or battery to electrostatically charge its condenser plates. Also called a 'Capacitor' microphone.
Conductor: Materials along which electrons will flow, making them suitable for use as connecting links in electrical circuits.

Cone: A type of speaker driver resembling an ice cream cone, with its largest diameter at the front of the speaker enclosure becoming smaller deeper within the enclosure.

Conventional Current:
The representation of current as flowing from positive to negative potential when describing the behaviour of electricity, despite the reality that the actual electrons constituting that flow move from negative to positive potentials!

A procedure in which one independent channel of information is raised as the other is lowered so that one smoothly replaces the other e.g. one audio track may 'crossfade' to another.

An electronic circuit which splits an audio signal into different frequency bands for routing to different speakers optimised for that frequency.

Crosstalk: Audio distortion resulting from information in one audio channel leaking into the signal of another channel.

1. Foldback system used for recording studios. 2. The signal given to a performer to indicate the start of their performance.

The flow of electrons along a conductor.

Cycles per second:
See Hertz

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DAC (Digital to Analog Converter): Electronic device that decodes digital data (ones and zeroes) into an analog waveform electrical signal that can be amplified and played by loudspeakers (or that can be used by a video display to form an image in the case of video DACs).

An audio system's ability to stop playing a signal after it has ended.

Damping Factor: The ability of an amplifier to tightly control the movement of a speaker driver and stop its movement as the signal ends (see Damping).

Digital Audio Tape. Tape which stores data digitally rather than in traditional analogue format. Current DATs use 16-bit word size and 44.1 or 48kHz sample rate giving CD quality. However, shelf life is currently an unknown quantity.

DBS (Direct Broadcast Satellite): Digital format for music and video that beams high-powered signals across North America from satellites orbiting above the equator to 18-inch satellite dishes providing a wide range of programming in a high-quality digital format.

Direct Current

The way a signal reduces in level over time immediately after the signal stops.

Decibel or dB:
Equal to 0.1 bel (B). A logarithm of a ratio used to indicate mathematically how a measured quantity compares to a standard reference quantity. One use, of many, is to represent Sound Pressure Levels (SPL) as numbers from 0dB (the softest sound that may be heard) to 120dB and beyond (the level at which sound is perceived as pain).

Signal processor which stores a signal for a short time before releasing it to the output. Combining the delayed and original sound allows for effects such as 'echo'. Multiple delay processors may produce 'time modulation' effects such as phasing, flanging and chorus.

A recording made for demonstration purposes for a record company, agent, venue owner, or to explore the potential of the song.

Mixing console.
DI: Direct Input box. A device used to match the level and impedance of sources such as guitar pickups to that expected by the microphone input of mixing consoles.

Diaphragm: The moving part of a speaker driver that generates sound through its movements which in turn create movement of air around the speaker.

Diffraction: Break-up or distortion of a sound wave created when the sound wave hits a speaker cabinet, grille cover, or other similar component of the speaker that is creating the sound.

Diffuse: Sound quality described by being hard to localize and fully filling a listening area; spread out. A diffuse sound field is one that encompasses the listener filling the listening space without being very directional (having low directivity).

Represented by a numerical code. For sound, the conversion of an analogue waveform to a series of numbers representing the instantaneous amplitude for each sample taken, the storage of those numbers, and the eventual conversion back to analogue format for replay.

Digital Aliasing: Aliasing is the term used to describe what happens when we try to record and play back frequencies higher than one-half the sampling rate. The Nyquist Theorem tells us that we can successfully sample and play back frequency components up to one-half the sampling frequency.

Consider a digital audio system with a sample rate of 48 KHz, recording a steadily rising sine wave tone. At lower frequency, the tone is sampled with many points per cycle. As the tone rises in frequency, the cycles get shorter and fewer and fewer points are available to describe it. At a frequency of 24 KHz, only two sample points are available per cycle, and we are at the limit of what Nyquist says we can do.

Still, those two points are adequate, in a theoretical world, to recreate the tone after conversion back to analog and low-pass filtering. But, if the tone continues to rise, the number of samples per cycle is not adequate to describe the waveform, and the inadequate description is equivalent to one describing a lower frequency tone -- this is aliasing.

Digital Audio: Method of encoding analog audio signals into digital bits of information typically using pulse code modulation resulting in high-quality signals that suffer from very little distortion and noise compared to analog signals, are easy to record and edit without degradation, are easy to transmit and record, and can be modified or adjusted quickly and without signal degradation.

Digital Audio Editing: A method of manipulating digital audio information via a user interface or editing program such as "CakeWalk", "Goldwave:, "Adobe Audition", etc...

Digital Jitter: Jitter is a term that means that the data (the 1's and the 0's) is not perfectly time-aligned, but rather is transmitted either slightly earlier or later than it should be in the ideal case. However, this time flaw is not as great as to cause a digital error (data fallout). But to our analogue ears, this translates into the harsh distortion we call "that digital sound." (See graphic below as to how digital "Jitter" with a square wave would appear on an oscilloscope)
Digital Jitter
Digital Surround: Sound Surround sound format in which all five channels (left front, front center, right front, right rear, left rear and an optional sixth sub-woofer channel) are discrete and full-range (the subwoofer channel is not full range), recorded in digital audio, and compressed to fit in a smaller space (see 5.1).

Digititus: (1) The effect that Jitter has on human hearing where a harsh distortion is detected. (2) Any digital equipment that suffers from poor time alignment of the digital data known as Jitter.

Dipolar Speaker: Speaker featuring speaker drivers on two opposite sides of a speaker enclosure and wired to operate out of phase (as one driver moves in the other moves out) creating a null to the sides of the speaker (very little sound emanating to the sides) and a broad, spread-out sound in general.

Direct Radiating Speaker: Type of speaker that creates and outputs sound from only one side of the enclosure with that side aimed at the listening position.

Discrete: Separate with no interaction between elements.

Dispersion: Describes the radiation pattern of sound waves from a sound source (the sound source being a speaker in terms of audio/video); definition of the amount of air all around a speaker excited by the sound waves it produces.

Any difference, apart from level, between an original signal and one that has been processed. One cause may be the overloading of the input stage of an amplifier, but many other forms of distortion, such as harmonic distortion are common.

Distribution Amplifier: An amplifier used to boost a low-level signal travelling over a long distance.

Dolby 3-Channel: A pseudo form of surround sound somewhere between stereo two-speaker operation and a full surround sound set-up with surround sound speakers in the rear; Dolby 3-channel uses the front speakers only - the front left, front center, and front right speakers.

Dolby B Noise Reduction: Reduces high frequency hiss noise by 10 decibels.

Dolby C Noise Reduction: Reduces high frequency hiss noise by 20 decibels.

Dolby Digital: Discrete digital surround sound format based on Dolby's AC-3 compression scheme to be found on DVDs, some laserdiscs and digital television (see 5.1 and AC-3).

Dolby HX Pro: Feature used when recording to a tape that extends high frequency range of cassettes and increases high frequency headroom by adjusting tape bias.

Dolby Pro-Logic: Analog surround sound format using matrix surround technology to encode four channels of audio information (left, center, right and surround) onto two channels creating a surround sound sonic environment for properly encoded movies and other programming (see Matrix Surround Sound).

Dolby Reference Level: Volume level of an audio system with the volume at the 0 decibel setting resulting in 85 decibel volume with a test tone and 105 decibel peaks.

Driver: Individual moving element of a complete speaker system which is attached to the speaker enclosure and which vibrates, generally in a back and forth piston like motion, to produce sound waves when power is applied from an amplifier. (Also a term used to describe software data used to work in conjunction with computer hardware.)

Foldback speakers placed at sides of drummer providing monitors coverage for performer.

Unprocessed sound.

DSP: Digital Signal Processing - "Digital Signal Processing" is a modern form of processing that uses bit data to simulate characteristics found in analog circuits. Manipulation or alteration of analog signals (commonly audio or video signals) after conversion to a digital format.

DTS (Digital Theater Systems): Discrete, digital 5.1 surround sound format used for movies and music; competitor of Dolby Digital featuring similar but incompatible compression and coding technologies to place six channels of sound on a DVD or on both digital audio tracks of a laserdisc (see 5.1)

Dual Combinator: A Behringer made 5-band dual-mono compressor designed for jobs like mastering or full-mix processing. (See also "Combinator")

To make a copy of a recording on another storage medium.

Dust Cap: Circular piece inserted into a speaker diaphragm or speaker cone near the bottom, small part of the cone (the apex) covering the voice coil.

Dynamic Microphone:
A microphone that converts sound into electrical energy by means of a moving coil located in a magnetic field.

Dynamic Headroom: The ability of an amplifier to put out more power than its average power output for a short time in order to faithfully reproduce sudden, loud sounds without distorting or clipping (see Headroom).

Dynamic Range:
The difference between the loudest and softest parts of a musical performance, usually measured in decibels.

Dynamic Speaker: Common type of loudspeaker using traditional speaker drivers consisting of diaphragms, voice coils, stationary magnets, suspensions, spiders, and baskets in which a signal applied to the voice coil moves it and the attached speaker diaphragm in relation to the stationary magnet and basket.

When used in music, refers to the expression of a performance with varying degree of loudness and softness.

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Early Reflections: Sound waves bouncing or reflecting off a wall, ceiling, floor or object in a room and reaching the listener just after the direct sound waves emanating from the speakers themselves.

An electrical connection to the earth, which represents 0 volts or 'ground potential' by way of a metal or conductive rod.

Easter egg:
A surprise usually coded into computer programs or web pages that is accessed by an undocumented keystroke combination or hidden link.

The combined effect of a sound and a delayed version of that same sound. A 'Slap-Back Echo' is the original sound plus a single repeat; "Multiple Echo" is the original sound plus several repeats with the same delay spacing.

A device which modifies sound creatively via processing.

Effects Rack:
A cabinet containing outboard equipment. Designed to accommodate a number of standard width (19" or 48.3cm) rack-mountable devices. Pro-audio devices are always designed to have one of several standard heights in 'rack units' (RU), each RU being 1.75" or 4.44 cm.

Electrostatic Speaker: Type of speaker that uses positive and negative electric charges over two thin panels, one stationary and one moveable, to generate sound (two positive or two negative charges repel each other while a positive and negative attract each other enabling movement and thus sound production).

Enclosure: The cabinet or structure of a speaker into which the various speaker elements (the drivers, the crossover, the binding posts, etc.) are placed and attached.

EQ / Equalization:
The increase or decrease in level of certain portions of the audio frequency spectrum imposed by a device or acoustic environment. Changing the frequency response of a given audio signal by adjusting the amplitude of the signal usually in an effort to achieve a flatter frequency response (although often misused to alter the audio signal to a more "pleasing" form which is a distortion of the intended signal - for instance, artificially adding bass for a more visceral impact).

eSSB (Audio): Extended Single Side Band. Any J3E SSB transmission mode that exceeds or extends the audio bandwidth of standard or traditional 2.9kHz J3E modes in order to support the fidelity required and desired for relative high fidelity, full range clean and articulate vocal audio.

Excursion: The distance a speaker driver travels to reproduce an audio frequency.

Expander: A type of dynamic range processor which reduces the gain of audio signals which are under an adjustable 'threshold' level, therefore increasing the dynamic range. Generally allows the operator control over threshold, ratio, attack, release and 'hold' times. Both analogue and digital types are available.

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Feedback: Sound produced by an instrument or microphone picking up and amplifying its own signal from a nearby loudspeaker. Also known as 'howlaround'.

A device that removes unwanted frequencies or noise from a signal.

Ferrofluid Cooling: Type of cooling material (ferromagnetic liquid) used primarily with tweeters to keep the driver from overheating by dissipating heat away from the voice coil.

FFT: Fast Fourier transform (FFT) is a discrete Fourier transform algorithm which reduces the number of computations needed for points from to , where lg is the base-2 logarithm. If the function to be transformed is not harmonically related to the sampling frequency, the response of an FFT looks like a sinc function (although the integrated power is still correct). Aliasing (leakage) can be reduced by apodization using a tapering function. However, aliasing reduction is at the expense of broadening the spectral response.

Fiber-Optic Cable: A cable that uses light beams to transmit information rather than electrical signals traveling over metal wires.

Flat / Flatness: Audio frequency amplitude is considered to be "Flat" if a faithful reproduction of the original input source is achieved at the output. If the audio amplitude in a given frequency range of an audio signal is the same as the source audio, then it is said to be "Flat".

Fletcher Munson Curve: Tones of the same SPL but with different frequencies are in general judged as having different loudness. SPL is thus not a good measure of loudness, if we inter compare tones of different frequency. Experiments have been performed to establish curves of equal loudness, taking the SPL at 1 KHz as a reference quantity. This relative curve of perceived loudness is referred to as the "Fletcher Munson Curve" named after the audio experimenters who developed it.

Floorstanding Speaker: A specific type of speaker enclosure that stands directly on the floor without needing to sit on something in order to raise its speaker drivers to an acceptable height in line with the listener.

Flutter: Pitch variations heard as a fast wavering or wobbling caused by a software medium (such as an audiotape or CD) moving at varied speeds.

Flying-Erase Head: Feature of high-quality VCRs that makes transitions between recorded material smooth and clean by erasing a fraction of a second of tape just prior to the start of recording.

FM (Frequency Modulation): Method of adding an audio signal to a carrier radio frequency (modulating the signal) so that the audio signal can be transmitted from place to place and later decoded from the radio frequency for reproduction.

FM Synthesis: Synthesiser technology which mimics different musical instruments according to built-in formulas. Generally considered to be inferior to Wave Table Synthesis.

Front-Of-House. Generally refers to the audience area, or that part of a venue not comprising the stage or backstage areas.

FOH Desk:
Refers to audio or lighting control consoles at front-of-house, usually located towards rear of audience area.

FOH Engineer/s:
Personnel responsible for operating audio and lighting systems, heard and seen by the audience as part of a performance.

Foldback (Live Sound):
Also known as the monitor system, foldback comprises onstage speaker systems which enable the artist to hear his/her own performance, as well as other instruments and/or vocalists to varying degrees as controlled by the 'monitor engineer' or 'foldback engineer'.

Foldback (Studio):
The system by which a performer in a studio may hear their performance through headphones. Also known as 'Cue'.

The number of complete cycles that a sound wave goes through in each second. Unit used is Hertz, abbreviated to Hz, although some countries still use the older term 'cycles per second' (cps). Humans perceive frequency subjectively as pitch (eg: 440Hz = A).

Frequency Response: Range over which an audio component can effectively produce a useable and fairly uniform, undistorted output signal.

Full Power Bandwidth: The range of frequencies across which an amplifier can supply its full power rating to a speaker.

Full-Range Surround Sound Channels: A feature of 5.1 digital surround sound formats allowing discrete surround sound channels which are capable of playing across the frequency band audible to human hearing (20 Hz to 20,000 Hz).

Function Generator: A piece of test equipment that produces audio test tones from DC to well beyond human hearing.

A safety device consisting of a low melting-point wire with a low melting pointwhich breaks an electrical circuit by heating up and melting ('fusing') if the current through it is too high.

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Gaffer tape: Multi-purpose plasticised cloth tape often used to fasten leads on stage.

The amount by which an amplifier increases the power of a signal, indicated either in dB (e.g. Gain = +12dB), or as a multiplier (e.g. Gain = x4)

See 'Noise Gate'

Slang for job, engagement of musicians to play and perform.

GPO: General Purpose Outlet, or power point, capable of supplying normal mains power.

Graphic Equalizer: An audio equalizer that uses pre-defined center frequencies and Q's with variable amplitude.

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Harmonic: An additional frequency in an audio signal derived from the fundamental or original frequency as a multiple of that fundamental that is smaller in amplitude (power) than the fundamental.

HDCD (High Definition Compatible Digital): Compact disc encoding/decoding scheme developed by Pacific Microsonics with the goal of improving on the sound of traditional CDs.

HDCP (High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection): Specification used to encrypt and protect digital video and audio signals transmitted between two HDCP-enabled devices using DVI or HDMI connections.

HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface): Digital video and audio connection system used to connect a variety of audio/video components, particularly high-definition video (HDTV). HDMI supports all HDTV formats along with support for up to eight channels of digital audio.

Headphone Jack: A connection on an audio or audio/video component which receives a headphone connection.

Headphones: Personal audio listening device which covers or in some way goes over or attaches to a listener's ears.

Headroom: An amplifier's ability to go beyond its rated average power for a short time in order to recreate loud or explosive audio signals that rise very quickly.

Heat Sink: A metal object, usually a row of thin metal fins, designed to dissipate heat away from electronic equipment.

(Abbreviation: Hz) The unit of frequency. Replaces 'cycles per second' and means the same.

High-Pass Crossover: Type of crossover that attenuates or cuts off low frequency signals and sends on only the high frequency signals falling above the crossover point (crossover frequency).

High Pass Filter
: A circuit that discriminates between high and low frequencies and allows only the high frequencies to pass.

A catchy part of a melody, riff or lyric which 'hooks' the listener's attention.

Horizontal Input: Usually referring to the horizontal (X) input of an oscilloscope that measures an audio, I.F. or R.F. signal source.

see Feedback

A narrower heart-shaped pick-up pattern than that of cardioid microphones.

A name made up by me to describe a glossary containing the usual text descriptions of terms, plus added hyperlinks to expanded definitions, examples, and images.

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I.M.D.: Intermodulation Distortion - Nonlinear distortion characterized by the appearance, in the output of a device, of frequencies that are linear combinations of the fundamental frequencies and all harmonics present in the input signals. Note: Harmonic components themselves are not usually considered to characterize intermodulation distortion.

Imaging: Term used to describe the quality of a sound field put out by an audio system giving a subjective measure as to how well a system can recreate depth, width and height from the recording.

The measure of the total resistance to the current flow expressed in ohms, in an alternating current circuit. It is an important characteristic of electrical devices (particularly speakers and microphones). Most speakers are rated at 4 or 8 ohms. Microphones are usually classified as being either high impedance (10,000 ohms or greater) or low impedance (50 ohms to 600 ohms).

Integrated Amplifier: Audio component combining the elements of an amplifier with those of a preamplifier but not containing a tuner (making an integrated amplifier different from a receiver which does contain a tuner).

Interconnect: Wire used to connect various pieces of equipment (components) in an audio/video system carrying audio or video information via low-level electric signals (not very powerful) or via light pulses (digital information carried over fiber-optic interconnects).

Input Overload Distortion:
Distortion caused by too great an input signal being sent to an amplifier or preamplifier. It is not affected by volume control settings and often occurs when mics are positioned too close to the sound source. This distortion is controllable through the use of an attenuator or pad.

Input Impedance: The measure of the total resistance to the current flow expressed in ohms, in an alternating current circuit at the input of a device. Most modern equipment has a low imput impedance from about 150 ohms to 600 ohms.

Input Sensitivity:
The range of input voltages required to produce outputs from the minimum to the maximum output of an amplifier; may also refer to the input sensitivity for maximum output, which is the input in volts required for an amplifier to create its maximum power output.

Inverse Square Law: The law that states that in the absence of reflective surfaces, sound pressure (or light) falls off at a rate inverse to the square of the distance from its source. In other words, every time you double your distance from the sound source, the sound pressure level is reduced by a factor of 4, or 12 dB.

Material preventing the flow of electrons, making it suitable for prevention of unwanted current flow in electrical circuits.

Integrated Amplifier:
An amplifier containing two stages: a 'Pre-Amplifier' and a 'Power Amplifier'. Commonly used for domestic hi-fi applications.

A device which facilitates the linking of any two pieces of equipment or systems; or when used as a verb ('to interface'), the process of linking.

Isobaric: A type of speaker enclosure used for subwoofers and bass drivers which uses a small, sealed enclosure with two bass drivers facing each other (one inside the box facing out and the other outside the box facing in at its counterpart) and wired out of phase.

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Jack: Female audio receptacle, or socket designed for male plug.

See Patchbay

Short for Joint Photographic Experts Group, and pronounced jay-peg. JPEG is a lossy compression technique for color images. Although it can reduce files sizes to about 5% of their normal size, some detail is lost in the compression.

Jumper: Used to connect multiple speaker binding posts on speakers capable of bi- or tri-amping.

Jumper Cable (Audio): Used to connect one audio device to another using shielded cables. Comes in the form of balanced or unbalanced configurations.

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Keypad: In a multi-zone audio system distributed in multiple locations around a home or building, a keypad allows a person to control the volume and other aspects of audio being sent to a specific zone in which the keypad is located.

kHz (Kilohertz): One thousand cycles per second.

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Late Reflections: Sound waves that bounce or reflect off room boundaries and objects reaching a listener a relatively long time after the direct signal from the sound source reaches the listener.

Leads: Signal-carrying cables used to connect various pieces of equipment.

LFE (Low Frequency Effects): Audio channel found in 5.1 digital surround sound audio schemes (the .1) that carries only low frequency information of 80 Hz and below.

A compressor set up with a high ratio (in excess of 10:1) and used primarily to prevent a signal from exceeding a certain pre-set maximum level. (See also "Peak Limiting")

Line Conditioner: Electronic device that "cleans" the electricity coming from a wall outlet to be used by audio/video components and protects them from electric spikes and surges.

Line Level:
A signal whose voltage is between approximately 0.310 volts and 10 volts across a load of 600 ohms or greater.

Linearity: Linearity is the behavior of a circuit, particularly an amplifier, in which the output signal strength varies in direct proportion to the input signal strength. In a linear device, the output-to-input signal amplitude ratio is always the same, no matter what the strength of the input signal (as long it is not too strong).

Load In / Out:
The installation and removal of production equipment and services at music performance venues.

Person providing labour for the above function whose responsibility is generally limited to lugging equipment between the production trucks and the stage or FOH positions. Their job generally does not include rigging or setting up the equipment, which is the responsibility of roadies.

Lossy Compression:
A type of data compression which permanently discards data that humans supposedly "cannot hear" to create much smaller audio, video and image file sizes. When the file is decompressed by the recipient, this compression method replaces the data for the sections it removed with calculated values to restore the file. The decompressed file is similar but not identical to the original file.

Low-Pass Crossover: Type of crossover that only allows low frequencies to pass cutting off or attenuating frequencies above the crossover point (crossover frequency).

Low Pass Filter:
A circuit that discriminates between high and low frequencies and allows only the low frequencies to pass.

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Mac: Apple Macintosh computer.

Master Fader: A fader which controls the overall level of one or more outputs simultaneously.

Matrix Surround: Sound Method of encoding more than two channels of audio into a pair of analog audio channels.

Metronome: Adjustable mechanical or electronic device which audibly indicates tempo. Some electronic versions may indicate beats per minute (bpm).

MIDI: Acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a standard adopted by the electronic music industry for controlling devices, such as synthesizers and sound cards, that produce music. At minimum, a MIDI representation of a sound includes values for the note's pitch, length, and volume, but can also include additional characteristics, such as attack and decay time.

Mic: Abbreviation of the word microphone.

Microphone: A device that converts sound pressure variations into electrical signals.

MIDI files: A computer file format containing musical information and performance data.

Midrange: The middle part of the audio frequency spectrum above Bass and below Treble.

Recording and playback device using small disks similar to CDs to store audio using lossy data compression to reduce file size.

Mix: Blend of amplified or recorded sounds. In the recording studio, the process of combining and balancing the signals from two or more tracks of a multi-track recorder resulting in a final mix or 'master tape'.

Mixing console/desk: A signal-management device which receives, combines and balances signals, provides control of volume and tone, and allows routing of signals to selected destinations.

Modem: Short for Modulator -Demodulator, this device modulates data by converting it to audible tones that can be transmitted on a telephone wire, and demodulates received signals to get the data.

Modulation: A method by which information (typically audio) is superimposed on a signal that carries that information. Examples of modulation schemes would include "AM" (Amplitude Modulation), "FM" (Frequency Modulation) etc... used in broadcast, amateur radio and non licensed radio services.

Monitor Desk: A mixing console located at the side of the stage which controls the on-stage sound balance through separate foldback speakers for the performers. The monitor mix, or foldback mix differs markedly from the FOH mix.

Monitors (Studio): Speakers used in the control room of a recording studio. Generally of two types: Main Monitors for overall sound, and Reference Monitors used to check sound quality through less capable speakers, such as might be found in domestic environments.

Monitors (Live Sound): Foldback speakers and associated amplifiers used for stage musicians.

Mono: Consisting of only one channel.

Moving-Magnet Cartridge: Method of interaction between the stylus and cartridge of a phonograph that creates electrical signals by attaching a magnet to the stylus that in turn moves up and down in relation to a coil of wire in the cartridge.

MPEG: Short for Moving Picture Experts Group, and pronounced m-peg. The term also refers to the whole collection of digital compression standards and file formats developed by the group.
MP3, mp3: Is the file extension for MPEG, audio layer 3. Layer 3 is one of three coding schemes (layer 1, layer 2 and layer 3) for the compression of audio signals. Layer 3 uses perceptual audio coding and psychoacoustic compression to remove all superfluous information (that, in the opinion of the developers, the human ear doesn't hear anyway). It also adds an algorithm that increases the frequency resolution 18 times higher than that of layer 2. The result is mp3 encoding shrinks the original sound data from a CD by a factor of 12 without sacrificing sound quality.

MPEG-1: Video compression format developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group using perceptual coding and predictive technologies to eliminate data from an audio/video signal and thus encode it into a smaller size.

MPEG-2: High-quality audio/video compression format developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group using perceptual coding and predictive technologies similar to MPEG-1 but including a higher bit-rate and more control over the compression and technology.

Multicore: Audio or lighting cable containing many bundled leads allowing signal transmission along separate channels. Also known as 'Snake'.

Multimedia: The use of computers to present text, graphics, video, animation, and sound in an integrated way.

Multiple Echo: See 'Echo'.

Multi-tracking: The process of recording a multi-part performance on separate tracks at different times
which allows the engineer to subsequently combine, balance and process those tracks during mixdown.

Mute: No sound or a cessation of all sound; a single button or control to cut off an audio signal and stop the production of sound.

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Near Field: In close proximity to a speaker or speaker driver.

Negative Peak Limiting: A compressor set up with a high ratio (in excess of 10:1) and used primarily to prevent a signal from exceeding a certain pre-set maximum level. (See also "Limiting")

Neophyte: A beginner or novice.

Noise: Typically low-level electrical distortions and interference created in an electronic component from power supply hum, interactions between internal electrical components, etc. (See also White Noise, Pink Noise and Brown Noise)

Noise Floor: Level at which no useful signal is produced because the signal level is below the level of noise in the system; point at which the volume or power of noise is greater than the volume or power of an intended and desired signal effectively covering up and obscuring that signal thus making it useless (see Noise).

Noise Gate: A special type of expander with a very high ratio (usually about1:100), often used to eliminate low-level hiss, noise or leakage. Especially effective wherever there is a high level of ambient noise, such as around a drum kit.

Noise Reduction: Effort to reduce noise in a system, typically in sound reproduction equipment and sound storage media such as audiocassette tapes, through various mechanical and software based methods (see Noise).

Non-Linearity: Non-Linearity is the behavior of a circuit, particularly an amplifier, in which the output signal strength varies in indirect proportion to the input signal strength. In a nonlinear device, the output-to-input signal amplitude ratio is always different, and can vary with the strength of the input signal.. Usually an undesirable condition.

Non-Lossy Compression: A form of data compression which seeks out chunks of data which are identical, replacing them with markers called keys. In this way, the file is reduced in size, and when it is decompressed by the recipient, the keys are replaced with the large chunks of data that were originally there (this is called Run Length Encoding). Using non-lossy compression, the uncompressed file is identical to the original file.

Notch Filter (Audio): Filter used to eliminate a specific interfering or undesirable frequency by attenuating a very narrow audio passband from the desired signal.

Nyquist's Theorem: This states that a sound must be sampled at at least twice its highest analog frequency in order to extract all of the information from the bandwidth and accurately represent the original acoustic energy. In practice, sampling at slightly more than twice the frequency will make up for imprecisions in filters and other components used for the conversion.

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Octave: The relative mathematical relationship of a frequency that is two times or one half of the original reference frequency. For example; 500 Hz is said to be one octave below 1000 Hz, and 2000 Hz is said to be one octave above 1000 Hz. This term is used in describing the relationship of musical notes. 440 Hz is reffered to as "Middle A". So 880 Hz would be an A note that is one octive higher than middle A. It is also used to describe the bandwidth (Q Factor) of audio amplitude beyond a given center frequency where the amplitude drops below the -3dB point as compared to the center frequency reference amplitude.

The basic unit of the measurement of resistance. Symbol used is (Omega)

Ohm's Law: The law that defines the relationship between current (I), resistance (R) and voltage (V) in an electrical circuit as: Voltage equals Amperage times Resistance (V=IR).

Omnidirectional: Capable of picking-up sound equally from all directions (for microphones) or radiating sound equally in all directions (for speakers).

On-Axis: Directly in front of a speaker; position at a right angle (90-degree angle) to the front of a speaker enclosure on which the speaker drivers are located (the baffle).

Optical Cable: An interconnect cable used to transfer digital data between digital components using bursts of light carried over glass or plastic fibers (see Fiber-Optic Cable).

Outboard Equipment: Audio equipment which is not physically incorporated into the mixing console. If 'rack-mountable', it is generally located in an 'effects rack' and can include processors such as reverbs, delays, external equalisers, compressors, gates and enhancers.

Overdub: To record new tracks on a multitrack recording system in synchronisation with previously recorded tracks.

Oversampling: Raises the sampling rate of digital data providing a smoother signal curve, but does not provide enhanced detail or resolution of the output.

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PA: Public Address system. A sound reinforcement system enabling live performances to be heard by the audience.

Pad: An electrical circuit used to attenuate or reduce the amplitude of an audio signal by a fixed amount, e.g a -15dB pad reduces the signal by a fixed 15 decibels.

Pan Pot: Short for panoramic potentiometer, this is a knob controlling a voltage divider that can send a signal to a combination of two busses, such as left and right. Always found on mixing consoles to set up (pan) a signal within the stereo field, it is also called a 'balance' control on domestic stereo amplifiers.

Passive Crossover: Crossover that does not require electricity and does not use active circuitry to accomplish its task.

Passive Radiator: Speaker driver that is not powered and is used in conjunction with a woofer generating movement by being vibrated by the back-pressure of the powered woofer.

Parametric Equalizer: An audio equlaizer that uses variable frequency, Q and amplitude control.

Patch Bay: A panel of jacks (female receptacles) hard-wired to all inputs, outputs and side-chains of outboard equipment, and all outputs and insert points of the mixing console. Often used in recording studios to enable rapid connection of any combination of equipment by the use of 'patch cords', or 'patch leads'.

Patch Cable: Low level cable used to transfer information in an electronic form between components in an audio/video system (see Interconnect).

PC: Personal computers. This term is generally used for IBM-compatible, Intel-based computers running DOS or Windows. Also refers to a "Printed Circuit" or a "PCB" - Printed Circuit Board.

PCM (Pulse Code Modulation): Frequently used format for creating digital signals from analog signals and then recreating the analog signals with a digital-to-analog converter (see Pulse Code Modulation).

Peak Limiting: A compressor set up with a high ratio (in excess of 10:1) and used primarily to prevent a signal from exceeding a certain pre-set maximum level. (See also "Limiting")

Peak Output: Maximum output (sound pressure level) in decibels a speaker can produce without distorting.

Peak Power: A measure of amplifier power based on the amplitude rise above ground plane or 0 volts.

Peak-to-Peak Power: A measure of amplifier power based on the total amplitude between peak positive value and peak negative value. Generally this value is twice the peak value for a symmetrical waveform.

Phono Pin Plug: (See "RCA Connector")

Phantom Power: Operating voltage (usually 48 Volts DC) supplied to a condenser mic by a mixer or external power source along normal mic leads.

Phase: The relationship of an audio signal or sound wave to a specific time reference.

Pick: ("See Plectrum")

Pink Noise: Broadband test noise where the amplitude has a linear -3dB per octave attenuation as frequency increases.

Pitch: The subjective sensation produced by various frequencies. The higher the frequency, the higher the perceived pitch; however, frequency is not linearly related to pitch. See also 'Concert Pitch'.

Plectrum: Triangular object generally made out of plastic used to strike the strings of a guitar.

Polarity: A condition with two states (+ve or -ve) and is usually defined in one of three ways: 1. Acoustical to electrical (microphone): Positive pressure at diaphragm produces positive voltage at pin 2 of XLR or at the tip of a 1/4-inch phone plug. 2. Electrical to acoustic: Positive voltage into the "plus" terminal of a speaker causes the speaker's diaphragm to move forward to produce positive pressure. 3. Electrical to electrical: Positive voltage into pin 2 of an XLR jack produces positive voltage at the output (pin 2 of an XLR plug, the tip of a 1/4-inch phone jack, or the red (plus) connector of a binding post (banana terminal).

Port: Tube of a specified length and diameter (length and diameter dependent on specific application) with one end open to the outside of a speaker enclosure through a round hole and the other open to the inside of the speaker enclosure.

Ported Enclosure: Type of speaker enclosure which uses a port to allow air to travel from the inside of the box to the outside of the box taking full advantage of a speaker driver's output and increasing sound pressure (sound output or volume) by 2 to 3 dB compared to a similar speaker with a sealed enclosure (see Bass Reflex).

Potentiometer (Pot): A variable resistor (rotary or linear) used to control volume, tone, or other functions of an electronic device.

Power: In electricity, power (P) is the product of the voltage (V) and the current (I). i.e. P=VI. The unit of power is the Watt.

Power Amplifier: An amplifier without tone controls, and with a higher power output than a line amplifier or pre-amp. Commonly used to drive loudspeakers.

Power Rating: Maximum amount of power in watts an amplifier can put out or maximum amount of power in watts a speaker can be driven with.

Power Supply: Component of all electronic devices used to transform the electrical power supplied through a wall outlet into power the electric component can use.

Pre-amplifier/pre-amp: An electronic device used to match an input signal (such as that from a microphone or guitar pickup) to the input of a power amplifier. Often built in to mixing console channels as an initial stage, and generally has tone controls (EQ) to modify the signal.

Pre-Emphasis: A specific boost of frequencies usually emphasizing upper-midrange to high frequencies (although any frequencies could be boosted or cut) to establish more clarity in an audio signal. Commonly used in AM and FM broadcast audio processing chains.

Pre-Processing: The reference of processing before it enters the next stage.

Post-Processing: The reference of processing after it leaves the previous stage.

Production Manager: Person responsible for co-ordination of audio, lighting and staging requirements, and crew, for any performance. Other responsibilities may include the scheduling of performances, physical placement of equipment and management of relevant health and safety matters.

Propagation (Sound): Under normal conditions an audio wavefront moves through air at 1130 feet per second.

Proximity Effect: An increase in the bass response of some mics as the distance between the mic and its sound source is decreased.

Psycho acoustic: The science of how audio is perceived.

Pulse Code Modulation: Common form of transferring analog information into digital signals by representing analog waveforms with a stream of digital bits forming words that relate the amplitude of a signal at a certain point (the sample).

Punter: Slang for general or common audience.

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Q: Quality or Quality Factor - Referring to the bandwidth of one band of a parametric equaliser, Q is calculated by dividing the centre frequency in Hz by the width of the boost or cut zone +3dB or -3dB above or below 0dB. For example, a gentle boost centred at 1000Hz which extends from 750Hz to 1250Hz measured 3dB above flat has a Q of 1000/500 = 2. By comparison, a deep notch centred at 1000Hz which extends from 995Hz to 1005Hz measured -3dB above flat has a Q of 1000/10 = 100.

Q Factor: (See "Q")

Quality: (See "Timbre")

QuickTime: A video and animation system developed by Apple Computer and built into the Macintosh operating system. It is used by most Mac applications that include video or animation. PCs can also run files in QuickTime format, but they require a special QuickTime driver. QuickTime supports most encoding formats, including Cinepak, JPEG, and MPEG. QuickTime is competing with a number of other standards, including AVI and ActiveMovie.

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Rack Ears: Hardware that is fastened to a pirce of rack equipment so that it may be mounted in a standard 19" EIA Effects Rack.

Rack-mountable: Describes outboard equipment designed to be mounted in a standard 19" EIA 'Effects Rack'.

Ratio: One of the parameters which can be varied on dynamic range processors such as compressors and expanders. It represents the compression or expansion ratio between input and output levels. A compressor with a 2:1 ratio would reduce the output gain to half of the input value above the threshold. An expander with a 1:80 ratio would reduce the output gain to 1/80th of the input value below the threshold.

RCA Connector: (Also reffered to as a "Phono-Pin-Plug") Type of standard, low-level signal interconnect termination or connector featuring a single, cylindrical metal rod and an outer, round metal belt.

RealAudio: The de facto standard for streaming audio data over the World Wide Web.

Recording: Capture and storage of sound for subsequent reproduction.
Reference monitors: See Monitors (Studio)

Repertoire: Compositions and lyrics; musical works.

Reverb: Abbreviation for reverberation, a complex blend of multiple interacting reflections within an enclosed space which combines with the direct sound from a source and defines the character of the sound in a room or hall. It is also used for a signal processor which can generate an approximation of natural reverb. (Caution: do not confuse with 'Echo' - a different effect altogether.)

Reflex (Bass Reflex): Type of speaker enclosure which uses a port to allow air to travel from the inside of the box to the outside of the box taking full advantage of a speaker driver's output and increasing sound pressure (sound output or volume) by 2 to 3 dB compared to a similar speaker with a sealed enclosure (see "Bass Reflex").

Resistance: A block to the flow of something; creating a difficulty of flow or hampering flow particularly the flow of an audio signal as a current in terms of audio/video (see "Impedance").

Resonant Frequency: Frequency at which a speaker vibrates in unison with the audio signal creating vibrations in the enclosure and driver with very little input.

Reverberation: Reflection of sound waves against room boundaries and objects within the room persisting after the original sound has ceased.

RF (Radio Frequency): Wide frequency range of electromagnetic signals from around 10 kHz (10,000 Hz) to 300 GHz (300,000,000,000 Hz.

RF Modulation: Method of placing an audio signal with a relatively low 20 to 20,000 Hz frequency on top of a much higher frequency radio frequency (in the area of 100,000,000 Hz) by varying the frequency of the radio signal according to the audio signal so that the audio signal can be sent over long distances and distributed through broadcast antennas (see FM).

RFI: Radio Frequency Interference - An undesirable form of audio rectification that occurs in an audio circuit when radio frequency energy is present demodulated and mixed into the audio signal.

Rhythm section: Section of the band which is responsible for laying down the beat, usually consisting of the drummer and bass player.

Riff: A short repeated musical phrase or figure.

Rigger: Person licensed to supervise the fixing and securing of heavy loads, such as lighting or sound systems which may need to be suspended or 'flown'.

Ripper: A software program that "grabs" digital audio from a compact disc and transfers it to a computer's hard drive. The integrity of the data is preserved because the signal does not pass through the computer's sound card and does not need to be converted to an analog format. The digital-to-digital transfer creates a WAV file that can then be converted into an MP3 file.

RMS: Root Mean Square: A method of calculating the average power generated by a sinusoidal waveform. Used for comparing amplifier power, it is a more realistic measure than 'peak' power or 'peak-to-peak' power.

Roll-Off: Decrease in signal or sound pressure in decibels as a speaker or speaker driver attempts to reproduce frequencies outside of its primary frequency range (a midrange driver may roll-off at 500 Hz and its output decreases from that point); attenuation of frequencies outside a range specified in a crossover network (see Slope).

Room EQ; Room Tuning: The process of compensating for acoustic deficiencies in both venues and PA systems using graphic equalisers in FOH and foldback signal paths.

Room Interaction: Description of how the room or space affects the quality of sound produced through an audio system or live audio performance.

RT60: Means 'Reverb Time - 60dB' and indicates, in seconds, the time taken for a continuous sound, which suddenly stops, to decay by 60dB. Used as a measure of the reverb decay in a room or hall. A bedroom may have an RT60 of 0.5 sec; a large hall may have an RT60 of 3.0 sec or more.

RU: Stands for 'Rack Unit': standard front panel height (1.75" or 4.44cm) used for pro-audio equipment to enable mounting in an equipment cabinet - see Effects Rack.

Run-Length Encoding: See Non-Lossy Compression.

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Satellite Speaker: A small- to medium-size speaker usually 12 to 24 inches in height designed to be placed on stands or other objects and operated with a subwoofer (see Bookshelf Speaker).

Saturation (Tape): The distortion caused by magnetic recording media being unable to store as much high frequency information as low frequency information.

Scrubbing: The process of moving within an audio file or tape to audibly locate a particular section. The term originally comes from the days of reel-to-reel players, when rocking a reel would give the impression of scrubbing tape across the head. Many audio scrub tools today allow the user to drag a cursor across the wave form to audition different sections of the audio file.

SDR: Software Defined Radio

Sealed Enclosure: Type of speaker enclosure in which the speaker driver is mounted into a sealed box with no air exchange from the air inside the box to air outside the box (see Acoustic Suspension).

Sensitivity: Measure of the sound pressure level generated at a distance of one meter from a speaker when the speaker is fed a 2.83 volt signal (1 watt at 8 ohms); efficiency of a speaker creating a certain sound pressure level from a given input with high figures representing a more efficient speaker.

Servo: Specially designed electronic circuit loop which measures speaker distortion and works with the speaker's amplifier to correct the signal in an effort to decrease distortion (see Accelerometer Servo).

Shielding (Cable): A wire mesh surrounding the conductor(s) inside a cable to prevent outside interference from getting in and to prevent the signal contained in the cable from escaping to other equipment. Some cable types employ "Double Shielding" to further reduce the crossover of signals in or out of the cable.

Shielding (Circuit or Chassis): A metal wall or case designed to keep outside signal(s) from entering or internal signal(s) from escaping a circuit that generates propigating signals.

Sibilance: The distortion of sibilants by recording and reinforcement systems incapable of handling the high frequencies present in such sounds. See also "Saturation".

Sibilants: High frequency sounds in speech, such as "S", "F" & "T".

Sidefill: Foldback speakers placed at sides of stage providing general coverage for performers when monitor wedges are insufficient. See also'drumfill'.

Signal processors: Electronic devices which alter sound either to achieve a particular effect or to solve a problem with that sound (e.g. delays, compressors, reverbs, noise gates, equalisers).

Sine Wave: Type of pure waveform having an equal distance from its peak to the zero or center line and from its trough to the center line and in which the positive hump and negative hump of the wave are exactly equal in length, shape and height but flipped in a mirror image about the center line.

Slap-Back Echo: (See "Echo")

Slew Rate: Fastest rate at which an amplifier can change the amplitude of its output signal measured in volts per microsecond with a higher figure being better (meaning that the amplifier can change more voltage in a given period of time, one microsecond).

Slope: How quickly a crossover or filter attenuates signals (decreases their power) outside its passband (those frequencies intended to pass through without attenuation); expressed in decibels per octave.

S/N Ratio (Signal-to-Noise Ratio): Maximum output of an electronic device or recording medium compared to its noise floor or level of background noise.

Snake: (See "Multicore")

Sonority: (See "Timbre")

Sound Check; Soundcheck: The process of establishing the appropriate balance between the various instruments and vocals for both the FOH and monitor system prior to performing. Usually carried out by the engineer having the band play through several songs at the venue after the 'Room EQ' but before the gig.

Sound engineer: Person responsible for sound production.

Sound reinforcement: The use of amplification to project and reinforce sound for an audience.

Sound Wave: Continuous audio frequency signal taking the form of a wavy line similar to waves on the water with frequency determining the length of the waves and amplitude or volume determining the height of the waves.

Soundstage: The perceived width, depth and height of recorded sound played back over an audio system; the setting similar to a theater stage from which sounds seem to emanate when reproduced through an audio system (see Imaging).

Speakers: Devices that convert electrical signals into variations in sound pressure.

Specifications: A set of measured results and expectations of the performance and limitations of a given piece of equipment, usually found in the owners manual or electronic document by the manufacturer.

Spectrum: A band or range of frequencies; the audible spectrum runs from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz).

Spectrum Analyzer: Electronic device that measures a particular spectrum or frequency band and displays information about that particular spectrum or band.

Spider: Component of a speaker driver that holds the voice coil and rear of the diaphragm in position near the magnet and also acts as a spring or bungee to return a moving diaphragm to its stationary position.

SPL Meter (Sound Pressure Level): Device that measures the sound pressure level in a given location; commonly used in audio to properly set surround sound systems to the Dolby reference level and adjust other parameters of a sound system (see Sound Pressure Level).

Splatter: A non-technical slang term specifically used to describe a radio frequency signal that is distorted causing the RF bandwidth to exceed the original audio bandwidth contained in it, thus causing interference to adjacent radio frequencies. (See also "Buckshot")

Stack: A group or cluster of loudspeakers placed in close proximity to one another so they function more as a single unit due to acoustic coupling and other factors. Examples: PA stack; Marshall Stack.

Stage Box: A junction box at the stage end of a multicore equipped with female XLR connectors used for microphone signals destined for a mixing console at the other end. May also contain several male XLR connectors for signals sent back up the multicore from the console.

Standing Wave: Low frequency anomaly or distortion created when a certain frequency is reproduced whose size has some special relation to the room or object it is produced in (wavelength the same size as the room dimensions) resulting in the room or object resonating with the sound and increasing the strength of the sound (the sound wave does not diminish and may instead increase as it interacts with its surroundings).

Star Quad (Audio Cable): Special audio cable that uses 4 conductors and shielding to reduce or eliminate R.F.I., hum and cable signal loss inherent in standard cable types where long cable runs are used and strong R.F. fields are present. Typical wiring of Star Quad cable is using 2 conductors for positive, two conductors for negative and the shielding for ground in a professional balanced audio configuration.

Steering: Ability of a surround sound processor to move sound around a given acoustical space from speaker to speaker.

Stereo: Two channels of audio information (usually oriented Left and Right) recorded and played back in such a way as to recreate a sound stage giving depth and breadth to audio reproduction.

Streaming: A technique for transferring data such that it can be processed as a steady and continuous stream. Streaming technologies are often used on the Internet because most users do not have fast enough access to download large multimedia files quickly, so the client browser or plug-in can start displaying the data before the entire file has been transmitted.

Stylus: The small metal rod or shaft, also known as the needle, that reads the grooves in a record and transfers the information to the phono cartridge where an electric signal is formed to transmit the sound information (see Cartridge).

Subwoofer: Special form of speaker used to reproduce only the lower portion of the audible frequency spectrum usually from 80 Hz down to or below 20 Hz.

Surge Protection: Protection against lightning strikes and other similar sudden increases in power, which may damage electrical equipment.

Surround (Speaker Driver Surround): Flexible rubber, plastic, foam or other material that attaches a speaker driver's diaphragm (the moving cone or dome - the drive unit) to the basket (the structure holding all the parts of the speaker driver in place) and allows the diaphragm to vibrate in and out.

Surround Channel: Specific path of audio information, the channel, provided in a surround sound audio system to drive speakers situated on the sides or rear of a room primarily providing ambience and atmosphere.

Surround Channel Speaker: Speaker used to reproduce surround channel information primarily to create ambience and sonic realism.

Suspension: The flexible element of a speaker driver that attaches the moving diaphragm to the basket and holds the diaphragm in proper relation to the rest of the speaker driver components and helping to enable the diaphragm to move and produce sound (see Surround).

Sweet Spot: A term referring to the optimum listening position in a room where the listener is correctly positioned relative to the speakers where phasing (reflection time) of the audio signal and optimum frequency response is achieved. Usually located in the middle of the room.

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Tablature or TAB: Notation commonly used by guitarists which indicates fingerboard position by numbers, symbols and diagrams.

Tactile Sound: Sound energy converted from sound waves that vibrate the air to physical vibrations that you can feel.

Temperament / Temper: The relationship between two pitches, called an interval, is the ratio of their absolute frequencies. Two different intervals are perceived to be the same when the pairs of pitches involved share the same frequency ratio. The easiest intervals to tune are those that are just, which have a simple whole-number ratio. The term temperament refers to a tuning system which tempers the just perfect fifth (which has the ratio 3:2) in order to satisfy some other mathematical property; to temper a fifth, in this case, is to slightly narrow the interval by flattening its upper pitch slightly.

Techno-Nerd: Acronym for "Technology Nerd". Someone who is passionate about one or more areas of technology. -- If you are reading this, then you most propapby are one!

Test Tone: A constant pure sine wave tone or tones played over an audio system to allow critical measurement and adjustment of an audio system both when individual components are being developed and when a complete system is being installed.

THD (Total Harmonic Distortion): Distortion derived from the creation of harmonics (multiples of a base frequency signal) in an audio system adding additional frequency peaks to the output.

THD+N (Total Harmonic Distortion plus Noise): Combination of total harmonic distortion (THD) with noise to achieve a complete figure representing distortions present in an electronic component with lower levels below one percent being preferable (see THD and Noise).

Three Phase: A five-pin power supply system consisting of 3 legs/phases of active power with one earth and one neutral.

Three-Way Speaker: Speaker system with three or more individual drivers covering three frequency sections or bands.

Timbre: The combination of harmonic frequencies in voices or instruments which give them their characteristic quality. Synonyms: 'Quality', 'Sonority', 'Tone Colour'.

Toe-In: Angling a speaker in toward the primary listening position to achieve better imaging and sound quality.

Tone: A steady, audible frequency or steady sound. A test tone is a pure tone or a single, pure frequency sound wave. Also used generically to describe the overall sound or feel of an audio signal.

Tone Color: (See "Timbre")

Tracking: Ability of a CD player, phonograph, DVD player or other device that reads data in a continuous track around a disc to follow that information track and take information from it.

Transducer: A device designed to convert one form of energy into another. An example of a transducer that converts acoustic sound energy to electrical energy is a microphone; examples of a transducer that convert electrical energy to acoustic sound energy are speakers and headphones.

Transformer (Audio): A device that "transforms" the impedance and level from one value to another while breaking the ground-to-ground connection through mutual induction. Used to eliminate or reduce signal hum and R.F.I. (common mode rejection), while providing a means to transform from one impedance and signal level to another.

Transient: Sudden, sharp signal increase often referring to a sudden increase in sound volume or power.

Transistor: Three-terminal semiconductor device that is commonly used in electronics and has the ability to amplify signals.

Transmission Line: Type of speaker enclosure in which the back-force of a bass driver (the acoustic energy generated from the backside of the driver) is routed through a fairly long, winding channel or "hall" before being ported to the outside of the cabinet. Also referred to a line or cable that feeds radio frequency signals from the source to an antenna.

Transparency: A subjective term used in audio to indicate how easily and how much of the sound of the live event comes through a recording when played through an audio system.

Transport: Part of an audio or audio/video playback system which reads the data from a storage medium (typically CD, DVD or laserdisc) but does not decode that data from its digital form into an analog form suitable for audio reproduction (or potentially video reproduction where applicable).

Treble: The upper part of the audio frequency spectrum that contains high frequencies.

Tremolo: 1. A fluctuation of amplitude applied to a sound of constant frequency. Often incorrectly used, as in 'tremolo arm' on a guitar which actually produces vibrato. 2. For stringed instruments such as a mandolin, fast up and down strokes of equal strength of the plectrum or index finger on the strings.

Tremolo arm: A lever which alters string tension on an electric guitar, used to produce a tremolo or vibrato-like effect.

Truss: Section of steel or aluminium box, or triangularly-braced metal work used for suspending lighting or audio equipment.

Tuning: Adjustment of pitch of musical instruments to correct values.

Tuner: Electronic device used to tune acoustic or electronic instruments to standard pitch.

Tweeter: High frequency speaker driver used to reproduce frequencies typically above 2,000 to 3,000 Hz all the way up to 20,000 Hz.

Two-Way Speaker: Speaker system with two or more individual drivers covering two frequency sections or bands.

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Un-Balanced Line: Two-conductor cable - (center for plus) and (shield for minus).

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Variable Audio Output: Low level audio output (usually in the form of a RCA connection) which varies in strength with the volume or level of the source component.

VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier): An amplifier whose output is controlled by varying its voltage rather than by direct resistance (as with a potentiometer).

VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator): An oscillator whose frequency output is controlled by varying its voltage rather than with a potentiometer.

VCF (Voltage Controlled Filter): An audio filter whose effective frequency band is controlled by varying its voltage rather than with a potentiometer.

Vertical Input: Usually referring to the vertical (Y) input of an oscilloscope that measures an audio, I.F. or R.F. signal source.

Vibrato: Expressive effect which producers a fluctuation of pitch. A rapid, slight variation in pitch in singing or playing some musical instruments, producing a stronger or richer tone. It is often used as an expressive device.

Voice Coil: Tightly wrapped coil of wire attached to a speaker driver's diaphragm and situated in close proximity to a stationary magnet; electromagnet that generates a magnetic field when current passes through it thus being repelled or attracted by a speaker driver's magnet and creating motion.

Volume: Loudness of sound; a subjective sensation dependent on the amplitude of a sound wave or electrical signal, but not linearly related to it.

Voodoo Audio: A slang term regarding the philosophy and approach to audio processing where added even harmonics are desired to add depth and resonance to low frequencies. In addition to low frequency processing, Voodoo Audio techniques also include careful selection of high quality tubes, OpAmps, resistors, transformers, and other components to facilitate the coloring of audio in a pleasing manner. This may also include correcting a flaw in digital equipment known as "Digital Jitter" that causes a phenomenon known as "Digititus". (See Digital Jitter and Digititus)

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W/ch (Watts per Channel): Measurement of power output for each channel in an amplifier.

Watt: Measurement of power derived by multiplying current by voltage; measurement used to quantify the amount of power output by an amplifier.

WAV: The format for sound files developed jointly by Microsoft and IBM, and built into Windows 95 which made it the de facto standard for sound on PCs. WAV sound files end with a.wav extension and can be played by nearly all Windows applications that support sound.

Waveform: A graphical representation of a signal as a plot of amplitude versus time, i.e. the shape of a wave.

Wavelength: Distance between two points in the same position on a wave in two consecutive cycles (two cycles directly following one after the other).

Wave Table Synthesis: A technique for generating sounds from digital signals. Wave table synthesis stores digital samples of sound from various instruments, which can then be combined, edited, and enhanced to reproduce sound defined by a digital input signal. Wave table synthesis reproduces the sound of musical instruments better than Frequency Modulation (FM) synthesis.

Wedge: Foldback speaker placed on the floor at the feet of stage vocalists to deliver the monitor mix for performers.

White Noise: Broadband test noise where the amplitude has no attenuation as frequency increases.

Woofer: Speaker driver that handles the low frequency signals of a sound wave.

Wow and Flutter: Variations in the speed of playback of a recorded signal resulting in pitch variations and distortions.

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XLR: Multipoint plug used for professional audio equipment

X/Y: A reference made to the "X" (Horizontal) and "Y" (Vertical) input of an oscilloscope or similar grid, of looking at two signals or references of comparison.

X and Y Axis: In a graph or chart showing the realtionship of one acoustical phenomenon or measurement relative to another, it is common to plot the ralionship on a chart with intersecting vertical and horizontal axis (X and Y) that graphicly shows the interaction between two or more elements, such as frequency and power in a given situation.

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Y-Connector: Connection that splits a single cable into two so that it may begin from one source with one connection and terminate in two connections on two components (or it may go the other way where two outputs are joined to the same input but this may not work if both outputs are sending information at the same time).

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Zero Bit Detection: A circuit in a D/A converter that monitors the digital audio bit stream. upon encountering all bits low, or zero bits, the output of the D/A is disconnected from the preamp. This improves the signal-to-noise ratio specification.

Zero Crossing: An analog waveform consists of two alternating voltage polarities (positive to negative to positive...etc.). The point where the polarity changes from positive to negative, or vice versa, is called the zero crossing. When looping a wave or editing two waveforms together, this is the ideal location for the splice as the levels of the two waves are both at zero. This eliminates the possibility of clicks or pops created by mis-matched levels, and makes for a smooth sonic transition.

Zero Output: The absence of output signal or output power

Zip Cord: Inexpensive, thin speaker wire normally 16 or 18 gauge.

Zone: In audio terms, a zone is an area in a home, office or other structure to which audio and/or video signals are distributed.

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John M. Anning - NU9N e-Mail:  e-Mail NU9N
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