AVS Forum banner

Status
Not open for further replies.
1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
122 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
As an audio novice, I've been somewhat mystified by some of the lingo used to describe the different qualities of sound.


I'm wondering if there is a definitive source which defines these terms (is this something to add to the glossary?). Or if you folks would describe in your own words what these terms mean. I recognize that probably the best way to learn these terms is through a live demo, but of course that's not going to work here.


In particular, I'm curious about:


"forward"


"laid back"


"musical"


"soundstage"


"layering" (I think pertains to imaging)


"bright"


"warm"


"analytical"


"sweetness" (marketing/reviewer fluff?)


"liquidity" (marketing/reviewer fluff?)



Any insight is appreciated.


Thanks,

Dan
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,335 Posts
Dan,


Keep in mind, these are the usage I'm familiar with for these terms.... I don't know that I've used many of them myself. I try to use traditional english.

Forward


Apparent "front" of image is pushed in towards the listener.

laid back


Depends on the context. The times I've seen it, this refers to a component which has a "relaxed" air about them.

musical


Gets the message right. This can (in some cases) be a hint of euphonic distortion.

soundstage


The spread left to right, and back to front of a stereo or multi-channel recording.

layering


This usually refers to front/back presentation within the stereo soundfield.

bright


Emphasises the top end of the spectrum. This is usually a criticism.

warm


Lack of edge or harshness to the sound. Kind of like the difference in tonal quality between a cup mute (warm) and a straight mute (harsh/agressive).

analytical


Lacking emotion. Too clean, sterile.

sweetness


Usually euphonic distortion

liquidity


All the parts flow together. I think of it as a euphonic distortion.


Those are my understandings of the terms.


Regards,
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
63 Posts
I agree. Well done, John.


Dan, pick up a copy of Chesky's Ultimate Demonstration Disc from their website . Not only is it an INDISPENSABLE tool for when you want to purchase new speakers, amps, pre/pros, or receivers but it helps immensely to train your ears by introducing some audiofile terms and then playing a well-recorded, well-engineered track to demonstrate the terms so you can hear for yourself. IIRC, you can also pick it up at CDNOW as well and you may be able to find it locally.


Regards,


RR


Edit: For the link to Chesky's site, I had to take it out of its frames. To view the whole site, go here: http://www.chesky.com
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
122 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Good info guys. Thanks. Even more questions, though.


Using John K.'s definitions as a starting point:


Forward

Apparent "front" of image is pushed in towards the listener.


I believe I like forward sounding speakers. If I understand this term correctly, it lends a sense of being enveloped by the music instead of the music coming from some place far in front of you. But why do speakers sound forward? What characteristic of the sound is altered for speakers to sound forward?


laid back

Depends on the context. The times I've seen it, this refers to a component which has a "relaxed" air about them.


Again, what characteristic of the sound is altered? Is this often used to express the opposite of "bright" in that the sound has slightly diminished highs? Or is this the opposite of "forward"?


musical

Gets the message right. This can (in some cases) be a hint of euphonic distortion.


What is "euphonic distortion"?


soundstage

The spread left to right, and back to front of a stereo or multi-channel recording.


So if imaging is the ability of a speaker to correctly place a sound on a 2d plane left to right and up and down, is soundstage the ability of a speaker to correctly place a sound on a 3d plane which now includes back to front?


warm

Lack of edge or harshness to the sound. Kind of like the difference in tonal quality between a cup mute (warm) and a straight mute (harsh/agressive).


What characteristic of the sound is being altered for a warm sound? A slightly diminished high end?


analytical

Lacking emotion. Too clean, sterile.


Is this a negative term? Does this indicate that the sound is not dynamic enough?



Again, any help is appreciated.

Thanks,

Dan
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
937 Posts
Dan, you're fooling us -- based on your last post, you really do understand. Just a couple of thoughts:


Yes, forward and laid back are opposites. Almost like "in your face vs in the background"


Euphonic distortion (musical) means it sounds nice but is a distortion from the original


Soundstage is three-dimensional


Analytical is a negative term, lacking passion


You got everything else --


regards, Michael
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,335 Posts
Michael and Dan,


Not much to add to this.


In terms of what would cause a forward presentation, I don't know. I have some thoughts, but nothing I've run past someone that knows a lot more than me ;)


To me Forward isn't part of envelopment. For me, envelopment would be from the sides.....


In terms of warmth there are two possible causes:

1) Attenuation in higher frequency regions (say starting around 4K and out)


2) Inclusion of even-order harmonic distortion components (2nd, 4th, 6th etc) which align with musically consonant intervals (octaves, fourths etc).


Regards,
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
413 Posts
Dan:


mbpg is right when defining the term "euphonic distortion". A pretty well-know example of such "euphonic distortion" is given by some tube amplifiers.


The phenomena seems to be linked to the generation of even-order "harmonics" by the gear. The presence of such even-order harmonics "distorts" the original signal by making the resultant sound "richer" or "sweeter" of what it originally was. On the other hand, odd-order harmonics are responsible for "cacophonous distortion".


The initial difficulty to grasp the notion of "euphonic distortion" is a result of our conventional thinking process, which lead us to believe that all "distortion" of a reality must be something "bad" (which, in turn, is a relative concept). However, sonic-wise, not all distortions are alike; while some are easy on the ear (to the point of create sort of an addiction for that particular signature that the distortion creates), other distortions are annoying to the ear.


The same way that a liar person would distort reality if he or she said that I am the most wonderful person on Earth, the gear that distorts euphonically conveys to our ears something that is not true (ie. not faithful to the original signal); yet such "lie" is so sweet to our ears that we end liking it a lot.


Once again, "bad" is a relative concept. So, while some people will find the euphonic distortion to be a good thing (at least on the ear), other more purist people will find it to be something bad or objectionable.


On closing, this is one link for additional lingo:

http://www.lalena.com/audio/faq/sound/


Just my $0.02.


J.V.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
937 Posts
Quote:
In terms of what would cause a forward presentation, I don't know. I have some thoughts, but nothing I've run past someone that knows a lot more than me
John, somehow I suspect you are part of the more knowledgable group :), but I always felt the most forward speakers to be very dynamic as well -- ProAc and Dynaudio, for example -- vs KEFs (my HT), subtle, typical british understatement. But forwardness is definitely there and very easy to identify.


JV: good link -- it attributes euphonic distortion to even-order harmonics.


Michael
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,335 Posts
Michael,


One thing oft overlooked in all of this is the interaction of various tuning strategies.


The common modern tuning practice is to split the octave into 12 equal semitones, each spaced by the 12th root of two from one semitone to the next. This is referred to as "even tempered tuning".


Some older tuning practices follow more strictly the harmonic series:

1:1, 2:1, 3:2, 4:3, 5:4 etc to define intervals between pitches.


In the examples cited the ratio 3:2 defines the "perfect fifth" or "major 5th" if you want. In the even tempered tuning system, the ratio 1.498:1 defines the perfect fifth. Close but not identical. It's off by about 2 parts in 1000.


Just tempered tuning is a glorious sound, the catch is that you literally have to retune to change keys. Wow, so not fun. Imagine performing in 3 or 4 different key signatures in one night. What a PITA.


Anyway, the point here is that the addition of some of these natural harmonic series intervals is very pleasing to our ears -- and also what gets added in via THD.


These can conflict (as noted above) with just tempered tunings with respect to chord structures, which can be a bit wonky to use a British term.


I'm sorry, this isn't particularly well organized, I'm just throwing something out for everyone to think about that's a little bit off the initial topic, but does start to point out the what's and why's of some forms of euphonic distortion.


Regards,
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
122 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
Quote:
Originally posted by mbpg
Dan, you're fooling us -- based on your last post, you really do understand.
Hey, there's a big difference between thinking that you may understand something and knowing that you understand something.


I think it's important for me (and everyone) to understand exactly what these terms mean or else we'll all just end up BSing eachother.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,755 Posts
My take on "forward" sound is one where there is some midrange emphasis. High frequency emphasis can sound "bright" or "overly detailed." Bass emphasis creates a "full" or even "heavy" sound (personally, I consider it a "thudding" sound and really dislike the effect). A bit of bass emphasis combined with a bit of softness on highs can create a "warm" tonal quality.


But when there is some midrange emphasis, particularly when it is in the upper midrange, then it pushes instruments like brass and violins "forward" from their accompanyment (sic?). A bit lower in the frequency spectrum and it can push vocals "forward". To me this not akin to being enveloped by sound. I'm not a fan of a forward presentation, but some listeners prefer the extra snap from horns. The classic "JBL sound" was one with extra mid-bass and upper midrange emphasis.


As there are many different listener preferences, there are many different presentations from components (particularly from speakers). No one is best as that is determined by each listener.


Tom B.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,412 Posts
John's definitions were spot on but I would add caveats for two terms which can be used to describe two different hings:


Forward: can refer to a soundstaging affect as John described but it's also used to describe tonal balance as in " a forward midrange," meaning an emphasized midrange.


Liquidity: again as John described but also may be used to describe a tonal balance with an emphasis around 8 kHz and somewhat roll-off above that frequency, lending a "liquid," "sweet," phasy and euphonic sound in the highs. (As opposed to "airy" highs where the top octave is louder than the "liquid" 8kHz region.)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,755 Posts
By now some of the reasons why speakers can sound so much different is becoming apparent. If you gaze upon a speaker's frequency response curve, you'll notice that most of them have 4-6dB of variance across common frequencies (hence the use of the +-3dB spec). This level of variance generally overwhelms the difference from the electronics.


Two speakers that both measure at +-3dB from 35-18Khz, can sound dramatically different. One may be up +3dB across the 60-100Hz range and -3dB from 8Khz-12Khz. If the other is the opposite, then the resultant sound will be very, very different.


Most of the adjectives being discussed here are related to frequency response - "warm" speakers can generally be identified by their response curve, likewise for "laidback" and generally "forward" speakers.


Dynamics and soundstage can be different stories though. While it is true that very efficient speakers will also usually have good dynamics, it is hard to predict which medium efficiency speakers will excel at dynamics, this can be dependent upon which amp is used to drive them. For example, I've found that while Magneplanar speakers can have euphonic attributes when driven by low-to-medium powered tube amps, that to get the best out of them on dynamics and resolution requires a high-current amp (and usually a solidstate amp). Of course, one might still better like their Maggie with a tube amp and that's their choice.


Soundstage can be affected by several factors, including the cabinet design. For example the now-defunct Spica speakers used inexpensive, common drivers, yet threw up wonderful soundstages due to the cabinet designs employed by John Bau. Bau used precise driver matching, sloped & damped baffles, and time-aligned driver mounting to achieve these results. While John Dunlavy's designs also produced excellent soundstaging and used precise driver matching, he went with tall, multi-driver arrays and custom-designed first-order crossovers to achieve it.


If one is really going to get into critical listening and optimizing their audio system to meet their preferences, I know of no way of doing this without listening to a lot of music and equipment. This process can be simplified by getting familiar with the terms being bandied about here, listening to discs like the Chesky demo disc, and at least listening to a few different systems. Listen to the Chesky a number of times in your system, then take it with you to audition other systems. This will help you to more quickly notice differences and could even become fun to do!


Along the way, spend some time in discovering your own preferences. Don't adopt what others consider to be the "best" sound. There are a thousand "best" types of sound. Most of all, don't let yourself be pushed into accepting what someone defines as the "most accurate" sound as the sound you want to achieve in your listening room. It's all about what gets your juices flowing.


Tom B.
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top