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Defining Confusing Audio Terms

by February 21, 2012
Defining Confusing Audio Terms

Defining Confusing Audio Terms

In any industry, you'll run into specific lexicons. These are words that may mean completely different things in a different setting. Go into a theater and tell an actor to "break a leg" and they'll thank you. Walk into an MMA match and you'll receive a completely different reaction. We run across a number of terms that have different meanings depending on who you talk to. We've taken some and listed them below along with, when possible, the meanings to the different groups. While this is not an exhaustive list, it certainly is a good start. Feel free to make suggestions in the forums.



  • General user - a little more than 5. Also has something to do with home theater but I don't understand it.
  • Audioholic - five speakers and one sub. Basically 2.1 less than I need/want. Perhaps 2.3. And if I ever get a receiver with a fully functional Audyssey DSX, 6.1 less than I MUST HAVE!
  • Audiophile - 3.1 more than I want or need.


  • General user - what we do on a trampoline.
  • Audioholic - a reason to spend an extra $100 on a receiver.
  • Audiophile - how rocks transform the sound in my listening room.


  • General user - used with guitars and bass guitars.
  • Audioholic - the single best father's day present ever. And, unlike ties, we don't mind getting one year after year.
  • Audiophile - required me to add six inches to my slab, reinforce the joists, and/or hire a forklift to move it in. Best placed on a huge granite slab sitting on wooden blocks on the floor.

Blu-ray player

  • General user - how I watch movies.
  • Audioholic - how I watch movies, stream content, and enjoy lossless, 7.1 channel music.
  • Audiophile - pretty sure it's just another CD player.

Bookshelf Speaker

  • General user - speakers that you put in a bookshelf.
  • Audioholic - a smaller speaker that must be put on a stand and paired with a subwoofer.
  • Audiophile - a smaller speaker that may be full range depending on the driver/cable/amp/processor combination.


  • General user - something that came in the box with the speakers and receiver. Connects stuff to stuff.
  • Audioholic - something we buy online because we can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
  • Audiophile - the single greatest, most satisfying expenditure I've made including when I bought my home.


  • General user - a name of a character on Deep Space 9?
  • Audioholic - contained in many pieces of audio gear. Converts digital signals to analogue. Important.
  • Audiophile - a separate box. Should be upgraded monthly.

Double Blind Testing

  • General user - something we heard about on House.
  • Audioholic - in a forum argument: the reason why you don't know what the heck you are talking about and why I'm right; In marketing: our wife said she thought it sounded good.
  • Audiophile - a waste of time because we could totally tell every time so we're not going to do it. Ever.


  • General user - what I am when I get behind the wheel of my car. Also, the name of a video game and movie.
  • Audioholic - the part of the speaker that makes the noise.
  • Audiophile - a magical device that can tonally flavor a sound based on its material. So aluminum drivers sound metallic, paper drivers sound pulpy, and diamond drivers sound hard and sharp.

Extends well below 20Hz

  • General user - sounds impressive.
  • Audiohlic - in expensive subwoofers: 18Hz or so; in budget subwoofers: 5Hz but only when shoved in a coffin, measured at 1", and at 20dB.
  • Audiophile - my bookshelf speakers.


  • General user - a type of jacket.
  • Audioholic - one of the only acceptable compression techniques.
  • Audiophile - a type of jacket.

Floorstanding Speakers

  • General user - speaker I put on the floor. Can be any size.
  • Audioholic - a large speaker featuring multiple drivers that extends well below 80Hz and is as much a piece of furniture and work of art as it is a high-end piece of audio equipment.
  • Audiophile - we just call these "speakers".

Frequency response

  • General user - a graph that means nothing.
  • Audioholic - one of many measures that will inform on the performance of a speaker.
  • Audiophile - something to be actively scorned and ignored. Because, you know, my ears are better than any microphone.

Full Range Driver

  • General user - what most of our speakers have.
  • Audioholic - a single two inch, five cent, paper cone, Chinese made driver in a small plastic enclosure. Mostly associated with HTiB's, TVs, and computer speakers.
  • Audiophile - a completely reasonable design for a floorstanding speaker.

High-end - (descriptor)

  • General user - stuff I can't afford.
  • Audioholic - code for expensive. Unless it is used in marketing in which it means, "most expensive/lowest performing product we can use with which to compare our product. Used so that we can say, "Better than systems costing 5x's as much!"
  • Audiophile - my gear.

Home Theater

  • General user - my living room.
  • Audioholic - where my kid used to sleep.
  • Audiophile - my living room. Unless you mean "listening room" then it is the specifically designed room that I added on to my house that is acoustically horrible but I spent more on it than you spent on your last three cars combined.

HTiB (Home Theater in a Box)

  • General user - a home theater system.
  • Audioholic - what your friends mean when they ask you to put together a "high-end audio system for their new 60 inch LCD".
  • Audiophile - a high-end audio store. It's like the time I walked in and said, "I'll take one of everything."

i - (prefix)

  • General user - works with my iDevice. Probably awesome.
  • Audioholic - may or may not work with an iDevice, but it certainly will be white, plastic, and have the same design aesthetic. Conveys an intense focus on design and a complete lack of caring about actual performance.
  • Audiophile - things my kids buy.


  • General user - the price point of my car.
  • Audioholic - a type of driver. Handles the range between the tweeter and the woofer.
  • Audiophile - what I think a $25,000 speaker is.


  • General user - why I can get 10,000 songs on my phone.
  • Audioholic - the worst thing that has happened to audio since the accordion.
  • Audiophile - can be fixed with the right cable/DAC combination.

Press Release

  • General user - a document providing consumers all the information they need to understand and get excited about a new product.
  • Audioholic- how marketing companies stay busy. Follow this formula - Title, Date, tell everyone how this company is the best in the world/industry, brief overview of product, quote from designer/engineer, more product information (or not), about manufacturer, about PR company, contact info. Note - actual useful product information is optional and can be substituted with pseudo-science, marketing speak, history of company, more engineer/designer quotes, and complete gibberish.
  • Audiophile - the same as the Audioholic except replace "pseudo-science", "marketing speak", and "gibberish", with "gospel truth". Also, three times as long.


  • General user - something in my computer.
  • Audioholic - part of a receiver. We might get an external amp and use our receiver as a processor.
  • Audiophile - a device that needs to have as few features, buttons, and knobs as possible. Should weigh at least 100 pounds.


  • General user - came with my speakers. In the box.
  • Audioholic - the single most important piece of gear in the system other than the speakers.
  • Audiophile - something I'll never own.

Reference - (descriptor)

  • General user - a dictionary or encyclopedia.
  • Audioholic - when used in a review, refers to the equipment the reviewer owns. Within a product line, usually indicates their most expensive model.
  • Audiophile - vinyl.

Room correction

  • General user - what our wife does to our speakers when we are out of the room. We move them back when we want to watch a movie.
  • Audioholic - one of the more important features in our receiver.
  • Audiophile - can be achieved by rocks, raising cables off the ground, and wooden volume knobs.

Room treatments

  • General user - something that goes over windows?
  • Audioholic - usually constructed out of fiberglass insulation or foam, absorbs sound to make our theater sound better. Also, the reason for the single largest fight we've had with our wife since we told them that their friend was "smoking hot".
  • Audiophile - audio old wives' tale. Used by people that don't have good power cords.

Single Blind Testing

  • General user - umm…trying out taking a blind person on a date?
  • Audioholic - a completely acceptable form of listening test when bias is well controlled.
  • Audiophile - listening with a pirate patch over one eye.


  • General user - that box that we shoved behind the TV.
  • Audioholic - the single most important speaker in my system. Sometimes used as a coffee table. More is better.
  • Audiophile - a totally optional speaker that is rarely necessary.


  • General user - a little yellow bird on TV often chased by a white and black cat.
  • Audioholic - handles the high end of the frequency range. Where it crosses over into the midrange driver can be a problem area and needs to be evaluated carefully when purchasing speakers.
  • Audiophile - optional equipment often placed on top of a speaker playing sounds out of the range of human hearing. Well, not MY hearing because I'm an audiophile but I'm sure you can't hear it with your tin-ears.

Ultra - (descriptor)

  • General user - the best.
  • Audioholic - no relation to performance. Could mean anything.
  • Audiophile - how fast my cables are.


  • General user - something my Dad used to listen to along with cassettes and 8-tracks.
  • Audioholic - a format that just WON'T DIE!!!!
  • Audiophile - still the best. Always the best. The scratchiness just makes it better.


  • General user - requires no wires.
  • Audioholic - a wire that you would normally have to connect is no longer needed. All other wires (especially power cords) are still needed. Also, a reason to double the price of a device.
  • Audiophile - but what do I do with my $15,000 MIT cables?


  • General user - placed in the trunk of cars by those guys on TV for rappers and b-ball players. Also, a dog's mouth.
  • Audioholic - a type of driver handing the lowest frequencies.
  • Audiophile - sometimes included on speakers. Usually no more than one is needed.

X - (prefix)

  • General user - if something starts with 'X', it is meant to be the "Extreme" version. Something better than the others. 
  • Audioholic - yeah, right. You know, like how the XFL was better than the NFL.
  • Audiophile - only applies to cables, Superman's vision, and Xylophones.

In addition to being the snarky Associate Editor of Audioholics, Tom has expanded his writing to include two new ebooks - Bob Moore: No Hero and a sequel Bob Moore: Desperate Times. Download them and check them out. You won't regret it. For more information on Tom, visit www.tomandry.com.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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