Audiolingo can be very confusing. Different people can mean different things when they talk about musicality. The same goes for many more audiophile words to describe how a component sounds.
Terms like analytical, musical, fast, warm etc, what do they mean? Or, more to the point, what do I mean by them?
Different people can mean different things even though they use the same vocabulaire when describing the sound of a given component. This is because audiolingo, the terms with which we metaphorically describe what we hear, much like how people describe wine, is relatively relative. Okay, that doesn't help you one bit. I know. But still, like in the wine business, if you grow accustomed to the lingo and talk with many people about it, you wind up using more or less the same terms.
In this article I want to present you with a list that contains the terms that I use most in my reviews to describe the sound of components. My lingo stems from a compilation of everything I heard or read over a very long period. As such, I feel that it is pretty universal, but nevertheless I sometimes receive mails from people who like a more sharply delineated explanation of what I mean exactly by certain terms. So here is the list. I may add more terms over time so please check back later if you're missing a term, or email me!
The ability to finely resolve even minute details; reproducing exactly what's on the recording. As such, accuracy needn't be the same as musicality. In its most extreme form, accuracy can lead to what I call clinicality, in which it is all technically very good, but somehow the emotion is missing.
Originally this refers to the absence of digital processing, ie the recording is usually made on tape and playback is usually from lp. Lately, I've also used the term to describe digital gear as coming close to the analogue ideal. Basically this refers mostly to the treble which, in digital, can lack air, be dry and grainy. If the highs are extended, airy, fluid and finely resolved, I feel that the recording is closer to analogue. Of course there are other factors as well to make for an analogue feel besides the treble, such as a rich tonality and the ability to prtray both dynamic, fast-transient behaviour and still have excellent fluidity and long decays at the same time. This is usually very difficult for digital. Digital can be fast and dynamic or it can be smooth and relaxing but rarely is it both at the same time.
The opposite of tame; the sound really barks at you. It leaps from the speakers and grabs you by the throat and sounds angry while doing it. Some people like this kind of sound and find it more exiting. It can also work better than a musical sound with certain kinds of music.
The property of equipment to make even tiny differences in software or cables audible, can also be used in a negative way, see Clinical
Related to dynamics, edyness, agression and transients. It means that the sound is dynamic and can be edgy and transients are very sharply delineated and/or tight.
A term that I rarely use. It is used to indicate that a recording of piece of equipment is better than stock mass-produced components. Usually they are tweaked and/or use higher grade materials and components.
Like when you are in a high tech infermary: it is all very clean and technically trustworthy but not very cozy. It is like analytical but even more so.
It is the equivalent of a sauce with lots of butter in it, or the richness in milkchocolate. In other words, it indicates that the sound is anything but dry. It also indicates that the sound may be less than ultra-dynamic.
The extended finer echoes and wooshes that follow the initial transients. In digital, there is a tendency to cut off decaying notes too early. Analog is typically much better at this although you could also accuse tape of adding extra decay and or ambiance. But in my opinion you can better have too much than too little.
Lively, the opposite of dull. Officially it is used to describe the difference between the softest sound and the loudest one. The larger the difference, the greater the dynamics. But many people don't perceive it like this. For example, when a CD is produced with a lot of compression it sounds very loud and dynamic while in fact the dynamic range is greatly reduced because all the sounds are played back within a couple of dB's.
Indicates that the sound has extra sharpness and is not rounded or pleasant. It can also give the impression of attack.
The opposite of fuzzy. It refers to the soundstage being sharply delineated. You can clearly see the various instruments and singers in their relative positions in the soundstage.
Fluidity is analogous to water. It runs freely and this is how you can project it onto sound: free flowing, ie not strict, dry or over-controlled
The opposite of focused. it refers to the soundstage being somewhat cloudy, individual instruments and singers are overlapping and/or indistinct.
Usually applies to tweeters sounding as if they're made from glass: edgy, hard or metallic.
Indicates that the sound is somewhat edgy or shouty, not rounded or pleasant. It can also give the impression of dynamics.
This is a difficult one as it can be interpreted in various ways. I use it to indicate that the sound is pleasant, enjoyable and speaks to the heart. It is not neccesarily, but can be, technically very good.
This stands for Pace Rhythm And Timing. Oft-used by the English but more and more by me, too:-) What it means is that the piece of equipment in question is capable of injecting a "I cannot sit stil and must move my feet" kind if feeling. Roughly speaking it refers to speed and dynamics.
The opposite of coarse. Imagine digital as having steps. The more steps, the higher the resolution is. It is also more refined. But there is more to this term. It also points to a certain well-behaved, more gentle manner of musical portrayal.
Refers to transients. When they are sharp, the sound is perceived as quick and dynamic; when they are rounded, the music is more relaxed/laidback and often perceived less dynamic.
Not neccesarily very dynamic but it can be. It means that there are no hard edges, the sound is ear-friendly and creamy, reminiscent of stereotypical analog
The "image" between and surrounding the speakers. It is an illusion created in our brain that makes us hear the recorded or created space in which the musicians all have their own place from left to right and from front to back.
Difficult to describe but easy to hear, although I've never read about it in other magazines. I use the term to indicate that the sound is real. It is best explained using a cheap Sony CD player and a Wadia CD player. The Sony may have excellent detail retrieval as well as sounding open and uncoloured, yet it sounds artificial compared to the Wadia which sounds much more solid, physical, in a word more real.
The peaks of sounds. When a sound starts, it builds up from silence into its peak. The quicker this happens, the sharper the transient and the more dynamic and lively the music is perceived. You can also have overly sharp transients, this can result in dryness and less fluidity. The other opposite is that transients are rounded off.
The opposite of cold: enveloping, easy, smooth, cosy, mostly at the exclusion of clinicality and ultra-detailing