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The Honest Audiophile's Terms and Definitions Guide

Updated: Jan 6

How does the Honest Audiophile define a term that he uses during his review?

Here is a guide for you in the Honest Audiophile's own words.


Accuracy - The ability of the gear to reproduce the recording but it may or may not be an accurate presentation of the original.

Aggressive - Reproducing audio in an excessive forward and bright manner.

Airy - Reproducing audio in a free, open and fresh manner around instruments and vocalists. Airy is not restricted only to the upper treble frequencies but is audible in the entire frequency range.

Alive - Quality of sound reproduction that offers realistic immersion that the musicians and instruments are life-like.

Analytical - Excessively detailed reproduction.

Articulate - Clear and intelligible, reproduction of details; easy to follow an individual voice or instrument in a group.

Attack - The initial, energetic moment when an instrument is bowed, blown, struck, picked, strummed or plucked; see decay.

Audiophile - Someone who seeks an accurate, reproduction of real life instruments and vocals, enjoys critiquing each listening moment, dissecting the music through the gear, listening for naturalism and realism.

Audio-Enthusiast - Someone who enjoys music and gear, desiring to get the most enjoyment out of each listening moment, obsessing about the specs and capabilities, dissecting the gear not the music, searching for that next WOW moment, product or song.


Balance - Equality of reproduced sounds.

Bass Range - 20hz-300hz

lower bass 20hz-80hz

mid bass 80hz-150hz

upper bass 150hz-300hz

Bleed - Undesirable merging of sounds between frequency ranges.

Bloat - (a) Overly enhanced size of detail image.

(b) Excessively warm or lush sounding.

Bloom - Excessive note weight or body.

Body - Realistically reproduced robust or round sound of an instrument or vocal.

Boomy - An exaggerated or enhanced sound that is dominant or overpowering the mix.

Boosted - Overly excessive emphasis.

Bright - Reproducing sound with a hard, crisp edge. Bright is the energy found in the presence region of 5k-8k. This is not related to the upper treble range. Live sound has brightness; elevating the treble range causes unnatural brightness.


Clarity - Articulation of reproduced sound that is clear of distortion; sounds crystal clear; see transparent.

Clinical - Pristine clean and clear but uninvolving to the maximum; see sterile.

Coherent - On the same page or level from one end to the other of the frequency range; no obvious dips, valleys or peaks.

Cold - Upper treble is tipped to the maximum.

Compressed - Inability to reproduce sound in an open, airy manner which may cause finer details to disappear or lessen dramatically.

Congested - Deprived of clarity and transparency.

Control - Ability to reproduce sound that is detailed, defined and focused.

Crisp - Reproducing sound with a keen focus and detail; can be excessive and bothersome in the middle treble 10k-14k if boosted.


Dark - Reproduced sound that is overly relaxed and warm.

Decay - The exiting of energy from when an instrument is bowed, blown, struck, picked, strummed or plucked; see attack.

Definition - Quality of a reproduced detail that is clearly defined with sharp, edged images. Enables the listener to distinguish between and/or follow the melodic lines of the individual voices and/or instruments; see focus, resolution.

Density - Reproducing a feeling that the note played by the original instrument and/or vocal is solid and has a firm foundation; see weight.

Depth - Ability to give an impression of the overall size of the stage from front to back.

Detail - Reproduced images of the original sound.

Diffuse - see muddled

Distortion - Audible signal changes that are unintentional; audible in a variety of manners, harsh, strident, fuzzy.

Dull - Reproduced sound that lacks soul; lifeless; boring; uninspired.

Dynamic - Reproduced sound that has punch and slam; most noticeable in the bass but can be found in the mid range and treble; see energy.


Effortless - Ability to reproduce sounds without strain or effort.

Euphonic - An emphasis of pleasant richness instead of accurate reproduced sound.

Extension - The ability to reproduce sound to the far reaches of the audible frequency range.

Energy - Reproduced sound that gives an impression of life; action; movement.


Fast - Impression of reaction time while reproducing sound; see slow

Flat - A frequency response that is uniform straight; clear of humps, dips, peaks and rises; gives the impression that all reproduced sound is on the same level. Flat sound is not the same as neutral or natural.

Focus - see Definition and Resolution

Forward - Reproducing sound closer to the listener then recorded.

Fuzzy - Reproduced sound that has a coarse edged texture.


Glare - Reproduced sound that is excessively hard edge to low/mid treble.

Glassy - Reproduced sound that is extremely bright; this is only found in the upper mid range/presence range 5k-8k.

Grainy - Reproduced sound that has an excessively coarse edged texture; more coarse than fuzzy.

Gritty - Reproduced sound that has an excessively harsh, coarse edged texture; more coarse then both fuzzy and grainy.


Harsh - Reproduced sound that has an abrasive; annoyingly unpleasant. Elevating mid and upper treble causes harshness to appear.

Hazy - Reproduced sound that has a mildly coarse edged texture; not as coarse as fuzzy.

Heavy - Excessive note density/weight; unnatural reproduction of instruments and/or vocals; see hefty.

Hefty - see heavy

Hot - Extremely boosted treble.


Imaging - Ability to reproduce locations and size of instruments and/or vocals within a soundstage.

Impact - Reproduction of a concussive force that delivers momentary visceral pressure; this is noticeable in all of the frequency range with varying degree.

Involving - Ability to bring the musical performance to the listener and create an emotional response.

Isolation - (a) Ability to single out a single reproduced sound from the rest.

(b) Ability of blocking outside noises from the listeners ears.




Laid-Back - Reproduced sound that is an overly warm, somewhat recessed sound signature that is pleasing and non-fatiguing; relaxed.

Layering - Reproduction of the various levels and rows within a soundstage; ability to reproduce the impression of levels, rows or distance between instruments and vocalists.

Lean - Reproduced sound that has a lack of bass emphasis; lightweight note density and/or weight

Lifeless - Reproduced sound that lacks conviction, focus and involvement; see dull.

Light - Reproduced sound that is similar to lean but includes boosted treble.

Linear - Reproduced sound that is balanced, extended and cohesive.

Loose - Reproduced sound that lacks control and definition; most noticeable in bass but is found in the entire frequency range.

Lush - Reproduced sound that is enjoyably warm and rich; luxurious.


Mid Range - 300hz-8k

lower mids - 300hz-1k

main mids - 1k-5k

upper mids - 5k-8k (presence range)

Muddy - Reproduced sound that lacks definition and control; see congested

Muffled - Reproduced sound that gives the impression it is hidden behind a wall or a hand.

Muddled - Reproduced sound that is presented in a confused, disorderly way; this is usually found within the soundstage.


Natural - Realism; reproduced sound that matches every day, real life audio; see sterile.

Neutral - Reproduced sound that is free of coloration that is not natural; see natural; see uncolored.


One-Note - An exaggerated note that overpowers and dominates the rest of the frequency range; most noticeable in bass but can be found throughout the entire frequency range.

Open - Ability to reproduce sound with an impression of no limitations; see natural.


Pinched - Reproduced sound that is overly compressed, congested and lacks ability to reveal an open sound; see compressed, see congested, see open.

Pin-Point - Ability to portray details within the soundstage that give the impression they are focused and targeted; see specific.

Polite - Reproduced sound that is non-fatiguing.



Realistic - Ability to reproduce sound with the impression that it is live.

Recessed - Reproduced sound that emits an impression of being dipped or concave.

Resolution - see Definition and Focus

Revealing - Ability to reproduce sound and details in an accurate and focused manner.

Rumble - Reproduced sound that gives the impression of physical vibration or shake in the bass range.


Seamless - Impression that the soundstage, imaging is without interruption or gaps.

Separation - Ability of gear to reproduce accurate, natural space between instruments, vocalists and details; see soundstage, imaging, layering, airy.

Sheen - Reproduced sound, in the treble range, that has a slight brilliance without being overbearing.

Shout - Instrument or vocalist that is presented in a way that they are talking loudly, shouting at you, not blending accurately with rest of the mix

Shrill - Reproduced sound, in the mid and treble ranges, that is piercing or stabbing; see strident.

Sibilance - Reproduced sound that overemphasizes “s” and “t” sounds; this is heard in the presence range 5k-8k only.

Sizzle - Reproduced sound that emphasizes the presence range 5k-8k in an accurate, natural manner; overemphasis will cause sibilance.

Slam see impact

Slow - Impression of reaction time while reproducing sound; see fast

Smear - Reproduced sound that lacks definition and refinement.

Soundstage - Ability to accurately portray size, shape and acoustical cues of the original recording with the impression that the instruments and vocals are present.

Spatial Awareness - Ability to deliver imaging in a convincing, realistic and natural soundstage.

Specific - see pin-point

Speed - The pace of definition and focus, defined as “fast” or “slow”.

Sterile - Reproduced sound that is presented in a tidy, clean, transparent manner but lacks natural reproduction; see clinical; see natural.

Strained - Reproduced sound that gives the impression of being stretched to the limit, giving all it’s got even when it isn’t being stressed; see effortless.

Strident - see shrill

Subtle - Reproduced sound that is slight, barely audible.

Synergy - Interaction of products that provides a pleasurable audio experience.


Texture - Reproduced sound that gives the impression that the instrument or vocalist is solid or whole.

Thick - Reproduced sound that has an over abundance of weight; see weight; see density.

Thin - Reproduced sound that lacks weight; see weight; see density.

Tight - Reproduced sound that is controlled but gives the impression of freedom; see control.

Timbre - Reproduction of recognizable characteristics of an instrument, allows the listener to determine or differentiate between instruments or to follow them throughout a musical piece.

Tone - The actual note of the music being played; is the reproduced note in key and in tune.

Tonal Quality - The quality of the reproduced note; sounds accurate and correct.

Tracking - Ability of a product to follow and portray the audio cues within the recording.

Transparent - see clarity

Treble Range - 8k-20k

lower treble - 8k-10k

main treble - 10k-14k

upper treble - 14k-20k


Uncolored - see neutral; see natural

Uninvolving - Product that fails to impress, puts the listener in a state of boredom; see involving.


Veiled - Reproduced sound that has a deficiency of detail and focus.


Warm - Reproduced sound that is natural and neutral but not overly relaxed; see dark.

Weight - see density

Width - Ability to give an impression of the overall size of the stage from side to side.




NOTE: This is loosely based on the Stereophile Audio Glossary, as that is the audio glossary that I have used as a reference for my audio journey over the years.

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