J. Gordon Holt’s Audio Glossary Book Will Improve Your Audiophile Vocabulary

After reading and writing audio electronics reviews for a few years I thought I had built up a reasonable audio vocabulary. At least when I read a review in Stereophile I got a sense of what the reviewer was describing in a iPod review, like “cold” and “etched” and “bass shy.” Now that I’ve found J. Gordon Holt’s Audio Glossary from 1990 I can be sure that I understand every last bit of subjective criticism. I’d also like to improve my own writing vocabulary so you can understand me and trust me when I say my system is improved by DIY acoustic panels.

Stereophile ran a series of articleexcerpts from the book by Holt in the early Nineties that are available on their website. Here’s an sampling from the letter D:

damping The amount of control an amplifier seems to impose on a woofer. Underdamping causes loose, heavy bass; overdamping yields very tight but lean bass.

dark A warm, mellow, excessively rich quality in reproduced sound. The audible effect of a frequency response which is clockwise-tilted across the entire range, so that output diminishes with increasing frequency. Compare “light.”

dead Dull and lifeless.

decay The reverberant fadeout of a musical sound after it has ceased. Compare “attack.”

deep bass Frequencies below 40Hz.

definition (also resolution) That quality of sound reproduction which enables the listener to distinguish between, and follow the melodic lines of, the individual voices or instruments comprising a large performing group. See “focus.”

delicacy The reproduction of very subtle, very faint details of musical sound, such as the fingertip-friction sounds produced when a guitar or a harp is played. See “low-level detail.”

depth The illusion of acoustical distance receding behind the loudspeaker plane, giving the impression of listening through the loudspeakers into the original performing space, rather than to them. See “layering,” “transparency.” Compare “flat.”

detail The subtlest, most delicate parts of the original sound, which are usually the first things lost by imperfect components. See “low-level detail.” Compare “haze,” “smearing,” “veiling.”

diffuse Reproduction which is severely deficient in detail and imaging specificity; confused, muddled.

dip A narrow area of depression within an otherwise flat frequency-response curve. Compare “dished,” “humped.”

dirty Sound reproduction which is fuzzy, cruddy, or spiky.

Mr. Holt’s book has almost 2000 defined terms. Reading a dictionary has never been this much fun. I just bought the last copy at Amazon. Maybe you should see if you can get a used copy (or wait 2–5 weeks), then we could talk the same audiophile language.

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