28 March 2017
A Terminology Guide to High-Performance Audio
Go from Novice to Expert Audiophile
For luxury homes throughout the Baltimore, Maryland area, the average “off the shelf” sound system simply won’t do. But before you pick out a high-performance audio system from a respectable brand, you’re probably going to want to know what you’re buying. That’s why we’ve put together this starter guide that goes over some of the common terminologies you’ll hear from an AV installer and audiophile friends. Once you’ve mastered the lingo, take the equipment for a test drive, you might be surprised what you hear.
Types of Equipment
In its most basic form, an amplifier is an aptly named device that increases, or amplifies, audio signals. There are several types of amps that will be suited for different needs and environments. A preamp might be needed for instances in which the audio signal is very weak and needs to be boosted before going to a more powerful amplifier. Often, an amplifier is combined with a processor (the equipment that processes the audio signal) to form one device called a receiver, but there are benefits to investing in each individual component.
An essential part of an audio system, the speaker is the device that sends the audio signals out into the room. There are many different types of speakers (surround sound, in-wall, freestanding, etc.), and each type is optimized for certain environments or needs.
Like amplifiers, there are several different types of woofers that you might want to include in your system. Different woofers help to recreate the complex sounds of music.
- Woofers: Basic woofers are designed to produce low-frequency sound.
- Tweeters: Tweeters are speakers that produce high-frequency sound.
- Midrange: For systems with at least three speakers, you’ll probably want a midrange speaker. Also known as a squawker, midrange speakers are great for hitting the middle sound frequencies.
- Subwoofer: To enhance the bass frequencies in your system, you’ll need a subwoofer. A type of loudspeaker, subwoofers are an essential part of any home theater system, although they also have uses in other audio environments.
A digital analog converter (DAC) is a device that allows you to transform digital signals into analog ones. It’s often used to restore quality to digital music.
A DAP, or digital audio player, is a generic term for any device capable of playing audio, such as a smartphone or CD player.
When sending audio signals, they travel through specific channels. For example, a 5.1 surround sound system uses five full channels and one low-frequency channel. Two-channel audio is often used for dedicated listening rooms, where two speakers create a right and left listening effect.
Sound loudness levels are measured in decibel units.
Equalization is the process of adjusting different frequencies, such as bass or treble, to get the ideal sound mixture.
Measured in ohms, the impedance measures how easily electricity flows through speakers. Generally speaking, the lower the impedance, the more easily the electricity transfers.
If you find that the individual parts of the music are difficult to discern, your sound can be described as muddy. In a properly designed system, each aspect of the song should have strong clarity.
Harsh is a term used liberally when the music sounds off. Perhaps there’s too much treble, bass, or acoustic interference, but whatever the cause, it’s a word that you never want to use to describe high-performance audio.
Typically, a bright sound is one that is mixed incorrectly so that there is too much upper frequency.
When your music sounds tinny, it usually has a thin or metallic sense to it, usually with a fair amount of reverberation or lack of clarity.
Transparent audio is what you want. It’s a term used to describe clear, clean audio without any background noise.
FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. This format allows you to store music files without losing compression (used by filed formats such as MP3), so you get a file size that’s at least 50 percent smaller without losing any quality.
Made by Apple, Audio Interchange File Format is a lossless, uncompressed file format that is high-quality but takes up a lot of storage space.
Apple Lossless is a similar format to FLAC, although it’s slightly less efficient. If you’re an Apple aficionado, you might find that this is the best format for you.
Now that you know the terminology, it’s time to get a system to match! To learn more about our high-performance audio products and services, contact us today.