Glossary: Audio and Home Theater Terms
Have you ever been stuck trying to think of the right word while having a conversation about home theater? Don't worry, it happens to all of us. Now you can throw out terms like "nits", "quantum dots" and "transient response" to dazzle your friends!
But first, our favorite term, Aperion!
Aperion /ə – PEER – e – ən/ – From the Latin root. To reveal, make clear or become apparent.
Speaking of revealing, if you aren't familiar with the process and extreme efforts it takes to produce a film, you should read through this three-part blog. It covers everything from pre-production, production and post-production.
If you surround yourself in the production environment, our list of terms and lingo are used quite often when you're on the set or recording an album. Knowing these terms will help allow you to communicate better with producers and mixing engineers.
We've written many blogs that have to do with these terms and have included links so you can easily access them. So with that, enjoy and we're sure you'll find this very educational and informative.
0 dB - The threshold of hearing. 130 dB is the threshold of pain.
24/96 - Usually refers to audio discs that were created using the 2-channel DVD specification for audio. 24 bits and 96,000 Hz sampling rate. Provides a noticeable sonic improvement over the older CD 16 bit and 44,100 Hz audio specification.
4K - Refers to a horizontal screen display resolution in the order of 4,000 pixels. The standard (UHD-1) is 3840 × 2160, also known as 2160p. “True 4K” is 4096×2160. For more details on this subject, please read our blog The Aperion Guide to TV Terminology.
5.1 Surround Sound - The multi-channel format developed by the Moving Picture Experts. It refers to the five discrete, full bandwidth ( 20-20kHz) channels – left, right, & center fronts, plus left & right surrounds – and the “.1″ refers to the limited bandwidth (20-120Hz) subwoofer channel. To learn more about a 5.1 setup, and alternative surround setups, we have a couple of blogs for you.
7.2.4 Surround Sound - The multi-channel format developed by the Dolby. This type of surround system is commonly used to play Dolby Atmos content. It refers to the seven ear-level speakers (left, right, & center at the front, left & right side surrounds, and left & right rear surrounds). The “.2″ means there are two subwoofers being used. The ".4" means there are four overhead, or up-firing (ceiling reflective) speakers being used to emulate a 3D surround sound field. To learn more about alternative surround setups, we have a couple of blogs for you.
8K - Refers to the horizontal resolution of 7,680 pixels, forming the total image dimensions of (7680×4320), otherwise known as 4320p. The current highest UHDTV resolution.
A/B Test - A test between two components. Usually a side by side comparison of two different speakers or amplifiers.
AccuEQ - Onkyo’s automatic room correction software.
Acoustic Suspension - A sealed or closed box speaker enclosure. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as an infinite baffle. See also: Sealed Enclosure.
Acoustic Treatments - There are only three classic (physical) tools available for an acoustician to treat a room: absorbers, reflectors and diffusers. Absorbers attenuate sound; reflectors redirect sound, and diffusers uniformly distribute sound. However, with today’s advanced digital audio tools, all of these elements can be electronically manipulated.
Acoustics - The science or study of sound. For more details on this subject, please read our blog Introduction to Room Acoustics.
Active Crossover - A loudspeaker frequency divider requiring power to operate. ts outputs are fed into power amplifiers, with a 2-way crossover requiring 2 amps, a 3-way requiring 3 amps etc.
Active Driver - A speaker cone with all components included, like a voice-coil, magnet, ect. This type of driver connects to the positive and negative leads of speaker wire.
Active Speaker - A speaker or subwoofer with a built in amplifier.
Airplay - Apple’s wireless media streaming format. Similar to Bluetooth, but capable of sharing audio, video, device screens, and photos, together with related metadata.
Alternating Current - (AC) An electrical current that periodically changes in magnitude and direction.
Ambience - The acoustic characteristics of a space determined by reverberation. A room with a lot of reverb is said to be “live” and a room without much reverb is “dead.”
Ambient Noise - The sound that exists in a room that does not come from a loudspeaker, musical instrument or some other intentional sound source. A person speaking to an audience is not ambient noise, etc.
American Wire Gauge - (AWG) – A system for measuring the thickness of wire. The lower the AWG number, the greater the thickness. See also: Gauge.
Ampere (A or AMP) - The standard measure of electrical current flow. One amp is equal to one Coulomb of charge flowing past a point in one second.
Amplifier - A device which increases signal level. Many types of amplifiers are used in audio systems. Amplifiers typically increase voltage, current or both.
Amplitude - The peak-to-peak size of a waveform. For audio purposes, the greater the amplitude of the signal, the louder the sound will be.
Anamorphic - A process where a widescreen movie is stored on the DVD disc in anamorphic form, meaning the picture is squeezed horizontally to fit the standard 4:3 rectangle, then unsqueezed during playback. This anamorphic squeezing results in less of the picture being wasted on the black letterbox mattes. Anamorphic video is best displayed on widescreen equipment, which stretches the video back out to its original width. The setup options of DVD players allow the viewer to indicate whether they have a 16:9 or 4:3 TV.
Anechoic - Echo free. An anechoic room has no reflected sound. This is accomplished by treating all of the room’s surfaces with sound absorbing material.
aptX - A Bluetooth based codec offering better sound quality than standard (SBC) Bluetooth. Both the sending and receiving devices must have aptX in order to take advantage of the benefits. See also: Bluetooth.
ARC - Anthem Room Correction. Anthem’s automatic room correction software.
ARC - Audio Return Channel. An HDMI port that is able to receive and send audio data.
Architectural Speakers - Usually an in-wall or in-ceiling speaker installed into the wall. Convenient because they are flush with the wall or ceiling, leaving more space for furniture or walkways. For more information about architectural speakers, please read our blog How Architectural Speakers Can Improve Your Home Theater.
Aspect Ratio - Ratio of a picture's width to its height. Older televisions had an aspect ratio of 4:3, but with HDTV becoming standard, most TV’s are in the widescreen rectangular 16:9 format. The widescreen cinema standard is 2.40:1.
Aspect Ratio - Ratio of a picture’s width to its height. Typical television aspect ratio is 4:3, while wide screen formats provide greater width of the viewing area.
Asymmetrical - Uneven or off center; not symmetrical. In speaker cabinet design asymmetry can be beneficial as it reduces the standing waves in the cabinet.
Attenuate - To reduce in level.
Audio - Most commonly refers to sound, as it is transmitted in signal form.
Audio Frequency - The acoustic spectrum of human hearing, generally regarded to be between 20 Hz and 20 kHz.
Audyssey - Automatic speaker calibration software designed to compensate for room acoustics. Featured on Marantz, Denon and McIntosh products.
Auro-3D - A consumer version of the Barco Auro 11.1 channel surround sound playback system used in some commercial cinemas. It uses 3 layers of sound: a traditional 5.1 [level 1], front and surround heights [level 2] and a ceiling speaker mounted above the listening position, known as the VOG (Voice of God) channel [level 3]. For an introduction to this sound format, please read our blog Your Guide to Immersive Sound.
Axis - For speakers, the imaginary line that runs from the speaker to the intended listener position.
Baffle - On a speaker, the baffle is the front plate in which the drivers are mounted on.
Banana Plug - Banana shaped speaker termination that consists of an approximately 1/8-inch-wide and 1-inch-long plug that goes into the back of a binding post or inset banana plug terminal on a speaker, amp or receiver.
Bandwidth - A specific range of frequencies.
Basket - Part of a speaker, typically of cast metal, that holds together the driver, magnetic structure, voice coil, cone and spider.
Bass - The low end of the audio frequency spectrum between 0 Hz to about 300 Hz.
Bass Reflex - A type of loudspeaker that uses a port or duct to augment the low-frequency response. Opinions vary widely over the ” best” type of bass cabinet, but much has to do with how well a given design, such as a bass reflex is implemented. See also: Ported Enclosure.
Bass Shakers - Generally installed into your seat for additional bass effects. For more information about these, please read our blog How to Install Bass Shakers In Your Home Theater.
Bi-Amping - Refers to the use of two separate amplifier channels connected directly to individual speaker drivers and tweeters. For more information on Bi-Amping, please read our blog Bi-Amp Benefits and Configurations.
Binding Post - Speaker wire terminal on better amplifiers and loudspeakers; can accept multiple cable termination types.
Bipolar - Type of loudspeaker with drivers mounted on opposite sides of the cabinet, or speaker enclosure. Drivers move in and out together so they remain “in-phase.” Often used as rear-surround speakers. See also: Dipolar)
Bi-Wiring - The use of two pairs of speaker wire from the same amplifier to separate bass and treble inputs on the speaker.
Blu-ray Disc - An optical disc format developed specifically for recording and rewriting high-definition video, with enhanced storage capacity (25GB single-layer or 50GB double-layer). Thus named because it uses a blue-violet laser rather than the standard red laser used by CDs and DVDs. Jointly developed by the Blu-ray Disc Association and several consumer electronics and PC companies, including HP.
Bluetooth - A wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices, and building personal area networks. Range depends on environment, but is usually 30-50 feet. For more information about Bluetooth, please read our blog To Bluetooth or Not? The Pros and Cons of Bluetooth Connectivity.
Bookshelf Speaker - A smaller speaker usually consisting of a tweeter and either one or two mid-bass drivers. Great for wall mounting or placing on speaker stands. To learn whether a bookshelf speaker might be best for your audio needs, please read our blog Demystifying Towers vs Bookshelf Speakers.
Cable Management - The act of keeping cables organized and labeled properly. This is crucial for home theaters, recording studios and live performance applications. To learn more about cable management, please read our blog The Aperion Guide to Wiring and Cable Management.
Calibration - The process of fine tuning audio and picture. For more information about setting up the audio in receivers, please read our blogs.
CATV - (community antenna television or cable television) A broadband transmission medium, most often using 75-ohm coaxial cable carrying many TV channels simultaneously.
CD - (compact disc) Trademark term for the Sony-Philips digital audio optical disc storage system. The system stores 75 minutes ( maximum) of digital audio
Center Channel (Speaker) - The center channel speaker is used to produce the voices, dialogue, or any other sound effects the director mixes into it. In a home setting it is preferable to have the center channel speaker either directly on top of, or directly below, your television. It is important that the center channel is voice-matched to the front left and right speakers. This creates a seamless and convincing front soundstage for movies. For more information about center channel speakers, please read our blog Get The Most Our of Your Center Channel.
Chrominance - Abbreviated C. The color portion of the video signal includes hue and saturation information but not brightness. See also: Luminance.
Coax - Short for Coaxial cable. A type of 75 ohm cable most commonly used for Cable TV connections and with some antenna systems for FM radio and Television. Also used to connect CD or DVD transports to DACs. May also be found as the basis for many video interconnect cables including composite, s-video, component, and RGB.
Codec - Short for Compression/Decompression. It’s an algorithm that is used to store data in smaller sizes to save space and facilitate better or easier transmission of that data. A good codec saves space and maintains the quality of the original.
Coherence - Listening term. Refers to how well integrated the sound of the system is.
Coloration - Listening term. A “colored” sound characteristic adds something not in the original sound. The coloration may be sonically pleasant, but it is not as accurate as the original signal.
Compact Disc Transport - Component which reads the binary information from a compact disc and sends this bitstream into an external device for analog conversion. (Commonly used with a digital-to-analog converter.)
Compliance - The relative looseness (inverse of stiffness) of a speaker suspension, specified as Cms.
Component video - A video signal transfer method utilizing three cables which separate the three parts of a video signal: Luminance (Y) is the black & white, pR and PB are the separate portions of the Chrominance, or color signal. Component Video, properly implemented, should provide the best possible image quality on TV monitors that support it.
Composite Video - A video signal combining luminance, chrominance, and synchronization data on a single coax cable using RCA connectors. It is typically color-coded yellow.
Cone - The conical diaphragm of a speaker attached to the voice coil that produces waves in the air that the ear detects as sound.
Crossover - An electrical circuit (passive or active) consisting of a combination of high-pass, low-pass and band pass filters used to divide the audio frequency spectrum (20 Hz – 20 kHz). The divided audio spectrum is then sent to individual drivers that specialize in limited bandwidths. Without a crossover each driver would be receiving the entire frequency range. For more information about crossovers, please read our blog The Aperion Guide to Crossovers.
Crossover Frequency - Frequency at which a loudspeaker’s crossover network divides an audio signal and sends it to different drivers .
Crossover Slope - The rate at which a driver attenuates as it starts to see unwanted frequencies. Specified as dB/oct. The higher the number, the steeper the slope, which results in a narrower zone where the sound transitions from one driver to another.
Crosstalk - Distortion caused by one channel introducing an unwanted signal into another.
CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) - The type of TV monitor that most people are familiar with that makes an image by magnetically deflecting an electron beam aimed at the screen. CRTs are not “flat panel” TVs.
DAC - A Digital to Audio Converter. Converts a digital bitstream to an analog signal.
Damping - The attenuation of a resonant frequency over time.
Damping Material - Any material added to increase dampening. Acoustic fiberglass, polyester batting, or Polyfill inside the speaker enclosure can be used to dampen the woofer cone’s resonant frequency.
D’Appolito - Joe D’Appolito is credited with popularizing the MTM (Midrange-Tweeter-Midrange) type of speaker.
dB (decibel) - See also: Decibel
DCAC - Digital Cinema Auto Calibration. Sony’s automatic room correction software.
dB/octave - See Crossover Slope
DBS - Direct Broadcast Satellite. See also: DSS.
Diaphragm - In a speaker, the part driven by the voice coil that moves, producing air waves that we perceive as sound. It usually has the shape of a cone or dome.
Diffraction - The bending of waves around small obstacles and the spreading out of waves beyond small openings (where small is defined as smaller than the wavelength).
Diffuse (Diffuser) - An acoustical term for a wall or panel to scatter the sound which reduces standing waves and echos to improve sound clarity.
Dipolar, Dipole (Speaker) - For speakers, when opposing sets of drivers are wired out of phase with each other and fired in two different directions. This results in a cancellation of sound on axis so that the listener hears only sound that is reflected off of room boundaries Wall mounted “surround” speakers often employ this strategy. See also: Bipolar.
Discrete - Refers to distinct, separate channels in an amplifier.
Dispersion - The spreading of sound waves as they leave a speaker. A wide dispersion helps if you're sitting off-axis from the main listening position.
Distortion - The name given to anything that alters an original input signal other than changing its amplitude or loudness. Generally sounds like a needle scratching at the end of a vinyl record.
DIY - Acronym for do-it-yourself, usually referring to various hobbies.
DLP (Digital Light Processing) - This was applied for a while with rear-projection TV’s, but is now primarily used in video projectors. In DLP projectors, the image is created by microscopically small mirrors laid out in a matrix on a semiconductor chip, known as a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD).
Dolby Atmos - An object-based surround sound technology that utilizes overhead speakers as well as the traditional surround speakers. For example, a 5.1 system with four overhead speakers would be called 5.1.4. The technology allows up to 128 audio tracks plus associated spatial audio description metadata to be distributed throughout the system. For more information on this, we have a few blogs for you to check out.
- How to Set up Your Home Theater with Dolby Atmos Surround Sound
- Rock Your Home Theater with Dolby Atmos
- Your Guide to Immersive Sound: Atmos, Auro-3D, and DTS:X
- 5.1 vs 7.1, Dolby Atmos & More!
Dolby Pro Logic - Rather than producing surround sound from 5+ discreet channels, as later surround sound formats like Dolby Digital do, the surround information is synthesized from a 2-channel source. Since it is often used as a default format (when a 2-channel source is sensed as the input) newer, improved versions are still being developed.
Dome Tweeter - A high frequency driver with a dome-shaped diaphragm. For more information about different types of tweeters, please read our blog What Everybody Ought to Know About Tweeters.
Driver - A name for the parts of the loudspeaker which generate sound. e.g. midrange driver, bass driver (woofer), treble driver (tweeter). The term “driver” is used so that the term “speaker” can be reserved for when talking about the entire driver-crossover-cabinet enclosure system.
DSP (Digital Signal Processing) - Used to alter a digital input signal. Some common examples include: time delay for the rear speakers, equalization for a subwoofer, filtering low frequencies out of satellite speakers and adding effects like a concert hall. For more details on this subject, please read our blog Audio Signal Processing and Your Home Theater.
DTS - Digital Theater Systems. A surround sound format that competes with Dolby Digital.
DTS:X - One of three popular immersive formats (along with Dolby Amos & Auro-3D) that uses overhead speakers along with traditional surround speakers. For an introduction to this sound format, please read our blog Your Guide to Immersive Sound.
DTV - Digital TV. A new system of digital television broadcasts.
DVD - Originally coined as Digital Video Disc or then changed to Digital Versatile Disc, upon adoption by the computer industry. DVD has the same physical dimensions of a CD, however it can hold much more information.
DVD-Audio - (music-only) An upgrade to CD audio. The extra memory space of a DVD is used to enhance sound by employing higher sampling and bit rates, up to 24-bits, 192 kHz sampling for two (stereo) channels at 74 minutes.
Dynamic Loudspeaker - Loudspeaker which uses conventional cone and dome drive elements exclusively.
Efficiency - Tells you what percentage of the power arriving at a speaker gets turned into sound (as opposed to heat). Often expressed as decibels/watt@ 1 meter (dB/w/m.)
Electrostatic Loudspeaker - These are usually very large flat panel loudspeakers. They must contain an on-board power supply to provide a high static voltage to the grid, which may be on one or both sides of the panel. The audio signal is applied to metal traces that cover the panel. The resulting interaction of the panel with the strong electrostatic field causes the panel to move thus creating sound.
EQ (Equalizer) - Electronic device that acts as active filters used to boost or attenuate certain frequencies. For more details on this subject, please read our blog Using Equalizers and How They Affect Your Speakers.
Euphonic - Pleasing. As a descriptive audio term, usually refers to a coloration or inaccuracy that none-the-less may be sonically pleasing.
Fb or Fsb - A driver’s resonance frequency in free air or in a sealed box, respectively.
Fc- or Fcb - The system resonance frequency of a driver in a sealed box.
Ferrofluid - A Magnetic oil, usually applied around the voice coil of a tweeter. Its advantages are that it increases short-term power handling by conducting heat from the voice coil to the magnet structure and it damps the tweeter’s Fs, allowing it to work better with the crossover.
Filter - Any electrical circuit or mechanical device that removes or attenuates energy at certain frequencies while allowing other frequencies to pass. A crossover network of a speaker uses filters to send a specific frequency to the tweeter, mid-range, and bass-woofers of a speaker.
Flanging - Another term for phasing.
Flat - Term used to describe the most accurate tonal balance, indicating that there isn’t too much or too little of any frequency range (bass or treble for example). The term comes from the “frequency response” graph that shows this.
Frequency Response - The range and balance of sound across the audio spectrum. Good sound reproduction requires that all audible frequencies (approx. 20 – 20,000 Hz) are reproduced at roughly the same volume.
Front Speakers - These are the two speakers (right and left) placed in the front of the listening position.
Full Screen/Wide Screen - This legend appears on most 2-sided DVDs. Full Screen means the image will fill an entire 4:3 (standard) TV monitor, cutting off the sides of the film in order to do so. Widescreen shows the complete picture. But if you have a standard 4:3 TV, you will see black bands at the top and bottom. If you find these bands to be objectionable, a 16:9 or widescreen television is recommended.
Gain - The function of a volume control.
Gauge - Gauge is a unit used to measure wire thickness. The smaller the number, the thicker the wire. (i.e. 10-gauge wire is much thicker than 16-gauge wire). A change of 3 in the gauge # tells you that the wire thickness has doubled or halved. See also: AWG.
Grain - A listening term. A sonic analog of the grain seen in photos. A sort of “grittiness” added to the sound.
Haas Effect - The psychoacoustic effect that allows us to perceive direction. If a sound reaches both ears simultaneously and at the same loudness, the sound appears to be coming from directly in front of or behind the listener. See also: Stereo.
Harmonic Distortion - Harmonic sound energy unintentionally added by an electrical circuit or speaker. It is expressed as a percentage of the original signal. When viewing specs, this is known as THD (total harmonic distortion).
Harmonics - Also called overtones, these are frequencies that are multiples of the original or “fundamental” frequency. Harmonics extend in frequency beyond the audible range.
HDCP - High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection. An encryption technology used to prevent the playback of pirated media. Currently on version HDCP 2.2, devices without this cannot playback High-Definition content.
HDMI - High-Definition Multimedia Interface. The standard interface between media devices that carries digital video and audio signals.
HDR - High Dynamic Range. This technology expands the contrast ratio and color accuracy in HDTV’s which results in a more realistic, natural image.
HDTV - The highest rung in the ladder of various DTV formats. HDTV requires three things: 1080 active scan lines, 16:9 widescreen ratio, and Dolby Digital sound.
Headroom - The ability of an amp to deliver more than its rated power for short durations. This capability allows an amp to reproduce musical peaks as though it were a higher power amp
Hertz (Hz) - Denotes frequency in Cycles Per Second, (CPS): 20 Hz = 20 CPS. The “kilo” in kilohertz (kHz) means “X 1000.”
High Pass Filter - A filter designed to allow high frequencies to pass while attenuating or cutting low frequencies.
Home Theater - An audio and video system designed to reproduce the theater sound experience at home. The standard is a 5.1 multi-channel speaker surround system and can expand to multiple subwoofers and speakers depending on the receiver handling capacity.
Home Theater In A Box (HTiB) - Any of several kinds of packaged audio-for-video systems designed to create an “instant” home theater; usually inexpensive and compact. Typically includes a multi-speaker complement plus a receiver or multichannel amplifier to drive the speakers. May function as a stand-alone 5.1-channel system or may be designed to add channels to an existing stereo or other audio system.
Imaging - The speakers’ ability to create the illusion of the original sound sources, like musical instruments, as being localized in space. See also: Soundstage.
Impedance (Ohms) - The total opposition (resistance, capacitance and inductance) offered to the flow of an alternating current. Impedance as resistance is constantly varying at different frequencies. For more information on this topic, please read our blog The Truth About Speaker Impedance.
Infinite Baffle Design - It’s an open back speaker. When the perimeter of the speaker is sealed against a wall or ceiling, the wall or ceiling become the speaker enclosure. An infinite baffle design prevents the rear firing sound waves from interfering with front firing sound waves.
Integrated Amplifier - Single unit containing both a preamplifier and a power amplifier. Mostly used in a stereo speaker system but can also be used in a home theater.
Interconnects - Cables and plug tips that are used to connect the different components of an audio system. Some examples include CD player to receiver, DVD player to receiver, receiver to powered sub, etc. The most common are HDMI cables, banana plugs, RCA cable, coaxial cable, 3.5mm audio cables and optical/digital cables.
Interlace - Part of many broadcast TV systems. Here in the USA, refers to the NTSC standard where 1/2 frames are broadcast every 1/60th of a second. A complete frame takes two of these 1/2 frames displayed taking up an actual 1/30th of a second. There are 400+ horizontal lines in each full NTSC frame… 200 per each 1/2 frame. One 1/2 frame is made up of the odd numbered scan lines, the other 1/2 frame contains the even numbered scan lines. The full frame is visible when the two 1/2 frames are merged (interlaced) to form a single image. Interlaced images contain motion artifacts due to the interlacing.
In-Ceiling Speakers - Also known as architectural speakers. Speakers designed to mount flush with the ceiling and use the ceilings interior air space as its enclosure. For more information about these types of speakers, please read our blog How Architectural Speakers Can Improve Your Home Theater.
In-Wall Speakers - Also known as architectural speakers. Speakers designed to mount flush with the wall and use the wall’s interior air space as its enclosure. For more information about these types of speakers, please read our blog How Architectural Speakers Can Improve Your Home Theater.
Jack - A term used to describe an input connector of a speaker or receiver.
LCD - Liquid Crystal Display. Since LCD pixels do not produce their own light, they must be backlit. The most common backlight is CCFL (fluorescent) or LED.
LCR (Left, Center, Right) - Also known as architectural speakers. Used to indicate the front three speakers in a system. Speakers designed to mount flush with the wall and use the wall’s interior air space as its enclosure. For more information about these types of speakers, please read our blog How Architectural Speakers Can Improve Your Home Theater.
LED - Light Emitting Diode. An LED television is actually an LCD screen that is backlit with LEDs. They can employ “edge lighting” where a series LEDs are placed along the outside edges of the LCD panel, or “direct lighting” where several rows of LEDs are placed behind the entire surface of the screen. For more information on this subject, please read our blog LED vs OLD vs QLED Displays.
Letterbox - Term used to describe viewing a widescreen image on a NON-widescreen TV monitor. The result is a full width image with black bars at the top and bottom of the TV monitor screen. Similar to “Widescreen.” See also: Full Screen/Widescreen.
LFE - Low Frequency Effects. A home theater audio term that refers to low frequency sound effects in a multi-channel surround format, such as Dolby Digital or DTS. The ".1" actually denotes the very low effects extracted from any of the surround channels (front left, front right, center, rear left, rear right, etc). If a subwoofer is present in the home theater system, all of the extracted audio information is routed to the subwoofer.
Line Doubler - Specially designed device to double the number of Scan Lines in an (usually) NTSC monitor or projector. Enhances picture quality by reducing jitter and video artifacts.
Line Level - Also known as “low-level”, an audio term referring to the signal before power amplification. Most commonly found with powered subwoofers. The output from the receiver to the subwoofer via RCA cable is a low-level audio signal. In a system with separate pre- amp and power-amp the pre-amp output is line level CD players, VCRs, DVD players, Laserdisc Players etc., are connected in a system at line level, usually with shielded RCA type interconnects. (For techies, it’s a signal level between -10dBu and +30dBu.)
Loudness Control - On a preamp or receiver, a function that boosts lower and, to a lesser degree, higher frequencies of the audio spectrum to compensate for the way your ear works at low volumes.
Low-Bass - Low frequency bass, usually frequencies above the sub bass range, from about 80 Hz - 200 Hz. Can also refer to the larger woofers of a speaker because they specialize in this frequency range.
Low Pass Filter - A filter designed to pass low frequencies while attenuating or cutting high frequencies.
Lumens - The light output of a projector. More accurately termed ANSI Lumens by the American National Standards Institute.
Magnetically Shielded - This means that a speaker has its magnetic field contained so that it can’t discolor or damage a CRT type TV monitor.
Matrix - A technique of storing more than one audio channel on a single channel. Dolby Surround is an example, where the center and surround channels are electronically extrapolated from the left and right channels of a stereo signal. This contrasts with today’s discrete digital channels.
Maximum Power Rating - The maximum wattage that an audio component can deliver/handle as a brief burst. Most reputable manufacturers will provide both an RMS (continuous) and Max power rating. Typically, the given value for the maximum power rating is twice to three times that of RMS. For more information about power ratings, please read our blog How to Compare A/V Receiver Power Specs.
MCACC - Multi-Channel Acoustic Calibration System. Pioneer’s automatic room correction software.
Mid-Bass - Mid frequency bass, usually frequencies just above the low-bass range, from around 200 – 400 Hz or so.
Midrange - The mid band of an audible signal, typically anywhere between 400 Hz and 2 kHz. Also refers to the drivers that specialize in these frequencies.
Mini-plug - Eighth-inch (3.5mm) connector used primarily for headphone or speaker connections in personal electronics.
MLP - Main Listening Position. The most important seating location in a home theater.
Nits - A measurement of how much light the TV screen sends to your eyes (luminance) within a given area.
Noise - An undesirable signal that is unintentionally added to a picture or sound signal.
Nominal - In home audio there are two main uses of this term. The first being nominal power rating, minimum amount of power recommended for a speaker. The second being nominal impedance, theoretically the minimum impedance a speaker will present to the amplifier.
Non-resonant - Materials that don’t vibrate much or absorb vibrations, which can affect sound reproduction. Materials often included in the construction of a loudspeaker or acoustically treating a room.
NTSC - National Television System Committee. The NTSC standard has a fixed vertical resolution of 525 horizontal lines. There are 60 fields displayed per second. A field is a set of even lines, or odd lines. The odd and even fields are displayed sequentially, thus interlacing the full frame. One full frame, therefore, is made of two interlaced fields, and is displayed about every 1/30 of a second. See also: Interlaced.
Octave - An octave is a doubling or halving of frequency. 20Hz to 40Hz is often considered the bottom octave, 40Hz to 80Hz is the bass octave. 80Hz to 160Hz is the upper bass octave, etc. For more in depth explanation, please see our blog: The Audio Frequency Spectrum.
Ohm - The unit used to measure electrical resistance. (The word Ohm comes from German physicist Georg Simon Ohm, 1787-1854) An 8-ohm loudspeaker presents a good level of resistance and will be compatible with most modern amplifiers.
OLED - Organic Light-Emitting Diode. Unlike LED, which uses a backlight to provide light to pixels, OELD relies on an organic material made of hydrocarbon chains to emit light when in contact with electricity.
Output - The sound level produced by a loudspeaker.
Overload - A condition in which a system is given too high of an input level. A common cause of distortion or product failure. Most receivers will go into what's called "protect mode" if the volume output is too much to handle.
Oversampling - A digital technique of representing a waveform with more bits of information than would theoretically be needed. Oversampling is used to reduce the amount of noise (unintended information) in a signal.
Passive - Device neither having nor requiring power. Usually refers to a driver in a speaker.
Passive Radiator - A diaphragm or cone that looks similar to a woofer or a flat plate which reinforces the woofer’s bass output. They are acoustically similar to a port. See also: Bass Reflex.
PCM - Pulse Code Modulation. PCM is a digital scheme for transmitting analog data. The signals in PCM are binary which are represented by 1’s 0’s. This is true no matter how complex the analog waveform happens to be. Using PCM, it is possible to digitize all forms of analog data, including full-motion video, voices, music, etc.
Peak Power - the recommended highest power capacity of an amplifier or speaker.
Phase - In audio, phase refers to the timing relationship of two or more waves. It’s especially important to be sure that your speakers are wired “in phase.” This means that the drivers of your speakers are moving in and out at the same time. If your speakers are “out of phase” there will be significantly less bass, and a loss of stereo imaging.
Phono Plug - Same as an RCA-type plug. Generally a term used when referring to a turntable
Pink Noise - Noise that has equal energy in each octave.
Preamplifier (or pre amp) - A preamp is the control center of an audio/video system. Source component switching is done here, as well as volume and balance control. This component generally has some degree of signal amplification associated with it. AV receivers contain both a preamp and amplifier.
Progressive Scan - A display which scans consecutive lines of a screen at a rate of 60 times a second. This offers a smoother image than interlaced which scans every other line of a screen at 30 times per second. See also: Interlaced
QLED - See Quantum Dots below.
Quantum Dots - A man-made nanocrystal with semiconductor properties that can be used to enhance brightness and color performance displayed in still and video images on an LCD screen. TVs featuring his technology will be labeled as QLED.
RCA Connector - Standard pin plug or jack used to connect audio and video components, developed by RCA Laboratories. Also known as a phono plug or jack, even when applied to non-phono equipment.
Rear Channel Speaker - A Loudspeaker that is located beside or behind the listener in a surround sound system.
Rear Projection Television - A video monitor/television where the image comes from behind the screen- sometimes directly projected or sometimes bounced off of 2 or more mirrors to appear on the back of a screen.
Receiver - An audio (and/or video) component that combines a pre-amplifier, amplifier(s) and tuner in one chassis. A home theater receiver will also contain multi-channel surround decoders, such as Dolby Digital and DTS. For more information about setting up receivers, please read our blogs.
Ribbon Tweeter - Generally an ultra-thin, foil diaphragm that's folded. For more information about the different types of tweeters, please read our blog What Everybody Ought to Know About Tweeters.
RMS - Acronym for root mean square. A power measurement (measured in watts) used in audio to help rate the continuous power output of an amplifier or input capability of speakers.
S/N - Signal to Noise Ratio. An audio measurement of the residual noise of a unit, stated as the ratio of signal level (or power) to noise level (or power), normally expressed in decibels.
SACD - Super Audio CD. A joint trademark of Sony and Philips for their proposal for the next generation CD standard comprised of a 1-bit, 64-times oversampled direct-stream digital SACD format.
Satellite Speaker - A small speaker designed to fit more easily into the interior decor of a home. Typically they need to be used with a subwoofer.
Scan Lines - The horizontal lines that make up the video image on a television or video monitor.
Sensitivity - The loudness of a speaker at a given voltage. Usually measured at 2.83 volts, at 1 meter straight in front of the speaker and excluding reflected energy.
Signal Flow - The path of an audio or video signal takes from source to output. For more information about signal flow and how it works with your audio equipment, please read our blog A Jedi's Guide to Audio Signal Flow and A/V Receiver Setup.
Signal To Noise Ratio (S/N) - How much relevant content (signal) something has compared to non-relevant content (noise); expressed in decibels.
Sine Wave - A pure, single frequency wave. Audio signals are sine waves or combinations of sine waves.
Slew Rate - This is a term used to describe how quickly the output of an amplifier can follow its input. Slew Rate is usually measured in V per millisecond. The higher the value, the better the amp is at reproducing the subtle nuances and dynamics associated with sound reproduction.
Soft Dome Tweeter - A tweeter with a dome-shaped diaphragm. made of soft material such as silk, or woven/processed synthetic material. For more information about different types of tweeters, please read our blog What Everybody Ought to Know About Tweeters.
Sound Pressure Level (Spl) - Measured in decibels (dB). Is an expression of loudness or volume. A 10 db increase in SPL requires 10 times the power but sounds only twice as loud . Live orchestral music reaches brief peaks in the 105 db range and live rock easily goes over 120 db.
Soundstage - Listening term. Perceived width and depth of music (or sound) especially for stereo reproduction. A set of speakers with a good soundstage means you can localize a separate position for each instrument and voice, emulating a live performance.
Spade Lug - Type of speaker wire connector shaped like the letter “U” and designed to fit around a speaker binding post.
Speaker-Level - A signal that has already been amplified.
Spider - The flexible material that suspends the inside portion of the cone from the speaker frame.
SPL - See sound pressure level.
SPL Meter - Device used to measure sound loudness. Often used to measure and balance the loudness of each speaker in a home theater system to “tune” a room.
Standing Wave - A sound wave that “hangs around” because its length fits between two parallel walls so that its reflection reinforces the itself. This results in muddy, booming bass. The problem is variable depending on shape and size of room and sometimes can be minimized by placing speakers not near the wall.
Stereo - Derived from the Greek word meaning solid. A two channel audio format designed to provide the illusion of a three- dimensional, holographic image between the speakers. For more information on achieving this sound field, please read our blog How to Place Speakers for Stereo Sound.
Streaming Service - Refers to apps like Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Apple Music, YouTube Music, etc. For additional information on this topic, please read our blog Which Streaming Music Service Sounds the Best?
Subwoofer - A speaker designed to specialize in low-frequency reproduction. A true subwoofer should be able to at least reach into the bottom octave (20-40Hz). Although any location will result in bass that appears to come from the satellite speakers, they usually sound best when placed near the front speakers. To learn what size subwoofer might work best for you, please read our blog Secrets to Selecting a Subwoofer.
Sub-Bass - Sub frequency bass, frequencies ranging from 1 Hz to 80 Hz. This frequency range is produced by a subwoofer. The larger speaker cones allow for them to produce frequencies with longer wavelengths.
Subwoofer Output - Line-level (or low level) output on an A/V receiver or preamp that transmits only low bass signals to the subwoofer where it is amplified.
Surround - The outer suspension of a speaker cone usually made of foam or rubber.
Surround Sound - An attempt to recreate the acoustical and ambient information of a particular environment, such as a church, a stadium, a movie theater, etc using more than a stereo pair of loudspeakers.
S-VHS - Super VHS. A recording and playback format requiring an SVHS VCR. As the name implies, it’s better than standard VHS, producing about 480 lines of resolution. (Standard VHS displays about 240 lines.)
S-Video - A video transmission method that is better than composite video, not as good as component video. S-video separates luminance (black and white information) and chrominance (color information) signals. The S-video interconnect cable somewhat resembles a computer PS-2 cable.
Sweet Spot - A listening position that yields the best results, usually equidistant from the front (two or three) loudspeakers.
THD - Acronym for Total Harmonic Distortion.
THX - An acronym for Tomlinson Holman Experiment, THX is a set of technical standards and performance criteria developed by Lucasfilm to ensure that moviegoers see and hear a film at optimum performance levels, “as the director intended”. This comprehensive set of standards includes rigorous specifications designed to optimize equipment, room acoustics, background noise levels, and projection and viewing angles.
Timbre - Pronounced TAM-ber. Refers to tone color. It’s the quality of sound that makes one instrument or voice sound different from another. For example, a flute has a different timbre than a clarinet. For more information on this subject, please read our blog What Is Timbre Matching?
Tonearm - On a phonograph (record player), the arm that acts as the support mechanism for a phono cartridge.
TOSLINK (Toshiba link) - In home audio, it refers to another term for optical audio cable. Originally implemented and developed by Toshiba.
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) - The percentage of the total sound that is unintentionally created harmonics from the original signal. When comparing audio components, the lower the number, the better.
Tower Speaker (Floorstanding) - A tall speaker that rests directly on the floor. Usually consists of a tweeter, and multiple mid-bass drivers. They are great for a full sounding frequency response as they tend to output more bass frequencies than smaller speakers. To learn whether a tower speaker will be best for your audio needs, please read our blog Demystifying Towers vs Bookshelf Speakers.
Transducer - A Device that converts one type of energy-electrical, acoustical, magnetic or mechanical-into another. Examples include a phono cartridge, magnetic record or playback head, speaker, microphone or cathode ray tube (CRT).
Transient Response - The ability of a speaker to respond to any sudden change in the signal without smearing or blurring the sound. A speaker that can react quickly to rapid changes in sound has “good transient response”.
Treble (highs) - High audio frequencies, the upper end of the audio spectrum, usually reproduced by tweeters. Treble range starts at about 2 kHz and up.
Tri-wiring - The use of three pairs of separate speaker wire from the same amplifier to separate bass, midrange and treble inputs on the speakers.
Tweeter - Transducer responsible for reproducing the higher frequencies of an audible signal, typically active above 3 or 4 kHz. For more information about tweeters, please read our blog What Everybody Ought to Know About Tweeters.
Two-way - A type of loudspeaker that divides the audio spectrum into two parts, usually to be fed to a woofer and tweeter.
UHD - Ultra High Definition. Also known as Ultra HD, UHDTV and Super Hi-Vision. Must have a minimum resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio and have at least one digital input capable of carrying the minimum resolution.
Vented Enclosure - See Bass Reflex.
Voice-matched - Speakers that are “voice-matched” have the same timbre or tonal quality. Voice-matched speakers in a home theater system will result in a convincingly seamless encompassing sound.
Warmth - Usually refers to a sound quality that results from not having more than the natural amount of treble. The opposite of “bright”.
Watt - A power measurement for audio receivers and amplifiers. The more watts an A/V receiver produces, the more power the speakers in a system will receive.
White Noise - A full audio spectrum signal with the same energy level at all frequencies. White noise has much more treble energy than pink noise.
Widescreen - In home theater, a viewing aspect ratio wider than 4:3 (which is the typical television ratio). There are various widescreen formats, one of which is 16:9.
Wi-Fi- A technology for wireless local area networking with devices based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. Wi-Fi most commonly uses the 2.4 gigahertz (12 cm) UHF and 5.8 gigahertz (5 cm) SHF ISM radio bands.
Woofer- A loudspeaker dedicated to producing low frequency sound.
Xmax- The maximum linear cone excursion of a driver, measured in inches or millimeters.
Y-adapter- Any type of connection that splits a signal into two parts. An example would be a connector with one female RCA jack on one end, and two male RCA jacks on the other end.
YpbPr- another term for component video.
YPAO- Yamaha Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer. Yamaha’s automatic room correction software.