Audio Terminology (Subjective terms used on SuperBAF)

Discussion in 'Tales from the Bully Pulpit' started by purr1n, Nov 19, 2021.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    SuperBAF Subjective Audio Glossary
    Describing Sound
    An Audio Glossary
    A Glossary of Audio Terms
    Audio Terminology (Subjective terms used on SuperBAF)

    This is work in progress. Some links are to some good discussion on the Audio 101 thread which has been locked, presumably because it started to become a thread of shitposts. Please make an effort to read posts before and after the links.

    I've hesitated from explicitly precisely defining these terms in the past, preferring to let folks figure it out for themselves, but I think it's about time that I did this. This is not to say that others' definitions are not correct. The purpose of this is to ensure common understanding of these terms as they are used on SuperBAF.

    Microdynamics and Microdynamics
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/the-audio-101-thread.3214/page-2#post-96125

    Microdetail aka Plankton (vs. Macrodetail)
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/the-audio-101-thread.3214/page-2#post-96131
    Discussion: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...ton-and-the-ability-to-resolve-properly.2801/

    Clarity (and "Black")
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/the-audio-101-thread.3214/page-3#post-96353

    Transient Response (Speed, Attack, Decay)
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...tive-terms-used-on-superbaf.3400/#post-100490

    Neutrality (Subjective and Objective)
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/what-is-neutral-frequency-response.18/

    Timbre
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...ty-to-resolve-properly.2801/page-4#post-99159

    Wire-With-Gain / Transparent
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...tive-terms-used-on-superbaf.3400/#post-100544

    Warm, Dark, Bright, Laid-Back, Rolled, Lean (and others: Shouty, Shrill, Honk)
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...tive-terms-used-on-superbaf.3400/#post-100548

    "Wet" vs Dry
    http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...erms-used-on-superbaf.3400/page-2#post-102494

    Last edited: Dec 10, 2016
    purr1n, Dec 1, 2016
     
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  2. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    ON TRANSIENT RESPONSE

    Before I delve into transient response, I'd like to point out that the effects of good transient response can be interpreted as "detail". An example of this with the Ether headphone. The Ether exhibits fast transient response, particularly in the upper registers. This results in great delineation and separation of sounds. However, this is not the same as and should not be confused with microdetail. As least from how I have traditionally defined things and how I hear it. I could agree that the Ether is more "detailed" than the HD6X0, but to say that the Ether is more resolving of microdetail than the HD6X0 (assuming capable upstream gear, recordings, and ears) would be incorrect. The detail aspect of the Ether lies in the temporal domain, on the X-axis moving in time. The detail, or more precisely microdetail aspect of the HD6X0 lies in the amplitude domain, on the Y-axis for volume, particularly at the lowest levels of sounds.

    Transient response can be broken down into three aspects: attack, decay, and speed of transient. Instead of defining them, I will cite examples. Good transient response can be heard as tight articulate bass or well delineated sounds (metal percussion such as cymbals). Modern electrostatics (STAX) or ultra-thin membrane isodynamics tend to exhibit the fastest speed among all transducers, however they tend to have softened or rounded attacks. Think of it as a pillow being throw at your face at 100kph. These kinds of headphones lack a certain kind of tactility upon the very tail end of the impact throughout the entire audio band. Some planars such as Abyss, HE-6 (again assuming capable upstream gear) can show excellent attack characteristics, but they are slightly slower. Instead of a pillow, it’s a rock thrown at you at 70kph. Finally the best dynamics also have excellent attack characteristics, but are a bit slower in terms of speed, and tend to be the worse at decay. Although it should be said that the use of exotic materials such as Be or diamond have narrowed the gap significantly.
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    ON WIRE-WITH-GAIN

    Bullshit term. I've never heard anything that sounded like wire-with-gain. Ironically, this term if most often used by fanboys of amps that have a tendency to sound like sizzly etched solid-state abominations. The "wire-with-gain" thing comes in as a handy excuse to blame an amp's shitty sound on the source.


    ON TRANSPARENT

    Semi-bullshit term. All audio gear commits sins of commission and sins of omission (borrowed from Arthur Salvadore), just different proportions and extents of them. People who have only heard bad tube amps like to say that tube gear commits sins of commission (I don’t disagree with this), while pointing out that solid-state amps are totally transparent. This is bullshit. Solid-state gear, even the best solid-state gear, commits sins of omission. An amp isn’t transparent if it commits sins of omission – just that it’s harder to notice it, especially if one hasn’t heard a good tube amp.

    In general, I think it's fair to say that tube gear tends to commit sins of commission and that solid-state gear commits sins of omission. There is no right or wrong in which is your preference. There are other factors such as power output. The only thing wrong is covering your eyes and closing your ears in not being able to realize this. The tube vs. solid-state argument is beyond the scope of this thread, please go here: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/tube-vs-solid-state.3296/
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    philipmorgan said:
    This thread is great. Are there specific points in specific recordings that illustrate any of these terms? I'd really benefit from examples like that.
    • Plankton: Eagles Live Hotels California XRCD. String passage in the beginning. A resolving medium-priced headphone like the HD6X0 should be able to pick up string decays that are lost on less resolving expensive headphones like the AKG K812 or even the Abyss.
    • Macrodynamics and Attack: Pixies Brick is Red MFSL. Certain passages on Stanley Black LSO Magnificent Seven LFF remaster.
    • Transient response: Daft Punk Giorgio Moroder, any jazzy stuff with fine cymbal work. Electronica with quick start-stop beeps and boops.
    • Microdynamics: Bach Cello Concerto Rostropovich. Listen to the gradations of the volume of the cello, and how it digs and sways.
    • Clarity: Anything because of its high correlation to distortion.
    Don't want to get too deep into this. There are many many fine examples. You need to choose your own set of test tracks that work for you. Most of the time, I can use one or two test tracks to assess everything. The important thing is to be super familiar with the recording and know exactly what master it is.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    General Frequency Response Terms
    • WARM: Emphasis is mid/upper bass.
    • LAID BACK: Recessed upper mids and sometimes treble
    • DARK: Downward sloping from bass to treble
    • BRIGHT: Upward sloping from bass to treble or emphasis in treble
    • LEAN: Lacking in bass
    • THIN: Recessed lower midrange and bass, opposite of BODY.
    • ROLLED (top): Recessed treble
    More SuperBAF specific Frequency Response Terms
    • SHOUTY / SHRILL: Emphasis around 2 to 3.5kHz
    • HONK: Emphasis around 1 to 2.5kHz (note different from below)
    • NASAL: 500 to 800Hz.
    Also see:
    main_chart.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 19, 2021
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    ON "WET" VS DRY

    Reverb, bloom, are often heard on tube gear. I seldom use wet and many times I see this term used the wrong way, or at least a way I would use it.

    It's kind of a combination of things, an internal bloom, inner warmth, rich harmonics from micro-vibrations of tube filaments.

    Gear that I would describe as having this quality: DNA - just the right touch; Elise with Mullard 6080 - quite a bit. WA5 - quite a bit; ZDS - a bit; MicroZOTL - hints of this, but with other stuff too; Leben CS300 - someone's diaper didn't work.

    In the case of the Leben, probably less so that it's wet, but rather distorted and overly warm. Wetness doesnt have much to do external warmth, but many tube amps happen to be warm sounding. Wetness is tube coloration that doesn't correlate with high second order.
     
  7. shotgunshane

    shotgunshane Floridian Falcon

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    Thread recreated from web archive
     
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  8. iFi audio

    iFi audio MOT iFi Audio

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    Let me ask whether "warm" and "wet" are roughly in the same ballpark to you?
     
  9. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    @iFi audio random person chiming in but while they're in the same ball park and loads of gear I've tried (which is a low count compared to many but eh) do exhibit both to a fair degree, there's pedantism to humour.

    IMO "warmth" is more to do with tonal balance with that lower-mid, upper bass bloominess (itself also distinct from "body", which to me is more how present sonic images can be-- the Beyer DT880 Premium 250ohm is warm as heck other than the treble tizz but has pretty weak "body" cuz of how it does headstage); wetness seems more to do with decays and just a sense of sluggishness to dynamics; the Schiit Magni 3+ sounds like a straight shooter as far as tonal balance goes other than some negligible-to-me treble kerfuffle and has good sense of "body" but is a remarkably "dry" amp overall with how it conveys decay, room cues, and just textural nuance.

    "Wet" and "warm" would be ZDT Jr. while "warm" but "dry" (or "drier by comparison" anyway) would be closer to Garage1217 Project Sunrise with Genalex Gold Lion 6922. Rather liked the original micro iDSD for its being pleasant from an FR standpoint (slightly warm maintaining no-nonsense treble while also being slightly "wet" in presentation that made it fun with vintage Grado RS1).

    Caveat: it's been a while since I had "interesting" stuff to listen out of, have just been running a Fulla 2 for a few months prior to the current stack arriving so memory could be janked etc etc.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    "Warm" and "Wet" more often than not coincide. Wet pertains to a bloom, which usually results in at least some warmth. Wet also implies a subjective time-domain distortion aspect whereas warm denotes a frequency response and/or harmonic distortion aspect. Here are some examples to illustrate:
    • Feliks Elise (OTL) is slightly warm and very wet (with Mullard 6080s).
    • Schiit Freya+ preamp with most 6SN7s isn't necessarily warm, but quite wet or bloomy.
    • Project Sunrise is the GL 6922 warm but not necessarily wet.
    • Schiit Vali 2+ (not the 2) is not warm and not wet - this is the reason that with most tubes, most people in a blind test cannot tell the difference between the 2+ and Magni 3+.
    • iFi Pro iDSD (tube+ mode) is neutral and also not necessarily wet. Tube+ is richer sounding than Tube.
    Of course "rich" sounding could be another topic. So now we have warm, rich, and wet. These three are interrelated or often coinciding, but can also be mutually exclusive.

    FWIW, with respect to my personal preferences, I tend to stay away from wet. A lot of tubes and tube implementations have a wet sound. I understand why people like it. The bloom is enchanting and seductive. However, after a bit of time, I feel that too much bloom (a little bit is fine) interferes with what I want to hear in the recording, so it makes me want to throw the amp or preamp outside the window.

    I have a little joke with some friends at the Schiit factory here in Corpus. They have music playing through a Freya+ on tube mode. When I come in and hear the Freya+ in tube mode, I say "what the fuck is this shit", and switch it to the "buffer" mode. I can't stand the bloom, but people love it and I totally understand why.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2022
  11. Deep Funk

    Deep Funk Deep thoughts - Friend

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    When it comes to warmth the HD650, HD600 and certain AKG Sextetts are some of the best headphones out there. Usually there is a slight boost from the mid/upper bass to the midrange and sometimes a gentle peak in the treble region.

    My Koss PortaPro gets it right for the most part. The best combination is a HD650 or HD600 on a capable tube amplifier with high gain. The right tube can also give you the details without the treble head-aches but that is a matter of trial and error.

    P.S. My Vali 2 with its old tubes hits a peculiar sweet spot. It is a delight.
     

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