Glossary of Basic Audiophile Terminology

With many thanks to Mr. Bierce, Mr. Swift, Mr. Pope, and others, Classical Candor takes a tongue-in-cheek look at audiophile nomenclature with our own "terms of endearment."

Amplification:  The ability of a writer to phrase trivial ideas in pompous, grandiose, overbearing, bombastic, authoritarian, redundant, and often repetitious style, thereby convincing readers that anyone who sounds so important must be right.

Articulate:  To voice an opinion. But not too loudly.  See "Discussion."

Audiophobe:  (1) A person who loves the sound of stereo equipment more than the sound of music.  (2) A person who spends more time reading about audio than listening to it. (3) A person whose opinions on sound reflect those of his current guru.  For further information, read "Fear of Listening" by I.M. Deef.

Audiophile:  A tool used by the audio elite to scrape away the cherished beliefs of others.

"Blows it away":  Sounds different.  See "Breathtaking," "Super," "Extraordinary," "Ultra good," "Incalculably better," "Superior in every way," "Knocks your socks off," and, most important, "More expensive."

Boomy:  The voice of God or the voice of one's favorite audio reviewer, whichever comes first.

Compact disc:  A small, circular, silver plate said by some to contain music but used mainly to provide background noise while doing daily chores.  See also "Pirate."

Crossover:  (1) Giving up hi-fi and buying a digital camera. (2) Giving up digital cameras and buying an MP3 player. (3) Giving up MP3 players and buying a multimedia computer. (4) Giving up multimedia computers and buying a home theater. (5) Giving up home theater and reading a good book.

DAT:  The EQ of a DCC's IM and THD, calculated as the balanced fiber optic oversampling of a 12 kHz coaxial migraine at a maximum impedance of twelve supra-aural anechoic Ohms, filtered to V rms. SPL. LS. MFT.

D/A converter:  One who changed his hairstyle in the sixties but kept his music intact.

Digital:  (1) Viewed by some authorities as sweetness and light, the hope and salvation of the world. (2) Viewed by others as the Evil Empire, the Dark Side.

Discussion:  Outside the audiophile community a term denoting the exchange of ideas. Within the audiophile community a euphemism meaning, "You say whatever you want, but I'm right."

Dolby:  The man who invented sound.

Dynamic range:  The magnitude and authority of a voice in the audio world, determined largely by the size of the advertising budget and/or the scope of the circulation.

Equalization:  The law of opposing views, which states that after reading two or more reviews of the same subject, the reader will be no further ahead than he was before.

Equalizer:  Also known as the Great Equalizer; i.e., money.

Expert:  One whose opinion appears in print.

Fatiguing:  Reviewers, including yours truly.

Golden-eared reviewer:  A writer whose hearing is infinitely better than everyone else's, because he says it is.

Golden retriever:  The only listener whose hearing has never been in doubt.

High end:  (1) The uppermost limit of reproduced sound, capable of being heard only by dogs and audiophile reviewers. (2) Anything that costs a lot.

Hi-Fi:  (1) A greeting among members of the audiophile community, meaning "high five" or "gimme fi'." (2) The salutation commonly used when addressing the group of five composers who in 1875 united their efforts to create a national school of Russian music.

Jargon:  Specialized language, vocabulary, argot, lingo, patter, cant, palaver of the field; generally employed to cloud the fact that the writer doesn't know what in the hell he's talking about.

Loudspeaker:  The guy with the biggest mouth or the most impressive credentials. See "Amplification."

LP:  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, it is said people used to play music from these large, round, flat, black-vinyl discs. It is supposed that the medium was accessed by simultaneously spinning the LP on a circular table while scraping it with a piece of sharp-pointed metal. Curiouser and curiouser. Such artifacts have recently been found and are being replicated by several manufacturers for further investigation. Also great as Frisbees.

Masked:  What some audio dealers and manufacturers should be when they ask the prices they do.

Mellow:  The sound of any hi-fi system after several glasses of Chardonnay.

Noise reduction:  (1) The exclusion of anyone from a listening room who begins talking the moment music plays. (2) The exclusion of "experts" from the listening room.

Open:  Tell-it-like-it-is honesty in the halls of esoteric, high-end audio. See also "Edgy," "Tight," "Pinched," "Muddy," "Hollow," "Strident," "Rude," "Boorish," "Churlish," "Uncouth," "Barbaric," "Duplicitous," and "Sneaky."

Opinion:  An accepted misnomer, implying that audiophiles actually have their own views.

Platter:  An antique black-vinyl disc used to play music, now used mainly to carry roast beef and potatoes.

Point of view:  "I'm right; you're wrong."  See "Expert."

Presence:  The stereo gear you got for Christmas.

Receiver:  The guy who takes the cash. Not to be confused with the listener, who shells it out.

SACD:  What happens to audio salesmen who don't know the jargon.

Second order harmonic distortion:  SOHD. Derogatory remark, chiefly British, made when the hi-fi acts up or the wife complains.

State-of-the-art:  The biggest or most-expensive stuff.

Stereo:  The reproduction of sounds through both sides of the face; see also "forked tongue."

Surround sound:  An audiophile gathering with everyone talking at once and nobody listening to the music or to anybody else.

Third order harmonic distortion:  TOHD. (1) Speakers angled toward the primary listening position. (2) Parent or adult who constantly nags, "Turn it down!"

Transient:  Out-of-work audio reviewer.

Tuner:  An American media mogul, founder of CNN and owner of several TV stations and a baseball team; formerly married to Jane Fonder.

Tweak:  To wring from a component the last ounce of perceived performance; proof positive that nobody or nothing is perfect.


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John J. Puccio

John J. Puccio

About the Author

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.

Contact Information

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa