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Some hi-fi terms that I still don't quite understand

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone! I'm new to mid/hi-fi and, although I already got my home setup, there are some terms used by audiophiles that I still don't quite understand. I came to know these terms thanks to the massive thread "Battle Of Flagships". I know the meaning of most terms regarding headphones, like dark, bright, warm, cold, bass, mids, treble, etc. but these are the ones that I don't know:

 

• Transparency

• Grain

• Sibilant

• Decay

• Transient Response

• Tonal Balance

 

It would be very useful to know what these mean when buying headphones

 

Thanks to all of you!

post #2 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingcrimson69 View Post

Hey everyone! I'm new to mid/hi-fi and, although I already got my home setup, there are some terms used by audiophiles that I still don't quite understand. I came to know these terms thanks to the massive thread "Battle Of Flagships". I know the meaning of most terms regarding headphones, like dark, bright, warm, cold, bass, mids, treble, etc. but these are the ones that I don't know:

 

• Transparency

• Grain

• Sibilant

• Decay

• Transient Response

• Tonal Balance

 

It would be very useful to know what these mean when buying headphones

 

Thanks to all of you!

Always remember that there are almost no "audio only" descriptive terms.  The great majority are analogies to other things, usually visual or tactile.  "Grain" and "transparency" are two examples, where "sibilance" is a rare audio-specific term.  Many "audiophile" terms describe effects that may only exist in biased perception, and terms like these are often used in elitist context.  Most use these terms partly because they describe an effect, and partly because the use of them lends an air of sophisticated comprehension that elevates the user above mere mortals. But, hey, we all need to describe stuff, and since there are no specific audio terms...

 

http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/

 

You'll find most there.  Tonal Balance isn't there, but see just Balance.  

 

Be cautious when trying to couple an actual audible effect to these terms.  "Transient Response" is a real fooler, for example. It's often misused, right along with my all-time favorite sonic impossibility, "fast bass".  

post #3 of 8

Transparency and Grain are ******** terms.  Don't even bother trying to find a definition of them.

post #4 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingcrimson69 View Post

Hey everyone! I'm new to mid/hi-fi and, although I already got my home setup, there are some terms used by audiophiles that I still don't quite understand. I came to know these terms thanks to the massive thread "Battle Of Flagships". I know the meaning of most terms regarding headphones, like dark, bright, warm, cold, bass, mids, treble, etc. but these are the ones that I don't know:

 

• Transparency

• Grain

• Sibilant

• Decay

• Transient Response

• Tonal Balance

 

It would be very useful to know what these mean when buying headphones

 

Thanks to all of you!

Sibilance usually has to do with a treble spike in the 8-9 kHz region, where the ssssssss sounds are. A ssssibilant headphone will ssssound quite harsh when playing sssss sounds, such as female vocals.

 

Transparency is hard to describe for headphones, but I think DavidMahler of the "flagship headphones" thread explained that transparency for a headphone is being able to put the headphone on one's head and the sounds from the headphone sound so natural that the it's as if the sounds were coming from a speaker system rather than headphones. For amps or DACs, it's the lack of colouration.

 

Grain is excess texture in the treble that makes the treble sound unnatural, I think.

 

Decay and transient response.....yeah I'm still learning those too. :D

 

I think tonal balance is how accurate an instrument's tone sounds. If an A note is played on a guitar, does it sound like an A note with the headphones?

 

 

Perhaps this will help:

http://www.stereophile.com/reference/50/index.html

post #5 of 8

let me give it a shot... this is fun blink.giftongue.gif

 

• Transparency.....when i can hear thru the veil...hear thru the forest...less muffled.

• Grain................some cheesecakes are just smoother, less grainy...on my tongue...and ears i supposed.

• Sibilant.............when i feel the knife cutting my eardrums on the high notes.

• Decay...............the piano notes just died a micro second too early.

• Transient Response.....the complex orchestra piece didnt get marshmellowed

• Tonal Balance.............when a trumpet sounds like a trumpet..? lolz

 

deadhorse.gif

post #6 of 8

Grain would surely have to refer to some kind of distortion that is perceived as a roughness to the sound. Of course it doesn't refer to anything specifically, but probably could, with analysis, be linked to certain types of distortion. I'd take a bet on inter-modulation distortion of some kind.

 

Decay is interesting. A note played on an instrument decays and, depending on the equipment used it is possible to hear more detail of the decaying sounds. A piano is a very good example as the vibration of the strings causes nearby ones to vibrate and with good equipment the waves of harmonics are audible. A recent experience I had was when comparing two pairs of almost equally expensive headphones where in one the decay of notes was more clearly audible than the other at the same volume.

 

Tonal balance is a less fancy way of saying "frequency response" when talking about headphones, at least that's the way I've used it.

 

Sibilance is overemphasis of the 6-8 kHz range (or thereabouts).

 

Transparency.... well, yeah, lets not go there. smile.gif

post #7 of 8

I actually have less problems with "transparency" than "grain".  To me, grain as a sound descriptor is an analogy to a gritty texture, like grain in a photo, or a hand full of coarse sand.  So, fairly vague.

 

Transparency...if a piece of glass is perfectly transparent, you won't even know its there.  You might try to put your hand through it because you won't perceive that there's anything but clear air there.  The audio analog would be, transparent components would allow the suspension of disbelief, the illusion of "real" or "live".  So, no variance in frequency response, no distortion. So, in transducers perfect transparency is not really possible, it's only by degree.  Electronics should usually be completely transparent.  All this with the caution that two-channel stereo can never really recreate the sound-field of "life", not even when used for binaural.  


Edited by jaddie - 3/16/13 at 7:18am
post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post

let me give it a shot... this is fun blink.giftongue.gif

 

• Transparency.....when i can hear thru the veil...hear thru the forest...less muffled.

• Grain................some cheesecakes are just smoother, less grainy...on my tongue...and ears i supposed.

• Sibilant.............when i feel the knife cutting my eardrums on the high notes.

• Decay...............the piano notes just died a micro second too early.

• Transient Response.....the complex orchestra piece didnt get marshmellowed

• Tonal Balance.............when a trumpet sounds like a trumpet..? lolz

 

deadhorse.gif

Whoow... Nice Spoon Feeding mate.. wink_face.gif

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