How To Describe Sound

New to audio or just want a refresher on the terms?  We found this handy guide on how to describe different sounds thanks to the Bay Area Audiophile Society.  Is your system sweet, detailed, and clear?  How about well-bodied and textured?  Use this chart to find out!




Are there any other terms you’d add? Comment below to add your descriptors.


  1. Most of these adjectives are more relevant within a particular frequency range. For instance they put “dynamics” in the upper mids. If I had to put dynamics in one place I would agree with that one, but dynamics can be judged through the whole spectrum.

    Speed is even harder to place because it truely applies everywhere.

  2. There are many other dimensions of high-fidelity. Examples include:

    Transparency: A system shouldn’t sound, it should disappear, leaving just the music!

    Presence: The performers are “in in the room” with you.

    Imaging and Image stability. Can you locate each instrument in the ensemble in the soundfield?

    Temporal Accuracy: What is the step response? My ears receive time-based pressure signals, they do not perform a Fourier transform! Frequency response and THD are abused and generally less relevant than temporal accuracy. Temporal accuracy implies correct frequency response, but a “correct” frequency response does not imply temporal accuracy. Also, for harmonic distortion, it is the particular harmonics of that are important, not just THD.

    Many systems sound disembodied even though they have good “specs”. Music is not continuous sinusoids, it is dynamic and designing systems to just have good “frequency response” sacrifices dynamic accuracy. To get low THD, you can just boost the negative feedback, which of course, makes the system sound terrible in spite of the improved specs.

    People should expect more from sound systems.

    Friends don’t let friends do MP3’s.

  3. I would like to see the frequencies associated with each range listed along the X axis. I guess the Y axis is just a personal assessment of whether the amount is pleasing or too strong or too weak, since the note implies you are not talking about amplitude. To get back to my basic point, you can’t assume that everyone knows or agrees what “mid-bass” is for example. Too much of what is discussed about audio is imprecise. Subjectivity goes only so far. The idea of coming to a common understanding on terms is great as long as the associated categories are defined and understood by all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s