Audio Terms

I quite often see terms used to describe audio sound.
I understand soundstage, imaging, and detail but there are some I could use help with.

Laid back, warmth, bloom, black back ground, forward, aggressive, over the top, bottom end extension

Please help me with these terms

Thank you
You might want to get Robert Harley's book "The Complete Guide to High End Audio", available at

Laid Back: The stereo image forms behind the speakers rather than exactly between them or in front of them

Forward: The soundstage forms in front of the speakers. Forward usually refers to the mid-range. Forward is opposite of Laid back.

Warmth: very subjective, but I use it to mean a rich, thick, syrpy sound-- notes in the mid-range are round and full. It can apply to all frequencies. The opposite(s) are cool, lean, thin. I prefer a slightly warm/rich music presentation to cool/lean, or analytical.

Black Back Ground: Actually refers to the "degree of silence" during the parts of the music that are supposed to be silent. Usually, the blacker (more silent) the better. A good black background also implies excellent clarity. A system that does not have a black background is less clear, more muddy, and has various electronic noise(s) associated with it, ie radio frequency interference (RFI) and electro-magnetic interference (EMI). It can be striking when you hear a system with a really black background. Cleaning up the electrical supply can promote blackness.

Aggressive: can refer to an excessively bright mid-range/treble, or an excessively forward presentation, or both.

Over the Top: Too bright, and similar to aggressive.

Bottom End Extension: Refers to how deep the bass of a stereo system goes. There are many adjectives to describe quality of bass.

Bloom: A desireable (usually) condition often best created by tube equipment whereby the soundstage is very full (holographic), and extends in all directions. However, sometimes stereo image coherence suffers with a strong "bloom". I like a good strong stereo image and am willing to forego bloom to get it. Bloom may also refer to thin and diffuse (as opposed to thick, tight and coherent).

Audiogon could use a reference to some kind of glossary for these kinds of terms-- there are many, many more. Cheers. Craig.
Craig did a nice job on that one, which obviously took some time. I would like to add two things to what he already stated so nicely. The terms "forward" and "laid back" could also be used in reference to tonal balance. While Garfish used them in terms of the soundstage and imaging area, "forward" could also mean midrange that is "forward" or "out in front" of the rest of the music. This can add clarity for vocals on music or speech while watching movies, but can be tiresome after a while. Kind of like having the singer standing next to you and crooning in your face or watching a live performance up in one of the very front rows. As to "laid back", it would have the opposite effect on tonal balance. Mids and treble are slightly withdrawn, lending a distant sound to them. This would be akin to sitting further back in the venue where you weren't able to pick up any direct sound from the performer. There is a little more ambience or "room effect" to the vocals and instrumentation this way. Less annoying than having someone in your face but you don't want them too distant either as clarity and detail suffer.

Like most of audio, i think that you'll find that different terms are used by different people in different ways. That is why we try to stress listening to components for yourself. Due to differences in system synergy and personal tastes, what you call "forward" might be "laid back" for someone that REALLY likes their music "in your face".

I think that Stereophile has a glossary of common audio terms on their website. The terms that are presented there are the more common ones and should help you to understand what a reviewer is talking about when trying to describe a piece of gear. Much of it IS gibberish, but at least you'll understand the gibberish : ) Sean
Craig did a very nice job with the terminology. I take issue with only one and that is bloom. I always associate that with tube gear and it refers to an over warm sound which tubes, somewhat unregulated, will create.