Terminological Exactitude....


This may be resurrecting an older thread - if so, apologies for beating an old drum...

If all sound, including music, consists of two physical properties, namely amplitude and frequency, then one could argue that much of the audio language we use is vague, and sometimes extremely difficult to understand.
For example, what are we supposed to understand by words like 'analytical' or 'warm'? My supposition is that these terms refer to peaks and valleys in the response curves, either amplitude or frequency based.

But since we apparently have very few absolutes in audio, and since most casual terminology is used within a morass of variables, there seems to be a communication gap. I know of at least one designer (of phono sections) that will design in small frequency anomalies to suit end users: these anomalous frequency curves no doubt are just what some people are seeking, given their already anomalous listening situations...

More of a comment than complaint: but it does render descriptions less than useful in many or most cases. Of course, as some will say, measurements are not everything. Indeed it may seem so - but it's always a question of exactly what is being measured. Maybe one day we'll get better at this, but I have doubts.
Until then we'll have to contend with the pseudo-scientific rather than accuracy of description. I'm thinking of a line I read from Salvatore's website - one I agree with wholeheartedly:

"Music is art; reproduction is science"

Comments?
57s4me
Are you an engineer or something similar?
If it sounds good and it measures good, it is good. If it sounds good and measures bad, or if it sounds bad but measures good, we haven't learned exactly what to measure yet.

Progress is never ending. It would be foolish to think that mankind now knows everything that there is to know. We are constantly evolving, and learning new things everyday.

Maybe one day measurements will be more accurately able to predict what we hear. Maybe one day measurements will be more accurately able to predict the weather. ;^)
It's true that we'll never agree on just what 'warm' or 'analytical' mean, in a descriptive sense, due to how we hear and interpret it ourselves. There's no consensus due to our individual take, our connotations, on what we ascribe to the term.

It's not like how we can all agree on how the sun feels warm on our face or how water feels as it flows between our fingers. Just the mention of it brings familiar sensations that are rather plain and easy to imagine.

Due to the nature of this hobby (affliction?) we tend to hold closer to terms of our own choosing which are backed by a strong sort of attachment to the term as we try to define it. Any misinterpretation or conflicting realization of the term leads to conflict and debate. There are times when it seems apparent that disputes are agreements, save for the description. Funny that.

To me it helps when describing something in a poetic way as it leaves so much room for interpretation and yet, agreement. The flip side is that some get rather worked up over it. Until we can all agree on just what means what, we'll just have to give everyone a little more latitude.

All the best,
Nonoise
If all sound, including music, consists of two physical properties, namely amplitude and frequency,
All sound comprises of phase & amplitude. Further, time & phase are related in that time is phase. It takes a certain time for the sound originating from a source (any source) to reach your ear. Depending upon how much time it takes dictates what the phase of the sound is (w.r.t. its originating point) when it reaches your ear. Phase changes from zero to 360 degrees & starts all over again from zero infinitely until the sound dies out. Amplitude of sound falls off 6dB per doubling of the distance. So, the further away you are the lower the amplitude.
In nature, phase is the independent variable & frequency is a derivative of phase. So, if phase changes, frequency will change. And, when the frequency changes, the timbral aspect of the sound changes.

then one could argue that much of the audio language we use is vague, and sometimes extremely difficult to understand.
Continuing what was written above, the audio language is basically describing what the distortion sounds like upon playback.
As you know, all electronics & all speakers create distortion. The name of the game is to identify components (electronics + speakers) for any given price-point that playback music with the least distortion. That will always enhance one's music playback session(s).
So when people write
For example, what are we supposed to understand by words like 'analytical' or 'warm'?
they are really describing the sound of the distortion - specifically the phase distortion - thru their resp system or some system they auditioned (friend's place, dealer's place, etc).
it's important to remember that when the phase of the original signal (coming off a LP or a CD or a music stream) is altered (by electronics or the speaker), the frequency content of that music playback session is altered. This in turn changes the timbral accuracy & this completely alters the music for the worse (in general. there are many people that like phase distortions because it gives them a coloured sound they are looking for specifically).

Once you understand this, it is very easy to understand the audio language.

Bomboywalla; yes indeed, phase distortions appear to be one of the keys to understanding this.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of the more influential power supply designers, whose researches are specifically dedicated to analyzing this phenomenon. His studies lead to interesting conclusions regarding phase shifts far above the conventionally held limits of audibility, and their effect on what we seem to hear. Fascinating.

And I do agree with Nonoise; giving latitude is essential. No need for conflict!
Nonoise & 57s4me,
re. giving each other some latitude: yes, I'm in favour of this because what we want on this forum is discussion & not a fight even if the discussion is outside our resp. knowledge realm & outside our comfort zone. The whole idea of forum participation is to expand our resp. knowledge base altho' I know that not everyone here subscribes to this line of reasoning.
And, no, I'm at the same not in favour of giving others latitude because if the definitions are not clear we have different people interpreting the same thing differently & the advice given is all over the map to the point where it is useless.
So, if I don't understand what your definition of "warm" or "analytical" is then I could off in left field by applying my definition & drawing wrong conclusions & giving bad advice. And, I've found this to be frustrating on several occasions.
So, if everyone was diligent in starting off their verbal descriptions with their definitions then we could cut each other a lot more slack & even be on the same page. But this seldom happens - I've to depend on my knowledge of "warm"/"analytical" & hope that the OP shares the same opinion.
Wow i did not know that.
Audio terminology is all a potshot for the most part.

Music can only be heard exactly. All words attempting to describe it are highly subjective approximations.

The fundamental properties of the gear can be measured though and those measurements can be applied towards the goal of creating a more accurate music reproduction system. But only our ears and minds are capable of processing and reacting to the recordings when played.
An application like Shazaam is capable of listening to recordings, and quantifying them to the extent needed to attempt to identify each uniquely from others, but that's all it can do. It cannot tell us anything about how individuals will react to what they hear. Maybe some day...
"So, if I don't understand what your definition of "warm" or "analytical" is then I could off in left field by applying my definition & drawing wrong conclusions & giving bad advice. And, I've found this to be frustrating on several occasions.
So, if everyone was diligent in starting off their verbal descriptions with their definitions then we could cut each other a lot more slack & even be on the same page. But this seldom happens - I've to depend on my knowledge of "warm"/"analytical" & hope that the OP shares the same opinion."

I agree, but in the end, the person asking for the opinion of others needs to use that info responsibly. If they buy just based on opinions, its foolish. If they end up results they are not happy with, its no ones fault their own.
I remember on a related thread not too long ago a link for a list of standard definitions was given presumably in an attempt to put everyone on the same page only to conclude our personal interpretations pretty well defeat the purpose. But what if along with such a list a companion set of audio examples were given with say a standard set of ear buds linked to a particular internet site? Now, whatever any of us hears for a given definition, is for all intents and purposes, an objective result. No need to try to get into each others' heads.
"No need to try to get into each others' heads."

Then where are the ear buds supposed to go?
I mean in terms of interpretation of said definitions. You knew that, right?
Of course, I was just kidding. But going back to the point you were trying to make in your thread, I just don't think something like that would be very effective. Reviews and comments like this are really not meant to be the only source of info for making a purchase. At some point, someone asking for advice is going to have to listen to components, first hand, if they want to make the right choice. If they decide to bypass vital parts of the process, they have no one to blame but themselves if they are not happy with the results. You can't do the work for someone else, so even if definitions are not very clear, it shouldn't matter because that's why you need to demo equipment in the first place.
Sure. I just meant for the sake of discussion. It would be refreshing to experience consensus.
09-07-14: Csontos
Sure. I just meant for the sake of discussion. It would be refreshing to experience consensus.
heck, consensus was furtherest from my mind when I wrote that post, guys. what I was aiming at was that if the OP would first define the audiophile terms he/she is using in his/her post so that he could get the audience calibrated then that would make for a more productive discussion for him/her (the OP). Otherwise, we in the audience would be using our own definitions based on our own experiences & these would most probably be out-of-line with the OP & everyone would be pulling in different directions.....
It would be interesting to try to draw real conclusions regarding terminology. I have my own suspicions and would love to put them to the test.
If the ideal state is a flat frequency response with constant loudness and phase, then departures from this are/should be measurable.
Perhaps 'warmth' would be shown to be a mid-range hump, perhaps with extra second harmonics, and 'analytical' would be shown to be a peakiness above 3kHz?
Both qualities may suit a given listener, and I obviously have no criticism of this - taste is taste, and to each their own.
Ultimately, given the vast range of recording techniques and ears to hear them, a perfectly flat set of responses will enhance certain recordings and not others. I doubt whether any stereo system could 'improve' all imperfect recordings for all listeners. The situation would appear to be very fluid....and without a measurable end.
And we end up with 'warm', 'analytical' etc, used equally as terms of criticism and praise. They certainly mean something, but without the relevant graphs it will always be difficult to know what they mean.

Personally, I have given up trying to communicate what my system's qualities may be: I have a few thousand records and CDs, and some sound much better than others... After changing stereo components for forty years (finally settling on what I have now, and having no intentions of changing anything again) I have come to the conclusion that chasing qualities like 'analytical' is fruitless. There is simply too much variation in the recorded media. My quest for system qualities, and I think that many of us have have taken this journey, was a misguided search for qualities that some recordings have, but not others.

Terminological exactitude exists in the lab; it is a set of measurable attributes. If components are generally getting better, and I believe they are, then I imagine that the differences between 'good' components are getting smaller by the day. What remains is the media, and the variations within. Perhaps when we read of a component having an attribute, this is as much a critique of the recording as anything else?