Dark and laid back vs bright and forward

What do reviewers mean when they describe an amp as dark? Laid back? Forward? Bright?
I love these questions, as I get to see if I really speak the same language as everyone else. Well, here goes:
I would use forward & bright to refer to an emphasis on the upper end/treble side of the spectrum. The resulting sound is still clear, but the upper end has been emphasized.
I would use dark to refer to an emphasis on the lower end/bass side of the spectrum.
I would use laid back to refer to a sound that is unexciting ... sounds perfectly OK ... but, the pace seems a bit off.
Keep in mind that this is all equipment dependent ... so it is how the amp sounds with the speakers being used, etc.
Regards, Rich
Good question.

I think I disagree with Rar1's answer. Bright refers to an emphasis on the upper mid-range/treble. The sound has an unnatural glare to it. Dark refers to a diminished upper mid-range/treble. The sound is somewhat "shut-in" and doesn't sparkle when it should. Forward is more of a prominence in the mid-range. For instance a solo vocal recorded with the microphone inches from the performer's mouth should sound very upfront and present, but the same performer recorded in a mid to large size hall with more distant miking technique should sound the opposite. There's another phrase, warm, that describes an emphasis in the lower mid-range/upper bass.
Interesting ... I never looked at dark sounding as being the mirror opposite of bright sounding. What I was referring to as "dark" ... you might call "boomy" (the sound of old Bogen and Grundig tube amplifiers come to mind ... if that metaphor makes any sense). From my reading of the British HiFi magazines, I see forward & bright used together a fair bit (a speaker will be a bit tipped or forward in the treble region) ... whereas, forward in your usage is almost part of the recording technique. Way cool. Regards, Rich
The audio language is imprecise. Sometimes I don't think anybody (audio reviewers in particular) knows what they are really talking about.
I disagree with everyone and have more precise sound definitions:

Dark usually auditioned in dark room.
Darkness helps to purify the power lines with no influence of bulbs and other electric supplies. The fridge can also be turned of for real Dark listening. Dark in video if TV is off.

Forward basically signifies of absence of music when you fast-forward a tape or CD searching your favourite place on the particular track. The same is with video.

Bright is usually when you're playing through the whole house lightened and with dishwasher, washer, dryer, fridge is on along with your stereo. In case with video or HT you bring up the brightness and contrast on your TV to the maximum.

Laid Back is when you want to get laid but still you listen to so nice piece of music that you sit back and enjoy instead of gettin' laid. In case with video or HT you simply sit back and watch someone gettin' laid.
Marakanetz, what a hoot!! I think that you know more than all the audo reviewers combined!
I believe light and dark refer to overall tonal balance while forward and laid-back refer to refer to overall soundstage perspective (e. g. front row vs. middle of hall). I view brightness as a more severe form of a light tonal balance.
Many of these terms are difficult to understand without having some 'authority' providing precise definitions. Robert Harley attempted to present a little clarity in his book; "The Complete Guide to Highend Audio." I know a lot of people don't really care about what a paid reviewer thinks or says, and some people will reject his definitions out of hand due to the source, but it seems like it would be helpful to have just one definition for each word. Now if we could just settle on a source!
Is there any other colours of sound?
Any Red Green Blue or combination of three?

I guess the best reference on that issue could be Miles Davis' "Aura" album with all colours of rainbow played with trumpet. I assume that colour in MUSIC can be specified with certain tone for example G for green, G# for bright-green and G-flat for dim-green... Still don't know what tones are used by Miles in that Album. Should definitely check.
It is not possilbe to reproduce a live musical performance exactly as performed in the auditorium or studio in your living room.

However, getting as close as possible to 'true to the original' is the only valid goal for the audiophile --the 'connoisseurs of coloration' reviewers (who obviously get paid by the word) notwithstanding.

The first priority to achice this goal is speaker selection appropriate to a specific listening room. Then their set-up and the sonic quality of the source material. Followed by the support components best suited to those speakers. Cables and tweaks following suit.

So, I substitute 'real', 'accurate', or 'neutral'. for the terms 'bright', and 'warm', etc., for describing degrees of 'distortion' or 'coloration'.

I also recommend trusting your own ears. Recall 'live' sounds you have heard, and compare what you hear in your system. The more dramatic is in the low frequencies. The 'boom' of a 'boom-box' makes a low frequeny sound that no known musical instrument is known for making, for instance.

The 'bass' sounds should be identifiable as the bass guitarist playing in the lower octives (which he does not always do, by the way), each pluck of a string individually identifiable, or the kick of the bass drum, short and snappy (like real), etc.

Beware the 'psycho-acoustic' phenomenon. When the telepone first came out people were quoted as saying. 'it sounds just like talking in person'. Of course the telephone is not there even yet. Shakespear wrote, 'to thine own self be true', indicating how long self-delusion has been going on in human thinking (perceiving).

When I tweak my system, or nudge the speakers a bit, and then listen (a bit harder) for a difference, it always sounds better (not just different). Of course it is no doubt the result of 'listening harder' and the tweak made no audible change at all, good or bad.

Anyway, if you have trouble remembering 'real' sounds, start listening. You will be amazed how well you can do on your own --without just resorting to the eloquent terminology of the 'connoiseurs of coloration'.

Should you ever figure out Miles Davis please clue the rest of us in. One hundred years from now his music will still be cutting edge.

Loved your expaination of dark and light sides of reproduction. Maybe there's a Star Wars connection there. You know, maybe tubes are using the light side of the force and s/s the dark side. At any rate, may the force be with all of us.
OOPS! I realy forgot to define a worm sound!

Here it goes:

A real worm sound is usually heard through larger than 100W/ch class A amplifier when on the listening distance you feel that wormth.

Not intend to blame class A amplifiers rather than just bringing definitions to reality, folks. I adore Plinius poweramps but damn, it's a hot summer comming right now!
Okay, here goes! The above terms only apply to solid state amps regardless as to how "properly designed" they are. They are all some thing or the other or a combination throughout the frequency range. However, a truly properly designed tube amp will not be any of those things. It will simply be one or another expression of music. I really think well designed tubes have only musical expressions, no transistors I've listened to ultimately express music.
If you're the real Lemmy Caution, "dark" means "bright", as "no" means "yes" (nod, that is, shake your head, to agree). Lemmy'll know what I mean. Glad to know there's still an audience for classic foreign cinema.
Everything has been said, provided words do not change their meanings, and meanings their words.

Subjective meanings - bright or warm better describe sound to me. Forward and laid back just don't describe timbral or tonal variation to me.

Initially when I started reading Stereophile in the early 90's, I thought forward and laid-back described soundstages that projected from in front of or behind the speakers.
I've come to accept something more like Mshan's definition of forward and laid-back
According to J. Gordon Holt, "The Audio Glossary", 1990
(I hope the critics all read this so that we are all on the some page ;-)!

Bright/Brilliant: Describe the degree to which reproduced sound has a hard steely edge to it. Brightness relates to the amount or energy content in the 4- to 8- kHz band. It is not relating to output in the extreme high-end range.

Forward: A quality of reproduction which seems to place sound sources closer than they were recorded.

Dark: A warm, mellow, overly rich quality in reproduced sound.

Laid-back: Recessed, distant-sounding.
Just spotted a great memories of Patrick(Lugnut) may God rest his soul in great piece.