Hi-Fi Lingo and What we should be listening for


I'm writing this because I think that it would be beneficial to have a consensus on what various terms used to describe a systems sound mean. I get the impression that there is confusion, or at least that people use the same term to describe more than one quality.

For example i've seen some components described as "overly detailed", this also seems to have connotations in a lot of people minds of brightness or tilted up trebel. I really think the two are completely separate, and that in fact if your goal is to get the most realistic portrayal of the recorded event it is impossible to have an overly detailed component/presentation. You can only have as much detail as was recorded, if you want to recreate it in a manner that is as close to reality as possible (assuming the recording comes close to the semblance of the actual instrument), then almost by definition you want all the detail that is on the recording. Detail is what it is, it does not imply brightness...although tilted -up trebel often gives the impression of detail careful listening will separate one from the other.

The other term that seems full of connotaion and ambiguity is "musical"...this has got to be the most overused desriptor in our hobby. It has connotations of emotional involvment but strangly also of warmth....again i think this needs clarification...I would think and feel personally that the most musical presentation would be one that sounds the closest to the actual event hence warmth would be a detractor and less musical than nutrality...if it is music we are listening for then how can something other than faithful recreation of the musical event be more musical.

If a recordng is warm then the warmth will show up on a neautral system just as a brightly recorded album will sound bright...as it should...

Im not trying to stir anything up just putting this out there to generate a dialogue.

Why dont audiophiles almost by definition like neutral components...assuming the goal of out hobby is the accurate recreation of the recorded musical event.

Thanks
mbacinello
Here ya go. Everything you ever wanted to know about describing what you are hearing...or not hearing.

http://stereophile.com/reference/50/
Montyx - Thanks. A very helpful article. I copied and saved the link to my hard drive. I appreciate your constructive input vs my somewhat cranky rant!
GH
I love the subject of this post because too much of the lingo is pretty much meaningless to me. Some however is quite relevant and actually does help us get to a short list of potential components. I do like the idea of using the Stereophile definitions as a baseline.

One of the descriptors that makes me laugh is "true to the source" - as if anyone short of those that were at the recording could have any idea of what the source truly sounds like.

I was reading through a popular audio catalog the other day and saw some of these beauties - an amp with "rhythmic drive", another that promised "greater spiritual depth" and another that delivered "fast paced timing". And I simply must get these cables that offer "pure neutrality" but with "a wealth of warmth in the mid-band" - who knew I could get both a neutral and a non-neutral signal all in the same cable? My favorite is a review of some speakers that I actually own that told me that they had a sense of "following the tune". I sure am glad my speakers can do that!
Itball - those are good examples of the kind of language that makes me crazy. Guess I'm not alone.
Itball, Good examples! It might be fun to start a new thread with just nonsensical terms as the subject.

BTW, FWIW, re comments on detail and brightness, don't overlook that the naturalness of the decay in a signal goes a long way towards establishing whether the sound will be percieved as overly detailed or bright. I believe that a lot of stuff that is linear but still 'sounds' bright or excessively detailed is due to the absence of proper signal decay. The focus of the sound is on the rise time and the decay is too short.