What Is This Word?
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4K – A relatively new standard of picture that has 2160 pixels vertically, and 3840 pixels horizontally, and on paper, is 4 times the resolution of full hd. Now how perceivable that difference is depends on a few things, most importantly the person. (I actually did an article on this along with my thoughts on if it’s worth it. Wait…What Is A 4k Video?)
5.1 – a home theater set up that consists of a left and right speaker situated up front, a center speaker, a speaker on each side of you, and a subwoofer. The 5 represents the 5 speakers, and the 1 is for the subwoofer
7.1 – Similar to a 5.1, set up only with the addition of two more speakers placed behind you; making it 7 speakers and 1 subwoofer. Not all receivers support this though, so definitely be cognizant of that beforehand.
80hz – You’ll usually see this mentioned a lot in specifications and info about the speaker or subwoofer (the thing responsible for the bass). What’s interesting about this, and what you should know is that this is the cutoff point for human localization. What that means is that anything below the frequency of 80 hz, you won’t be able to tell where the sound is coming from. This is helpful especially with subwoofers because it adds to the feeling of surround sound and isn’t distracting since you won’t notice sound coming from somewhere specific. If you have a receiver, make sure you set it at this in the menu so that all sounds below it goes to your subwoofer. Each receiver menu is different so keep that in mind.
Active Subwoofer – a subwoofer with an amplifier built into it. These are typically more powerful than their passive counterparts (the one’s without an amplifier built in) The type you’ll want is dependent on how big of a room you have and boils down to personal preference.
Amplifier – Used to increase the power of an electrical signal. So if a receiver or speaker has a larger amplifier than another, it will be able to provide the external source with more power than the former.
Amplitude – For whatever numeric value a certain sound wave has, a large change (positive or negative) from its average value is called the amplitude. So think of it as the greatest change in sound compared to how it usually is.
ARC (Audio Return Channel) – You’ll also most likely come across mentions of arc when buying a TV. What this means is that that TV is capable of sending it’s audio to an external source like a soundbar or receiver. However keep in mind that that some TV’s can only do stereo instead of 5.1. Even though that isn’t as common of an issue today, if you have an older TV, make sure it’s capable of ARC, and even then, see what kind it does. You can find this info by looking up what television you have.
Bel – is a ratio of 10 compared to a decibel, so if there is a sound that is 30 decibels, it can also be described by an output of 3 bels.
Bipole Speaker – a speaker where the drivers are on opposite sides and send the sound in two different directions. They are played in phase, which means that both sides are playing at the exact same time but in different directions. These are also best used as surround speakers for improved ambiance.
Bookshelf Speaker – A smaller, but still moderately sized speaker designed to be put on a bookshelf or something similar.
Cabinet – This is the enclosure in which the speaker driver is situated and is usually made of wood, but can be made of other materials as well such as plastic.
Circuit – For simplicity’s sake, a circuit is basically a collection of various components set up in some sort of loop where charged electrons can travel through repetitiously, thus generating power.
Crossover – Put in very basic terms, the crossover can be thought of as the redirecting of a certain signal to the correct speaker. So for example, it is generally recommended to set your crossover at 80 on the receiver; what this means is that everything that happens to be above the frequency of 80 hertz will be relegated to your speakers, and everything below that particular frequency will have the subwoofer take care of it. Reason being, that again generally, smaller speakers play higher frequencies better than they can the lower frequencies. However of course there are many exceptions and many speakers that are able to go well below this or can’t get that low at all, requiring you to set a potentially lower or higher crossover depending on a few other factors as well incl…. (but hey were trying to keep it simple here).
Current – charged electrons that flow through a circuit.
Decibel – Often represented as dB, is used to measure how intense a particular sound is. Usually other units of sound will have their suffix on the end of the abbreviation dB, to convey how loud that unit is. For example if you see dBV, that is indicating the decibel, or reference power of that voltage, since it’s abbreviation is V. It is also 1/10’th of a bel.
So what that means is that if something is 50 decibels higher than something else, it is technically 100,000 times louder than the other thing since it is exponential.
Dipole Speaker – similar to bipole, in that they have two speaker drivers set on opposite ends of each other. However where they differ from bipole is that they are played out of phase, meaning each side plays at a slightly different time; so that when viewing any sort of material, it will be difficult to tell where the sound is coming from (this is a good thing since it makes it more immersive) They are also best used for surround speakers. There also happens to be quite the controversy on whether dipole or bipole is better for use, and under what circumstances.
Driver – The circular part of your speaker where the sound originates. When its up at louder volumes, you can usually see the driver move back and forth from the sound (it’s pretty cool). Sometimes you’ll see a speaker claiming it has a mid range or a bass driver, and all that’s really indicating to you is what part of a frequency it will be responsible for reproducing. Well what is frequency you may ask? Hertz! …..Okay but then what is hertz? Well… technically it could just be thought of frequency to be honest, easy enough right?
Equalizer – a form of software that is used to adjust the volume of particular frequencies.
Frequency – One way to think of frequency is that it’s the number of cycles per unit of time, so if in a sound wave it is measured at 60 hertz, that means that air is being moved back and forth 60 times per second. The lower the frequency, the lower the sound. The higher the frequency, the higher the sound.
Full High Definition – Also known as 1080p, this means that the picture will have 1080 vertical pixels, and 1920 horizontal pixels. Is a higher resolution than High Definition so the picture will look somewhat clearer.
Gain – The knob on the back of a subwoofer that controls its volume is called the gain; it is generally recommended leaving this at the 9 to 12 o clock position, but can be set lower depending on preference and settings of other speakers.
HDR – stands for high dynamic range, and is a relatively new picture format. Basically with more traditional display sets, they are limited in the amount of gradation they can show between light and dark portions of a screen. What HDR promises to do though is deliver a much more dynamic image with brighter whites, darker blacks, and a wider array of colors. It’s pretty amazing in person. If curious though, here’s a post I did on it. What Is An HDR Television?
Hertz – a measure of electrical frequency and the amount of vibrations of that frequency per second. For example, one vibration cycle per second would be 1 Hz and 50 per second would be 50 HZ. Generally the higher the hertz, the higher you will perceive it to sound and vice versa. This is not to be confused with hertz in regards to television, as that is an indication of how many times per second the picture is redrawn/refreshed.
High Definition – Also called 720P, this is the amount of vertical lines that make up a picture; it is also a lower resolution than 1080p.
Hot – “Pretty sure I already know the definition of hot.” I know what you’re thinking, but this is different; sometimes you’ll hear someone say that they are running a speaker or subwoofer hot, what this means is that after the correct calibration was done, where the receiver/ individual took into account their room acoustics, distance, etc. and adjusted everything accordingly, they then decide to slightly turn up the individual volume of that speaker/subwoofer a few decibels higher in the receiver. This is usually down to personal preference as again, everyone hears things differently. (Fun fact, I personally run my subwoofer 3 higher)
LFE – Known as Low Frequency effects, is everything under 120 Hz and is optional; in that it can be added to the source material and provide additional bass.
Logarithmic Scale – In laymen’s terms, it’s a scale used to calculate exponential changes when dealing with sound. Here’s a simple way to think of it, for every unit that you go up or down, there’s a tenfold increase or decrease. So say for example on your receiver, you turn up the volume from negative 30 to negative 20, that is a tenfold increase, but you’ll perceive the sound to have doubled to your ears. Then if you decide to turn it up to -10, that would be another 10 fold increase and it’ll sound like it will have doubled again; but when compared -30, it will have increased exponentially to a 100 times as strong. (It gets a lot more complicated than that, but really that’s what you should take from it)
Monitors – These are even larger than bookshelf speakers, but not quite floorstanding speakers, so their sound output will generally be a lot more.
Monopole – Think of a Monopole speaker as a more traditional one where there aren’t multiple drivers, sides, or anything like that, it’s just one driver and one tweeter that fires sound in a singular line.
Octave – Is a series of 8 notes. Those inner notes occupy a space between 2 outer notes, where that outer note is either double or half the frequency of the other outer one, depending on which direction the sound is going (up or down).
Ohm – You’ll often see a speaker or subwoofer rated at a certain ohm rating (pronounced like home but without the h) and what this is is the speaker’s capability at producing sound given a certain amount of electricity and measuring the amount of resistance that it has doing so. So let’s say you see a speaker rated at 4 ohms (which is unusual) with a capability of handling 100 watts, and then another rated at 8 ohm at 100 watts. What you should know as a consumer, is that this speaker will be a lot easier to power at 4 since it’s lower. Thus before buying any audio equipment, look at what ohm the receiver you’re purchasing is capable of.
OLED – is an acronym that stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. To make it easy to understand, think of it this way. Instead of a backlight like most traditional TVs use, OLED used a special chemical that when electricity is passed over, is able to produce a picture. This is advantageous because instead of using a light, each pixel can be turned on or off individually. As you could probably imagine, that leads to an image that’s truly breathtaking. OLED TV Technology Explained
Passive Subwoofer – This is a subwoofer without an amplifier, meaning it will rely on the receiver for any change to the sound.
Pitch – The feeling of how you perceive a frequency. So for example if something has a low frequency, you’ll perceive the pitch to sound low. However, keep in mind that it is possible for something to have a low frequency, be inaudible to the human ear, and yet still have a high decibel output (weird right?)
Port – The hole that you might see on a subwoofer (some don’t have one which are known as sealed subs) is called a port. The port is used to create a greater bass response. At the same time, there are sealed subs with much more bass output than ported subs and vice versa, so it depends.
Receiver – A metal box where all of the processing of sound from the speakers and subwoofer is done. Some are more powerful than others, meaning that some will provide a larger amount of power to that speaker compared to others. This can be seen as the wattage per channel, and ohm. Most modern receivers support the well renowned formats like Dolby Digital and Dolby Master. They also tend to have multiple modes of altering sound including presets like cinema, action, drama, etc. All of this information and more is usually detailed in the pamphlets that come with it.
Refresh Rate – The number of times per second the picture is being represented on screen, a higher refresh rate will generally mean a smoother moving image, however when it is very high (240), it can result in something known as the soap opera effect where the moving images are extremely fast. It is also a preference as some people like this effect and others do not.
Rear Surrounds – These are additional surround speakers placed behind you, the logic being that with the sound being played from more sources than before, on paper it should result in better immersion. Is used as part of a 7.1 system.
Room Gain – This is where sound waves bounce off of everything in their surroundings and amplify the resulting output. The materials of everything in the room, along with the shape of the room itself will all have an effect on how you perceive the sound. This is why treating your room with softer material like carpets and couches is so paramount, because it’ll help to absorb some of those sound waves leaving you with much more quality audio. Harder surfaces like hardwood tend to reflect audio, leaving you with a harsher sound. Just be aware of this beforehand.
SPL Meter – An SPL or sound pressure level meter is a device often used when calibrating a home theater to a recommended standard. Generally people hire professionals that have a meter for calibration, however you can easily buy one online and if you do a little research, generally wouldn’t be too hard to learn how to use with the correct equipment; it’s really up to you. Fortunately, a lot of modern receivers have automatic calibration tech so that saves a lot of time and tinkering.
Sensitivity – This is a measurement used to depict how easy or difficult it would be to power the speaker given an electrical current. So say for example a speaker has a sensitivity of 89 db. What that means is that at exactly 1 meter, when given 2.83 volts, that will be it’s output. So if something has a sensitivity of 92 (which is high btw) that means that theoretically it will be easier to power than the one rated at 89 which will need double the power. However, this is not the whole story and definitely is not indicative of how the speaker will sound as that will depend on many things like the size of the driver, the size of the cabinet, the room, etc. Also it is highly advised against buying speakers with varying sensitivities as not only can that compromise sound, but it could potentially put unneeded stress on the receiver.
Soundbar – an elongated cabinet where multiple drivers are placed in a line to project sound. Is often used as the alternative to a 5.1 system.
Subwoofer – A component often used in home theater; its role is to reproduce all the lower pitched sounds and bass. It is usually made of wood and houses a driver, (potentially an amp as well) The interesting thing is that there are multiple types of subwoofers all with different qualities including sealed that have no port, and down firing, meaning the port is on the bottom of the sub itself.
Subwoofer Crawl – This is a recommended method with setting up a subwoofer. Basically from whatever listening position that you plan on doing most of your media consumption, play something that you would watch and place the subwoofer there. Then go around the room and most likely what you will notice is that the bass will sound different in varying places. Look for where the bass doesn’t sound too boomy but isn’t too weak, and sweet, you found the best place for the subwoofer so place it there. The reason it sounds different in different areas is because there are peaks (high points of sound) and nulls (dead zones where the sound waves cancel out) all throughout your room depending on what’s in it, so definitely experiment. Don’t rush the process because your goal is to get the best possible quality bass so take your time. Crawling optional but satisfying.
Surrounds – As the name would suggest, these speakers are placed on both sides of your listening position with their role being the output of all the ambient sounds in the video or game. They make watching that much more immersive.
Tweeter – It is smaller than the main driver, (usually a speaker will have one) and it’s job is to reproduce a lot of the higher frequencies or treble of the source material.
Voltage – Given by an energy source, causes electrical current to flow. Basically voltage is the amount of pressure that pushes the charged electrons, or current through a circuit, which then provides power for that object.
An awesome website, full of great information, and well set out. Thanks for the incredible insight.