How To Describe Sound/Music


Well-Known Member
Mar 3, 2008
Commonly Used Speaker Sound Terminology:

Source:FAQ:* Systems 7/07 (part 2 of 13)

Airy: Spacious. Open. Instruments sound like they are
surrounded by a large reflective space full of air. Good
reproduction of high-frequency reflections. High-frequency
response extends to 15 or 20 kHz.

Bassy: Emphasized low frequencies below about 200 Hz.

Blanketed: Weak highs, as if a blanket were put over the

Bloated: Excessive mid-bass around 250 Hz. Poorly damped low
frequencies, low-frequency resonances. See tubby.

Blurred: Poor transient response. Vague stereo imaging, not

Boomy: Excessive bass around 125 Hz. Poorly damped low
frequencies or low-frequency resonances.

Boxy: Having resonances as if the music were enclosed in a
box. Sometimes an emphasis around 250 to 500 Hz.

Breathy: Audible breath sounds in woodwinds and reeds such as
flute or sax. Good response in the upper-mids or highs.

Bright: High-frequency emphasis. Harmonics are strong relative
to fundamentals.

Chesty: The vocalist sounds like their chest is too big. A bump
in the low-frequency response around 125 to 250 Hz.

Clear: See Transparent.

Colored: Having timbres that are not true to life. Non-flat
response, peaks or dips.

Crisp: Extended high-frequency response, especially with

Dark: Opposite of bright. Weak high frequencies.

Delicate: High frequencies extending to 15 or 20 kHz without

Depth: A sense of distance (near to far) of different

Detailed: Easy to hear tiny details in the music; articulate.
Adequate high-frequency response, sharp transient response.

Dull: See dark.

Edgy: Too much high frequencies. Trebly. Harmonics are too
strong relative to the fundamentals. Distorted, having unwanted
harmonics that add an edge or raspiness.

Fat: See Full and Warm. Or, spatially diffuse - a sound is
panned to one channel, delayed, and then the delayed sound is
panned to the other channel. Or, slightly distorted with analog
tape distortion or tube distortion.

Full: Strong fundamentals relative to harmonics. Good
low-frequency response, not necessarily extended, but with
adequate level around 100 to 300 Hz. Male voices are full
around 125 Hz; female voices and violins are full around 250
Hz; sax is full around 250 to 400 Hz. Opposite of thin.

Gentle: Opposite of edgy. The harmonics - highs and upper mids
- are not exaggerated, or may even be weak.

Grainy: The music sounds like it is segmented into little
grains, rather than flowing in one continuous piece. Not liquid
or fluid. Suffering from harmonic or I.M. distortion. Some
early A/D converters sounded grainy, as do current ones of
inferior design. Powdery is finer than grainy.

Grungy: Lots of harmonic or I.M. distortion.

Hard: Too much upper midrange, usually around 3 kHz. Or, good
transient response, as if the sound is hitting you hard.

Harsh: Too much upper midrange. Peaks in the frequency response
between 2 and 6 kHz. Or, excessive phase shift in a digital
recorder's lowpass filter.

Honky: Like cupping your hands around your mouth. A bump in the
response around 500 to 700 Hz.

Mellow: Reduced high frequencies, not edgy.

Muddy: Not clear. Weak harmonics, smeared time response, I.M.

Muffled: Sounds like it is covered with a blanket. Weak highs
or weak upper mids.

Nasal: Honky, a bump in the response around 600 Hz.

Piercing: Strident, hard on the ears, screechy. Having sharp,
narrow peaks in the response around 3 to 10 kHz.

Presence: A sense that the instrument in present in the
listening room. Synonyms are edge, punch, detail, closeness and
clarity. Adequate or emphasized response around 5 kHz for most
instruments, or around 2 to 5 kHz for kick drum and bass.

Puffy: A bump in the response around 500 Hz.

Punchy: Good reproduction of dynamics. Good transient response,
with strong impact. Sometimes a bump around 5 kHz or 200 Hz.

Rich: See Full. Also, having euphonic distortion made of
even-order harmonics.

Round: High-frequency rolloff or dip. Not edgy.

Sibilant. "Essy" Exaggerated "s" and "sh" sounds in singing,
caused by a rise in the response around 6 to 10 kHz.

Sizzly: See Sibilant. Also, too much highs on cymbals.

Smeared: Lacking detail. Poor transient response, too much
leakage between microphones. Poorly focused images.

Smooth: Easy on the ears, not harsh. Flat frequency response,
especially in the midrange. Lack of peaks and dips in the

Spacious: Conveying a sense of space, ambiance, or room around
the instruments. Stereo reverb. Early reflections.

Steely: Emphasized upper mids around 3 to 6 kHz. Peaky, nonflat
high-frequency response. See Harsh, Edgy.

Strident: See Harsh, Edgy.

Sweet: Not strident or piercing. Delicate. Flat high-frequency
response, low distortion. Lack of peaks in the response. Highs
are extended to 15 or 20 kHz, but they are not bumped up. Often
used when referring to cymbals, percussion, strings, and
sibilant sounds.

Thin: Fundamentals are weak relative to harmonics.

Tight: Good low-frequency transient response and detail.

Tinny, Telephone-like: Narrowband, weak lows, peaky mids. The
music sounds like it is coming through a telephone or tin can.

Transparent: Easy to hear into the music, detailed, clear, not
muddy. Wide flat frequency response, sharp time response, very
low distortion and noise.

Tubby: Having low-frequency resonances as if you're singing in
a bathtub. See bloated.

Veiled: Like a silk veil is over the speakers. Slight noise or
distortion or slightly weak high frequencies. Not transparent.

Warm: Good bass, adequate low frequencies, adequate
fundamentals relative to harmonics. Not thin. Also excessive
bass or midbass. Also, pleasantly spacious, with adequate
reverberation at low frequencies. Also see Rich, Round. Warm
highs means sweet highs.

Weighty: Good low-frequency response below about 50 Hz.
Suggesting an object of great weight or power, like a diesel

Very good post buddy !! keep it up :D !

A must for the newbies and some seasoned folks aswell (some times its confusing for them aswell)

thanks a lot kamal and soundsgreat,

It was there in faqs site i just collected!

by mistake i posted it in Diy .. so it got moved :)
but i think it is not "chit chat" type of thread :(...i request the moderator to place it in some place like "Audio Knowledge base" or "Technical resources" ... i am not sure if there any place like that in HifiVision

I see most of the threads are reviews, project log,supplier info etc..

Should not there be a place where we get the set of informative threads
that any newbie can go through .... and get a grip on audio /video knowledge..... ??

Can anyone help me please. I have to describe the song What's going on by Marvin Gaye. I have to write about frequency response, stereo image and that kind of stuff... Can anyone help??
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