Understanding home audio can be overwhelming – there’s just so much to know. NuVo is here to help. For those of you who are less audio-wired, we’ve pulled together a list of common audio terms that should help make selecting your audio system and equipment easier as you begin planning your home audio solution.
Amplifier - A device, sometimes called an "amp," that boosts the level of an audio signal without affecting its quality.
Analog Sound - The exact replica of any audio or video input to a system. No matter what recording medium is used, the sound or picture that's produced is analog.
aptX™ - Audio compression solutions that retain the full integrity of original digital audio and are optimized for instant real-time audio streaming.
aptX Bluetooth - A feature that delivers high quality stereo audio over Bluetooth delivering full 'wired' audio quality in Bluetooth standard A2DP products.
Audyssey - A collection of technologies to accurately reproduce studio recordings, movies for a better entertainment experience by removing distortion, eliminating volume spikes, preserving detail and bass at low volumes, and providing the most immersive surround sound possible.
Audyssey Dynamic EQ - Maintains bass and clarity for surround sound even at low volumes.
Audyssey Dynamic Volume - Controls volume levels to eliminate spikes in television and movies delivering volume so consistent you won't notice.
Audyssey MultEQ - Automatically customizes speaker levels to correct your room's acoustic problems and deliver the clearest and most balanced sound possible.
Balanced Input - A connection with three conductors that is very resistant to line noise. It comprises two identical signal conductors that are 180 degrees out of phase with each other, and one ground conductor.
Bandwidth - The range of frequencies a device operates within. In audio recordings, it refers to the ability to capture the frequency-response range of the performers. In home playback systems, it refers to the "audible" bandwidth the system should be able to reproduce - from 20 Hz up to 20 kHz.
Bass - The low frequency range, generally from 20 Hz to 500 Hz.
Bluetooth - A proprietary open wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short wavelength radio transmissions) from fixed and mobile devices, creating personal area networks (PANs) with high levels of security.
Category 5 Cable (CAT5) - A twisted pair, high-signal integrity cable used in computer networks such as Ethernet and ATM. It is also used to carry other signals such as telephone and video. Most Category 5 cables are unshielded (UTP), relying on the twisted pair design for noise rejection.
CD - Compact Disc. The term also is used to refer to any digital audio format. A CD can capture up to 80 minutes of two-channel, full-range audio onto a 5-inch disc.
CEA - The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents manufacturers.
CEDIA - The Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association. This national dealer organization requires the members have at least two years experience and be licensed and insured.
Channel - A separate signal path that is being recorded or played back. Stereo has two channels. Dolby Digital and DTS audio have five full-range channels and a subwoofer channel.
Cone - The cone-shaped part of a loudspeaker driver that moves the air. It's made of paper, polypropylene, or high-tech materials such as Kevlar and glass fiber.
Controller - A generic term that refers to a combination preamp/surround processor or receiver. The term also refers to a handheld wireless remote.
Crossover - A component that divides or filters an audio signal into two or more ranges by frequency. It sends low frequencies to one output and high frequencies to another. An "active crossover" is powered and divides the line-level audio signal prior to amplification. A "passive crossover" uses no external power supply. It may be used either at line level or, more commonly, at speaker level to divide the signal after amplification and send low frequencies to the woofer and high frequencies to the tweeter.
Crossover Frequency - The frequency at which an audio signal is divided, typically 80 Hz. Frequencies below 80 Hz are sent to the subwoofer. Signals above 80 Hz are sent to the main speakers.
Damping - The electrical or mechanical control of vibration.
Damping Material - Any material that absorbs sound waves and eliminates acoustic energy by converting it into a different form. Fibrous material, for example, turns acoustic energy into heat via friction.
Decibel (dB) - The standard unit of measure for expressing relative power or amplitude differences. With audio, it represents loudness. One dB is the smallest change in loudness most people can detect.
Dispersion - The spread of a speaker's sound over the listening area.
Distortion - Any undesired change in an audio signal between input and output.
Dome - The convex shape of a speaker-driver, usually used for tweeters. Concave domes are usually referred to as "inverted domes."
Driver - A speaker without an enclosure. The term also refers to the active element of a speaker system that creates compressions and rarefactions in the air.
Dynamic Range - The difference between the lowest and the highest levels. In audio, it's expressed in decibels. In video, it's listed as the contrast ratio.
Enclosure - The container of air that surrounds the rear of a speaker driver.
ENERGY STAR - The joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help Americans save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. ENERGY-STAR-compliant products meet strict energy efficiency guidelines.
Equalization (EQ) - The process of changing the frequency balance of an electrical signal to alter the acoustical output.
Feedback - The transmission of current or voltage from the output of a device back to the input, where it interacts with the input signal to modify operation of the device. Feedback is positive when it's in phase with the input. It's negative when it's out of phase.
FLAC - Free Lossless Audio Codec, an audio format similar to MP3, but lossless, meaning that audio is compressed in FLAC without any loss in quality.
Frequency - The number of cycles (vibrations) per second. In audio, audible frequencies commonly range from 20 to 20,000 cycles per second (Hz). In video, frequency is used to define image resolution.
Frequency Response - The human ear responds to frequencies from approximately 20 to 20,000 cycles-per-second, or Hertz. A speaker's frequency response indicates how much of that range can be reproduced.
Full-Range - A speaker designed to reproduce the full range (20 Hz to 20 kHz) of audio frequencies.
Gain - An increase in level or amplitude.
Graphic Equalizer - A type of equalizer with sliding controls that create a graph of the frequency-response changes. Raising sliders boosts the affected frequencies. Lowering sliders cuts the affected frequencies.
High-Fidelity (Hi-Fi) - The high quality reproduction of sound or images.
Home Automation - Also called "domotics." The automation of the home, housework or household activity to provide convenience, comfort, energy efficiency and security. It may include centralized control of lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances, home entertainment systems, plant watering and pet feeding.
Home Run Wiring - Also called "star" or "parallel wiring." A wiring protocol that connects all phones or network devices directly to a central hub without breaks. Each device has a direct line or "run" back to the central location or "home." Home run wiring is required for most sound system installations - except NuVo's Renovia.
Impedance - The load value (in ohms) that the speakers present to the amplifier, described as the amount of resistance to the flow of current. Although speakers' actual impedance constantly fluctuates while playing music, each is assigned a fixed impedance rating for easy comparison. Low-impedance speakers (4 ohms or less) can cause problems with receivers or amplifiers that are not designed to deliver large amounts of current.
Internet Radio - Also known as web radio, net radio, streaming radio, and e-radio. Internet radio is an audio service transmitted via the Internet. Music streaming on the Internet is usually referred to as webcasting since it is not transmitted broadly through wireless means.
iTunes - Dubbed "the world's biggest digital jukebox."A proprietary digital media player application used for playing and organizing digital music and video files. It's also used to manage the contents on Apple's iPod, iPhone and iPad.
Line-Level (Low-Level) - A level of electrical signals too low to make the average speaker move sufficiently. Amplifiers receive line-level signals and amplify them to speaker level.
Lossless data compression - A class of data compression algorithms that allows the exact original data to be reconstructed from the compressed data
Midbass - The middle of the bass part of the frequency range, from about 50 to 100 Hz. The upper bass covers to 200 Hz. The term is also used to describe loudspeaker drivers designed to reproduce both bass and midrange frequencies.
Midrange - The middle of the audio frequency range. The term also depicts loudspeaker drivers designed to reproduce this range.
Mono - Monophonic, one-channel sound.
MP3 - MPEG-1 Audio Layer-3. Compression scheme used to transfer audio files via the Internet and store them in portable players and digital audio servers.
MP4 - MPEG-1 Audio Layer-4.
Multiple-Rate Encoding - An encoding method which instead of locking encoding at a fixed data rate, it allows the codec to choose whatever rate is best for that portion of the recording. It can reduce the file size with proportionally less loss in quality.
Multisource - A system with multiple sources. The word also describes a receiver that can provide multiple sources into different rooms.
Multiroom - A system that provides audio or video to multiple areas, usually with only one source.
Multizone - A system that provides different sources into multiple areas simultaneously.
Noise - The unwanted portion of a signal, such as a hiss, hum, whine, static, or buzzing.
Octave - The difference between two frequencies, where one is twice the other. For example, 200 Hz is an octave higher than 100 Hz.
Ohm - A measure of how much something resists or impedes the flow of electricity. Larger numbers indicate more resistance.
Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) - A type of display that can be seen in any light.
Pandora - The personalized music listening service development in 2000 by the Music Genome Project. It can be accessed via a PC or any home digital music system, including Blu-Ray, Wi-Fi and home theater systems.
Phase - The time relationship between signals.
Phase Control - A two-position switch found on some powered subwoofers that lets listeners slightly delay the subwoofer's output so it is in phase with the main speakers' output.
Power Output - A measure, usually in watts, of how much energy is modulated by a component.
Preamplifier - A control and switching component that may include equalization functions. The preamp precedes the amplifiers in the signal chain.
Pre Outs - Connectors that provide a line-level output of the internal preamp or surround processor.
Pre Outs / Main Ins - Connectors on a receiver that provide an interruptible signal loop between the output of the internal preamp or surround processor portion of the receiver and the input of the amplifier portion of the receiver.
Processors - Anything that processes an incoming signal in some way. Surround processors, for example, can decode a Dolby Digital signal and send it to an amp so it can be heard.
RCA Jacks - Receptacles for coaxial cables carrying line-level audio signals. They're also called phono-type connectors.
Receiver - Any component that receives, or tunes, broadcast signal. The word typically refers to the single component that includes a preamp, surround processor, multichannel amplifier, and AM/FM tuner.
Satellite Radio - An analogue or digital radio signal that is relayed through one or more satellites and received in a much wider geographical area than terrestrial FM radio stations.
Sensitivity - A measurement (in dB) of the sound-pressure level over a specified frequency range created by a speaker driven by 1 watt (2.83V at 8 ohms) of power with a microphone placed 1 meter away.
SIRIUS XM - Subscription-based satellite radio that streams music, news, sports and talk over approximately 100 channels in the continental U.S.
Source - A component from which the system's signals originate. DVD players, AM/FM tuners, and VCRs are sources.
Speaker - A component that converts electrical energy into acoustical energy.
Spotify - A Swedish music streaming service offering unlimited streaming of selected music from a range of major and independent record labels including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group and Universal. It is presently available only in Western Europe.
Subwoofer - A speaker designed to reproduce very low bass frequencies, usually those below about 80 Hz. A "powered subwoofer" includes a built-in amplifier to drive the speaker.
TuneIn - free local, international and Internet radio with live content from over 50,000 local, international and Internet stations accessible through websites, mobile devices, home entertainment centers, connected desktop products and even auto in-dash receivers.
Tuner - Any component that tunes or receives broadcast signal. The word typically refers to the single component that includes a preamp, surround processor, multichannel amplifier, and AM/FM tuner.
Tweeter - A speaker driver designed to reproduce the highest musical frequencies, like violins, cymbals and female vocals.
Universal Remote - A remote control that stores the commands of numerous brands in its memory and can control several different devices simultaneously.
Volt - The unit of electrical potential, or difference in electrical pressure.
Watt - A unit of power or energy. One horsepower is equal to 745.7 watts.
Whole House Audio - Multi-room audio, also called room-to-room audio. Provides access to distributed sound in any room, from any source, simultaneously.
WMA - Windows Media Audio. An audio compression format similar to MP3, but with copy protection and usage restrictions built-in by Microsoft.
Woofer - A speaker driver designed to reproduce low frequencies.
Zone - One or more rooms that listen to the same audio source simultaneously.
Our thanks to the audiophiles who informed our list - including our engineers, the adroit folks at Home Theater Magazine and Theater Solutions, as well as a few others.