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Audio RecordingTerms Glossary

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The Recording Institute of Detroit & Recording Website provide this glossary as a professional courtesy to the music & recording industry. This is an edited verson of the glossary and audio dictionary used by RID students. There is no charge for individuals use this glossary provided that the use is non-commercial. Distribution of printed copies is strictly forbidden. Feel free to bookmark this page for future use.


A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Select the first letter of the word from the list above to jump to appropriate section of the glossary.


- K -

k - An abbreviation meaning: kilo (a prefix for 1000). 

K - An abbreviation meaning Kick Drum. 

Key - The control of a dynamics processing device by an external audio signal. 

Keyboard - 1) Any musical instrument controlled by pressing a key. 2) The part of the computer that has the keys. 

Keyboard Controller - A device that has the standard music keys of piano but puts out MIDI signals. 

Keying Input (Key Input) - An input on a dynamics processing device to control the device by an external audio signal. 

Keynote Number - A number assigned to each key of a synthesizer or controller keyboard that is transmitted in the MIDI signal.  

kHz - An Abbreviation of kilo-Hertz. 

Kick (Kick Drum) - Another term for Bass Drum.  

Kilo - A prefix meaning 1000. 

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- L -

Layering - The recording (or playing) of a musical part with of several similar sound patches playing simultaneous. 

Lead - The musical instrument that plays the melody of the tune, including the vocal. 

Lead Sheet - A written chart showing the melody, lyrics and chords of a tune with full musical notation. 

Leakage - Sounds from other instruments and sources that were not intended to be picked up by the microphone. 

LED - A light that allows current to flow in one direction only and emits light whenever a voltage of a certain level or beyond is applied to it. 

Level - The amount of signal strength; the amplitude, especially the average amplitude. 

LFO - Low-Frequency Oscillator (an oscillator that puts out an AC signal between .1 Hz and 10Hz used for a control signal). 

Librarian Program - A computer program allowing the storage of the parameters of sound patches outside of a synthesizer. 

Lift - 1) To boost gain of audio at a particular band of frequencies with an equalizer. 2) An elevation device in the star trek series of TV programs. 

Light Emitting Diode - A light that allows current to flow in one direction only and emits light whenever a voltage of a certain level or beyond is applied to it. 

Limiter - A device that reduces gain when the input voltage exceeds a certain level so that the output will have little or no increase in level regardless of how high the input level rises. [NOUN]  Further Information: A limiter is a severe compressor. If a device allowed the output to increase 1 dB for every 2-dB increase of signal strength into it, the device would be a "compressor" with a compression ratio of 2 to 1. If the device allowed the output to increase 1 dB when the input signal increases 10 dB, then the device would be a "limiter" with a compression ratio of 10 to 1.

Line - 1) Short for line level. 2) A cable.  

Line Input - An input designed to take a line level signal. 

Line Level - An amplified signal level put out by an amplifier and used as the normal level that runs through the interconnecting cables in a control room. 

Line Out (Line Output) - Any output that sends out a line level signal, such as the output of a console that feeds a recorder. 

Linear - The condition of obtaining a change at the output of the device which is proportional to the change occurring at the input.

Link - (Said of compressors and dynamic processing units.) To combine the control input signals of two channels of a compressor (or dynamic processing unit) so that both channels always have the same gain and are triggered to change gain by either channel's signal.

Listen Circuits - A type of solo circuit that allows listening to a channel before the fader or after the fader. 

Live - 1) Referring to the sound by instruments during a performance to an audience. 2) Having a large portion of reverberant or reflected sound. 

Live Recording - 1) Recording where all the musicians are playing at once and overdubbing is not done. 2) A recording with a lot of natural reverberation.

Lo-Z - Abbreviation for the term Low Impedance (Impedance of 500 ohms or less). 

Load - 1) The opposition to the audio output signal of a device by the input of the device being fed. 2) A resistor that would have the lowest impedance the device was designed to feed into used during testing of a device. 3) To copy the digital data off a storage medium into the RAM of a computer. 4) To put the tape on a tape machine and activate the computer-controlled constant tension system. 

Load Impedance - The opposition to output current flow caused by the input that it feeds.

Locate - A tape machine transport controller where the machine will go to a preprogrammed position on the tape. 

Long Delay - Delay times above 60 ms. 

Loop - 1) A term meaning the same as Anti-Node (the points of maximum displacement of motion in a vibrating stretched string). 2) A tape (or magnetic film) recording where the ends of the tape are spliced together in such a manner that the tape will continually repeat. 3) A repeating of an audio sample with no gap in between. 

Loudness – 1) How loud something sounds to the ear. 2) Causing equal volume changes at all frequency ranges including frequency response changes at lower operating levels to compensate for the Fletcher Munson effect. 

Loudness Control - A knob that changes the level and adjusts the frequency response of the circuit controlling the speakers to compensate for the inability of the ear to hear low frequencies and extreme high frequencies at low volumes. 

Low End - A slang term for bass-frequency signals (below 250 Hz). 

Low Frequencies - 1) Any audio or audible frequency below 1kHz. 2) The range of bass frequencies below approximately 250 Hz. 

Low Impedance – Impedance of 500 ohms or less.

Low-Pass Filter - A device that rejects signal above a certain frequency and passes signals that are lower in frequency. 

Lower Toms - The large toms (up to approximately 20' diameter heads) mounted on metal feet to sit on the floor.

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- M -

Magnetic - 1) Putting out magnetic energy. 2) Able to be magnetized.

Magnetic Lines Of Force - The magnetic field that exists between poles of a magnet.

Magnetic Tape - Recording tape consisting of a plastic strip to which magnetic materials, usually in form of finely ground iron oxide (rust) particles, are adhered.

Magnetism - A natural attractive energy of iron based-materials for other iron-based materials.

Margin - The amount of dB between the highest peak level of the program and the overload point.

Masking - The characteristic of hearing by which loud sounds prevent the ear from hearing softer sounds of similar frequency.

Master - 1) A control to set the level going out of the console, especially the stereo output to the two track machine in mixdown. 2) A term with the same meaning as Sub Master (a control that adjusts the level of a signal mixed together and being sent out to one track of a multitrack recorder). 3) A term with the same meaning as VCA Master (one slide that controls the control voltage sent to several VCA faders). 4) The machine that will be used as a speed reference when synchronizing two or more machines to run together; if the master tape transport changes speed, the other machines synced to it will change speed. 5) The original recording, used for making copies. 6) To make an original recording which will be used to make commercial copies, especially making a master lacquer (for record manufacturing) or a master compact disc.

Master Fader - 1) The fader which controls the main output(s) of the console during mixdown. 2) In some consoles, faders which control the outputs to the multitrack tape recorder during recording. 3) Occasionally used to mean a VCA master (one slide that controls the control voltage sent to several VCA faders).

MDM - Short for Modular Digital Multitrack: A multitrack digital recorder with (usually) 8 tracks than can be run in synchronization with other machines (of the same type) to attain more tracks. ADAT brand recorders are an example.

Measure - The grouping of a number of beats in music.

Medium Delay - Delay times of 20 ms. - 60 ms.

Meg/Mega - 1) A prefix for 1,000,000. 2) An slang abbreviation for megahertz (1,000,000 Hertz) or megabytes (1,000,000 Bytes).

Memory - The components in a computer (or a device that can be connected to a computer) that store digital data.

Meter - A device which measures or compares the electrical signal/signals; often used to read the voltage level of audio signals.

Mic - An abbreviation for microphone.

Mic/Line Switch - The selector switch on the input of a console channel that chooses what input jack will feed the console.

Mic Input - The input of a console or other device that a microphone can be plugged into.

Mic Level - The very low audio voltage level that comes out of a studio microphone.

Mic Pad - A device that reduces the level of the signal and is placed just before a microphone preamplifier to prevent overload of the preamplifier.

Mic Preamp - An amplifier to boost the low-level audio signal out of a microphone up to line level.

Microphone - A transducer which converts sound pressure waves into electrical signals.

Microprocessor - One I/C which performs the core of activities in a computer.

Mid-Range Frequencies - The audio frequencies from about 250 Hz through 6000 Hz.

MIDI - Short for Musical Instrument Digital Interface; a digital signal system (a system of number signals) used to communicate performance information to and from musical instruments making music.

MIDI Channel - A grouping of data about the performance of one synthesizer or device, separate from data for other synthesizers/devices.

MIDI Clock - Time data in the MIDI signal that advances one step each 1/24 of a beat and can be used to sync two sequencers together.

MIDI Clock With Song Pointer - A MIDI clock signal (time data in the MIDI signal that advances one step each 1/24 of a beat) which also has a number signal for each measure to indicate the number of measures into the tune.

MIDI Controller - A device that can be played by a musician and puts out MIDI signals to control synthesizers or sound modules.

MIDI Interface - A device that converts a MIDI signal into the digital format of a computer so that the computer can store and use the MIDI signal.

MIDI Patch Bay - A device that has several MIDI inputs and outputs and allows any input to be routed to any output.

MIDI Sample Dump - The copying of a digitally recorded sample without converting it to analog between different storage units or sound modules thru a MIDI transmission.

MIDI Sequencer - A computer that can record and playback MIDI data in such a way to control the performance of MIDI controlled musical instruments or devices in a series of timed steps.

MIDI Time Code - All of the information of SMPTE time code that has been converted into part of the MIDI signal.

Mike - 1) An abbreviation of Michael- an incorrect abbreviation for microphone. 2) To place microphones for recording.

Milli- - An prefix meaning 1/1000.

Mini Disk - A small compact disc that can be recorded on by general consumers; introduced by Sony at the end of 1992.

Mix - 1) To blend audio signals together into a composite signal. 2) The signal made by blending individual signals together. 3) A control or function on a delay effects/reverberation device which controls the amount of direct signal that will be mixed into the processed signal.

Mixer - 1) A console, or other device that blends audio signals into composite signals and has a small number of outputs. 2) A section on a console that does this function. 3) In Europe, a fader. 4) An engineer or technician who mixes, especially a live sound mix at a performance.

Mixdown (Mix Down) - Combining the signals from the tracks of a multitrack tape onto a master tape; reverberation/other effects may be also added.

Mixing Console - A device which can combine several signals into one or more composite signals, in any desired proportion.

Mixing Desk - A British name for console.

Modem - A device that allows digital data to be sent and received over telephone lines.

Modular Digital Multitrack - A multitrack digital recorder with (usually) 8 tracks than can be run in synchronization with other machines (of the same type) to attain more tracks. ADAT brand recorders are an example.

Modulation - The control of one signal by another AC signal.

Modulation Noise - Noise that is present only when the audio signal is present.

Module - A group of circuits and controls that are mounted on a removable housing; often on consoles, all of the controls and circuits for one or two channels.

Monitor - 1) In audio, to listen. 2) To indicate with a meter or light the conditions in a circuit, especially level and overload. 3) A device to listen or observe.

Monitor Channel (Monitor Path) - An audio channel (a single path that an audio signal travels or can travel through a device) used to listen to the signal fed to or received back from one track of a multitrack tape recorder.

Monitor Mixer - 1) A console or other device that blends audio signals into composite signals and has a small number of outputs. 2) The section of the console which is used to do a rough mix so the engineer can hear what is being recorded without effecting the levels being fed to the multitrack recorder. 3) The audio technician who mixes the signals sent to the stage monitor speakers.

Monitor Pot - A rotary control used to set the level of the track signal in the monitor (the signal to or the signal back from one track of a multitrack tape recorder).

Monitor Section (Monitor Mixer Section) - The section of the console which is used to do a rough mix so the engineer can hear what is being recorded without effecting the levels being fed to the multitrack recorder.

Monitor Selector - 1) On consoles, a switch which allows you to hear various things over the control room monitor speakers such as the main console outputs (for mixing), the monitor mixer section (for recording and overdubbing), the disc player, tape machines and other devices. 2) On tape machines, a switch that (in one position) sends the signal from the tape to the meters and the output of the machine's electronics or (in a second position) sends the input signal being fed to the machine to the meters and the output of the electronics.

Mono - Shortened from Monophonic and meaning that there is only one sound source or the signal was derived from one sound source.

Monophonic - 1) More formal term for Mono and meaning that there is only one sound source or the signal was derived from one sound source. 2) In synthesizers, a term meaning that only one pitch may be sounded at a time.

Mounted Toms - An alternate name for Rack Toms (the smaller toms, as small as approximately a 10" diameter, mounted above the foot drum in a drum kit).

Moving Coil Microphone - A term with the same meaning as the term Dynamic Microphone (a microphone in which the diaphragm moves a coil suspended in a magnetic field to generate an output voltage proportional to the sound pressure level).

Moving Fader Automation - In consoles, a feature that lets the engineer program fader level changes so that these changes happen automatically upon playback of the multitrack recording because the fader positions actually change.

Ms - An abbreviation for milli-seconds (1/1000th of a second - usually not capitalized)

MS Micing - A method of stereo microphone placement where one microphone, with a cardioid pattern, points directly at the middle of the area to be miked and a Bi-directional microphone is as close as possible to the first mic with its rejection pointing the same way as the axis of the first mic.

Multi/Multi Jack - Short for Multiple Jacks or Multiple Jack and meaning: 1) a jack at the output of a device which is not normalled so that plugging into the jack will allow the output to be sent to a different input and the output will also feed the normal place it feeds. 2) A set of jacks (or one of a set of jacks) with each terminal wired to a corresponding terminal of another or other jacks.

Multitasking - The running of more than one program at the same time by a computer.

Multitimbral - Able to send out several signals of different sound patches (and often playing different parts) by one synthesizer; having several sound modules in it (said of a synthesizer).

Multitrack Recording - 1) A technique of recording various instruments separately on different portions of the same tape, in time with each other and so that final balancing of the sound may be accomplished later. 2) A technique of digitally recording various instruments onto a hard disk in different data files so the may be played in time with each other and final balancing of the sound may be accomplished later.

Multitrack Tape - A piece of magnetic tape which can be used to store two or more discrete signals, in time with each other.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface - A digital system (a system of numbers) used to communicate, to and from musical instruments, data regarding the performance of the instruments making music. Abbreviation: MIDI.

Mute Switch - A switch which turns off a channel, takes out a track signal from the monitors, or which turns off the entire monitor signal.

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- N -

N.A.B. - An abbreviation for the National Association of Broadcasters

Nano - A prefix meaning one-billionth. 

Nano-Webers Per Meter - The standard unit in measuring the amount of magnetic energy. 

Narration - The spoken word from a person not seen on the screen that gives various information. 

Narrow Band Noise - Noise (random energy) over a limited frequency range. 

National Association of Broadcasters - An association that has adopted standards, including the standardization of the record equalization used in tape recording. 

Near Field - The area up to one foot from the sound source.

Negative - The opposite of positive. 

Negative Feedback - A portion of the output signal that is feed to the input (of an amplifier), out of phase. 

Noise - 1) A random energy that contains energy at all audio frequencies. 2) Any unintentional or objectionable signal added to an audio signal. 

Noise Filter - A filter used which passes only signals with the intended audio frequencies thus eliminating noise signals at other frequencies. 

Noise Floor - The level of the noise, in dB, below the signal. 

Noise Gate - A gate used to turn off an audio channel when noise but not signal is present. 

Noise Reduction - Any device to remove noise in a device or system.  

Non-Directional - Used with microphones to mean the same thing as the term Omni-Directional (picking up from all directions). 

Non-Destructive Editing - The action in Digital Disk Audio Recording, where the playback of the digital audio is programmed to play certain portions and not others. 

Non-Linear - The condition of obtaining a change at the output of the device which is not proportional to the change occurring at the input, causing distortion. 

Normals - Switches on the patch jacks that connect certain jacks together until a patch cord is inserted.  

Normalize - 1) To provide normal switches on a jack. 2) To reset a synthesizer, sound module or sample playback unit to the original settings that were present from the factory. 3) To adjust the level of a selection so that the highest peak is at the maximum recording level of the medium. 4) In computers, to format a floppy disc. 

Normalizing Jacks - Switches on the patch jacks that connect certain jacks together until a patch cord is inserted.  

Notch - A narrow band of audio frequencies. 

Notch Filter - A device that rejects signals that have frequencies within a narrow band of audio frequencies and passes all other signals. 

Null - 1) A condition of zero energy or movement. 2) In console automation, the placement of the slide of a fader to the exact point that was originally used to make the automated mix. 

NW/m - An abbreviation of Nano-Webers Per Meter (the standard unit in measuring the amount of magnetic energy). 

Nybble - One half byte, 4 information bits. 

Nyquest Frequency - The highest frequency that can be recorded and reproduced properly by a particular sampling rate (a frequency that is one-half the sampling rate). 

Nyquest Rate - The lowest sampling rate that can be used to record and reproduce a given audio frequency.

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- O -

Octave - A difference of pitch where one tone has a frequency that is double or one-half of the frequency of another tone. 

Off Axis - 1) Away from the front or axis of the mic, measured in degrees. 2) 180 degrees from the front. 

Offset (Offset Time) - 1) The SMPTE time that will trigger a MIDI sequencer to begin. 2) The amount of position difference needed to get two reels to play the music in time. 

Ohm - The unit of opposition to current flow. 

Ohm's Law - The mathematical relationship between voltage, current and resistance. 

Omni- - A prefix meaning All. 

Omni-Directional - 1) In microphones, picking up evenly from all directions. 2) In speakers, sending out evenly in all directions. 

Omni Mode - Recognizing and responding to all MIDI Channels. 

On Axis - The position of directly in front of the diaphragm of a microphone, in line with its movement. 

On Line - 1) Video editing done by a computer controlling tape machines according programmed instructions and used for the final editing of video recording. 2) A status that means that the device is ready to receive input. 

Op Amp - Short for Operational Amplifier (an amplifying circuit used in most audio devices). 

Open - Short for the term Open Circuit. 

Open Circuit - 1) Having a break in a conductor or, for another reason, not having a complete path for electrons to flow. 2) Said of an amplifier, having nothing feeding the input. 

Open Track - A track on a multitrack tape which has not yet been recorded on. 

Operating Level - The maximum level that should not be exceeded in normal operation.  

Operational Amplifier - An amplifying circuit used in most audio devices. 

Oscillator - 1) A device that puts out test tones at various frequencies to align a tape machine or for other testing purposes. 2) A device generating a tone in a synthesizer 

Out Of Phase - 1) Being similar to another signal in amplitude, frequency and wave shape but being offset in time by part of a cycle. 2) 180 degrees out of phase or having opposite polarity. 

Out Port - A jack which puts out digital data in a computer or digital device.  

Outboard Equipment - Equipment that is used with, but is not a part of, a console. 

Output - 1) The jack or physical location of where a device sends out a signal. 2) The signal put out by a device.  

Output Impedance - The opposition to current flow by the output circuits of an amplifier (or other device). 

Output Level - The signal level at the output of a device. 

Output Selector - The switch on a tape machine which allows the VU meter and audio output of the tape machine electronics to monitor and send out of the machine either the input signal to the rape machine, the playback of what was being recorded or the level of bias current being fed to the record head.

Overdubbing - 1) Adding additional musical parts on a track of a multitrack tape. 2) Sending a previously recorded signal through a console and mixing it with the audio from a new sound source, recording onto another tape. 

Over Easy - DBX’s trademark for the gradual change of compression ratio around the threshold making it difficult to detect when compression is taking place. 

Overload - To put too much signal level into thereby causing distortion 

Overload Indicator - An LED on a channel of a console that shows that the input or other part of the circuit is receiving an overload. 

Oversampling - A process where the analog audio (or the digital audio for playback) is sampled many times more than the minimum sampling rate.  

Overtones - The harmonics of an instrument's sound minus the fundamental frequency. 

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A-E      F-J     P-T     U-Z


Revised: May 24, 2005.
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