Glossary of Audio-Relevant Abbreviations

Posted by Tim Schroeder on

There is a plethora of abbreviated terms one is bound to come across in the Audio Realm. Some make sense, others require a bit of research. With this Blog Post, I'll do my best to help you understand and make sense of some of the most common abbreviations.

ADAT = Alesis Digital Audio Tape. A magnetic tape format that records on to Super VHS Tapes. Allows for simultaneous recording of up to 8 audio tracks.

ADC = Apple Display Connector. Apple’s proprietary modification of the DVI connector. Combines analog and digital video signals along with USB, and power in one cable. Apple stopped using it in 2005.

AES/EBU = Audio Engineering Society/European Broadcasting Union. Also known as AES3. A type of cable that can carry 2 channels of PCM Audio across balanced lines, unbalanced lines, and optical fiber.

APSK = Amplitude and Phase-Shift keying. A Digital modulation process that presents data by modulating the amplitude and the phase of a carrier wave. It combines both ASK and PSK into one.

ASK = Amplitude Shift Keying. A type of amplitude modulation. It represents digital data as variations in the amplitude of a signal.

AWG = American Wire Gauges. Also called the Brown and Sharpe Wire Gauge. Standardized set of sizes for wire conductors. An increase in gauge numbers means a decrease in wire diameter and vice-versa.

BNC connector = Bayonet Neil-Concelman or Bayonet Nut Coupling. A small, quick, and easy twist-and-lock connect is used on coaxial cable for audio, video, and network applications. Common in the Broadcast Industry.

DAC = Digital to Analog Converter. The device that converts a digital file into the analog sound that we hear.

DAT = Digital Audio Tape. A Magnetic Tape, similar to a cassette, is capable of making very high-quality audio recordings, thanks to its digital nature.

dB = Decibel. A unit of measuring how loud a source of sound is.

DIN Connector = Deutsches Institut fur Normung, the German National Standards Organization. Refers to a family of circular connectors for analog audio signals and some video applications as well. Musicians may recognize these as MIDI Cables.

DSD512 = Direct Stream Digital 512. Derived its name due to being 512 times the same rate of a CD at 22.5792 MHz.

D-Sub = D-subminiature. A type of connector used to carry balanced analog or digital signals. Often seen on computers, monitors, and video cards. DB25 is most common for audio applications.

DTS = Digital Theater Systems is the name of a company that makes multichannel audio tech for the world of video and film. A competitor to Dolby that got their start thanks to Steven Spielberg and Jurassic Park.

FEP = Fluorinate Ethylene Propylene. An insulation and jacket material for cables.

FLAC = Free Lossless Audio Codec. A lossless audio file type that is compressed to roughly half the size of an uncompressed WAV of equal sample rate. Should display no noticeable drop in quality from original recordings.

H.264 = The explanation here is long winded and difficult to understand. Advanced Video Coding is another name for H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10, Advanced Video Coding (or MPEG-4 AVC). The encoding format most commonly used on Blu-ray Discs and by streaming services like Netflix, Prime, Youtube, etc…

HDMI = High-Definition Multimedia Interface. An Audio/Video interface for transmitting uncompressed video along with compressed or uncompressed audio. HDMI replaces all of the old Analog Video Standards, in most cases with just one cable.

Hz = Hertz. A is a unit of frequency, that is equal to 1 cycle per second. 1000 hertz is equal to 1 kilohertz. It is used to measure frequency, or cycles per second. On an EQ, Hertz frequencies would be lower mid-range though bass. Once Hz goes above 1000, the measurement changes to kilohertz.

IEC = International Electrotechnical Commission. An International standards organization concerned with electrical and electronic (electrotechnology) technologies.

IEC Cable = Short for IEC 60320. Includes a variety of non-locking connector types that provide power to a variety of electrotechnologies. For instance, a C13 connector will have a C14 inlet.

kHz = Kilohertz. A unit of frequency that is equal to 1000 cycles per second. 1 kilohertz is equal to 1000 hertz. It us used to measure frequency, or cycles per second. On an EQ, kilohertz are upper mid range and treble frequencies. In the recording world, kilohertz is tied to Sample Rate. The higher the Sample Rate, the more information recorded.

mA = Milliampere. 1/1000 of an Ampere. An Ampere which is the basic unit for measuring electrical current.

MDCT = Modified Discrete Cosine Transform. Used in most modern audio coding standards like MP3, WMA, Dolby Digital, you get the idea. Despite its lossy-compression, it's the most widely used transform in audio.

MORRE = Musically Optimized Reduction of Resistive Energy. An umbrella term created by Audience that covers all of their technological advancements.

MOSFET = Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor. A field-effect transistor (FET) with an insulated gate in which the voltage determines the conductivity of the device.

MQA = Master Quality Authenticated. A method of digitally recording and storing master recordings that perfectly balances the size of the file and its quality. These are streamable files but without a sacrifice in quality so the lossy compression many of us are sensitive to is dramatically reduced.

OCC = Ohno Continuous Cast. A casting process for producing cables developed by Audience. One, uninterrupted strand of copper rather than several sutured together. 

OFC = Oxygen Free Copper. Pretty simple one here!

PCM Audio = Pulse-Code Modulation. A process that converts analog audio into digital audio (binary code) without compression. The standard form of digital audio in computers, CDs, and other digital audio appliances.

PPM = Pulse-Position Modulation. A modulation technique that allows for variations in the positions of the pulses according to the amplitude of the sampled modulated signal.

PSK = Phase-Shift Keying. A digital modulation process. Conveys data by modulating the phase of a carrier wave. Most often used on wireless LANs, RFID, and Bluetooth comms.

PTFE = a soft, low friction fluoropolymer with outstanding chemical and weathering resistance. Stable at temperatures up to 500 - F so is often used in high temperature environments. An excellent electrical insulator.

PVC = Polyvinyl Chloride. A high strength thermoplastic. As the 3rd most widely-used type of plastic, PVC is used in everything from electronics to shoes and everything in between,

PWM = Pulse-Width Modulation. Refers to a method of reducing the average power delivered by an electrical signal.

RCA = Radio Corporation of America. Named after the company that introduced the connector in the 1930s. A type of cable connector that carries audio and video signals. From record players to TVs, to media streamers, and video game consoles, this is one of the most common jacks.

RIAA Curve = Record Industry Association of America Curve. Established in 1954, an EQ standardization for records and turntables. The curve is an EQ filter that is applied to vinyl records during the recording process. It cuts low frequencies and boosts the highs. The record player applies the exact opposite cut and boost in order to present the listener with a flat EQ.

RFI = Radio Frequency Interference. Unwanted audible signal/sounds that invade a sound system via radio frequency signals.

RMS = Root Means Square. The effective value of alternating current or voltage. RMS value equates an AC Current or Voltage to a DC Current or Voltage with the same power transfer.

S/PDIF = Sony/Phillips Digital Interface. A Digital Audio Interconnect with either RCA or TOSLINK connectors that can carry 2 channels of uncompressed PCM audio. Based on the AES3 (AES/EBU) interconnect standard.

TOSLINK = Toshiba Link. A standardized optical fiber connect and receptacle. Also called Optical Audio. A single TOSLINK cable carries 2 channels of lossless PCM audio or compressed 5.1/7.1 surround sound like Dolby Digital or DTS.

TPR = Thermoplastic Rubber. Has properties of both plastic and rubber. Lightweight with good abrasion resistance, tear strength, weather resistance, and electrical properties.

USB = Universal Serial Bus. A technology used to connect computers and peripheral devices. A type of computer port that can send and receive information.

VESA = Video Electronics Standards Association. An American technical standards organization concerned focused on computer display standards.

VTA = Vertical Tracking Angle. The angle in which the stylus and tonearm meet the record.

WMA = Windows Media Audio. Both an audio codec and audio coding format developed by Microsoft. Most often seen or known as a media file type. Something like “generic-song-title.wma”.

XLPE = Cross Linked Polyethylene. Also called PEX or XPE. A hydronic tubing made from polyethylene plastic. Offers very good insulation in electrical applications.

XLR = An abbreviation derived over a few years and developments. Originally the Canon X Series then received a Latch, and then Rubber insulation. A cable termination and receptacle that works with both analog and digital cables. These electrical connectors are most commonly associated with balanced audio applications. Made with 3 to 7 pins.

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