PACE Anti-Piracy Inc. – a company based in Silicon Valley, California, and founded in 1985, that provides software copy protection and license management services. It is probably best known for its iLok device.
Pacific Microsonics Inc. (PMI) – a developer of software and digital technology headquartered in Union City, CA. PMI developed the HDCD before it was acquired by Microsoft in the year 2000.
packet – a unit of digital data that is transmitted over a network or the internet. Data transmitted in packets are broken up into smaller “chunks” that are a more efficient size for transmission. Each packets is individually identified with a number and the destination address. The various packets of a given file may travel different routes through the network. Upon arrival, they are reassembled into the original file.
pad – (1) An attenuator used to reduce the level of a signal. (2) To reduce the level of a signal. (3) One of the surfaces on drum pads. (4) See pads.
pads – (1) A sustained chord or tone often with the notes stretching over more than one octave, usually generated by a synthesizer, typically used as background harmony and/or atmosphere in a musical arrangement, such as a string pad. Also called spread voicing. (2) Short for drum pads.
pairing – the process through with two devices communicate using a wireless Bluetooth connection. The two devices establish a secure connection by sharing a link key that is stored by each device. Sometimes called bonding.
PAL – Phase Alternating Line. The analogtelevision color encoding system used for broadcast television systems in Europe and many other countries. Many of these countries have adopted Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T) as they switch to digital television.
pan – (1) A control found on mixers, consoles, and DAWs used to adjust the position between the left and right sides of a stereo image. (2) The position between the left and right sides of a stereo image. (3) To adjust the position between the left and right sides of a stereo image. Short for panoramic.
Panasonic Corporation – Panasonikku Kabushiki-kaisha. A multinational electronics company headquartered in Kadoma, Osaka, Japan, formerly known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. The company was founded in 1918 by Konosuke Matsushita, and has grown to become one of the largest Japanese electronics firms.
pancake – slang for magnetic recording tape wound on a hub with no reelflanges. Tape sold in this fashion is less expensive than that sold on actual reels. Before using a the user must spool the tape onto other reels.
pan depth – the amount of attenuation applied to a track when it is panned dead center in order to make the level sound the same as it would be if the track were panned hard left or hard right. Various DAWs use different pan depths, and in some DAWs, the pan depth can be adjusted between 1 and 6 dB. See pan law
panel absorber – a framed absorber consisting of a surface in front of a space of 2 to 6 inches in depth, designed to be hung on the wall to absorb low frequencies. If the front surface is made of a material such as plywood, it is called a diaphragmatic absorber. If the frame is covered by a thin material such as plastic, it is called a membrane absorber. If the surface has holes in it, like pegboard, it is a perforated panel absorber, but these panels do not appear to work as well as a diaphragmatic absorbers. Because the front panel sometimes acts as a reflector, the front is sometimes curved or angled. The frequency absorbed depends on the thickness of the panel. Using 4 x 8-foot plywood on a 2 x 4 frame (3.5" deep), the absorption peak for ⅛" plywood is 150 Hz, for ¼" plywood is 110 Hz, and for ⅜" plywood is 87 Hz. Formulas are available for calculating the frequency. The inside cavities are sometimes filled with sound-absorbant material, such as fiberglass or mineral wool, but they must have at least ¼ inch of air to be effective. Filling cavity tends to lower the frequency and increase the amount of absorption. Also called a pressure absorber because it acts on sound pressure. See also porous absorber, resonant absorber, and acoustic treatment.
panic button – a MIDI control that simultaneously sends All Notes Off and Reset All Controllers commands to a MIDI system.
pan law – a principle that states that when any two audio signals of equal amplitude and phase are summed together into a monophonic signal, the loudness will increase by 6.02 dB(SPL). However, in a room the acoustic summing of the same signal from two stereo loudspeakers is typically only 3 dB, because the speaker response and room acoustics are far from ideal. So the perceived loudness as a mono signal is panned from center to hard left or right will change from -3 dB to 0 dB. To compensate for this difference, it is necessary to adjust the pan depth, the amount of attenuation applied when the signal is panned dead center. For a mono signal the attenuation would be 6 dB, but for a stereo signal it would be 3 dB. Some DAWs compromise and use 4.5 dB, but others allow the user to choose the pan depth. Also called pan rule.
panning – the process of adjusting or positioning an audio signal between the left and right sides of a stereo image. There are two types of panning: (a) static panning in which the microphone and sound source remain stationary and panning is adjusted using a panpot and (b) dynamic panning in which either the microphone or the sound source moves across the sound stage, usually as a special effect.
panoramic potentiometer – the control that divides (pans) the audio signal between two channels, typically the left and right channels of a stereo signal, to position the sonic image. Also called pan control or panpot (sometimes spelled pan pot) for short.
panpot stereo – a recording using multiple microphones, one for each voice, instrument, or group of instruments, each recorded to a separate track, with each track panned left and right in varying amounts, to produce directional information based on intensity stereo. This process is an alternative to true stereo. The recording is mixed down to two stereo channels.
pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera – a camera that can be remotely controlled to zoom and to move directionally (pan and tilt). PTZ video cameras are used in television production, especially for sporting events using remote integration. Also called a robo (robotic camera).
papery – a descriptive term for kick drum sound with a boost between 300 and 900 Hz.
PAR – Parabolic Aluminized Reflector. A type of electric lamp used for stage lights and other applications. PAR lamps are designated by their diameter size in ⅛‑inch increments. Common sizes include the PAR38 (4¾‑inch diameter), PAR56 (7‑inch diameter), and the PAR64 (8‑inch diameter).
parabolic reflector – a dish-shaped structure used to focus energy to or from a receiving or transmitting device. Examples include a satellite receiving dish for television and a parabolic microphone. A parabolic microphone consists of a parabolic reflector facing the sound source and a microphone facing the other direction pointing at the center of the parabola. These microphones are used for such applications as capturing the sound at sporting events and for wildlife recordings.
parallel – (1) Two or more processes, functions, or operations taking place simultaneously. (2) Two signals being fed to or through one or more components at the same time. Opposite of series, in which the signals are sent sequentially. (3) A method of sending data in which each digit of a digital word is sent at the same time over separate wires. (4) In music, a sequence of notes that are harmonized by equal-sized intervals, such as parallel thirds or parallel fifths.
parallel compression – a method which blends an uncompressed track with a compressed version of the same track. Typically the wet track is very highly compressed. This technique preserves the transients of the original signal while increasing the level of softer portions of the signal. Parallel compression allows you to increase the overall level of the track without sounding overly compressed. Sometimes called New York Compression or New York City compression, although producer/engineer Bobby Owsinski, who coined the term, says NYC compression is parallel compression only on the drum and bass tracks, along with about a 3-dB boost of a low shelf (less than 100 Hz) and high shelf (above 10 kHz).
parallel harmony – a sequence of musical notes in which each note of harmony has the same interval. Parallel harmony can be viewed as a series of chords having the same intervals. Also known as parallel chords, harmonic parallelism, harmonic planing, or parallel voice leading.
parallel port – a port found on older computers that sends or receives several bits of data simultaneously by using several wires, that is used for connecting external devices such as printers or a scanners. Sometimes called a Centronics interface, since the original parallel port standard was designed by Centronics.
paraphonic – a term that describes a synthesizer that can produce multiple notes or voices, but is not truly polyphonic because the voices share at least one common element. For example, multiple oscillators generating different notes, but being routed through the same filter and amplifier.
PARC – Palo Alto Research Center, Inc. A company located in Palo Alto, California, that provides research and development for information technology and hardware systems. It was founded in 1970 as a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation, as the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. It was instrumental in developing laser printing, the Ethernet, and many other computer applications. It became a wholly-owned subsidiary ox Xerox in 2002.
parity check – a process used in digital recording in which one or more bits of data derived from the audio sample is appended as a part of the 16-bit word and used for error detection. The circuitry determines whether the audio bits are correct and whether the data should be sent on for D/A conversion, discarded, or repaired. Also called a parity code.
Parlophone – a record label founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as Parlophon. Its UK subsidiary was formed in 1923 as The Parlophone Co. Ltd., which was acquired by Columbia Graphophone Company in 1926. In 1931, Columbia Graphophone merged with the Gramophone Company forming Electric & Musical Industries Limited (EMI). Parlophone then operated as a division of EMI until 1965 when it was merged into The Gramophone Co. Ltd., which was was renamed EMI Records Limited. In 2012, EMI was acquired by Universal Music Group, but EMI Records Ltd., which included the Parlophone label, had to be divested. It was operated as the Parlophone Label Group until Warner Music Group (WMG) acquired the group in 2013. EMI Records Ltd. then was renamed as Parlophone Records Limited.
Part 15 – Code of Federal Regulations, Title 47, Part 15 (47 CFR 15). Part of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules and regulations pertaining to unlicensed transmissions. It regulates issues, such as spurious emissions and unlicensed low-power broadcasting. Unlicensed broadcasting on the AM radio band is limited to 100 milliwatts of DC input power to the final RF stage, along with restrictions on size, height, and type of antenna. However, if the AM transmission originates on the campus of an educational institution, there are no power restrictions as long as the signal strength is below a designated level at the edge of campus. Unlicensed broadcasts on the FM radio band are limited to a signal strength of 250 μV/m at a distance of 3 meters from the antenna. Other rules apply to wireless microphones and other wireless devices.
particle displacement (σ) – the measure of the distance a particle is moved from its equilibrium position in a medium as it transmits a sound wave, measured in meters (m). Usually it refers to a longitudinal wave of pressure, such as sound. However, it can also refer to a transverse wave, such as the vibration of a string. In air a particle is displaced in relation to the particle velocity of the sound wave traveling through the air, while the sound wave moves at the speed of sound, equal to 343 m/s (1125 ft/s) in air at 20 °C. Also called displacement amplitude.
particle dispersion – see dispersion, definition #2.
particle orientation – the arrangement of acicular particles in a magnetic coating. The preferred orientation is for the particles to lie parallel to one another, which improves performance and increases particle density and therefore recording tape output.
particle velocity (p) – the velocity in meters per second (m/s) of a particle of a medium (such as air) caused by sound and not due to other velocities like thermal agitation and wind currents. The velocity can be expressed in various ways, such as instantaneous particle velocity or peak particle velocity. Particle velocity is not the same as the speed of the sound wave as it passes through the medium, and is not the same as the speed of sound. A wave moves relatively fast, while a particle oscillates around its original position and has a relatively small particle velocity. Particle velocity also is not the same as the velocity of individual molecules. Higher frequency sounds tend to be transmitted by particle velocity, while lower frequencies tend to be transmitted by pressure.
passive radiator – a passive driver in a loudspeaker system that moves due to the internal air pressure in the cabinet created by the movement of the active driver cone. The passive driver is usually the same or similar to the active driver but without a voice coil and magnet assembly. Typically they are used in a bass reflex speaker designs instead of a port, where the extra mass of the passive radiator lowers the resonant frequency allowing smaller cabinet designs. However, they tend to produce a more boomy sound.
paste – (1) To place data in a different place within a document or within another document. The data must first be copied to the clipboard (a temporary storage area in computer memory) by selecting (highlighting) the data you want to copy by choosing “Copy” from the menu, and then pasting it to the desired point. The process is called cut and paste. (2) To place a piece of a digital audio in a different place within a track or within another track, analogous to the cut-and-paste process in definition #1.
patch – (1) To connect two pieces of audio equipment with a cable. (2) To re-route a signal using a patch cable. (3) A re-routed signal. (4) Short for sound patch. (5) A collection of sampled instrumental parts from a sample library that can be played together.
patchbay – a group of connectors to which inputs and outputs of various devices can be wired to make interconnection between devices easy and accessible. Also called a patch panel or jackfield (British).
patch point – a connection where a signal can flow from one point to another, such as jack on a patch bay typically using a patch cable. However, it can also be a point within a mixer or other device where the signal can be routed to another point within the device, bypassing one or more circuits in the normal signal path.
patent – (1) The exclusive legal right, given to an originator or an assignee by a government entity for a specified period of time to manufacture, use, or sell an invention. (2) To obtain a patent on an invention.
patent holder – (1) The originator of a patented invention. (2) The employer of the originator of a patented invention under a work for hire arrangement. (3) The person to whom a patent holder transfers in writing the ownership of a patent.
path length difference – the difference in distance between two sound sources and a microphone or listener, or the difference in distance between a sound source and two microphones. It is this difference in path length that determines whether an interference is constructive or destructive for a given frequency of sound..
PC – Personal Computer. Originally referred to any microcomputer designed for use by one person at a time. Prior to the advent of the personal computer, computers were very expensive and designed for use by large companies with terminals for multiple users. The term PC has come to mean an “IBM-compatible” personal computer as opposed to an AppleMacintosh computer.
PCI – Peripheral Component Interface or Peripheral Component Interconnect. A high-performance computer expansion slot designed by Intel, that provides a high-bandwidth and processor-independent data path between the CPU and high-speed peripherals. Used in both PC and Macintosh personal computers, they are especially useful for high-data-rate applications like digital audio and video.
PCIe – Peripheral Component Interconnect express. An updated version of the PCI expansion slot that that provides greater bandwidth and higher speeds.
peak – (1) The highest point of an audio waveform. (2) A shape on a curve resembling a the pointed top of a mountain. (3) The maximum excursion from zero of a complete wave cycle. Also called a crest or peak value. (4) An area of a frequency response curve having a an upward deflection from flat.
peaking filter – a filter that allows you to boost or cut the level of an audio signal for a limited frequency band. Such filters usually have at least two controls: one to adjust the gain and one to select the center frequency. They often have a third control to adjust the width of the frequency band, a control called Q, resonance, or bandwidth. A higher Q (resonance) has a more narrow bandwidth to allows more precise control over problem frequencies. A lower Q provides a wider bandwidth and is used for tonal shaping of the audio. See also peaking equalizer.
peak level – the measure of a continuously varying parameter, such as voltage, current, or power, from the zero point to the highest point in each cycle. It is equal to half the peak-to-peak value. Also called peak value.
peak meter – a type of meter that visually indicates the instantaneous level of an audio signal. Typically, peak meters consist of a series of LEDs arranged as vertical or horizontal bar, that light up sequentially as the signal increases, often in ranges of green, yellow, and red, to indicate when a signal is starting to clip. See also peak program meter and true peak meter.
peak program meter (PPM) – an instrument used for indicating the peak level of an audio signal, rather than indicating average audio levels. There are many PPM versions, which fall into three broad categories: (a) true peak program meters, which indicate the peak levels of the waveforms, even those of very short duration, (b) quasi peak program meters (QPPM), which indicate the true peak level only if they exceed a specified duration (usually a few milliseconds), (c) sample peak program meters (SPPM), which indicate peak sample levels for digital audio (but not the true waveform peaks if they fall between samples), and (d) oversampling peak program meters, which are SPPMs in which the signal is first oversampled. The IEC specifies standards for two different PPMs, Type I (developed in Germany) and Type II (developed in the UK). Depending on the broadcast entity, PPMs are usually calibrated in decibels relative to one of the following levels: (a) the alignment level (Nordic, EBU), (b) the permitted maximum level (DIN, ABC, SABC), (c) 0 dBu (CBC), (d) 0 dBFS (IEC), or any combination of the above (BBC). In the US, the VU meter frequently has been used instead of the PPM. The British spelling is Peak Programme Meter.
pedal board – (1) A panel on which several guitarpedals are mounted and connected so that a guitar player can use one or more effects at the same time. (2) A widely spaced keyboard played with the feet, such as found on an organ to play bass notes.
pedal steel guitar – an amplifiedguitar mounted on a stand and whose pitch can be changed by sliding a steel bar across the strings and by depressing pedals attached to them. Called pedal steel for short.
pegging – the situation in which a very high signal causes the needle of a mechanical meter, such as a VU meter, to hit the top of the scale. Besides causing distortion in the audio signal, it can also damage of the meter. Also called pinning.
pencil mic – slang for a microphone, typically a small-diaphragm condenser, with the shape of a long, thin tube, resembling a fat pencil. Sometimes called a lipstick mic or cigar mic..
pencil tool – a tool found in some DAWs that allows free-hand editing of automation, MIDI notes, and other functions.
penny whistle – an inexpensive fipple flute, usually having a plastic mouthpiece (fipple) and a thin metal body. Also called a tin whistle, English flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, tin flageolet, or Irish whistle.
perceptual coding – any audio data compression scheme that identifies and removes data that is least likely to be missed by the average human listener, such as audio frequencies that are masked by other, more dominant frequencies, or by temporal masking.
percussion – (1) A group of musical instruments that are played by striking with a hand, stick, or beater, or by shaking. Percussion instruments include drums, cymbals, xylophones, triangles, gongs, bells, tambourines, and rattles. (2) The section of a band or orchestra consisting of percussion instruments.
percussive – pertaining or relating to percussioninstruments or to the sounds that a percussion instrument makes. In particular, these sounds are often loud and tend to have very sharp transients.
performance rights organization (PRO) – a group that protects the rights of artists and publishers and collects and distributes royalties to its members. In the US there are three PROs: BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.
performer – a person who entertains or performs in front of an audience, such as a musician, singer, singer/songwriter, actor, artist, entertainer, dancer, or comedian.
peripheral – a piece of computer hardware that operates separately from the CPU but is connected to it, such as a hard disk drive or printer.
permissible exposure limits (PEL) – OSHA has established legal limits for the permissible exposure limits to many substances including noise. The legal limits for a worker's time average exposure to white noise (A-weighted) over an 8-hour day are a maximum of 8 hours at 90 dBA, 6 hours at 92 dBA, 4 hours at 95 dBA, 3 hours at 97 dBA, 2 hours at 100 dBA, 1.5 hours at 102 dBA, 1 hours at 105 dBA, 0.5 hours at 110 dBA, and 0.25 hours at 115 dBA.
phantom channel – the effect in a stereo system when sound seems to come from the center when there is no center speaker. Also called a phantom center.
phantom circuit – a circuit used in telecommunications that uses a pair of wires, one each from two other circuits, to establish a third circuit. It is called a “phantom” circuit because, if the resistance of the wire is equal, conversations carried over the new circuit are hidden from and cannot be heard on the two original circuits (called “side circuits”), and conversations on the side circuits cannot be heard on the phantom circuit. However, if there is unequal resistance in the two wires, crosstalk will occur. Use of a similar circuit to provide power for condenser microphones is why it is called “phantom power.” Also called phantom signalling.
phantom image – a sound source that is perceived as coming from a location where there is no sound source. In a multichannel audio system the sound can seem to come from between any two (or more) of the loudspeakers, and, in some cases, from beyond the loudspeakers. This is similar to a phantom channel in a stereo system. Also called a phantom sound source.
phantom power – a dcvoltage supplied by a preamp, mixer, or console through microphone cables to provide power for condenser microphones and other devices. Before the invention of phantom power, each microphone requiring external power had its own power supply usually contained in a small box. Although anywhere from 9 to 48 volts can be used, 48 volts is most commonly used. International standard IEC 61938, defines phantom powering for 48 volts, 24 volts, and 12 volts, designated P48, P24, and P12 respectively, in which the signal conductors are positive and the shield is grounded. The 24-volt version of phantom powering has never been widely used by equipment manufacturers. Phantom powering allows the same two-conductor shielded cables to be used for both dynamic microphones and condenser microphones, without harming balanced microphones that are not designed to use it, as no significant power flows through the output circuit of those microphones. It is called “phantom” because the circuit is similar to phantom circuits originally used by telephone companies.
phase (Φ) – the amount that a wave has passed through its cycle, measured in degrees or radians, with one complete cycle being 360 degrees or 2π radians. Two waves that are exactly aligned in time have a phase difference of zero degrees and are said to be “in phase.” Two waves that are not lined up exactly are said to be “out of phase,” which can cause phase cancellation. Phase is sometimes represented by the Greek letter phi (φ). On some consoles and DAWs, there is a switch labeled “Φ” that is used to reverse the phase of the signal, but in reality it is the polarity that is being reversed. See polarity for further discussion of this difference.
phase angle (θ) – the difference in phase between two waveforms of the same frequency, measured in degrees or radians. Two waves are in phase when the phase angle equals 0° or 0 rad and when the phase angle is 360° or 2π rad. Two waves cancel when the phase angle is 180° or π rad.
phase cancellation – the reduction in wave energy when a wave combines with a wave of the same frequency but somewhat delayed. Two waves that are 180 degree out of phase are in antiphase and will completely cancel one another. Also called destructive interference, bucking, or acoustic phase interference. The opposite of phase reinforcement.
phase coherence – the property of waves having a constant difference in phase over a given time period.
phase distortion – a deterioration of a sound when the phase shift in an audio device is not a linear function of frequency. In other words, different frequencies experience different time delays. Also called group delay.
phase distortion synthesis – a method of synthesizing wave shapes to add harmonics using a phase shift.
phase inversion – a term often used incorrectly for polarity inversion or . In reality, phase inversion shifts neither phase nor time, but only swaps the polarity (positive and negative). Sometimes called phase reversal.
phase lock loop (PLL) – an electronic circuit with a voltage-controlled or current-controlled oscillator that is constantly adjusted to match in phase (to lock on) the frequency of an input signal. A PLL can be used to stabilize a tranmitter frequency, to generate, modulate, or demodulate a signal, to reduce the noise in a signal, or to multiply or to divide a frequency. Also called a phase locked loop.
phaser – (1) An effects procesor that creates the phasing effect. (2) A hand-held weapon used by Captain Kirk and other crew members on Star Trek that can deliver a variable beam that can stun or destroy.
phase response – the relationship between the phase of an audio signalinput and the output signal after passing through a device, such as an amplifier or a filter. A device with good phase response imparts minimal change in phase from input to output.
phase shift – (1) The change in the phase of a wave induced by a device or process. Also called phase modulation. (2) The difference in the phase angle between corresponding points on two waves, measured in degrees. The phase shift (φ) is equal to 2 π f t, where π = 3.14, f = frequency (Hz), and t = the delay between the two waves (seconds). (3) Slang for group delay.
phasey – a decriptive term for a sound that is out of phase and lacking directional cues. Such a sound can be caused by picking up sound from more than one microphone or with a microphone too close to a flat surface.
phasing – (1) An effect created by combining an audio signal with a version of itself that is passed through an all-pass filter followed by a varying delay resulting in a comb filter effect that produces a swishing sound. The effect is similar to flanging, except with flanging the signal is not filtered, so that the the phase shift is uniform across the entire spectrum which results in a comb filter with peaks and troughs that are harmonically related. With phasing, the phase differences depends on the input signal frequency, resulting in peaks and troughs that are not harmonically related. (2) A hollow, swishing sound created using the phasing effect.
Philips – Koninklijke Philips N.V. (Royal Philips). A diversified technology company founded in 1891 and headquartered in Amsterdam engaged in the business of consumer electronics and appliances, healthcare, and lighting.
Philips Records – a record company owned by the Dutch electronics company Philips. The record label was found by Philips Phonographische Industrie (PPI) in 1950. Following the separation of the UK Columbia label (owned by EMI) and the US Columbia Records, Philips began distributing Columbia recordings on the Philips label in the UK. When Philips lost its North American distribution deal with Columbia Records in 1961, it signed a distibution agreement with Mercury Records. In 1962, Philips Records and Deutsche Grammophon formed the Grammophon-Philips Group (GPG), becoming PolyGram in 1972. In 1980, Phonogram and Polydor Records merged with PolyGram Records. PolyGram discontinued using Philips as a pop and rock label in the UK and most of Europe, with most new signings going to Mercury in the US and Polydor in the UK and Europe. Philips became a classical music label as a part of PolyGram Classics along with Decca Records and Deutsche Grammophon. In 1983, Philips became the first record label to issue compact discs. In 1998, Philips Records became part of Universal Music Group. In 1999, Philips Classics was absorbed into the Decca Music Group.
phon – a unit for measuring loudness that takes account of the nonlinear response of the human ear. Two sounds with the same dB-SPL, but with different frequencies, will not be perceived as the same loudness. The phon compensates for this difference by comparing the decibel level at various frequencies to that at 1,000 Hz. For example, if a given sound is perceived to be as loud as a 40-dB sound at 1,000 Hz, then it has a loudness of 40 phons. See also sone.
phone plug – a ¼-inch diameter by 1¼-inch long male connector (plug) used for making audio connections. Also available is a 3.5 mm miniature (mini) phone plug and a 2.5 mm subminiature plug. (The 3.5 mm is often erroneously called a ⅛-inch plug.) They usually come in TS and TRS versions. They are called phone plugs because they were originally used by telephone companies for making switchboard connections. The term phone connector is used to refer to both the phone plug and phone jack. Also called a jack plug (British)
phonograph – a machine that reproduces sound from a record, consisting of a turntable that spins a rotating disc or cylinder (the record) at a constant speed and a stylus that travels along a groove and detects vibrations that are converted into sound, which is amplified and played over a loudspeaker (or in earlier models, an acoustic horn). Originally, the term was used only for cylinder machines while the gramophone was used for machines using discs. However, the term phonograph has come into prominent usage in the US for all record players while the term gramophone became the prominent term in the UK. Also called a record player.
There are several types of cartridges. Crystal cartridges were used in early electronic phonographs, where the movement of the stylus created stress in a piezo-electric crystal, generating an electrical signal. Crystal pickups are fairly sturdy and produce a strong signal, but the output is not very linear resulting in undesirable distortion. The ceramic cartridge, another piezoelectric device, was an improvement over the crystal cartridge using higher quality ceramic materials. They are more sensitive, provide lower distortion, and work at lower tracking forces, which means reduced wear on both the disc and stylus. The magnetic cartridge creates an electrical signal by the stylus moving a piston within a magnetic field. It by far offers the highest fidelity reproduction of the music and lower tracking forces, but it produces a relatively weak signal that must be preamplified before going to the amplifier. There are two common versions of magnetic cartridges: the dynamic cartridge, later called a moving coil (MC), and the moving magnet (MM). While they both operate on the same principle, the moving magnet type was far more common and more robust, but many audiophiles claimed that the moving coil system produced higher fidelity sound. Also called a phonograph pickup, gramophone pickup, gramophone cartridge, phono cartridge, or simply cartridge.
phono input – a stereoinput that feeds the phono preamplifier portion of an amplifier. If it is marked MC, it means that it is designed to handle the characteristics (input impedance, gain, and de-emphasis equalization) of a moving coil (MC) phono cartridge. The output impedance of a moving coil cartridge is in the 10 to 100 ohm range and requires a special matching transformer. If it is unmarked or marked MM, it means it is designed for use by a moving magnet (MM) cartridge. Sometimes called an RIAA input.
phono plug – a male connector (plug) used with coaxial cable, consisting of a center pin surrounded by a ring of pressure-fit tabs for the shield or ground. The term phono connector is used to refer to both the phono plug and phono jack. Sometimes called an RCA plug because RCA introduced the plug in the 1940s to connect the phonograph to the pickup. Also called a Cinch plug or pin plug.
photosensor – an electronic detector that converts light or other forms of electromagnetic energy into an electronic signal that varies with the intensity or distance of the light source. A photosensor consists of a housing, photocell, optics, and electronics. Also called a photodetector or optical sensor.
pianist – a musician who plays a piano, especially one who performs expertly or professionally. See also keyboardist.
piano – (1) A large keyboard musical instrument with a wooden case enclosing a soundboard and metal strings, which are struck by felt-padded hammers when the keys are depressed. The piano was originally called a pianoforte (meaning “soft-loud”) because, unlike the harpsichord which it essentially replaced, it could be played loudly or softly. Pianos have been made in several styles including the grand piano, upright piano, spinet piano, and cabinet grand. There are also electric pianos that reproduce the sound electronically. (2) A musical term meaning to play softly or quietly.
piano roll – (1) A roll of paper with holes punched into it used to operate a player piano. As the paper rolls over a reading system (called a tracker bar) the holes trigger musical notes causing the piano to play that note. (2) In most DAWs, a graphical display of MIDI note data that provides a means to enter and edit MIDI data, such as pitch, duration, and velocity. The piano roll display is analogous to the player piano roll in definition #1 and provides an alternative method of entering MIDI data instead of manually recording the output of a keyboard.
piccolo – a musical instrument in the woodwind family, of similar construction to the concert flute, but about half its size and pitched an octave above it.
pick – (1) A small thin, somewhat triangular-shaped device made of metal, plastic, or ivory usually held between the thumb and index finger and used to pluck a stringed instrument. Also called a flat pick or plectrum. (2) To pluck a stringed instrument.
pickguard – a piece of plastic or similar material placed on the body of a guitar, mandolin, or similar plucked string instrument to protect the finish of the instrument from being scratched by the pick. The design of a pickguard can range from fairly plain to very ornate. Also spelled pick guard. Sometimes called a scratch guard or scratchplate.
pick scrape – a guitar playing technique in which the pick is held against one of the wound strings and moved up or down the string. As the pick moves it catches the string windings in rapid succession causing the string to vibrate producing a scratching, grinding, or grating sound. The technique is most effective on electric guitar as it is not loud enough on an acoustic guitar, sounding more like fret noise. It is typically used in the rock, punk or metal music genres. Also called pick slide.
pickup note – one or more notes at the beginning of a piece of music. Normally each measure must contain the number of beats specified in the time signature. The exception to this rule is the first bar, which may contain fewer beats. In this case, the notes are called pickup notes and the first measure is called a pickup measure. The extra beats usually are taken from the final measure.
pickup pattern – the shape of the area to which a microphone is equally sensitive. A pickup pattern gives similar but less detailed information than a polar pattern. Sometimes spelled pick up pattern. Also called a response pattern, directional pattern, microphone directivity, microphone directionality, or directivity response.
pico- (p) – the SI prefix for a factor of 10‑12 or one trillionth.
picofarad (pF) – one trillionth (10‑12) of a farad.
piconet – a network of devices connected on the same Bluetooth channel, that functions like a small wireless network. The network can have from two to eight connected devices. One device takes the role as the master while the other devices become slaves. The name comes from “pico,” meaning small and “net,” short for network, because it is limited in both number of devices and the range, which is about 10 meters (32.8 ft). Data transfer rates vary from 200 to 2,100 kbps. Sometimes called a personal area network (PAN).
piercing – (1) A descriptive term for a strident, shrill sound that is hard on the ears, typically having sharp peaks in the 3 to 10 kHz range. (2) Something that some muscians do in order to hang jewelry from various appendages on their bodies.
piezoelectric ceramic – a ceramic, such as lead zirconate titanate (often called PZT), that produces a voltage when subjected to pressure. Although piezoelectric ceramic is often used interchangeably with piezoelectric crystal, they are technically different.
piezoelectric crystal – a crystal, such as quartz, that produces a voltage across its opposite faces when subjected to pressure. Although piezoelectric crystal is often used interchangeably with piezoelectric ceramic, they are technically different.
piezoelectricity – the ability of some crystals to produce a voltage when subjected to pressure or stress. Also called the piezoelectric effect.
piezoelectric loudspeaker – a loudspeaker that uses a piezoelectric material to generate sound. A voltage is applied to a piezoelectric crystal that is attached to a diaphragm, and the resulting mechanical movement creates sound. The advantages of piezoelectric speakers over conventional loudspeakers are they are resistant to overloads that can destroy other drivers and they can be used without a crossover. The main disadvantage is poor frequency response. Because of that, they are often used only as single-tone buzzers, but they also have been used in electronic devices, such as watches and smart phones or as tweeters in inexpensive speaker systems, such as computer speakers. At least one manufacturer has used them in their digitaltelevisions sets. Sometimes called a piezo speaker and colloquially called a pizo.
piezoelectric pickup – a transducer used to convert the vibrations of string instruments, such as electric guitar and electric bass, into an electric signal that can be amplified. Mechanical vibrations cause microscopic distortions in the shape of a piezo-electric crystal, which generates a small voltage. See also magnetic pickup.
pigment – another name for magnetic coating, a term carried over from the paint and coating industry.
pillarboxing – displaying a video with black bars on the sides of the image to accommodate images of differing aspect ratios, such as a 4 x 3 image displayed on a 16 x 9 screen. Pillarboxing is the vertical equivalent of letterboxing. Sometimes called reverse letterboxing. See also windowboxing.
ping-pong – to bounce a track in a multitrack recording.
ping-pong delay – a delay in which the effect alternates between the left and right channels, like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth across the table.
pink noise – a random noise with a a 3-dB decrease in energy per octave. Because every octave contains the same amount of energy, pink noise is often used as a reference signal in audio engineering. See noise colors.
every octave contains the same amount of energy and thus pink noise is often used as a reference signal in audio engineering.
pin out – the configuration (arrangement and function) of the connections on a multi-pin connector. Also spelled as pin-out and pinout. See chart of Standard Audio Connections.
pit – a microscopic depression on an optical disc burned into the surface with a laser, used to store digital data. Each pit represents the digit 1, while the space between pits (land) represents the digit 0.
pitch – (1) A property of sound consisting of repeating vibrations at a specific frequency, as opposed to unpitched sound, which is noise. (2) The musical quality of a tone as determined by its frequency. (3) The perception of the frequency of a sound by the human ear. (4) A musical tone or note expressed by a letter from A to G. See chart showing all the pitches and their frequencies, as well as the corresponding MIDI note numbers. (5) To categorize an instrument or voice in a particular musical range. (6) The number of grooves per inch on the surface of a phonograph record.
pitch bend – (1) A smooth change in pitch caused by the movement of a pitch-bend wheel or lever. See also bend depth. (2) The wheel or MIDI command that creates a pitch shift.
pitch correction – a process in which the pitch of a note played or sung can be changed to the correct pitch without changing the speed. The process can be used to correct bad notes without being noticed by the listener, or as a special effect that rapidly changes the sound, an effect now known as the “Cher effect.” There are several brands of pitch correction including Antares' Auto-Tune and Celemony'sMelodyne.
pitch control – a control on some audioplayback devices, such as turntables, CD players, and tape decks, that provides for changing the playback speed, in order to change the the pitch or frequency of the sound, to match a tempo, or to fit within an allotted time. Some devices have the ability to compensate for the change in frequency that occurs with the change in the speed so that no change in pitch occurs. Also called a vari-speed, especially when used on tape decks in the UK.
pitch shift – to raise or lower the pitch of a sound without changing its duration or timing. A pitch shift can be as little as a fraction of a cent (such as when doubling, widening, or chorusing) or by as an octave or more for creating harmonies or special effects. Also called pitch transpose.
planar magnetic headphones – headphones that operate in a manner that is a hybrid between dynamic headphones and electrostatic headphones. The planar magnetic driver has a relatively large diaphragm, a thin membrane containing an embedded wire pattern that is suspended between two sets of oppositely aligned permanent magnets. When current from an audio signal is passed through the wires in the diaphragm, the magnetic field produced reacts with the field of the permanent magnets and induces movement in the membrane, which produces sound. Also known as othodynamic headphones.
planar magnetic loudspeaker – a type of flat-panelloudspeaker that consists of two main components, a diaphragm and magnetic arrays. The term planar refers to the fact that the magnetic field is distributed in the same plane as the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a thin, lightweight film with a grid of conducting wires imbedded within it that function like a voice coil. An audio signal applied to these wires interacts with the magnetic field causing the diaphragm to move back and forth creating sound. Planar magnetic speakers are very responsive because the diaphragm can move rapidly with very great accuracy. They have an excellent frequency response and low distortion. Because they have fewer moving parts than conventional dynamic speakers, they are very durable. They also have a flat impedance over the entire frequency range, unlike conventional speakers in which the impedance varies with frequency. Unlike electrostatic speakers, planar magnetic speakers do not need step-up transformers nor a bias voltage supplies. Sometimes called a planar loudspeaker.
plate reverb – (1) An artificial reverberation effect created by using an electromechanical transducer to create vibrations in a large metal sheet suspended on springs. A pickup captures the vibrations and converts it into an audio signal. It was one of the first types of artificial reverb used in recording. The very first plate reverb was the EMT 140, a 600-pound (270-kg) device introduced by the German company Elektro-Mess-Technik (EMT) in 1957. (2) A software or hardware effects processor that emulates a plate reverb. See also spring reverb.
playback mode – the configuartion of a recorder in which one or more tracks are ready for listening to audio that previously have been recorded using the record mode or the sync mode. Also called play mode or reproduce mode.
play by ear – (1) To be able to play a piece of music after hearing it a few times, without reading the music. (2) To play a musical instrument well, without any formal training.
player piano – a self-playing piano, which has a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that plays the piano using pre-programmed music recorded on piano rolls. Modern versions of player pianos use MIDI-encoded music stored on disks or CDs. Also known as a pianola.
playlist – (1) A list of the recorded music to be broadcast on the radio during a particular program or time period. (2) A list of media files to be played on a portable media player, computer, or other device, either sequentially or randomly. (3) A group of clips on the same audio or MIDI track in a DAW that allow the user to create alternate takes or edits of a performance. This allows the user to choose the best take or make a comp by choosing the best portion of each take. Other DAWs refer to this as an edit list, play order list, take, take folder, track alternative, comp track, or multi-lane. Sometimes spelled play list.
plosive – the sound made when air is suddenly released resulting in a popping sound on a microphone, for example, when singing or saying words beginning with letters such as “P” and “B.” Compare with aspiration. See also blast.
PLOUD – the European Broadcast Union (EBU) group that works on loudness issues, especially as they pertain to the broadcasting industry and manufacturers of equipment used within the industry.
plug-in – a software program that is added to and works through a digital audio workstation to provide additional effects. Sometimes spelled as the less-preferred plugin. Also called an add-in or add-on.
plug-in format – the interface that allows a plug-in to communicate with a DAW in order to work on the audio file. Common formats include VST, AU, RTAS, and AAX. Also called a plug-in interface or plug-in architecture.
podcast – (1) A digitalaudio file of information or a program that can be downloaded from the internet to a computer or portable media player, often presented as a series of programs to which people can subscribe and listen to on a regular basis. (2) To make a digital audio file that can be downloaded as a podcast.
point-to-point wiring – a method of constructing electronic circuits in which individual components are connected by wires usually by hand. This was the method of building circuits before the printed circuit board (PCB) came into general use. PCBs are generally more easily massed produced because the process can be automated. Point-to-point wiring is still sometimes used in high-quality devices that are hand-built. Sometimes called point-to-point construction.
point source – a theoretical concept that assumes an energy source, such as sound, emanates from an extremely small point. This concept is used to simplify calculation for speakers, acoustics, and other audio phenomena. In reality, sounds usually are projected from much larger sources, such as a 6-inch cone.
polarity – the direction or charge indicated as positive or negative of an electric current, an audio signal, or a magnetic force. Polarity and phase are often used interchangeably, but that is incorrect. Polarity is simply a reference to the position of a signal or voltage above or below the median line. Two identical signals of opposite polarity are 180 degrees out of phase with each other at all frequencies. Phase refers to a delay in the wave.
polarity inversion – (1) To change (reverse or invert) the direction of an electric current, an audio signal, or a magnetic force from positive to negative or vice versa, equivalent to changing the phase of a signal by 180 degrees. With an analog signal, the voltage is changed from positive to negative, which reverses the current flow. With a digital signal, resersing polarity flips the waveform so that positive values become negative and vice versa. Sometimes incorrectly called phase inversion or phase reversal. (2) The condition of one channel of a stereo signal being reversed. When this happens with a loudspeaker, it results in phase cancellation which distorts the stereo image and causes loss in the bass frequencies. Also called polarity reversal, reversed polarity, inverted polarity, polarity flipping, or signal flipping.
polar graph – a circular plot or graph in which the location of a point is determined by its distance and angle from a fixed point at the center. Microphone polar patterns and speaker radiation patterns are presented on this type of graphs.
polarized – designed in such a way that a plug, especially an electric plug, or jack (outlet) can fit together in only one direction, keeping positive connections positive and negative connections negative.
polarized light – light which is filtered so that the vibrations oscillate in only one direction perpendicular to the direction of propagation. Ordinary light light vibrates in many differenct planes, but polarized light vibrates in only one.
polar pattern – a circular plot that indicates the directional response of a microphone at various frequencies. A polar pattern provides greater detail than a pickup pattern, although they are often used interchangeably. There are three major categories of microphone directionality: omnidirectional, unidrectional, and bidirectional. Unidirectional can be further refined into five patterns for a total of seven microphone polar patterns: (1) omnidirectional, (2) cardioid, (3) subcardioid, (4) supercardioid, (5) hypercardioid, (6) lobar (shotgun), and (7) bi-directional (figure-eight). Also called polar response or polar response curve. See chart showing characteristics of directional microphones.
pole-zero mapping (PZM) – a method of designing filters, using a formula to determine the poles and zeros, which are then mapped. A pole is a single-frequency point of increasing gain in a filter, while a zero is a single-frequency point of decreasing gain. Using an RC circuit filter design, a single-RC circuit (having one capacitor and one resistor) is a one-pole filter. A two-pole filter has two RC circuits, and so on. A one pole filter will generally provides a rolloff of about 6 dB per octave, while a two-pole filter has about 12 dB per octave, with more poles having steeper rolloffs. Also called matched Z-transform method, pole-zero matching, or matched pole-zero mapping.
polyester – the material commonly used as a base for magnetic recording tape, having essentially replaced acetate film. It is a film of biaxially-oriented polyethylene terephthalate (BoPET), a polyester made by stretching polyethylene terephthalate (PET) film. It is used in many application beside recording tape because of its high tensile strength, chemical and dimensional stability, transparency, and heat resistance. The most common trade name is Mylar, a trade mark of DuPont.
Polyhymnia International – a recording and mastering company formed when former employees bought the Philips Recording Center in Baarn, Netherlands, after it was shut down when Philips Classics was merged into the Decca Music Group in 1999. They also opened Pentatone Records, which specializes in SACD releases.
Polyhymnia pentagon – a surround sound microphone technique proposed by Polyhymnia International (formerly Phillips Classics). Five omnidirectional microphones are arranged according to the loudspeaker arrangement as defined by ITU-R BS775, with the recorded signal from each microphone being panned into a corresponding speaker from this recommendation. The five microphones are placed on a circle with a radius of 2 meters (6.5 ft). The angle between the center mic and the left and right mics is 30°. The angle between the center and the surround mics is between 100 and 120°, with 110° being the most common setting. The length of the radius can be adjusted depending on the size of the ensemble, as well as the size of a room. This technique is sometimes described as a multichannel version of the Decca Tree system.
polyphony – (1) A style of music that simultaneously combines several parts, each forming an individual melody and harmonizing with the other. (2) The ability of a synthesizer or electronic instrument to play more than one note at one time. The opposite of monophony.
polyvinly chloride (PVC) – a plastic material from which, among other things, is manufactured phonograph records. In actuality, the material is a copolymer of vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate. Since the advent of the LP, PVC has been the predominant material for making records. Called vinyl for short.
porous absorber – an absorber made of a material with an open structure that allows sound to enter and be converted to thermal energy at the surface of pores. Examples include foams, mineral fibers, fabrics, and carpets. Porous absorbers act on sound particle velocity, while membrane absorbers act on sound pressure. At a hard reflective surface, particle velocity drops to zero, but sound pressure reaches its maximum. For this reason porous absorbers are less effective at surface boundaries. Porous absorbers are effective on mid to high frequencies. Also called a resistive absorber because it causes the air molecules to resist motion or velocity absorber because it reduces the sound velocity. See also resonant absorber and acoustic treatment.
portamento – (1) To smoothly slide from one note to another. Although similar to glissando, it is slightly different as glissando is smoother and more continuous, while portamento is a more rapid pitch change that occurs at the end of the note. It differs from legato, which is playing notes contiguously by jumpinmg from one note to the next.Portamento is Italian for “carriage” or “carrying.” Also called glide. (2) A setting on some synthesizers that causes notes to be played in a portamento style. The amount of time to slide from one note to the next may be adjustable, fixed, or scaled (determined by the distance between the notes).
Portastudio – a four-trackrecorder that used standard cassette tapes that was introduced in 1979 by TASCAM (now a division of TEAC) . The Portastudio 144, the world's first cassette-based multitrack recorder, was followed by several other models. Although the term Portastudio is a trade name of TASCAM, it is often used generically for similar multitrack recorders made by other manufacturers. Most of these machines were four-track models, but some six-track and eight-track units were also produced. Newer models are digital, record to a hard drives, and have as many as 32 tracks of audio. See also portable studio.
ported speaker – a speaker design in which the enclosure has a vent or hole in the cabinet that is attached to a tube, which minimizes pressure buildup within the cabinet. Such speakers are much more efficient than acoustic suspension designs, which use sealed enclosures. Ported speakers have improved low-frequency output and can use smaller enclosure sizes than non-ported designs. Also known as bass reflex, vented speaker, vented box, or reflex port.
positional reference – a reference used to provide location information between devices for the purpose of time code.
positive – (1) A number or value greater than zero. The opposite of negative. (2) In a plot of waveforms, audio signals, and similar quantities, the portion that is above the cener line (which is usually zero, but not always). See also absolute polarity. (2) One of the two fundamental types of electric charges, the other being negative. An atom with more protons than electrons will have a positive charge. A positively charged object will repel other positively charged objects and attract negatively charged objects.
post – (1) Means “after,” as opposed to pre, which means “before.” In the recording studio, it is used to refer to signals to which effects have been added, such as post-equalization, post-effects, or post-fader. (2) An abbreviation for post production. (3) See binding post.
post echo – the repetition of a sound occurring after the original sound caused by tape print-through.
post-fader – a send on a console, mixer, or DAWs after the level adjustment (fader) in the signal path, so that when the level is adjusted, it affects the signal being sent. Post-fader sends are normally used to send effects from a particular channel, because the channel fader controls both the level sent to the main mix as well as the level of send. So an adjustment of the fader wil retain the relative proportion of wet and dry signal. If the wet signal level did not follow the dry signal level, the affected signal would still be heard after the channel fades out. The opposite of pre-fader. Also called post-fade send.
post production – (1) Tasks that have to be done after mixing is finished and before making the master. These include additional editing, sequencing of tracks for an album, and the addition of metadata such as title, artist, and ISRC codes. (2) Audio post production for video (APPV). Sometimes spelled postproduction or post-production. Called post for short.
pot – (1) Short for potentiometer. (2) A substance used by some musicians to take the “edge” off before a performance or recording session.
potential – the work done per coulomb of test charge moving a small positive test charge from the negative terminal to some point in a circuit. Often represented by the Greek letter phi (Φ). Potential difference is the work done per coulomb of charge moving a small positive test charge between any two points. Potential difference is measured with a voltmeter.
potential acoustic gain (PAG) – a measure of the gain that a sound system can achieve at or just below the point at which feedback occurs. See also gain before feedback.
power (P) – (1) The measurement of the ability of an electrical current to produce work per unit time, measured in watts. One watt equals one joule per second. Power also equals volts times amperes (1 joule/coulomb x 1 coulomb/sec = 1 joule/sec = 1 watt. Power can be calculated by P = I X R = V/R X V = V2/R, where I is current, R is resistance, and V is voltage. From this you can see that power is proportional to the square of the voltage. (2) The rate at which energy is produced by a sound source, measured in watts. Also called acoustic power or sound power. (3) The electricity supply that provides energy to appliances and other electronic devices. In the US household power is usually alternating current at 60 Hz and 110 volts. Other countries use various combinations of 110 or 220 volts at 50 or 60 Hz.
power adapter – a small transformer that usually plugs directly in to a wall outlet and converts alternating current (ac) to a lower voltage (usually dc but sometimes ac) that can be used by an electronic device. Also called an AC adapter, AC/DC adapter, AC converter, charger (if used to recharge a battery), wall wart (slang), line lump (slang), or power brick (slang used with laptops when the transformer does not plug into the wall).
power amplifier – an electronic device that takes a line level signal and boosts it to a level where it will drive a loudspeaker.
power chord – a chord consisting of a root note and its fifth interval. Typically, power chords are played on amplified electric guitars, often with distortion, and are frequently used in rock music. Also called a fifth chord.
power cord – the wire that plugs into a wall outlet and provides electricity from the power grid to an appliance or other electronic device. Also called a line cord or mains cable (British).
power level (dBW or dBm) – a measure of power as indicated by the logarithm of the power relative to a reference value of 1.0 watt (W), expressed as dBW), or referenced to 1.0 milliwatt (mW), expressed as dBm).
power strip – a unit that provides for multiple electrical outlets to be conncected to one wall outlet. Sometimes called a mains multiblock (British), multiblock, extension block, power board, power bar, plug board, or trailer lead.
power supply – (1) A circuit that provides voltage and current needed to run a device. The efficiency of a power supply is usually represented by the Greek letter eta (η). Sometimes called a power supply unit (PSU). (2) A source of power. Sometimes called a power source.
PPQN – Pulses Per Quarter Note or Parts Per Quarter Note. A specification for the timing resolution of MIDIsequencers, as indicated by the number of parts into which a quarter note is divided (for MIDI systems, usually 480). Also abbreviated as PPQ. Also called ticks per quarternote (TPQ).
PQ subcode – data containing timing information embedded in a compact disc to allow a player to cue instantly at the beginning of each track, provide display of elapsed time, and other track information.
pre-chorus – a transitional section of music that occurs just before the chorus. It moves the music forward and prepares the listener, both melodically and lyrically, for the hook of the chorus. The pre-chorus varies in length from just one line to a several lines, but typically it is about four bars. Although a pre-chorus is optional, if the first verse has a pre-chorus, then all subsequent verses typically have a pre-chorus, with either the same lyrics or different lyrics. Also called transitional bridge, build, lift, or channel climb. See also bridge
pre-delay – (1) The amount of time between the the incident sound and the first reflection of that sound. (2) In a reverb processor it refers to the amount of time between the original dry sound and the onset of audible reverb processing. Proper adjustment of pre-delay can greatly affect the clarity of a mix, especially with vocals. See also pre-delay time.
pre-delay time – a parameter found on many reverb units that sets the amount of time before reverb begins. See also pre-delay.
pre-fade listen (PFL) – a term used on consoles, mixers, and DAWs for a signal taken before the main channel fader. This signal is not affected by the fader position. It is especially useful for listening (via headphones) to an input that has the fader all the way off. In broadcast this function is often called cueing and in recording and live sound it is called soloing. See also AFL and APL.
pre-fader – a send on a console, mixer, or DAWs before the level adjustment (fader) in the signal path, so that the level can be adjusted without affecting the signal being sent. Headphone mixes are often sent pre-fader, so that fader adjustments do not affect the headphone mix. The opposite of post-fader. Also called pre-fade send.
pregroove – a spiral groove stamped into the polycarbonate layer of an writable optical disc during the manufacturing process. The pregroove track is used to guide the read/write laser during writing in order to maintain accurate spacing between tracks. The spiral has a slight sinusoidal deviation from a perfect spiral, and the frequency of this sine curve is called the wobble frequency. The wobble frequency is used to synchronize the rotation speed of the disc to maintain an accurate linear velocity (the speed of the track as it passes the laser). The wobble is also modulated with a timecode reference signal called the ATIP. Sometimes spelled pre-groove.
premaster – (1) The final version of a compact disc or DVD (often recorded on a CD-R or DVD-R) that is sent to a replication facility for manufacturing. (2) In predigital times the process of cleaning up and bouncing various tracks to create the final master track.
premix – (1) Preparing an audio project for the mixing stage by arranging, labeling, grouping, and otherwise preparing tracks. (2) A mix of several tracks into into one audio track to be combined with one or more similarly mixed tracks to form the main or final mix. Sometimes spelled pre-mix.
prerecorded tape – a magnetic tape on which sound has been recorded and offered for sale to the public. That format now is essentially obsolete.
pre-roll – (1) The amount of time set for an audio track to play before a punch in. Pre-roll gives the musicians a chance to hear a small amount of the music prior to the punch point for context and/or to establish the rhythm and tempo. (2) The amount of time a tape machine runs before the start of a recording take. See also post roll.
preproduction – all the work that takes place in preparation for a recording session, including hiring a producer, hiring session players, choosing a studio, choosing and arranging songs, etc. Sometimes spelled pre-production.
presence – (1) The sense that a reproduced instrument or voice is actually present in the listening room. This effect can be enhanced by boosting equalization in the upper midrange. (2) A descriptive term for emphasized response in the 2.4 kHz to 5 kHz range, the so-called presence range.
presence range – the portion of the audio frequency spectrum that affects perceived presence, typically in the 2.4 to 5 kHz range. It is sometimes included as a part of the midrange frequencies. Also called middle highs.
preset – (1) A factory-programmed patch or effect for a synthesizer that cannot be changed by the user. (2) A set of factory-set parameters used to produce a particular effect on a signal processor.
PreSonus Audio Electronics, Inc. – a manufacturer of equipment and software used in live sound and recording studios based in Baton Rouge, LA.
pressure (P) – the force applied on or to the surface of an object per unit area. The SI unit for pressure is the pascal (Pa), which is one newton per square meter. In US customary units it is measured in pound (force) per square inch (psi). Lower frequency sounds tend to be transmitted by pressure, while higher frequencies tend to be transmitted by particle velocity.
pressure gradient microphone – a microphone that reacts to the difference in pressure (pressure gradient) between the front and back of an open diaphragm. Such microphones are very sensitive to sound from the front and rear, but not on the sides. Pressure gradient is a vector quantity (meaning it has a directional component). Since velocity is also a vector quantity, such microphones are also called velocity microphones. Contrary to the often stated definition of a velocity microphone, they do not react to air particle velocity. Ribbon microphones are velocity microphones, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, whereas all ribbon ribbon microphones are velocity microphones, not all velocity microphones are ribbon microphones. Contrast with the pressure microphone.
pressure wave – a wave consisting of repeating patterns of high-pressure and low-pressure areas moving through a medium, such as air. Sound is a pressure wave. A plot of a sound wave is sine wave, where the peaks represent compressions, the valleys represent rarefactions, and the point where the curve crosses the zero line represents the pressure in the medium (air) with no sound.
pressure zone microphone – a type of boundary microphone designed to be attached to a flat surface. (Note: not all boundary microphone are pressure zone mics.) It has a diaphragm mounted parallel to a plate and is separated from the plate by a very small airspace (the pressure zone), which gives it a 6-dB boost. The pressure zone mic has a wide, smooth frequency response, even to off-axis sounds. It is sold under the trademark PZM®.
prestissimo – a musical term indicating an extremely fast tempo, as quickly as possible, typically 178 to 200 bpm. See chart of tempo terms.
presto – a musical term indicating an extremely fast tempo, typically 168 to 200 bpm. See chart of tempo terms.
preverb or preverberation – (1) The difference in time between a direct sound and the first reflection from a room surface. Also called initial time delay. See also reverberation. (2) A special effect produced by recording a reverberation while playing a track backwards, and then reversing it so that the reverb precedes a note rather than follow it.
print – (1) To record to magnetic tape. (2) To make a copy of a movie film. (3) A copy of a movie film. The version that is provided to a movie theater for exhibition is called the final print or release print.
printed circuit board (PCB) – a thin sheet of non-conductive material onto which thin strips of a conducting material such as copper have been attached or printed to simplify assembly of an electronic circuit or circuit board. Components are soldered to the printed circuit board rather than wiring them individually, which is called point-to-point wiring.
printing resolution – see resolution, definition #4.
print master – the final edit of a movie soundtrack that is ready to be transferred directly to a film track negative or a magnetic stripe print with all edits, equalization, and noise reduction in place. Also called a running master.
producer – the person who manages and supervises the recording of one or more songs, with the desired quality and within budget. The duties of a producer vary, but among other things the producer may collaborate with the artists to select songs, select the audio engineer, arrange for musicians at the recording session, make suggestions to improve performances, and work with the engineer to select and edit sounds and effects. Also called a record producer or music producer.
production – (1) The recording process to produce a song. (2) The processes and actions carried out by a producer. (3) A recording that is enhanced with special effects. (4) The process carried out to create a movie or a radio or televisionprogram or commercial.
Professional Audio Manufacturers Alliance (PAMA) – A world-wide trade organization of senior executives of manufacturers of professional audio products, with the goal of promoting growth and profitability for the professional audio manufacturing industry.
program – (1) To create a synthesizerpatch. (2) A synthesizer patch. (3) The audio or video signal of interest in a given system as opposed to noise. (4) Coded instructions for the automatic performance of a particular task by a computer. (5) To write coded instructions for the performance of a particular task by a computer. (6) A show on radio or television. (7) A continuous segment of audio upon which a loudness measurement is made under the ITU BS.1770 standard, such as a television program, advertisement, or music track. British spelling is programme.
program bus – a bus or output line that feeds audio to a track on a tape machine. British spelling is programme bus.
program mixer – a mixer on a console consisting of an inputs, outputs, combining amplifiers, and program buses. British spelling is programme mixer.
progressive scan – a technique for displaying video images in which all the lines of each frame are drawn in sequence, as opposed to interlaced video used in traditional analog television systems where one field was displayed on the odd lines and a second field on the even lines of each frame. Also called noninterlaced scanning.
project – (1) The term used by some DAWs for a session or a single song. (2) The planning and execution of the tasks needed to record an album.
proportional-Q equalizer – a graphic or rotary equalizer in which the bandwidth (Q) changes in proportion to the amount of boost or cut in level. Although sometimes called a variable-Q equalizer, that term is less accurate in that the user cannot adjust the Q on such equalizers. See also constant-Q equalizer.
Propellerhead Software – a music software company founded in 1994 and based in Stockholm, Sweden, and the creator of the computer program Reason.
prosumer – a slang term referring to a piece of gear that is between the consumer and professional market. It may be designed for the consumer market, but it has professional features and capabilities. See also semi-professional.
protected channel – a US TV channel in which TVBDs are prohibited as designated for a given location per FCC rules.
Pro Tools® – the trade name belonging to Avid for a digital audio workstation. Digidesign who originally designed Pro Tools was bought by Avid, who phased out the Digidesign name in 2010. Often abbreviated as PT.
Pro Tools|First – a free introductory, streamlined version of Pro Tools aimed at beginners. Although does not have all the functionality, it has much of the capabilities and works just like regular Pro Tools.
Pro Tools|HDX – the professional version of Pro Tools introduced by Avid in 2011. The HDX line offers greater performance in dynamic range, latency, and computational power than the older Pro Tools HD line, which it replaced. Pro Tools|HDX has two versions: HD|Native and HDX. HD|Native systems use the host's CPU for all audio processing, but maintains the advanced workflows and sound quality of Pro Tools|HD. HDX can use up to three HDX cards per system, which provides DSP processing and relieves the host from this processing. TDM technology is no longer supported with HDX products.
Pro Tools LE – the non-professional version of Pro Tools, which was discontinued with the introduction of Pro Tools 9. It was replaced with what is now called Pro Tools standard or Pro Tools native. Other versions of Pro Tools with even less power than Pro Tools LE include Pro Tools SE and Pro Tools M-Powered.
pseudo-balanced line – similar to a balanced line except that the third line (pin-3 for an XLR connector or the ring lead for an ¼-inch TRS connector) has a resistor equal to the resistance of the other two lines. Also called a quasi-balanced line.
public broadcasting – radio and television stations that broadcast programming as a public service. In many countries, funding is provided by the government or through annual fees charged on receivers. Public broadcasters in the US receive some funding from federal and state governments, but most financial support comes from foundations and businesses, along with contributions from listeners through pledge drives. Most are operated as non-profit companies and are associated with colleges and universities.
public domain – a designation for content that is not protected by any copyright, patent, or other restriction and, therefore, belongs to the public at large. Such works may be freely copied, shared, altered, or republished by anyone. A work is in the public domain because the copyright, patent, or other restriction has expired or it never had such protection, sometimes being placed in the public doman purposely. Copyright and other restrictions vary by type of content and by country.
publisher – a company that administers copyrights and licensing of music to performers, record companies, and others wanting to record the music. They also collect royalties on behalf of the songwriter. Also called a music publisher or publishing company.
pulse code modulation (PCM) – a method of digitally encoding and decodingaudio signals. It is the method of encoding audio in wav files, compact discs, and many other applications. The PCM method samples the amplitude of the analog signal at regular, uniform intervals, and each sample is quantized to a value within a range of digital steps. LPCM (linear pulse code modulation) is PCM with the amplitude represented in a linear fashion. With DPCM (differential pulse-code modulation) the amplitude is represented as the difference from the previous amplitude sample, but also involves some predictive functionality. ADPCM (adaptive differential pulse-code modulation) is a variation of DPCM that varies the size of the quantization step to further reduce the bandwidth for a given signal-to-noise ratio. See also pulse width modulation and pulse amplitude modulation.
pulse-density modulation (PDM) – a method of digitally encoding and decodingaudio signals. It is the method of encoding audio in SACD discs. PDM encodes the relative density of pulses corresponding to an analog signal, as opposed to PCM that encodes amplitude values into pulses of different sizes. Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is a variation of PDM in which all the pulses are contiguous in the digital signal.
Pulse Techniques, Inc. – a company formed in Teaneck, New Jersey, in 1953 by Eugene (Gene) Shenk and Oliver (Ollie) Summerlin, which used the tradename of Pultec. Although they made several products for the recording studio, they are probably best known for the Pultec EQP-1A equalizer. In 1981 after attempts to sell the company failed, they closed their doors.
pulse width modulation (PWM) – a method for obtaining analog results using digital methods. Using digital control to create a square wave, a signal can be switched between on and off. This on-off pattern simulates voltages between full on and full off by changing the amount of the time the signal is on versus the time that the signal is off. The duration the signal is on is called the pulse width. Various analog values can be obtained by modulating the pulse width. When the on-off rates are fast enough, the signal acts like an analog signal. PWM is used in certain classes of amplifiers and in other devices. Also called pulse-duration modulation (PDM).
Pultec EQP-1A – an all-tubeequalizer designed and manufactured by Pulse Techniques, Inc. Beginning in 1956 they started with the EQP-1, which had a limited number of frequencies. In 1960-61, the number of frequencies was expanded when the EQP-1A replaced the EQP-1, a 3-rack unit. In 1970, it was replaced by the 2-rack-unit EQP-1A3, which was identical to the 1A in parts and specs. Then the EQP-1A3SS was introduced in the late 70s and featured solid-state make-up gain circuitry. Solid-state circuitry was easier to build and lower in cost and was the trend in the industry at the time. However, it was the vacuum tube version that become legend.
punch – the characteristic of a sound that seems to reach out and grab you. Such a sound has definition and presence. However, punch tends to be used more often with electric guitars and basses, while presence is used with both voices and instruments. See also punchy.
punch and roll – a technique used by voice over artists in which, upon making an error, they stop recording, playback a few seconds of the preceding audio, punch in prior to the point where the error was made, and continue recording with a seamless transition. This procedure eliminates the need to go back and edit files later. Sometimes spelled punch 'n' roll.
punch in – (1) The process of inserting a corrected musical part into a previously recorded track by going into record mode as the track is played. At the end of the corrected part, the device is taken out of record mode (punch out). (2) To insert a corrected musical part into a previously recorded track.
Note: We believe this is the largest dictionary (glossary) of terms specific to usage within the recording industry that is currently available on the internet, with more than 8,300 entries, nearly 600 illustrations, and dozens of tables. Some of the terms have different or additional meanings in other situations, especially within the electronic, automotive, scientific, and computer industries. Of necessity there are obvious overlaps into other fields such as music, electronics, and computers, but such excursions are limited to information deemed pertinent to the knowledge required to operate and/or participate effectively in the workings of a recording studio. Also included are terms related to sound reinforcement (live performances) including wireless microphone technology because a working knowledge of that terminology is necessary for recording at live performance venues. Because recording studios also record audio for video and motion pictures (films), some terminology from those fields is included. Some scientific terms are included because they help explain studio terminology. For example, electromagnetism explains how microphones, loudspeakers, and guitar pickups work. Knowledge of radio waves and the radio frequency spectrum is needed to explain wireless devices. Any trademarks or trade names mentioned belong to their respective owners. The information contained in this dictionary is believed to be accurate at the time of publication. This information is subject to change without notice. The information was obtained from and cross-checked with a variety of sources that are believed to be reliable. However, Los Senderos Studio, LLC does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained herein. Please contact us to report any errors, omissions, discrepancies, or broken links. Los Senderos Studio shall not be responsible for any consequences or damages arising out of the use of this information. Nothing in this glossary should be interpreted as legal advice. For a glossary providing information on legal and business matters for musicians, we suggest you consult Musicians Business Dictionary.
A note on alphabetical order: The terms in this glossary are alphabetical without regard to spaces and punctuation. For example, AM Radio follows amplitude. While this may seem to be at odds with other conventions, it eliminates confusion with words such as pickup, which is sometimes written as pick up or pick-up. In addition, all symbols such as &, -, or / are ignored. The entries on the number page (0-9) are listed in increasing value within each digit. For example, all of the entries beginning with 1 are listed before those starting with 2. For Greek letters (α-ω), the entries are in Greek alphabetical order.