s – the standard abbreviation for seconds, although sec is often used.
SABC – South African Broadcasting Corporation. The state-owned broadcasting system in South Africa, providing radio and television broadcasts to the general public. Also known as Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie (SAUK).
sabin – a unit used to measure sound absorption. Sabins can be in either imperial or metric units. One sabin is the absorption of one square foot of 100% absorbing material. One metric sabin is the absorption of one square meter of 100% absorbing material. Named for Wallace Clement Sabine, a pioneer in architectural acoustics.
Sabine formula – a formula developed by Wallace Clement Sabine for estimating reverberation times. The formula is RT60 = k × V/Se where k = k = (24 × ln 10)/C20 = 0.16 s/m or 0.049 s/ft, V is the volume of the enclosed space (in m3 or ft3, and Se is the effective absorbing area (in m2 or ft2), and C20 = speed of sound at 20°C = 343 m/s or 1126 ft/s. See Modeling Reverberation Time and Calculating Reverberation Time for more details. Also called the Sabine equation. Other formulas used for estimating reverb times include the Fitzroy formula and Eyring formula. The accuracy of these formulas vary with their complexity.
SACD – Super Audio Compact Disc. A read-only optical disc for delivering digital audio developed jointly by Sony and Philips and introduced in 1999. Providing surround sound and longer playing time than a compact disc, it or its competing format DVD-Audio were intended to be the successor to the compact disc, but neither has made a significant impact on the consumer market.
SACEM – Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique. SACEM is a performance rights organization in France that protects the rights of artists and publishers and collects and distributes royalties to its members. It is similar to BMI, ASCAP and SESAC in the US.
saddle – the part of the bridge that physically supports the strings on a stringed instrument and aids in the transmission of string vibrations to the soundboard or pickups. It may be one piece (such as on acoustic guitars) or separate pieces for each string (such as on electric guitars). Saddles are typically made of plastic or bone for acoustic guitars, while electric guitar saddles are typically made of metal, although sometimes synthetic materials are used. Saddles on acoustic guitars are often slightly angled to compensate for differences in string thickneses. Also called a bridge saddle.
sample peak – the highest indicated peak value within the digital audio samples of a program using the ITU BS.1770 standard. Because it does not take inter-sample peaks into account, it is usually lower than the true peak value.
safety take – a take made after an acceptable take has been recorded. Sometimes abbreviated ST.
sag – a drop in the power supplyvoltage in during large transients, which tends to compress the output signal, particulary in tubeguitar amplifiers. Although sag sometimes creates a nice dynamic feel, it also can have bad side effects, such as ghost notes—notes on top of the guitar note that is usually not harmonically related to the note being played.
SAG-AFTRA – Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG-AFTRA is a union of radio, television, and screen performers representing a wide variety of talent, including actors, announcers, singers, recording artists, and others. It was formed in 2012 when AFTRA merged with SAG and became known as SAG-AFTRA.
samarium-cobalt magnet – a strong permanentrare earth magnet, made of an alloy of samarium and cobalt (SmCo). They were developed in the early 1970s by Albert Gale and Dilip K. Das of Raytheon Corporation. They have magnetic strengths comparable to neodymium magnets, but are more resistant to oxidation, have higher temperature ratings, and higher coercivity, but they are also more expensive than neodymium magnets. Also called a SaCo magnet.
sample – (1) To measure the voltage (amplitude) of an audio signal at regular intervals in order to convert it into digital data. (2) To use a portion of an audio track. see digital sampling. (3) A portion of an audio track. Also called a patch. (4) A single measurement of the voltage of an audio signal. (5) A short audio clip used for playing back sounds, such as the sound of a particular musical instrument. (6) The unit used in most DAWs for buffer size equal to 1 second divided by the sample rate (Hz). A buffer size of 512 samples is equal to 11.6 ms when using a sample rate of 44.1 kHz. (1/44100 × 512).
sample-and-hold (S/H) or (S&H) – the step in the process of analog-to-digital conversion in which the signal voltage is measured and that level is held constant for the duration of the sampling interval as determined by the sample rate. This measurement is then converted into a digital word before measuring the next sample.
sample dump – the transfer of a digitally recorded sample via MIDI transmission from one device to another without an intermediate conversion to analog.
sample dump standard (SDS) – a specification for the transfer of samples via MIDI.
sample library – (1) A collection of digitalaudio recordings (samples) of instruments, ensembles, or even full orchestras that can be used to create music. These samples files can be loaded into a sampler (either a hardware or software-based) for creating music. (2) A collections of samples that are commercially produced, licensed, and sold to be used as samples, which are either distributed physically on CD or DVD or downloaded from the internet. Sometimes called a sample pack. See also sound library.
sample rate – the frequency at which an analogaudio signal is sampled in order to convert it into digital data, usually expressed in samples per second or kilohertz (kHz). The standard sample rate for music projects is 44,100 samples per second (44.1 kHz), while the standard rate for audio on video projects is 48,000 samples per second (48 kHz), or multiples thereof. Also called sampling frequency, sampling rate, or sample frequency.
sample rate conversion – the process of changing a digitalaudio file from one sample rate to another, without changing the speed or pitch of the file. Also called sampling rate conversion.
sample synthesis – the creation of a sound with a synthesizer in which a digital oscillator plays back a digitally sampled recording of an actual sound, such as a note played on a guitar or flute. Also called playback synthesis or sample-based synthesis.
sampling – (1) The process of converting an analog signal into a digital format by measuring the voltage of the analog signal at small evenly spaced intervals of time. See also sample and sample rate. (2) The process of using a portion of an audio track.
sampling synchronization – pulses generated by a DAT recorder, which are recorded on the tape and used as a clock reference signal for sample timing.
sampling theorem – a theorem developed by Harry Nyquist and Claude Shannon in the 1940s that states that a bandlimitedanalog signal can be perfectly reconstructed from an infinite sequence of samples if the sampling rate exceeds twice the samples per second of the highest frequency in the original signal. The theorem also was independently developed by E. T. Whittaker, Vladimir Kotelnikov, Karl Küpfmüller, Dennis Gabor, and others. These names are sometimes associated with this theorem, but it is most commonly called the Nyquist sampling theorem, the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem, or simply the Nyquist theorem. See also Nyquist frequency.
Samsung Group – a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea, with numerous affiliated businesses, operating primarily under the Samsung brand name. It was founded as a trading company in 1938 by Lee Byung-chul. Samsung diversified into a variety of businesses including food processing, textiles, insurance, securities, and retail. It entered the electronics industry in the late 1960s. Today mobile phones and semiconductors have become the most important source of income for its subsidiary, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sansui Electric Co., Ltd. – Sansui Denki Kabushiki-gaisha. A manufacturer of audio and video equipment headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, part of the Chinese Hong Kong-based conglomerateof Grande Holdings, which also owns the brands Akai and Nakamichi.
SAP – Secondary Audio Programming. A third channel used with the MTStelevision format for standard-definition television broadcasts prior to the adoption of HDTV. It could be used for alternate languages or other purposes. Sometimes called secondary audio program, second audio program, or separate audio program.
Sa value – a measure of the relative liveness of a room, where a low Sa indicates a very live room and a high Sa indicates a dead room. S is the total surface area of the room in sqare meters or square feet, and a is the average absorption coefficient of all the surfaces. The effective absorbing area is designated Se, where Se = s1a1 + s2a2 + ... snan for each surface 1 through n. It is part of the Sabine formula.
saxophone – a musical instrument in the woodwind family with a single-reed mouthpiece and a usually curved conical-bore metal (usually brass) tube with holes that are opened and closed with keys. There are basically four types in current use, which includes the soprano saxophone, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, and baritone saxophone. Called a sax for short.
scalar – a quantity that is completely specified by its magnitude or numerical value and has no direction, such as mass and length, as opposed to a vector quantity which has both magnitude and direction. For example, velocity is a vector quantity while speed is a scalar quantity. Scalar quantities may be added, subtracted, or multiplied like ordinary numbers, while vector quantities cannot.
scale degree – the indication used to specify the position of a particular note within a musical scale relative to the tonic. The tonic is degree 1 or the first degree of the scale, the next note is degree 2 or the second degree, and so on. For example, a perfect fifth would be the interval between the tonic and the fifth degree of a major scale. Scale degrees can be used with any musical scale. Although sometime called a scale step, this term can easily be confused with intervals, such as whole steps and half steps.
scale lock – a function found in some virtual instruments that locks in a particular scale, so only notes within that key can be played.
scan – (1) To move a focused beam of light or electrons in a systematic pattern over a surface to produce an image, as in a television or computer screen. (2) To move a recording or playback head across a magnetic recording tape in a particular pattern, such as helical scan. (3) To digitally encode with an optical scanner. (4) A single sweep of the beam of electrons across a television screen. (5) The method by which a recording or playback head passes over a magnetic tape. (6) A picture or image produced by scanning.
scene – (1) A group of settings in a device, such as fader levels, effect types, send levels, and panning that can be saved and retrieved later. Also called a snapshot, configuration, setup, or scene memory. (2) In some DAWs, a collection of several tracks, similar to a session view in other DAWs.
Schroeder frequency – the frequency between the low frequencies at which standing waves occur in small rooms and the midrange frequencies. It is dependent on the dimensions of the room, but typically it is in the range of 160 to 200 Hz. It is named for Manfred Robert Schroeder, the German physicist known for his work in acoustics and computer graphics. Also called a crossover frequency, transition frequency, or room transition frequency. See frequency zones.
SCMS – Serial Copy Management System. A copy protection scheme to prevent repeated copying of digitalaudio files using consumer audio devices. SCMS sets a copy bit in all copies that prevents making further copies of the first digital copy, but does not limit the number of first-generation copies made from an original.
scoop – (1) To cut a range of frequencies using an equalizer. (2) The range of frequencies cut with an equalizer.
score – (1) Sheet music, either printed or handwritten, using normal music notation and symbols. (2) To write music using normal music notation. (3) Music composed to accompany and enhance the mood of a movie or television production. Also called a film score, background music, or sound track music.
score editor – an editor found in some DAWs as well as standalone programs that uses standard musical notation to input and edit MIDI notes and other events and provides for the ability to print a copy of the score. Also called score writer, music notation software, notation software, or music notation processor.
scratch – (1) Temporary, as in a scratch track. (2) Short for scratch vocal or scratch track. (3) To quickly move a record back and forth with a stylus in the groove to produce a “scratching” sound in a rhythmic pattern, as performed by a musician or disc jockey. (4) A thin, shallow cut or mark, especially on a vinyl record. (5) To make a thin, shallow cut or mark, often with an abrasive material, such as to scratch a record.
scratch track – a temporary recording made to use as a guide for overdubbing final tracks. Also called a guide track.
scratch vocal – a temporary recording of the vocal track used as a guide for overdubbing the instrumental parts. Also called a guide vocal or reference vocal.
screen – (1) A panel designed to reflect or absorb soundwaves, used to isolate one performer from another or to modify the acoustics of the room. See gobo. (2) The front surface of a television set, computer monitor, or other display on which an electronically created picture or image is formed using a cathode ray tube, LEDs, or other technology. (3) A light-reflecting surface on which motion pictures or slides can be projected. (4) Collectively, motion pictures or the motion-picture industry. (5) A British term for a cableshield.
screening room – a room in which movies are shown on a large screen for a small private audience, usually associated with the movie industry. If it is not capable of using commercial theater technology, then it should be considered a home theater.
scribble strip – the area on mixers, consoles, and control surfaces used to indicate the input assignment for each channel. Some engineers use removable tape in this area, which can be removed when no longer needed. The scribble strips on some devices are electronic displays, which often can be saved to be recalled later.
scribe – to etch identification codes (called matrix numbers) with a sharp stylus into the runout area near the label of a master record after it has been cut by a lathe. These markings can be seen on the finished record.
scroll – the decoratively carved end of the neck of some stringed instruments, especially members of the violin family. A typical scroll is carved in a spiral shape, but sometimes in other shapes such as animal heads. Scroll designs originated in the Baroque period. See also headstock.
scrub – (1) To move a recording tape backwards and forwards manually across a playback head while listening to the audio to find a precise edit point. (2) A function of many DAWs that allows a person to move an audio file backwards and forwards while listening to the audio to find a precise edit point, in a manner similar to that of definition #1.
SDHC card – Secure Digital High Capacity card. A type of flash memory storage device that allows for higher data capacities (greater than 4 GB) than the conventional SD card. Becasue SDHC cards use a new technology, they are not backwards compatible with the SD format.
SDMI – Secure Digital Music Initiative. A group formed 1998, composed of computer, consumer electronics, security technology, and recording industry companies, for protecting the copyright of music distributed over the internet.
Se – effective absorbing area or equivalent absorption surface. See Sa value.
sealed back – having a speaker basket with no rear openings. A sealed-back basket prevents sound waves from exiting the back of the driver and interfering with the sound from other drivers, while increasing the sound emanating from the front. Almost all tweeters have sealed backs, as well as some midrange drivers. The typical speaker basket has an open-back design.
sealed diaphragm – a microphonediaphragm that is enclosed in such a way that the back cannot receive sound pressure changes. This is the mechanism used in a pressure microphone. Also called a sealed case.
SECAM – Seqential Couleur Avec Memoire. An analog color televisionbroadcasting system developed in France as an alternative to PAL. Because it was incompatible with PAL which was in Western Europe, it was adopted extensively throughout eastern Europe..
segment display – a form of electronic display device used for displaying decimal numerals, which is an alternative to the more complex dot matrix displays. They can use incandescent, LED, or LCD displays. The are used in digital clocks, electronic meters, DAW minute:second displays, and other digital displays. There are several versions including the 7-segment display, the 9-segment display, 12-segment display, 14-segment display, and the 16-segment display, becoming more complicated as the series progresses, but easier to read, as well as to better display letters in addition to numerals.
segmented meter – a series of LEDs designed to indicate a level such as audio level by progressively showing more LEDs as the level increases. In software, a graphical representation of the LEDs is used. See also VU meter.
segue – (1) To move smoothly without interuption from one song or movie scene to another. (2) The smooth uninterupted transition from one song or movie scene to another.
semiconductor – (1) a substance, such as germanium or silicon, that has the property of conducting electricity somewhere between that of a conductor and an insulator. (2) A device, such as a transistor or integrated circuit, that depends on the properties of such a substance.
semi-professional – a decriptive term for audio equipment that has professional or near-professional performance, but that is not built to the same durability standards as professional equipment or that is missing one or more features normally included on professional devices. Called semi-pro for short. See also prosumer.
semitone – in music, half a tone or a half step, the smallest increment of pitch in tonal music; the difference in pitch between two adjacent keys on a piano or two notes on a chromatic scale. There are 12 equal half steps per octave. This is the system typically used in western music. Also called a half step or half tone. See also quarter tone and whole tone.
send effect – an effect inserted into an effects bus or aux track. The output (the processed signal) returns to the DAW output where it mixes with the direct signal from the track. Send effects are usually set at 100% wet, with the amount of the effect controlled by the send level. Typical send effects are time-based effects (reverb, delay, and echo). By contrast an insert effect is inserted into a track, in series with the signal on the track to process that signal. Typical insert effects are sspectral effects (equalizer) or dynamic effects (compression, gating, and de-essing).
Sennheiser Electronic GmbH & Co. KG – a private German company founded in 1945 and headquartered in Wedemark, Germany, that
specializes in the design and manufacture of a wide range of consumer and professional audio products, including microphones, wireless microphones, headphones, and telephone accessories. In 1991, Sennheiser acquired Georg Neumann GmbH, of Berlin.
Sennheiser MD 421 – a dynamicmoving coil microphone with a cardioid pattern introduced in the 1960s by Sennheiser. With a 27-mm capsule, the MD 421 is one of the few dynamic microphones with a large diaphragm, and features a wide frequency response from 30 to 17,000 Hz. Its high sensitivity and slight bump in response in the high frequencies results in a brilliant sound. Since its introduction, it has been released in several versions, which include the case color (grey and beige or black), connections (originally DIN and later XLR), bass rolloff switches, and mounting thread size, as indicated by various suffixes. The current version is the MD 421-II. Throughout the various versions, the capsule and electronics have remained unchanged.
sensitivity – (1) The minimum inputsignal to a device required to produce a rated output signal with a specified signal-to-noise ratio. (2) The output voltage generated by a microphone by a specified sound pressure level. IEC standard 268-4 specifies sensitivity to be measured in millivolts/pascal (mV/Pa) with a 1-kHz sine wave at 94 dB-SPL (which equals 1 pascal). However, in the US sensitivity is often expressed in in dBV, relatively to 1 V/Pa. Other units sometimes used include dBu/microbar (μbar) or dBV/μbar. Because 1 pascal equals 10 μbar, sensitivity in dB/μbar are 20 dB lower than dB values referenced to 1 Pa. (3) The ability of a loudspeaker to convert power into sound. It is usually the sound pressure level (SPL) generated by a 1-watt signal (2.83 volts into an 8-ohm speaker) measured at a distance of 1 meter, specified in dB-SPL. Typically it uses a signal with a frequency of 1 kHz, but sometimes it is measured at several frequencies and averaged. Speaker sensitivity should always specify the impedance. (4) The degree to which a radio receiver responds to incoming waves. (5) The level at which a processor begins to work on a parameter. (6) An indication of the relative output of a recording tape as compared to a standard reference tape. A tape with a sensitivity of 2 will have a 2-dB greater output than the reference tape. (7) The trim control on a console or mixer.
sensory inhibition – the phenomena in human beings in which a response to one stimulus causes the response to a second stimulus to be inhibited. For example, a sound entering one ear causes us not to hear a delayed (less than 35 ms) second sound entering the other ear. See the Haas effect.
separation – (1) The ability of one microphone to reject undesired sounds intended to be picked up by other microphones in order to minimize phase cancellation. (2) The amount of isolation between a signal from one channel and that of an adjacent or neaby channel, measured in decibels. See crosstalk.
sequence – (1) A set of commands providing step-by-step instructions of musical data, used by a sequencer. (2) To place the songs of an album into the desired playing order during the mastering process.
sequencer – a device that can be programmed to play a step-by-step set of musical instructions, usually in the form of MIDI data.
series – (1) Two or more processes, functions, or operations taking place sequentially rather than simultaneously. (2) A signal that is fed through a sequence of components one after the other. (3) A method of sending data in which each digit of a digital word is sent one at a time over the same wire. Opposite of parallel in which such functions operate simulataneously.
server – (1) A computer program that provides services to other computer programs, which may or may not be located on the same computer. (2) A computer program that fulfills requests from client programs.(3) A computer on which a server program runs. Such a computer may function as a both a server and a client. It is considered to be part of a client-server model
servo balanced – an active balanced output using two op amps, one driving positive while the other is driving negative. The two outputs are cross-connected so that if one output goes to ground, the other will make up the difference by putting out twice the voltage.
session file – in some DAWs, a working file, similar to a word processing file, that contains data describing how media files are to be displayed and played, as well as metadata about the audio and MIDI files on which it depends, plus related data such as fades, playlists, and selections. Each separate song or project is stored in its own session file. Other DAWs refer to this as a project file, project document, set file, or song file.
session musician – an instrumental or vocal performer who is available and can be hired to work during recording sessions or at live performances. Sometimes called a studio musician. When using a session musician, one should work out a session musician agreement under a work-for-hire arrangement to prevent future claims of royalties.
session tape – the original recording made during a recording session.
set list – (1) A printed or handwritten list on paper, cardboard, or other material of the order and titles of the songs that a band or musician plans to play for a specific performance. The set list is often taped to the floor, a music stand, or some other place where the musicians can see it. (2) The songs the musicians plan to play or have played for a performance, but not actually written down. (3) The track list for an album. Sometimes spelled setlist.
setup – (1) To place musicians and microphones to achieve the desired recording quality or effects. (2) The placement of microphones and musicians in a recording studio. (3) To place equipment, microphones, and instruments on a stage for a performance or in a studio to be ready for tracking. (4) The signal chain. (5) The settings in a DAW as in definition #1 of scene. Sometimes spelled set up.
setup time – the amount of time required by a band or artist to be ready to perform in a recording studio or on stage. (See setup definition #3.) Usually the drummer needs the most time to setup his or her drum kit. Most studios include setup time in the hours billed.
seventh – in music, the interval that includes seven positions on the music staff. (See interval number.) A major seventh has a theoretical ratio of 15:8. However, in the equal temperament system, in which the notes are spaced equally, the ratio from middle C (262.63 Hz) to B4 (493.88 Hz) is 3:7.98, or about 12 cents wider than the 15:8 ratio. While a major seventh has an interval of eleven semitones, a minor seventh has an interval of ten semitones, a diminished seventh has an interval of nine semitones, and an augmented seventh has twelve.
shaker – an untuned percussion instrument composed of a body containing a number of small beans or pellets made of metal, stone, or glass, which bounce against the inside walls of the instrument when it is shaken or struck. Shakers are prevalent in many musical cultures and are often made of natural materials. Sometimes called a rattle.
sharp – (1) Higher in pitch by one semitone (one half step). (2) Slighly above the correct musical pitch. (3) The musical symbol (♯) used to raise a note by one half step.
Sharp Corporation – Shapu Kabushiki-gaisha. A Japanese multinational company founded in 1912 and headquartered in Abeno-ku, Osaka, Japan, that designs and manufactures electronic products. Its name comes from one of its founder's first inventions, the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil, invented by Tokuji Hayakawa in 1915.
shedding – the phenomenon of the magnetic coating of recording tape deteriorating and sloughing off. Although all recording tapes shed to some degree, the situation can be aggravated by poor tape quality, aging tape, storage in hot and humid conditions, frequent use, and use in machines with abrasive tape transports. See also sticky-shed syndrome.
sheet music – music notation using musical symbols, usually handwritten or printed on paper, although it can be presented on a computer screen. The term sheet music is usually used to differentiate written music from other presentations, such as sound recordings, broadcasts, live performances, or videos.
shellac – a resin made from the secretions of the female lac bug. It is used in many applications, including at one time the manufacture of 78-rpmphonographrecords. Although the formulations used in records varied over time and by manufacturer, it typically consisted of about one-third shellac and two-thirds mineral filler—usually finely ground slate and limestone—plus cotton fibers for tensile strength and carbon black to add color. Without the carbon black, the mixture tended to an ugly gray or brown color. A few companies, most notably Columbia Records, used a laminated construction with a core disc of dense fiber or filler coated with shellac.
shell voicing – a jazz chord that is reduced to three notes, usually consisting of the root, third, and seventh of the chord (no fifth). Sometimes the root is also omitted.
shelving filter – a filter that applies a constant amount of boost or cut above or below a specified frequency (the cutoff frequency, hinge frequency, or inflection point), resulting in a frequency response curve that resembles a shelf (called a shelving curve). A shelving filter can be either highpass or losspass, sometimes called a low shelf or high shelf filter, repectively. A low shelf is adjusted to cut or boost only the lower frequencies, like the bass control on hi-fi equipment. A high shelf is used cut or boost only the higher frequencies, like the treble control on such equipment. The frequency where the shelf begins is called the shelving frequency. Also called shelving equalizer, shelving EQ, or shelf filter.
Shepard tone – a sound consisting of multiple sine waves, each an octave apart, with the base pitch either rising or falling. The movement of the base pitch creates an auditory illusion of a tone that is continuously rising or falling in pitch, but seemingly not getting any higher or lower. It has been called a “sonic barber's pole.” It was invented by Stanford professor Roger Shepard, a cognitive scientist who did research on spatial relations. Also called a Shephard scale.
shock mount – a suspension system that isolates the microphone from mechanical vibrations coming from the stand, typically consisting of elastic bands mounted on a metal frame.
shootout – a informal contest in which various brands and models of audio equipment, most often microphones, are pitted against one another. Althought there are no strict rules, comparison should be made in real world situations in which conditions are maintained in such a manner as to not give unfair advantage to one or more devices.
short delay – a delay with a time of less than 20 milliseconds.
Shorten – a losslessaudio file format used to compress CD-quality files. Shorten is no longer supported because other lossless audio codecs such as FLAC, APE, TTA, and WavPack have become more popular. However, Shorten is still used by some people because there are many files still in in circulation that were encoded in Shorten. Shorten files use the .shn file extension.
shortwave – (1) A radio wave having a wavelength between about 10 m and 100 m, which corresponds approximately to the HF band with a frequency of about 3 to 30 MHz. (2) Broadcasting using radio waves of shortwave frequencies.
shortwave radio – radiotransmissions using shortwavefrequencies. Shortwave radio allows for long distance communication because radio waves of such wavelengths are reflected back to Earth from the ionosphere, which allows signals to go beyond the curvature of the Earth. Shortwave radio is used for two-way international communication by amateur radio operators as a hobby or in emergency situations, as well as long-distance communications between ships and aircraft. It is also used for broadcasting of voice and music.
shotgun microphone – a highly directional microphone used in distant recording, to isolate one sound from another. It has a lobar pattern (shotgun pattern). A shotgun microphone uses a directional capsule, typically a supercardioid, with a long, hollow, slotted tube placed in front of it. Called an interference tube, this device allows desirable on-axis sound to pass umimpeded straight down the the tube to the diaphragm, but the undesired off-axis sound enters through the various side slots. Because the undesired sound enters several slots at various distances from the diaphragm, the off-axis sounds arrive at the diaphragm with varying amounts of phase shift which partially cancel out one another, creating interference. This arrangement creates tighter directionality (particularly at higher frequencies), which reduces the ambient noise, but at the expense of a worse direct-to-reverberant ratio. Also called a rifle microphone, interference microphone, interference tube microphone, or simply gun microphone for short.
shuffle mode – one of four methods of editing in Pro Tools in which a clip added to a track will move to the nearest clip or to the beginning of the track. If a section is removed from the middle of a track, the space between the two remaining clips will be closed. If you add a clip to the middle of a track, the two clips will make room for the new clip. The other three methods are grid mode, spot mode, and slip mode.
shuffling – a technique for correcting stereo imaging. There are two types of shufflers : (a) the Blumlein Shuffler, developed by Alan Blumlein of EMI in the 1930s, used to correct the output from a near-coincident pair of omni microphones, that converts the low-frequencyphase differences between the two mics into amplitude differences to improve stereo imaging and (b) the Stereosonic Shuffler, developed at EMI in the 1950s, that used different but similar techniques, to improve stereo imaging of loudspeakers. For the most part, both these processes were rarely used until recently when they were incorporated into some processors to improve stereo imaging.
shunt – (1) An electrical conductor between two points of a circuit, used to divert a current. (2) To divert a current to another point in a circuit. The typical purpose is to remove a problematic signal, voltage, or interference by diverting it to ground where it can be rendered harmless.
Shure SM57 – a low-impedance, cardioid, introduced in 1965 by Shure, which, along with the SM58, is one of the best-selling microphones in the world. In 2004, it was among the products first-ever induction into the TECnology Hall of Fame. The "SM" stands for Studio Microphone. The SM57 uses the same capsule as the popular SM58. Due to its sturdy construction it is frequently used on the stage. It is also used in the studio for instruments with instruments that produce high sound pressure levels, such as kick drums, broadcastsnare drums, toms, and guitar amplifiers.
Shure SM58 – a low-impedance, cardioid, introduced in 1966 by Shure, which, along with the SM57, is one of the best-selling microphones in the world. The SM58 uses the same capsule as the popular SM57. It is considered the industry standard for live vocal performance microphones. The SM stands for Studio Microphone.
Shure Unidyne Model 55 – a microphone introduced by Shure in 1939, the first high-quality, low-cost moving-coildynamic microphone with a unidirectional cardioid pattern. It was marketed for broadcast, public address, recording, and two-way radio, with three versions: Models 55A, 55B, and 55C with low, medium, and high impedances respectively. In 1940 the Model 555 was introduced, a version specific for broadcasting with an improved vibrational isolation mount. In 1947, the broadcast version became the Model 556, and the three 55 models were replaced with a single version with an impedance selector switch. In 1951, Shure introduced the Small Unidyne, which, along with other improvements, was smaller and lighter, in two configurations: Model 556S for broadcast and Model 55S for general use. Over the years, as additional improvements were made, the Unidyne 55 became a cultural icon.
shuttle – (1) To rapidly move backward and forward manually through a digital audio waveform or tape recording to find a precise edit point. Jog refers to moving very slowly, while shuttle refers to moving very fast. (2) A method for stopping the tape on a tape machine while fast-forwarding or rewinding in which the operator switches directions and then presses stop just as the tape begins to change direction. (3) A control (typically a dial or wheel), often operated in conjunction a jog or scrub control, to allow an operator to rapidly find a general location and then use the jog or scrub control to zoom in on the precise location while listening to the audio.
SI – Le Système International d'Unités (International System of Units). The preferred metric system of measurements used in science and in international commerce. This system is based on the MKS (meter-kilogram-second) system. The CGS (centimeter-gram-second) system is no longer the preferred system of measurement. Today the US is the only country in the world not on the metric system. See US customary units.
sibilance – the high-pitched whistling sound that occurs when saying or singing certain sounds, such as “s” and “sh.” Most sibilance occurs in the 6 to 10 kHz region. See de-esser.
sibilant – having exaggerated “s” and “sh” sounds when singing. See sibilance.
side-address – a microphone which picks up sound from the side, rather than the end. Also called side-fire. See also end-address.
sideband – one of two frequency bands on either side of the carrier wave of a radio signal that contains the modulated signal. All modulation of radio signals produce sidebands. Amplitude modulation of a carrier wave normally produces two mirror-image sidebands, the upper sideband (USB), frequency components above the carrier frequency, and the lower sideband (LSB), those below the carrier frequency. Normal AM transmission has a carrier and both sidebands, which is called double-sideband (DSB) or double-sideband amplitude modulation (DSB-AM). Transmitting only one sideband is called single-sideband (SSB) transmission, which is commonly used with voice mode shortwave radio except for shortwave broadcasting.
sidecar – a smaller console attached to a larger console to provide extra channels or different preamps and effects. The most common example of a sidecar is the Neve BCM10, a console used primarily in the broadcast industry during the 1970s. The sidecar was named for the small one wheeled vehicle attached to the side of a motorcycle to carry an extra passenger.
side chain – (1) A circuit or signal used to modulate the output of a dynamics processor. Also called a key or detector circuit. See also key input. (2) To control a dynamic processor with an external signal as in definition #1.
siemens (S) – the SI unit for conductance, susceptance, and admittance. Conductance, susceptance, and admittance are the reciprocals of resistance, reactance, and impedance respectively. One siemens is equal to the reciprocal of one ohm, and is also called a mho (ohm spelled backwards). The unit is named for Ernst Werner von Siemens, inventor of the moving coil microphone. In English, the term siemens is used for both singular and plural.
signal chain – similar to signal flow except with flow the order of devices is the criteria, but with signal chain the name and type of device is of most importance. For example, a signal chain would specify what microphone, preamp, compressor, etc., was used for a particular application or session. Sometimes called recording chain or program chain.
signal processor – a device, circuit, or plug-in that modifies the audio signal that passes through it, such as equalizers, compressors, limiters, expanders, and gates. Also called an aignal processing device (SPD), effects processor, audio processor, or audio signal processor.
signal strength – in radio, the magnitude of the electric field at a reference point that is at a significant distance from the transmittingantenna, usually expressed in voltage per length. High-powered transmitters, such as those used in broadcasting, are expressed in dB-millivolts per meter (dBmV/m). For low-power transmitters, such as mobile phones, signal strength is usually expressed in dB-microvolts per meter (dBμV/m) or in decibels above a reference level of one milliwatt (dBm).
signal-to-noise and distortion ratio (SINAD) or (S/N+D) – a measure of the quality of a signal measured in dB. It is the preferred way to specify the maximum signal to noise (dynamic range), because the noise and distortion are measured in the presence of a signal. The term was originally used with communications receivers, but now many A/D converters include it on their sheets. The abbreviation SINAD is most commonly used in the communication industry, while S/N+D is favored by the audio industry, but the terms are interchangeable.
signal to quantization noise ratio (SQNR) – a measure of quality for analyzing the digital conversion (quantization) of an analog signal. SQNR is defined as signal power divided by quantization noise power. The SQNR roughly equal to 6 times the bit depth. For example, the maximum SQNR for 16-bit resolution is about 96 dB. Also abbreviated as SNqR.
silencer – a device used to reduce the noise inside air-handling (HVAC) ducts and other systems caused by the fan and the passage of air flowing through ducts, elbows, branches, and other components. Also called duct silencer or muffler. There are several types of silencers. A dissipative silencer uses sound absorbing materials to attenuate sound waves, and is typically configured in parallel baffle arrangements. An absorptive silencer also uses sound absorbing materials to line ducts and plenum chambers. A reactive silencer (also called a reflective silencer) reflects sound waves back to the source. The simplest reactive silencer is an expansion chamber. Reactive silencers are rarely used in HVAC systems.
silent – (1) Having or making no sound. (2) Characterized by the absence of sound.
silky – a descriptive term for a sound with high frequencies that are velvety-smooth and open. Opposite of shrill.
silvery – a descriptive term for a sound that is slightly hard or steely, but clean.
simulated stereo – using various audio processing techniques to produce two stereochannels from a monophonicrecording to create the impression of a wider stereo image, but without any true directional information. This process is often used in stereo recordings to enhance certain instruments, such as acoustic guitar. However, when commercial stereophonic records were first introduced, many record companies produced simulated stereo records from existing monophonic recordings to satisfy the demand for stereo records, as well as to be able to charge a higher price. Capitol Records used the trade name Duophonic for this process, while Columbia Records used the phrase “Electronically Re-channeled for Stereo.” Other descriptions used by other labels included "Electronically Reprocessed Stereo,” “Electronically Enhanced Stereo,” “Re-channelled Stereo,” “Electronically Re-channelled to Simulate Stereo,” “Electronically Reprocessed to Simulate Stereo,” or “Electronically Re-recorded to Simulate Stereo.” In most cases, the simulated stereo recordings sounded nothing like stereo recordings and were usually not as good as the mono versions. Also called pseudo stereo, artificial stereo, electronic stereo, enhanced stereo, reprocessed stereo, mock stereo, or fake stereo.
singer/songwriter – a musician who writes, composes, and performs his or her own music, both the lyrics and melody. Singer/songwriters often perform providing their own accompaniment on guitar, piano, or other instrument. Sometimes written as singer-songwriter.
single – a record released with just one song per side. Singles were issued to promote sales and airplay. Usually, but not always, the single was a song included in an album. Originally a single was issued as a 78-rpm record with one song on each side, although early on they had a song on just one side. Later the 45-rpmvinyl record became the main format for singles. Typically the side that was to be promoted was designated as the A side. With the advent of the compact disc, singles were issued for awhile on Mini CD (sometimes called “3-inch CDs”), but eventually the “5-inch” single became the norm. Singles are available today for download.
single-electron transistor (SET – a transistor that essentially passes one electron at a time. A SET uses controlled electron tunneling to amplify current. It consists of two tunnel junctions (two pieces of metal separated by a 1-nanometer thick insulator) sharing a common electrode. Electrons in one of the electrodes can only travel to the other electrode by tunneling through the insulator. The electric charge that flows through the tunnel junction is the charge of a single electron.
single-ended noise reduction – a noise reduction system that works only during playback. Other systems like Dolby and dbx work by applying processing during recording and reversing the process during playback.
single-system sound – a method of recording motion picture sound in which the sound is recorded directly onto the film in the camera at the time of shooting. Sound and picture are naturally in sync with each other. Single-system sound is commonly used for news and sports where the relatively lower sound quality is more acceptable. Video cameras use single-system sound, but may be used in double-system sound mode if audio is recorded separately.
sinusoidal – varying or appearing to vary as a sine wave.
Sirius XM Radio – a satellite digital radio service (SDARS), headquartered in New York City, with additional studios in Los Angeles and Memphis, providing pay-for-service radio to the US and Canada, analogous to premium cable television service. Originally Sirius Satellite Radio and XM Radio were competiors, but they merged in 2008 to become Sirius XM and began broadcasting a combined channel lineup a short time later.
sixteenth note – a music note having one-sixteenth the time value of a whole note. In 4/4 time, the sixteenth-note is equal to a quarter beat.
sixth – in music, the interval that includes six positions on the music staff. (See interval number.) A major sixth has a theoretical ratio of 5:3. However, in the equal temperament system, in which the notes are spaced equally, the ratio from middle C (262.63 Hz) to A4 (440.00 Hz) is 5:3.02, or about 5 cents wider than the 5:3 ratio. While a major sixth has an interval of nine semitones, a minor sixth has an interval of eight semitones, a diminished sixth has an interval of seven semitones, and an augmented sixth has ten.
sizzle cymbal – a cymbal with rivets, metal chains, or other rattles that buzz and vibrate when the cymbal is struck.
sizzly – a descriptive term for a vocal with excessive sibilance or the sound of a cymbal with excessive high frequencies.
skin effect – the tendency of alternating current to flow with the greatest current density on the outer surface of a wire with the density decreasing toward the center of the conductor. Because the inner portion of the wire carries less current, the effective resistance of the conductor is greater at very high frequencies.
skirt – frequencies that are on the edge of, or just beyond, a given selection. For example, the cutoff frequency of a filter is often defined as the point where the signal level is down by 3 dB. The skirt is the range of frequencies for the signal between 3 dB and remaining attenuation.
slapback echo – a type of echo with relatively short spaces between repetitions of the sound, so that discrete echoes can be heard, with a delay typically between 40 and 120 ms. Slapback was originally created using tape delay and was very popular in rockabilly-style recordings in the 1950s. Sometimes spelled slap back echo. Also called spin echo, slapback delay, slap echo, slap delay, or slapback for short.
slap bass – a technique used on a double bass or a bass guitar in which the strings are hit vigorously or plucked so hard that they bounce back hitting the fret board.
slate – (1) The announcement recorded at the beginning of a take that identifies the song title and take number. Analogous to the slate board in definition #2. (2) In film and video work, a board with a hinged stick attached (commonly called a clapstick or clapper) onto which is written the scene and take number. The sync point is identified by the sound of the clapstick. (3) Any visual or sonic marking in a medium.
slave – (1) A device controlled by another device, especially as related to synchronization. The device providing the reference signal is said to be the master, while those linked to it are the slaves. (2) To follow a reference signal provided by a master.
slide – (1) A tube made of metal, glass, or ceramic that fits over a finger used to slide up and down the strings of a guitar without lifting it, in a style called a slide guitar. Also called a bottleneck because originally they were made by breaking off the neck of a bottle and sanding it down. Technically, bottleneck refers to a glass tube and slide refers to metal tube, but the terms are often used interchangeably. When used with a steel guitar, it is called a steel. (2) Short for glissando slide.
slip cue – a method of cueing a record by placing the stylus just before the cue point and holding the record stationary while the turntable slips beneath it. When it is time to be played, the record is released and playing starts at the desired point. This method of cueing was frequently used by broadcast disc jockeys before the advent of the compact disc. The loose cue was not as tight and was probably used less often.
slip mode – one of four method of editing in Pro Tools that allows you to place an audio clip anywhere you wish and that is not affected by grid or time code values. the other methods are grid mode, spot mode, and shuffle mode.
slope – (1) In a compressor, the compression ratio. (2) In an expander, the expansion ratio. (3) In a filter, the amount of attenuation at the cutoff frequency often measured in db/octave, but can be measured in order or pole. A first-order or single-pole filter has a slope of 6 db/octave, a second-order or 2-pole filter has a slope of 12 db/octave, etc. Slopes are sometimes expressed in dB/decade. Because there are 3.3219 octaves in one decade, 6 dB/octave equals 20 dB/decade, 12 dB/octave equals 40 dB/decade, etc.
slot filter – a filter that increases the level of a highly selective and narrow passband (a slot). It is the opposite of the notch filter and is often used in forensics work for isolating certain sounds, such as a phone ringing in a noisy crowd.
slur – (1) To blend one musical note into the next. See also portamento and glissando. (2) A musical notation consisting of a curved line connecting different musical notes to indicate that they are to be slurred or blended together. It is similar to the tie, which is a curved line used to join together two notes of the same pitch to combine their durations. (3) To mark with a slur. (4) A passage played or sung in this manner. Also called glide.
smack – a slang term used by creators and listeners of electronic dance music for a portion of the bass range, which they divide into “the smack, the slap, and the drop.” The smack is the range from about 100 to 140 Hz, the slap about 50 to 100 Hz, and the drop is below 50 Hz.
small diaphragm condenser (SDC) – a condenser microphone with a small diaphragm, typically less than ¾ inch, although there is no strict size definition. Because of the smaller mass of the diaphragm, microphones with small diaphragms are able to respond faster to transients than larger ones. For this reason they are often the mic of choice for drum overheads and acoustic guitars. Although large diaphragm condensers are generally more sensitive than smaller ones due to the increased surface area, they are not better at capturing low frequencies than small diaphragms, contrary to popular opinion. Small diaphragm microphones do a good job of capturing high frequencies and have less coloration than the larger ones. Abbreviated as SDC. See also medium diaphragm condenser.
SMPTE leader – a film leader with the standard visual countdown preceding a movie. The SMPTE leader was introduced in the mid-1960s by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) to replace the Academy leader for use in both television and theater applications, although it was not widely accepted theatrically. It featured a continuous countdown from eight to two seconds using a rotating-clock-arm animation with the numbers appearing right-side-up when projected on a screen. (The Academy countdown numbers are updide-down and the countdown is in feet. There is a beep at two seconds, which is sometimes called the “2-pop.” Also called a SMPTE universal leader or universal leader. Around the year 2000, the name was changed to television leader.
S/MUX – Sample Multiplexing. A proprietary process licensed by Sonorus and used for transmitting high bandwidth digital audio signals using existing lower bandwidth technology. For example, using two or more 24-bit 44.1 kHz channels to transmit one 24-bit 96 kHz signal. Upon receipt these channels will be multiplexed back into one signal.
SN3D normalization – Schmidt Normalization 3-Dimensions. A weighting scheme, used with the ambiX format of Ambisonics, derived using a fairly complex mathematical formula. It is more widely used than N3D.
snake – a cable assembly that carries several channels of audio signals between two points, such as from a stage to a mixer. Snakes are available with and without snakeboxes. Also called a multicore cable or multi for short.
snake box – a small metal housing at the end of a snake that has connectors for each channel in the snake. Also called a stage box.
snap – (1) A function on a digital audio workstation (DAW) that causes an audio signal to align to the nearest division of a time grid. For example, a DAW can be set to snap to the nearest 0.1 second, the nearest eighth note, or other preset time division. Short for snap to grid. (2) The sharp attack of a drumstick on a snare or the beater on a kick drum. Snap can be enhanced by boosting the frequencies in the range of 3 to 6 kHz. Using a wooden or plastic-headed beater on a kick also will emphasize snap.
snare drum – a small drum in the form of a short cylinder with a membrane at each end, the upper one being struck with hard sticks and the lower one fitted with rattles (snares) made of gut, metal wire, or synthetics. Also called a side drum. Called a snare for short.
snare rattle – the sound caused by the vibration of the snares (wires) on a snare drum, which defines the characteristic sound of the snare drum. Increasing tension on the snares makes the “crack” or “snap” tighter. The pitch of the snare drumhead also affects the rattle. Also called snare buzz.
SOCAN – Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. SOCAN is the performance rights organizations (PRO) in Canada that protects the rights of artists and publishers and collects and distributes royalties to its members. SOCAN was formed in 1990 with the merger of CAPAC (Authors and Publishers Association of Canada) and PROCAN (Performing Rights Organization of Canada). In the US, the three main PROs are BMI, ASCAP, and SESAC.
Society of Broadcast Engineers (SBE) – a professional organization for engineers involved in radio and televisionbroadcasting. It also offers certification for members in a variety of technical areas of radio, television, audio, and video.
Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) – an international professional organization of engineers working in the motion picture and television industries. It has establisned over 600 standards, recommended practices, and engineering guidelines for television production, filmmaking, digital cinema, audio recording, information technology, and medical imaging. It was founded in 1916 as the Society of Motion Picture Engineers (SMPE).
Society of Professional Audio Recording Services (SPARS) – a professional trade group founded in 1979 consisting of manufacturers of audio recording equipment and recording service providers, to promote communication, education, and service among manufacturers and users of recording equipment.
soffit-mounted monitors – studio monitors that are flush-mounted in a wall enclosure and are acoustically isolated from the wall and control room, sometimes found in large professional studios. The benefits of soffit mounting are: (a) the elimination of edge diffraction, which produces a smoother midrange, (b) elimination of the cancellation reflections from the wall behind the monitor, and (c) increased acoustical loading for better efficiency at low frequencies. Monitors should be designed for soffit mounting as free-standing monitors will probably sound worse when soffit mounted. Also called wall-mounted monitors or flush-mounted monitors.
soft switch – short for software switch. A hardware- or software-based switch that sends a digital signal or message. Sometimes spelled softswitch.
software – computerprograms, instructions, and data that can be stored electronically in a computer, as opposed to the computer itself, display, storage devices, and other devices, which are called hardware.
solenoid – (1) A tightly wound helical coil often wrapped around a metallic core that produces a magnetic field when an electric current is passed through it. (2) A transducer that converts electrical energy into linear motion, such as a solenoid valve, which uses a solenoid to activate a valve, or a solenoid switch, a type of relay that uses a solenoid to operate an electric switch.
solid state – (1) The state of matter in which a material is not a liquid or gas, but retains its shape without support. In the solid state, atoms or molecule are unable to move freely because they occupy fixed positions with respect to one another. (2) An electronic device that uses semiconductors rather than vacuum tubes.
solid-state drive (SSD) – a data storage device that uses integrated circuits for memory to store data in place of a hard disk drive (HDD), using the same electronic interfaces making them compatible with and easy replacements for the HDD.
Solid State Logic, Ltd. (SSL) – a company founded in 1969 Colin Sanders, and headquartered in Begbroke, Oxfordshire, UK, that builds high-end mixing consoles and recording studiohardware. It is famous for the Solid State Logic SL4000 series mixing consoles. In 1988 the company became part of UEI, PLC. In 1989, UEI was acquired by Carlton Television, and SSL became part of its technology group. The company was sold to 3i in 1999. In 2005 SSL was bought by musician Peter Gabriel and broadcast industry entrepreneur David Engelke. In 2017, the company was acquired by Audiotonix.
solmization – a system of assigning a distinct syllable to each note in a musical scale. Different versions have been used in the past, and variations currently exist in other countries. However, the most common version in Europe and North America is called solfège. In English, the syllables for the diatonic scale are do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti.
solo – (1) A feature on a console or DAW that routes selected channels to the output or monitor while muting others. (2) Pertaining to or done by one person alone and unaccompanied. (3) A section of music that gives special prominence to one musician. Sometimes called an instrumental solo.
solo break – a short section of music in which the accompanying instruments stop playing (breaks) while the soloist sings or plays alone (solo).
solo-in-place (SIP) – a feature of some mixers, consoles, or DAWs that functions as solo, definition #1. However, for broadcast or live situations, pressing a solo button could be disastrous because it will affect the final output. So two modes are provided each with separate outputs: solo uses Pre Fade listen (PFL) while solo-in-place uses After Fade Listen (AFL). In effect, solo-in-place is distructive (affects the output being listened to) while solo does not.
soloist – a singer or musician who performs a solo.
solo volume – a control found on some consoles used to adjust the level of a track in solo mode.
sone – a unit of perceived loudness. One sone is defined as equal to 40 phons. Because a 10-dB increase, from 40 to 50 phons sounds twice as loud, 50 phons equals 2 sones. From 40 to 60 phons sounds four times as loud, so 60 phons equals 4 sones. In a similar manner, 70 phon = 8 sones, 80 phon = 16 sones, 90 phon = 32 sones, and so on.
song – (1) A short poem or set of words (lyrics) set to music and intended to be sung, usually (though not always) accompanied by musical instruments. (2) A musical composition. (3) Singing or vocal music, as opposed to an instrumental. (4) The term used by some DAWs for a session.
song position pointer (SPP) – a MIDI message indicating the number of sixteenth notes that have occurred since the beginning of a MIDI sequence file, used to syncronize two sequencers. Called song pointer for short.
Sony/ATV Music Publishing – a music publishing company co-owned by Sony and the estate of Michael Jackson. The company was originally founded as Associated Television (ATV), but was purchased by Michael Jackson in 1985.
Sony Corporation – a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, whose business is primarily focused on the electronics, game, entertainment, and financial services sectors.
Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS) – a digital surround-sound format for motion pictures developed by Sony. The SDDS soundtrack is optically printed on both edges of 35mm film. In addition to the usual 5.1 format, SDDS provides for two additional channels: left-center and right-center. The additional two speakers deliver more uniform sound, especiallly for wide-format screens.
Sony PCM-1630 – a digital format developed by Sony using a ¾-inch U-Maticvideocassette that at one time was used to store masters for compact discs using 44.1-kHz PCM. Besides the music data, it contained additional information such as time codes to mark track locations. This data would be directly transferred to a glass master. It is rarely used anymore as it has been replaced by other formats such as the CD-R.
soprano – (1) The highest vocal range of the adult female voice, usually a range from about Middle C to High A (C4 to A5) or above. (2) The musical range above alto. (3) A singer whose voice is within this range. (4) A musical instrument that plays within this range. (5) A vocal or instrumental part written in this range.
soprano clef – the symbol on a music staff indicating that the bottom line on the staff represents the pitch of middle C. One of five C clefs, the soprano clef is mostly obsolete now.
sound – (1) A pressure wave (an organized movement of molecules forming compression and rarefaction zones) moving through air caused by a vibrating object. Sound can also be transmitted with similar characteristics in other materials, such as water or wood. Sound is also a mechanical wave and a longitudinal wave. (2) The auditory sensation produced by the ear by pressure waves in a medium vibrating between 20 and 20,000 times a second. Both definitions #1 and #2 are similar with the first being the cause and the second being the result. (3) A soundwave. (4) Any audible vibrational effect, such as a sound that occurs in nature or a sound effect used to emulate such a sound.
soundbite – a term used by some DAWs to indicate a very small section of an audio file. It is somewhat of a pun on the broadcast term for a small segment of audio or film footage taken from a longer speech or interview. Other DAWs may be refer to this as a region, event, segment, zone, or clip. Sometimes spelled sound bite.
soundboard – a resonant piece of wood located under the string assembly of a piano or other instrument that reflects sound away from it and gives it its characteristic sound. Also spelled sound board. Sometimes called a sound box.
sound editor – (1) A person who selects and mixes dialog, music, and sound effects in preparation for the final mix for film, video, or video games, typically using a digital audio workstation (DAW). Sometimes called a supervising sound editor or cutter. (2) Software used to digitally edit audio files using a computer. Also called an audio editor.
sound effects – sound other than music, narration, or dialog used in a movie soundtrack, such as the sound of gunshots, footsteps, and crashes. Often abbreviated SFX for sound effects or simply FX for effects. See also Foley and special effects.
sound energy – a form of energy associated with the vibration of matter, expressed in joules (J) or watt-seconds(W-s). Sound is a mechanical wave and consists of compression and rarefaction of air (or other medium). Therefore, the medium stores both potential and kinetic energy.
sound energy density (w) – the time-averaged sound energy per unit volume, expressed as joules per cubic meter (J/m3) or watt-seconds per cubic meter (W-s/m3). Sound energy density is defined as E = I/c, where I is the sound intensity in W/m2 and c is the speed of sound in m/s.
sound energy density level – is a logarithmic indication of the sound energy density relative to a reference value of 10‑12joules per cubic meter (J/m3) or watt-seconds per cubic metter (W-s/m3). Sound energy density level (LE) in dB is defined by LE = 10 log (E/E0), where E is the sound energy density and 0 is the reference sound energy density.
sound energy level (Lw) – a logarithmic indication of the sound energy relative to a reference value of 10‑12joules. Sound energy level (Lw) in dB is defined by Lw = 10 × log (W/W0), where W is the sound energy and W0 is the reference sound energy.
sound engineer – a specialist skilled in the use and techniques of recording, mixing, reproducing, and amplifying sounds, whether live or in the studio. Also called an audio engineer, audio technician, audio technologist, sound operator, or sound technician. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they can mean different things depending on the context. Compare with audio engineer, recording engineer, or studio engineer
SoundExchange – a non-profit performance rights organization (PRO) formed in 2003 to collect and distribute royalties for owners of copyrighted sound recordings (SRCO) that are digitally transmitted over satellite, internet radio, music channels on cable TV, and other media. The Digital Performance Right in Sound Recording Act of 1995 and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 established performance rights for sound recordings that are transmitted digitally and required digital music providers to pay the SRCOs for such transmissions. Prior to the passage of these laws, these providers were not required to pay royalties.
sound exposure – the A-weightedsound pressure, squared and integrated over a stated period of time, expressed in units of pascal squared-second (Pa2-s). Although the SI unit is Pa2-s, the practical unit used in most sound exposure meters is the pascal squared-hour (Pa2-h or Pa2-hr). Also called acoustic exposure.
sound exposure level (SEL) – the logarithmic measure of the sound exposure of a sound relative to a reference value of 400 μPa2-s (for sound in air). Sound exposure level (LE) in dB is defined by LE = 10 x log (W/W0), where W is the sound exposure and W0 is the reference sound exposure. When A-weighted, it is sometimes designated, as LEA. The sound exposure level is often designated dB-SEL, dB(SEL), dBSEL, or dBSEL, although these are not recognized by the SI. Usually the SEL is normalized to a 1-second period and it is also referred to as the sound exposure level, which can lead to confusion if not clearly stated. Also called acoustic exposure level.
sound exposure meter – an instrument designed to measure sound exposure level, commonly used in the study of noise pollution and measurement of noise in industrial and workplace environments. Also called a integrated sound level meter (indicating the measurement is taken over some time period), sound level meter, sound meter, or noise dosimeter.
sound field – the area in which sound is perceived by the ear, analogous to the visual field for vision.
Sound Forge – a sound editing software application for creating and editing audio files. It can be used to record, edit, mix, and restore multichannel audio and is compatible with most audio file formats. Sound Forge was developed by Sonic Foundry, which sold it to Sony in 2003. In 2016, it was acquired by Magix.
sound generator – (1) A vibrating object that produces a sound, which can be divided into two main classes: (a) a vibrating or oscillating piston, such as the soundboard of a piano, the head of a drum, the surface of a cymbal, and the diaphragm of a loudspeaker, and (b) the sound made by wind instruments, such as trumpets, organs, saxophones, flutes, and trombones, which depend upon vibrating lips, reeds, or columns of air. (2) An electronic sound module or a musical synthesizer usually containing an integrated circuit or microchip, that can receive MIDI commands and produce sound.
sound intensity (I) – the sound power per unit area measured in watts per square meter (W/m2) at the listener's location. Sound intensity is not the same as soundpressure. Hearing is directly sensitive to sound pressure, which is related to sound intensity, but sound intensity cannot be sensed by a simple microphone, whereas sound pressure can. Sound intensity is the sound energy passing per second through a unit area perpendicular to the direction of propagation of a sound wave. Sound intensity in the direction of the sound force is related to sound power by the formula I = p/A, where p is the sound power and A is the area. Sometimes designated by the Greek letter β (beta). Also called acoustic intensity or sound energy flux density.
sound intensity level (SIL) – the logarithmic measure of the sound intensity relative to a reference value of 10‑12 W/m2. Sound intensity level (LI) in dB is defined as LI = 10 x log (I/I0), where I is the sound intensity and I0 is the reference sound intensity. The reference sound intensity I0 was chosen so that that the sound intensity level would have the same value as the sound pressure level (SPL), using the relationship I/I0 = p/p0, where p is the sound pressure and p0 is the reference sound pressure of 20 μPa, the threshhold of human hearing. The sound intensity level is often designated dB-SIL, dB(SIL), dBSIL, or dBSIL, although these are not recognized by the SI. Also called acoustic intensity level.
sound level meter – (1) An instrument used to measure sound pressure level, an indication of the strength of sound in air, usually expressed in dB-SPL. It is usually a hand-held instrument consisting of a microphone that responds to changes in air pressure caused by sound waves. The sound pressure deviation is converted into an electrical voltage which is displayed as sound pressure level in dB-SPL. Sometimes called a sound pressure level meter, SPL meter, sound meter, decibel meter, or dB meter. (2) A sound exposure meter.
sound library – a collection of sounds and sound effects that have been previously recorded and stored in files that can be retrieved for use at a later time. Such sound can be stored on analog tape or digitally on CDs, DVDs, or as digital audio files. See also sample library.
sound patch – a collection of settings for synthesizer parameters used to achieve a particular sound. Called patch for short.
sound power (P) – the power emitted by a sound source measured in watts or the energy emitted per unit time in joules per second. Sound power is neither room-dependent nor distance-dependent. It is a theoretical value that cannot be measured, but only calculated. A sound source produces sound power and this creates a sound pressure fluctuation in the air. Sound power is the distance-independent cause of a sound source, whereas sound pressure is the distance-dependent effect. Also called acoustic power.
sound power level (SWL) – a logarithmic indication of the sound power relative to a reference value, 10‑12 watts. Sound power level (Lw) in dB is defined by Lw = 10 x log (p/p0), where p is the sound power and p0 is the reference sound power. The sound power level is often designated dB-SWL, dB(SWL), dBSWL, or dBSWL, although these are not recognized by the SI.
sound pressure (p) – the local pressure deviation from the ambient atmospheric pressure caused by a sound wave, measured in pascals (Pa). It is used to indicate the sound level in the air (or other medium) at a listener's location. Sound pressure is not the same as sound intensity. Hearing is directly sensitive to sound pressure, which is related to sound intensity, but sound intensity cannot be sensed by a simple microphone, whereas sound pressure can. Sound pressure (p) is defined as p = pt - ps, where pt is the total pressure and ps is the static pressure. See chart of a comparison of sound pressure, sound pressure level, and sound intensity. Also called acoustic pressure.
sound pressure level (SPL) – a measure of the strength of a sound as indicated by the logarithm of the sound pressure of a sound wave relative to a reference value, 20 μPa, the threshhold of human hearing. Sound pressure level (Lp) in dB is defined as Lp = 20 x log (p/p0), where p is the sound pressure and p0 is the reference sound pressure. The sound pressure level is often designated dB-SPL, dB(SPL), dBPL, or dBSPL, although these are not recognized by the SI.
soundproof – (1) Impervious to the transmission of sound. In actuality, very few spaces are truly soundproof, but rather they are sound resistant. See also acoustic barrier. (2) To make a space impervious to the transmission of sound.
soundproofing – a material or a design that impedes the transfer or propagation of sound. Soundproofing prevents sound from entering or leaving a space, while acoustic treatment is designed to make a space sound better. Also called acoustic barrier, acoustic insulation, acoustic isolation, isolation, noise barrier, baffle, sound baffle, sound barrier, or sonic barrier. See also room-within-a-room.
sound quality – the degree of accuracy with which a device records or reproduces the original sound waves.
sound recording – as defined by the US Copyright Act, “works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds, but not including the sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work.” A sound recording copyright protects the sounds that are recorded from unauthorized use. A sound recording is not the same as a phonorecord, the physical object in which such works are fixed or recorded. Also called a phonogram.
sound reduction index (SRI) – a rating system used in countries except the US indicating the ability of interior building partitions (ceilings, floors, doors, windows, and walls) to reduce the level of airborne sound, roughly equal to the number of decibels of sound reduction provided by the partition. In the US, the sound transmission class (STC) is normally used. Although similar, the calculation of the STC and SRI produces slightly different results.
sound source – (1) Any object from which sound emanates. Sound emanates from something vibrating, such as a string, a column of air, the cone of a loudspeaker, or vocal cords. A simple sound source emits sound uniformly in all directions under free-field conditions. A complex sound source is composed of various sources with multiple frequencies and directivity patterns. (2) An audio source.
sound stage – (1) An area in a movie studio for filming with acoustic properties suitable for recording sound. Besides having a low noise level and a low reverberation time, the cameras and other equipment are designed for quiet operation. (2) An acoustic image presented to the listener, which has sound emanating from the center, left, right, far left, and far right. Sometimes spelled soundstage. See also stereo image.
sound stripe – a narrow strip of magnetic material applied to one edge of motion picturefilm for recording the film soundtrack. All 70-mm release prints of motion pictures use a magnetic soundtrack, as well as some 35-mm prints.
soundtrack – (1) The audio sound used on film or video. Film soundtracks can be analog or digital. Analog soundtracks use variable area, in which the width of a line varies with the soundwaves of the sound. When played back, light passing through these variation are converted into sound. With a digital soundtrack, soundwaves are converted into a digital signal which are represented as tiny dots on the track. When played back, the digital data is converted back into sound. (2) The music that accompanies a movie. (3) The dialog, music, and sound effects (DME) used in a movie. Sometimes spelled sound track.
sound transmission – the passage of sound from one point to another, such as from one room in a building to another, or from the exterior to the interior of a room. See also sound propagation.
sound transmission class (STC) – a rating system used in the US indicating the ability of interior building partitions (ceilings, floors, doors, windows, and walls) to reduce the level of airborne sound, roughly equal to the number of decibels of sound reduction provided by the partition. Outside the US, the sound reduction index (SRI) is normally used. Although similar, the calculation of the STC and SRI produces slightly different results.
sound velocity level (SVL) – a logarithmic indication of the effective particle velocity of a sound relative to a reference value, usually the particle velocity in air of 5 × 10-8 meter per second (m/s). Sound velocity level (Lv) measured in decibels (dB), is defined as Lv = 20 × log10 (v/v0) where v is the root mean square particle velocity, v0 is the reference particle velocity. The proper notations for sound velocity level using this reference are Lv/(5x10-8 m/s or Lv(re 5x10-8 m/s), but the notations dB-SVL, dB(SVL), or dBSVL are very commonly used, even if they are not accepted by the SI. Also called acoustic velocity level or particle velocity level.
source music – music that is actually in the scene of a movie as opposed to the musical score. For example, it may be music from a radio, car stereo, or a juke box. Usually the music is not played while the actors are performing as the source music is normally added in the dubbing session. Also called source cue or diegetic music. See also diegetic sound.
sousaphone – a large brass instrument of the tuba family with a wide bell pointing forward and circular coils that rest on the player's left shoulder and right hip. It is essentially a marching tuba. It is named after John Phillip Sousa, who used it in his marching bands. See also tuba.
South by Southwest (SXSW) – a series of festivals and conferences on movies, interactive media, and music held each year in March in Austin, Texas. The SXSW music festival has grown to be one of the largest of its kind in the world.
SP – Standard Play or Short Play. The designation that was applied to 78-rpmrecords upon the introduction of the long play (LP) record. The LP, with its then new microgroove technology could hold up to 20 minutes or more per side, compared to only 2 to 3 minutes for 78s.
spacious – a descriptive term for a sound having appropriate reverberation to convey the sense of openess or ambience in a room.
spade connector – a flat U-shaped connector that is connected by tightening a screw or bolt over it. The spade connector makes connections easier because the screw or bolt can be left partially unscrewed when the connector is attached or removed, unlike the ring connector where the screw or bolt must be completely removed. Also called spade terminal, fork terminal, fork connector, split-ring connector, or split-ring terminal.
spark gap – a device consisting of two conducting electrodes separated by a gap usually filled with a gas such as air, between whcih an electric spark passes. When a spark occurs, an electric current flows creating heat, light, sound (ranging from a snap for a spark plug to thunder for a lightning discharge), and an electromagnetic wave.
spark-gap transmitter – a device for generating radio frequencyelectromagnetic waves using a spark gap. These device were the first practical means of radio transmission, and from 1887 to 1916, they served as the transmitters for most wireless telegraphy systems. Later on, more efficient transmitters were developed, such as arc generators and alternators.
SPARS code – the three-letter classification system developed in the early 1980s by SPARS to denote the method for recording, mixing, and mastering compact discs. The code uses an “A” for analog and a “D” for digital for each process. For example, a code of ADD indicates a CD recorded and mixed on analog equipment and mastered digitally. (The final letter is alway a “D” for a compact disc.) SPARS withdrew endorsement of the code in 1991 because the code was overly simplistic and did not accurately reflect the complexity of the recording and mixing processes. However, when many record labels continued using the code, SPARS re-endorsed the code in 1995.
spatial – (1) Pertaining to space. (2) A decription of the placement or spread in a stereo or surround-soundfield. (3) An attribute on some reverb or delay effects to adjust depth or width.
S/PDIF – Sony/Philips Digital Interface. A consumer audio standard developed jointly by Sony and Philips, which provides the technical details for transmitting two channels of digital audio over a cable at sample rates up to 192 kHz. It is now designated as AES3 Type II when using an unbalancedcoaxial cable with RCA connectors or Type III when using a TOSLINKoptical cable. Although the data format is identical to AES3 (formerly AES/EBU), some bits in the data blocks have different meanings, which can make the two interfaces incompatible with some equipment. It is recommended to use appropriate converters when connecting AES3 and S/PDIF devices. Sometimes shown as SPDIF. See also chart comparing AES3 and S/PDIF.
speaker basket – the rigid frame to which the various components of the speaker driver are mounted. (See diagram at right.) Commonly made of stamped steel, cast aluminum, or plastic, it is designed to keep the driver components aligned properly. The basket also helps to dissipate heat away from the voice coil. It often includes a flange used to mount the driver to a baffle or enclosure. Baskets can be either sealed back or open back designs. (See diagram at right.) Also called the speaker frame or speaker chassis.
speaker cone – a transducer in a loudspeaker consisting of a usually cone-shaped, thin membrane or sheet made of a variety of materials that converts electrical energy into sound. As the cone vibrates it imparts changes in the air pressure resulting in sound waves. (See diagram at right.) Sometimes called a speaker diaphragm.
speaker enclosure – an engineered box designed for mounting loudspeaker systems and includes the speaker drivers, crossover network, and sometimes amplifiers. Enclosure designs range from simple, rectangular boxes made of particle-board to very complex cabinets made of wood or composite materials with internal baffles, ports, and acoustic insulation. The design of a speaker enclosure has significant impact on the quality of the sound produced. The enclosure should be designed to minimize the effects of out-of-phase sounds emanating from the rear of the speaker driver from combining with in-phase sounds from the front of the driver. Other factors affecting enclosure design include enclosure resonance, edge diffraction, and standing waves within the enclosure. Some common enclosure designs include acoustic suspension (sealed enclosure), bass reflex (ported enclosure), and transmission line enclosure. Also called loudspeaker enclosure, loudspeaker cabinet, speaker cabinet, or speaker box.
speaker magnet – the permanent magnet in a speaker driver that surrounds the voice coil. The magnet and voice coil work together to cause movement of the cone to produce sound. Early loudspeaker designs used an electromagnet for this purpose, but they proved to be too bulky and impractical. The voice coil itself is actually an electromagnet, being a coil of wire wrapped around a cylinder called the former. (See diagram.)
speaker out direct – using the speaker output of an instrument amplifier to feed a recording console or DAW without using a microphone. See also DI.
speaker output – an output jack on a device that provides speaker-level signals. Called speaker out for short.
speaker placement – placing studio monitors in such a manner as to have the most accurate sound reproduction and minimal effects from the room. There are a number of rules of thumb for placing studio monitors: (1) A speaker should be placed 2 to 3 feet from the wall, in order to not emphasize the bass (called free-standing or free-space placement). (2) Left and right speakers should be the same distance from the left and right walls, repectively. (3) The listener should face speakers placed on the shorter wall (with the longer walls on the left and right). (4) The angle between stereo speakers and the listener should be 60° (30° on each side). (5) The distance from the speakers to the listener should be about 6 feet for larger midfield monitors and about 3 feet for smaller nearfield monitors, which minimizes the effects of room reflections. (6) The height of the monitor should have the tweeter at ear level (ear-level monitoring).
special effects – articial visual and sound effects presented in motion pictures, video productions, and video games to simulate real or imaginary scenes and events, often using illusions or visual tricks. Often abbreviated as SFX for sound effects, SPFX for special effects, or simply FX for effects.
specifications – (1) A statement of precise requirements or a precise description identifying something. (2) A detailed description of the design and materials used to make something. (3) A standard list of operational measurements, capabilities, and parameters that a product or piece of equipment should meet. Called specs for short.
spectral balancing – the process of adjusting the levels and equalization of each element in a mix to achieve an overall pleasing and well-balanced sound, with appropriate levels across the entire sound spectrum.
spectral band replication (SBR) – a method of enhancing audio codecs. It is used to improve other data compression codecs, such as combining SBR with MP3 to create mp3PRO.
spectral power – the radiant power per unit frequency, usually measured in watts per hertz (W/Hz), or radiant power per unit wavelength, sometimes measured in watts per meter (W/m) or more commonly in watts per nanometer (W/nm). Also called spectral flux.
spectral power distribution (SPD) – a graphical representation of the radiant power emitted by a source at each wavelength (or band of wavelengths), especially for light sources in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (about 380 nm to 800 nm). Lamp manufacturers often publish SPD curves for specific light sources, because the SPD affects the way they render colors.
spectrum analysis – the process of measuring the amplitude and frequency components of an audio signal, frequently used to analyze the acoustical characteristics of a room or space or to find audio artifacts in a signal. Also called an acoustic analysis, audio analysis, or spectal analysis.
spectrum analyzer – a hardware or software measuring device that displays the amplitude vs. frequency of an audio signal. It is similar to an oscilloscope, except the oscilloscope displays amplitude as a function of time.
specular reflection – a reflection in which the angle of the incoming sound wave equals the angle of the outgoing wave. Also called a hard reflection.
speed – the rate at which an object is able to move or operate. Speed is a scalar quanity and differs from velocity, which is a vector quantity that takes direction into account.
speed of light – the speed at which light waves propagate through various materials. The speed of light in a vacuum is now defined as exactly 299,792,458 meters per second. The speed of light is a fundamental constant of nature. It is also the upper limit to the propagation speed of signals and to the speeds of all material particles.
speed of sound – the velocity of a sound wave in air, which is 1,130 fps (feet per second) or 344.4 m/s at atomospheric pressure, 70 degree Farehheit, and 30% relative humidity. The speed of sound varies with pressure, temperature, humidity, and the material through which it passes. The speed of sound can be etimated using the forumula c = 331.5 + (0.60 × T), where c is the speed of sound in m/s and T is the temperature in °C, or c = 1087.6 + ([T-32] × 1.0936), where c is the speed of sound in ft/sec and T is the temperature in °F. See chart of Speed of Sound vs. Temperature and Humidity. See also velocity.
Distance Sound Travels at 20°C (68°F) (Speed of sound = 343 m/s or 1125 ft/s)
splash cymbal – a small cymbal used for accents. See cymbal.
splatter – a descriptive term for the sound of audio signal with extreme distortion caused by hard clipping due to being overloaded.
splice – (1) To cut two pieces of magnetic recording tape and then reassemble them using splicing tape. (3) The point where two pieces of recording tape have been joined. (3) An edit using the splicing technique.
split-band de-esser – a de-esser that operates much like a conventional (wideband) de-esser, which uses a compressor with a sidechainedequalizer to select a narrow range of high frequencies. Whenever sibilance occurs (as indicated by the presence of high frequencies), it triggers the compressor to attenuate the audio signal. However, with a split-band de-esser, the original signal is split into two frequency ranges, one that contains the sibilant frequencies, and one that does not. The compressor attenuates only the signal containing the sibilance, while the other frequency band remains unchanged. Wideband (sometimes called fullband) de-essing can sometimes result in tonal artifacts in the lower frequencies, but a split-band de-esser produces fewer of these artifacts.
split console – a console that has a separate section for input and monitoring, as opposed to an inline console, which has input and monitoring in the same channel strip. Sometimes called a split mixer.
split keyboard – a keyboard, controller, or synthesizer on which some of the keys are assigned to play one type of sound and the others a second type of sound. Each section of the keyboard is called a zone and the point at which the sound changes from one to the other is called a split point.
split point – the point at which the sound assigned to a group of keys changes to a different sound on a split keyboard.
split-channel audio – an audio file in which the left and right stereochannels are in separate files usually designated with .L or .R suffixes or several channels of surround sound are in separate files, where for example, 5.1 surround are usually designated with the suffixes such as .L, .R, .C, .SL, .SR, and .LFE, as opposed to interleaved audio files in which the all channels are combined to form a single file. See also split stereo.
split stereo – a stereoaudio file where the left and right channels are in separate files usually designated with .L or .R suffixes, as opposed to interleaved stereo files in which the left and right channels are combined to form a single file. Also called split-channel stereo. See also split-channel audio.
splitter – a box with microphone inputs (usually XLR) used to divide microphone signals into two or more identical output signals that can be fed to different audio systems. Also called a split box.
spread – (1) The time between each song on a CD or LP. Also called a gap or pre-gap. (2) The width of a stereo image. The stereo spread of a recording is the perceived width of the soundstage. (3) A parameter in some software used to adjust the apparent width of a stereo image.
spring reverb – (1) An artificial reverberation effect that uses an electromechanical transducer at one end of a metal spring to create vibrations and a pickup at the other end to capture the vibrations and convert them into an audio signal. In 1939, Laurens Hammond received a patent for one of the first spring reverbs, which he began using in Hammond organs. Guitar amplifiers often use spring reverbs because of their compact size and low cost. Spring reverbs were once widely used in recording studios for the same reason. (2) A software or hardware effects processor that emulates a spring reverb. See also plate reverb.
sputtering – the process of applying a molecular-thin layer of metal (such as gold) to a surface, such as on the plastic diaphragm of a condenser microphone or on an electrode. The diapragm or electrode is placed in a vacuum chamber with a piece of gold that is heated until it vaporzes, producing atoms of gold that hit and stick to the surface of the object forming a very thin layer. Gold is frequently used because it is inert, nonoxidizing, and ductile.
squeeze microphone – a miking technique used on drums to impart more energy. A monoroom microphone is placed a few feet in front of the drum kit and aimed at the center of the kit. The signal from this mic is compressed very hard (squeezed) and blended back in with other drum mics. The all-button mode is commonly used for compression.
squelch – a circuit in a receiver that mutes the audio output when the audio level drops below a certain point.
SRS Labs, Inc. – an audio technology engineering company in Santa Ana, California that developed and licensed audio enhancements for wide variety of consumer electronic devices. It was spun off from Hughes Aircraft Company in 1993, when it developed the Stereo Retrieval System technology, and became publicaly traded in 1996. In 2012, SRS Labs was acquired by DTS, Inc.
s/s – Samples per Second. An abbreviation used to express sample rates. S/s is more specific than the more generic term Hz. For example, 96 kS/s indicates a sample rate of 96,000 samples per second, while 96 kHz could indicate the same thing or be a reference to a frequency of 96,000 cycles per second.
staff – in music notation, a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces that each represent a different musical pitch. Also called a stave. See also grand staff.
stage – (1) One section of an amplifier that performs a particular function before the signal is sent to the next section. (2) A riser or platform in a theater or other venue on which actors, entertainers, speakers, or musicians perform. (3) A type of reverberation that simulates the sound coming from a concert stage. (5) The dramatic performances in a theater.
stage monitor – a speaker usually placed on the floor of the stage facing the musicians so they can hear (monitor) the performance. Also called a floor monitor.
stage plot – a diagram showing where on a stage musicians, instruments, amplifiers, and other equipment should be placed for a performance, usually provided to the venue or sound engineer before a performance for planning and preparation purposes.
stamper – (1) A negative copy mold (where the pits are reversed into spikes) made from the glass master and used to press compact discs. See CD replication. (2) A negative nickel-metal disc that is used to press vinylrecords. A stamper for each side of the record is placed in a press. A ball of hot vinyl (380 degrees F) is pressed with 100 tons of pressure to produce the record. See vinyl mastering.
standalone – (1) A software program that is capable of operating by itself, as opposed to a plugin that must operate within the context of a DAW or other program. (2) A piece of hardware or component that can function on its own without being connected to a computer. Sometimes spelled stand alone.
standard-definition television (SDTV) – a method of broadcasting analogtelevision signals with 480 interlaced lines of resolution (480i) using the NTSC system in the US and 576 interlaced lines of resolution (576i) using the PAL and SECAM systems in Europe and other areas of the world. SDTV had a much lower reolution than HDTV.
standards organization – an organization that developes, coordinates, promulgates, revises, amends, reissues, interprets, or establishes technical standards for products, procedures, and testing methods. Although these entities often are agencies within the governments of many countries, they frequently are associations established by a given industry to establish standards for that industry sector. Some of the national standards organizations and other organizations involved in standards for audio or video include AES (Audio Engineering Society), AFNOR (Association Française de Normalisation), ANSI (American National Standards Institute), APRS (Association of Professional Recording Services), ASA (Acoustical Society of America), ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials), ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee), BSI (British Standards Institution), BTSC (Broadcast Television Systems Committee), CSA (Canadian Standards Association), DDEX (Digital Data Exchange), DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung), EBU (European Broadcasting Union), EIA (Electronic Industries Alliance), IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), ISO (International Standards Organization), ITU (International Telecommunications Union), JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards), MMA (MIDI Manufacturers Association), MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group), NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers), TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association), and VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association). Also called standards body, standards developing organization (SDO), or standards setting organization (SSO).
standard tuning – (1) Tuning the strings of an instrument in the normal manner. For the guitar, the strings are tuned to the pitches of E2, A2, D3, G3, B3, and E4, from lowest string (low E) to highest (high E). Standard tuning for the violin is G3, D4, A4, and E5, ascending in perfect fifths starting from G3 (G below middle C). Musicians most often use standard tuning, but in some situations or for some types of music, alternate tuning is preferred. See also open tuning. (2) Using standard or concert tuning (A440).
standby – (1) A mode in which an electrical device is powered up and ready, but not operating. (2) Ready and waiting to begin an appearance or performance. (3) Held in reserve, ready to be used as a replacement.
standby current – the amount of current in an electronic device when it is producing no output. Standby current consumption should be as low as possible in battery-operated devices to prolong battery life. Also called quiescent current.
standing wave – an audio wave that occurs between two sound-reflecting surfaces in which the distance between them is a multiple of one-half the wavelength of the audio signal. A standing wave seems to be standing still and results in that frequency sounding louder than other frequencies with the same output level. See also room modes and eigentone (standing wave frequency).
star ground – a type of grounding system used in some recording studios to prevent ground loops, where the grounds for each piece of equipment are connected together and to the main studio ground which is isolated from the ac ground.
star network – a network in which all connection points (nodes) are directly connected to a common central hub.
state-variable filter – a filter used on some synthesizers in which various parameter can be changed.
static pressure (ps or p0) – a pressure at a specific point in a medium that would exist at that point in the absence of sound waves, measured in pascals (Pa). A sound wave causes a deviation in the local ambient pressure (the static pressure) in the transmission medium. Mathematically, this is shown as pt = ps + p where pt is the total pressure, ps is the static pressure, and p is the sound pressure.
status byte – the first byte in a MIDI message that is used to indicate the type of message.
statutory rate – the rate established by Congress for a compulsorymechanical license, which can be obtained by completing the required paperwork and paying the proper fees. The current statutory rate for physical formats, such as CDs, records, and casettes, and permanent digital downloads is 9.1 cents per copy for songs with up to 5 minutes of playing time or 1.75 cents per minute or fraction of a minute for songs over 5 minutes. The rate for streaming and limited downloads depend of several factors. Rates are changed periodically. Also called a mechanical rate.
steel – (1) Short for a steel guitar. (2) One who plays a steel guitar. (3) A bar used to play a steel guitar, usually made of metal, but sometimes made of glass or other materials. See also slide.
steel guitar – a type of guitar that is usually positioned horizontally on the lap with the strings being plucked with one hand, while the other hand changes the pitch of one or more strings using a bar or slide called a steel. The term lap steel is sometimes used to differentiated between it and a pedal steel guitar. Called a steel for short.
steely – a descriptive term for a sound with excessive midrange frequencies, especially in the 3 to 6 kHz range.
Steinberg GmbH – a company founded in 1984 by Karl Steinberg and Manfred Rürup, and headquartered in Hamburg, Germany, that develops and manufactures musical software and equipment. Its main products include music recording, editing and arranging software (digital audio workstations) and VSTi software synthesizers. Since 2005, Steinberg has been owned by Yamaha Corporation.
stem – an individual component of a mix saved separately in groups, to be used by the moviesound designers, mastering engineers, or for a remixing. When all the stems are added back together, they should produce the complete mix. The term is short for “stereo master” and originates from the movie industry where soundtracks are normally broken down into three main stems: dialog, music, and effects (DME). Stems are also sometimes referred to as submixes, subgroups, or busses.
stem mastering – a technique in which individual audio tracks are grouped together to allow for independent control and signal processing of each stem so that they can be manipulated independently from one other. This method is only occasionally used by mastering studios. This process is sometimes called separation mastering, but some people claim the two processes are different, but it is not clear in what way.
stem mixing – a method of mixing audio material based on creating groups of audio tracks called stems and processing them separately prior to combining them into a final master mix.
step input – MIDI data that is input into a sequencer one note (or event) at a time, as opposed to real-time input in which the events are input as they are being played. Also called step programming, event editing, step recording, step mode, and step time.
step sequencer – a sequencer that operates by dividing a measure into a pre-determined number of divisions (steps). Each step is used to trigger notes, send a voltage, control a parameter value, or handle other events.
stereo – (1) Short for stereophonic. (2) Stereophonic sound reproduction. (3) A system or the equipment used for reproducing stereophonic sound. Sometimes called a home stereo when used in the home or car stereo when used in a car.
stereophony – the process of creating or reproducing a two-channel sound that creates a three-dimensional sonic effect. See stereophonic.
stereo recording angle (SRA) – an imaginary angle that provides an indication of the apparent width of the stereo image. It is the angle through which a sound source can move in front of a microphone array and upon playback seem to move between the two stereospeakers. The SRA is not the same as the microphone axis angle (the angle between the two mics in a stereo recording setup) nor the acceptance angle (the angle that defines the useful working area of a microphone). The SRA is determined by the pickup pattern, the axis angle, and the distance between the microphones. For example, a coincident cardioid array with an axis angle (mutual angle) of 90° has an SRA of 195°. Since the stereo image is created from a combination of time-of-arrival and level differences between left and right channels, acoustic sources that are outside of the SRA will be located full left or full right in the stereo image. Any source within the SRA will be placed between the left and the right speakers when played back. A smaller SRA will provide a wider stereo image. Also called a stereo acceptance angle. See a visualization of stereo recording angle at http://www.sengpielaudio.com/Visualization-EBS-E.htm. The graph for SRAs for cardioid microphones is shown above. For other patterns, see Graph of Stereo Recording Angles.
stereo signal – an audio signal consisting of two channels (usually left and right) that upon playback provides the perception of localization and depth. A stereo signal can be interleaved (where the left and right channels are combined to form a single signal) or split (where the left and right signals are in separate channels).
stereo variable-area (SVA) – a recording technique, first used on film in the mid-1970s as Dolby Stereo, in which a two-channel audio signal is recorded as a pair of optical tracks on the film. As the magnitude of the audio signal changes, the tracks change area (becoming wider or narrower). The projector shines light from a small lamp (an exciter) through a perpendicular slit onto the film track, which modulates the intensity of the light passing through it, which is converted back into audio.
sterile – a descriptive term for a pristine sound that lacks emotion.
sticky-shed syndrome – a condition created by the deterioration of the binder in magnetic recording tapes, particularly those from the 1970s and 1980s. The binder is what holds the iron oxide onto the base. Many tape manufacturers began using polyester-urethane (PEU) [sometimes called polyurethane or urethane-based] binders in the mid 1970s, because it allowed them to get more magnetic coating on the tape (which provided a greater output) than with the older PVC and latex binders. Over time, this type of binder absorbed moisture from humidity in the atmosphere in a chemical process called hydrolysis, which caused the polyurethane to migrate to the tape surface, resulting in a sticky residue. The problem appears to be worse on tapes using back coating. Degraded tapes are often sticky and the magnetic layer can slough off clogging play heads and guides, which can cause equipment failure, and can result in loss of the signal layer. A temporary cure is to bake the tapes. However, not all tapes can be recovered by baking. Sticky-shed syndrome is a subset of soft binder syndrome, which includes tapes that cannot be recovered through baking, tapes with sticky-shed syndrome (which can), and tapes with what in the past was diagnosed (incorrectly) as loss of lubricant (not recoverable). Also called magnetic tape binder breakdown, polyurethane binder deterioration, soft binder syndrome, and sticktion. See also shedding.
“straight wire with gain” – slang for an amplifier (or preamplifier) that adds no coloration or distortion to the signal, only gain. It describes the “perfect amplifier,” which in reality does not exist. The expression was coined by Peter J. Walker, the founder of Quad Electroacoustics Limited. Sometimes expressed as “a piece of wire with gain.”
stranded wire – a metal wire that is made up of several smaller wires that are twisted together. Stranded wire is used in most cables because it is more flexible than solid-core wire.
streaming audio – the sending of usually compressedaudio files over the internet for playback as it is received, as opposed to non-streaming audio that has to be downloaded in its entirety before it can be played. Various streaming audio services use different data compression methods, the most commonly used are AAC and Vorbis. Data compression is sometimes divided into three levels: (a) Low bit rate (used in mobile and free streaming services), (b) Medium bit rate (used on desktop and mobile subscription services), and (c) High bit rate (used in desktop subscription services).
streaming media – sending real-time or on-demand audio, video, and other multimediacontent over the internet. Prior to the general availability of broadband internet connections, the only way to experience such content was to completely download such a file before it could be played.
strident – a descriptive term for a raspy or edgy sound. See harsh and edgy.
S-trig – short for switch trigger or shorting trigger. See trigger.
strike – to put away equipment and clean up after a performance or recording session.
string – the cord on a stringed instrument that vibrates to produce sound. For a long time, catgut was the most common material for such strings, but today most strings use cores made of other materials, usually steel or a synthetic polymer, such as nylon.
strings – (1) A group of musical instruments that produce sound by means of vibrating strings, which in most cases, transmits the vibrations to the body of the instrument, which also vibrates, along with the air inside. Examples of stringed instruments include the violin, viola, cello, and double bass, as well as the guitar and mandolin. Also called string instruments or stringed instruments. (2) The section of an orchestra consisting of stringed instruments.
string squeak – the sound that guitarstrings make when a player drags his fingers across the strings while changing chords, especially on acoustic guitar. Some people find the sound annoying while others think it embellishes the sound. Also called string noise, fret squeak, acoustic squeak, or fret noise.
stripe – (1) To record timecode on a blank track of audio tape, videotape, or magnetic film. (2) A timecode recorded to a audio tape, video tape, or magnetic film prior to recording any audio or video.
strip silence – a function found on some DAWs that locates silent parts of an audio file and removes them, leaving only regions or clips containing audio. Typically the sensitivity or threshold level can be adjusted to determine the level below which a sound is considered to be silent.
STRL – NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories. See NHK.
strum – (1) To sweep the thumb or a pick up or down across the strings of an instrument, such as a guitar. Compare with pluck. (2) The sound made by strumming.
studio – space or workrooms used for a specific purpose, such as for recording music, photography, making movies, broadcasting, pottery, architecture, painting, dance, sculpture, animation, and other artistic purposes. See also recording studio.
studio monitors – loudspeakers specifically designed for very accurate reproduction of audio in recording studios. They are designed to produce a relatively flat phase and frequency response, so that there is minimal coloration of the sound. Unlike a high fidelity speaker, which is designed to sound good often by boosting both the low end and high end, a studio monitor needs to have a neutral tonal balance, which is especially important during the mixing process. Also called reference monitors or simply monitors for short.
stutter edit – an audio production technique, often used in electronic music, in which fragments of audio are repeated in rhythmic intervals, so that it sounds like stuttering. Also called Also called stuttering.
stylus – (1) The small pointed piece of metal or gemstone mounted in a cartridge on the tonearm of a phonograph or turntable that tracks the groove of a record. The slang term is needle as the original 78-rpm records used a needle-like device made of steel. With the introduction of the vinylLP, smaller styli made of gemstones, such as saphire and diamond, were used. See also conical stylus and elliptical stylus. (2) A sharp-pointed device used for marking matrix numbers on the runout section of a record. See also cutting stylus.
subcardioid pattern – a unidirectional pickup pattern similar to a cardioid pattern but with a wider response pattern in the front and a smooth flat response in the rear rather than the tuck-in or null of a cardioid. Sometimes called a wide cardioid or hypocardioid. See also polar pattern.
subcarrier – a signal that is carried on top of another carrier so that two signals can be carried simultaneously. When the signal is received, the main carrier and subcarrier signals are demodulated separately. For example, subcarriers can be used to carry stereo signals on monophonicradio broadcasts or to carry color signals on black and white television broadcasts. The FCC allows subcarriers to be used by broadcast stations for many purposes, including paging, dispatching, traffic control signal switching, and muzak.
subframe – a unit of time smaller than a frame used in in timecodesynchronization, typically 1⁄100 the length of a frame. Synchronization is kept to within a few subframes.
subgroup – two or more tracks or audio signals containing similar material that are put together in order to be controlled by a single control, a group fader. Mixing consoles and DAWs usually provide a method to create a subgroup. Typical subgroups are drums, vocals, and keyboards. The term is similar to but not exactly the same as submix. It is sometimes called a group.
submaster – the fader on a console or DAW that controls the audio level of a submix during mix down. Sometimes called a group master. Sometimes spelled sub-master.
submaster assignment – the bus selected for the submix that will be controlled by the submasterfader. Sometimes spelled sub-master assignment..
submix – a group of signals that are mixed down into one or two channels that are inserted as a composite signal into the main mix of a DAW or mixing console. Also called a submix bus or mix group. The term is similar to but not exactly the same as subgroup.
submixer – (1) A small mixer, which can be either a separate mixer or a section of a larger mixer or console, that is used to feed signals as a submix. (2) A small mixer that can be plugged into an input or channel on the main mixer or console to provide additional channels.
subwoofer – a specialized loudspeaker used for reproducing extremely low-frequency sound. Since many speaker systems cannot reproduce frequencies much below 50 Hz, adding a subwoofer can provide the missing low-frequency sound. The “.1” in a 5.1surround sound system refers to the subwoofer.
sum – (1) To add two or more audio signals or variations of the same audio signal, typically in a mixer or at the inputs of an amplifier. See summing. (2) The addition of two or more audio signals.
summing – the process of mixing two or more signals down to a single mono or stereooutput. In a mixer summing takes place as various channels are routed to the master bus. In digital systems, summing is a transparent process and has minimal effect on the sound of the summed channels. Analog summing can change the sound, sometimes in desirable ways and sometimes undesirable, imparting a small amounts of saturation, harmonic distortion, crosstalk, and other effects. Some engineers will bounce mixes through hardware summing boxes to achieve the warmth and character of analog summing.
summing amplifier – a device that combines or mixes signals from several sources and then amplifies the resulting signal to be fed to another device.
summing box – a piece of hardware that sums two or more analog signals. See summing. Also called a summing mixer.
Sun Microsystems, Inc. – a company that sold computers, computer components, software, and information technology services founded in 1982 and headquartered in Santa Clara, California. Sun created the Java programming language and many other computer technologies. In 2010, it was acquired by Oracle Corporation.
Sun Studio – the legendary recording studio owned and operated by rock-and-roll pioneer Sam Phillips at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis, TN. It opened in 1950 as the Memphis Recording Service and was located in the same building as the Sun Records label. The studio is touted as being the “birthplace of rock 'n' roll” because the presumed first rock 'n' roll single, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, was recorded there in 1951. In the early 1950s, blues and R&B artists such as Howlin' Wolf, Junior Parker, Little Milton, B. B. King, and Rufus Thomas recorded at Sun Studio. Several rock 'n' roll, country, and rockabilly artists, including Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bill Justis recorded there during the mid to late 1950s. In 1959, Sam Phillips moved into larger facilities at 639 Madison Avenue, which was called the Sam C. Phillips Recording Studio, but was better known as Phillips Recording. Phillips sold the Sun Label in 1969. In 1987, the building at 706 Union Avenue was reopened by Gary Hardy as as a recording studio and tourist attraction under the name “Sun Studio.” A number of prominent artists subsequently recorded there, including U2, Def Leppard, Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, and Brian Setzer of Stray Cats. Sam Phillips died in 2003.
supply platter – the round disc that is driven by the supply motor and holds the supply reel, sometimes with a locking mechanism. Also called a supply disc or supply turntable. See tape machine for diagram.
supraaural – literally means “on top of the ear” and refers to headphones that rest on the outer ears. Although they are lightweight, they are not very effective at excluding external sounds. See also circumaural and intraaural.
surround channel – one of the audio channels in a surround sound audio system, that is primarily used to deliver ambience and diffuse sounds in a movie or music soundtrack. It can be any channel other than the front left, front right, front center, and special effects channels.
surround sound – a system for reproducing sound through speakers in the front, side, and sometimes the back of the listener to create a side-to-side as well as a front-to-back perspective. See also 5.1 and 7.1.
sustain – 1) The period of time that a musical note remains before it becomes inaudible or silent. (2) The holding out of a note by an instrument. (3) A pedal found on pianos and other instruments (and sometimes on synthesizers) used to lengthen the decay time of a note. (4) The third of the four segments in an ADSR envelope.
S-Video – a two-conductor format for transmitting video that transmits the color portion or chroma (C) separately from the brightness portion or luma (Y). It produces a higher picture quality than composite video, which combines the signals onto one cable, but better quality than component video. Short for Super Video. Also called X/C video. See also YUV.
sweet – a descriptive term for a sound with low distortion and a flat frequency response in the range of 15 to 20 kHz.
sweetening – (1) The addition of strings, choirs, brass, or other instruments to a recording to enrich the mix. (2) Improving audio tracks by re-recording, editing, mixing, and other techniques, particularly in post production of film and video
sweet spot – (1) The optimum position for the placement of a microphone in front of an instrument so that it sounds best. (2) The optimum position for a listener to sit in relation to speakers or monitors.
swing – (1) A sense of a cohesive rhythmic “feel” or “groove” created between the musical interaction between the performers. See also in the pocket. (2) A lilting rhythm of unequal notes, especially in jazz. (3) A function in some DAWs that introduces an uneven, but controlled spacing of notes on a timing grid that provides a “swing” feel to the music. Sometimes called groove.
switch – 1) A device that makes and breaks a connection in an electric circuit (2) A device that selects between two or more connections in a circuit. Also called a selector switch
switchable-pattern microphone – a microphone with multiple pickup patterns that can be selected with a switch. These microphones typically have two diaphragms back to back and the signals are electrically combined in various amounts to achieve the desired patterns. (See diagram at right.) For example, with two back-to-back cardioid capsules, you can combine both capsules to get an omnidirectional pattern, combine both with one having a reversed polarity to get a figure 8 patttern, or connect just one to get a cardioid pattern. Sometimes called a multipattern microphone or polydirectional microphone.
Switchcraft Conxall – a company located in Chicago, IL, that manufacture jacks, plugs, and switches for the pro-audio, broadcast, and communications industries. It was founded in 1946 as Switchcraft, Inc. The Raytheon Corporation purchased Switchcraft in 1977. Twenty years later Raytheon sold its interest in Switchcraft to a private equity company. In 1999, Switchcraft acquired Conxall, a manufacturer of circular connectors and cable assemblies. In 2011, Switchcraft Conxall became a part of the Electronic Technologies Group of HEICO.
switched-mode power supply (SMPS) – an electronicpower supply that uses a switching regulator to convert electrical power more efficiently than a linear power supply. The pass transistor of an SMPS continually switches between full-on and full-off, spending more time in low-dissipation and less time in high dissipation transitions, thereby reducing wasted energy. The voltage is regulated by varying the ratio of on-to-off time. Switched-mode power supplies have higher power conversion efficiencies and are usually smaller and lighter than a linear supplies. The disadvantages are that they are more complicated and the switching can cause electrical noise if not properly suppressed. Also called a switching-mode power supply, switch-mode power supply, switching power supply,, or switcher.
symmetrical clipping – clipping that occurs evenly on both the positive and negative excursions of a waveform. Amplifiers with symmetrically clipping tend to produce odd harmonics, and a smooth, sustained overdrive, a sound usually preferred by the majority of guitarists. Asymmetrical clipping distortion produces a thin and weak sound, that in extreme cases can sound more like buzzing.
Symphonova – a technology, invented by composer Dr. Shelley Katz, that allows a small chamber-sized orchestra to perform in a small venue and sound like a full-size orchestra playing in a large concert hall. The technology uses a combination of live performers, instruments driven by transducers, room simulationsoftware, and loudspeakers using Layered Sound™ that simulate the acoustics. The virtual instruments are controlled by the symphonist, a conductor wearing a small electronic board that cause the instruments to respond according to typical conductor gestures.
sync conversion unit – a device that provides for the synchronization of two or more devices having different sync signals. Also called a sync box (slang).
sync gain – a control on a tape machine used to adjust the playback level when the machine is in the sync mode. Also called sync level.
sync head – (1) The record head on a multitracktape recorder when it is in sync mode. In this configuration, the record head is used to play back audio from other tracks to be monitored by the musicians as they simultaneously overdub a new track. It is necessary to use the record head in this manner to maintain synchronization as there would be a delay if the playback head were used. After recording, it is important to return to normal mode because the reproduction quality is not as good when using the record head for a function for which it was not designed. (2) A separate head used on some tape machines used to playback a synchronization tone or signal, used to synchronize sound with motion pictures or videotape.
synchronization signal – a signal or series of pulses transmitted between two devices to keep them synchronized. Also called a synchronizing signal (sync signal), synchronization pulse (sync pulse), clock signal, clock reference, timing signal, timing pulse, or timebase.
synchronize – (1) To adjust two independent devices to be in time with one another. Called sync for short. (2) To play instruments together in very close timing.
sync-latching – a synchronization technique that provides sync signal between devices, but aligns the transport signals (start and stop) to precise musical boundaries, such as the next bar or the beginning of a loop. The term was coined by Olivier Gillet of Mutable Instruments.
synthesizer – (1) A musical instrument that creates sounds electronically to emulate other instruments or to create completely artificial sounds. They can be either analog or digital. An analog synthesizer uses a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) to generate a waveform, a voltage-controlled filter (VCF) to remove various frequencies, and a voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA) to vary the attack and decay characteristics. (See ADSR.) A digital synthesizer uses digital signal processing (DSP) techniques to create sounds. A digital synthesizer uses a digitally controlled oscillator (DCO), digitally controlled filter (DCF) and digitally controlled amplifier (DCA) to perform the same functions as their analog couterparts. Sometimes called a hardware synthesizer to distinguish it from a software synthesizer. Synthesizers are sometimes classified as modular or semi-modular. A modular synthesizer has a case or frame into which various modules can be inserted and are usually connected together with patch cords. Such a system may include modules from different manufacturers, as long as they have the same electrical specifications and fit the case. A semi-modular synthesizer is a collection of modules from a single manufacturer that are usually pre-wired, but the user usually is allowed to connect the modules in different orders. Called a synth for short. (2) A frequency synthesizer.
synthetic stereo – the process of using a combination of reverb and other psychoacoustic effects to convert a mono recording into a somewhat realistic sounding stereo signal. Also called stereoizing.
syntonic comma – the small interval (a comma) between the same note being tuned using two different tuning systems. The syntonic comma is sometimes called a comma of Didymus because it is the amount by which the Roman musician Didymus corrected the major third using Pythagorean tuning (having a frequency ratio of 81:64 or about 407.82 cents) to the major third using just intonation (ratio of 5:4 or about 386.31 cents), a difference of about 21.51 cents. Two notes with that small interval would sound different from each other even to untrained ears, but most likely would be close enough to sound like out-of-tune versions of the same note. Also known as the chromatic diesis, comma of Didymus, Ptolemaic comma, or diatonic comma.
system exclusive (SysEx or Sysx) – a MIDI message that only the device of a particular manufacturer can use and understand. The MIDI standard allows manufacturers to define their own specific message formats. Unlike other MIDI message formats, sysex messages can be variable in length and contain an ID byte that identifies the manufacturer.
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.