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The audio world can be a frustrating one for many reasons.  From buzzing headphones to crackling pres, our world is rife with little nuisances.  However, the most frustrating thing for me by far is how inexact our nomenclature is.  As a profession, we have really done a disservice to ourselves by not having a standardized and precise language for our trade. 

 

Oh, how easy it would be if someone would walk into one of my mixes and say “Yah, it sounds good, but there is a little too much 2.7 kHz, can you back that down a little?”  Instead, we are left with inexact jargon like “It’s a little harsh, can you do something about that?”  Of course most of us aren’t skilled enough to know exact frequencies without the necessary equipment, present company included.  So it would be ridiculous to say that we should all speak more precisely from now on. 

 

Instead, I will compile a list on this site, over time of course, that enumerates the various inexact terms I encounter in my career and what I would do to remedy them.

 

The first list here is for bass register terms.  Some of this comes with the help of Bruce Bartlett’s Practical Recording Techniques.  Feel free to respond back with more if you can think of them and I’ll try to include them.

 

Ballsy:  Emphasis on frequencies below 300 Hz, but only on mixes with distinct sounds between the bass instruments so as not to be muddy.

 

Bloated:  Emphasis on frequencies below 300 Hz, but with indistinct sounds.  Muddy with low frequency resonances.

 

Boomy:  Too much bass at 125 Hz.  This is often caused by sudden sounds that cause large excursions in the woofer reproducing the sound.

 

Boxy:  Low frequency resonances like being in a box.  Mainly resonances in the upper portion of the bass register from 200-300 Hz since boxes are too thin to adequately hold in low-lows.

 

Chesty:  This obviously refers to recordings of vocalists.  The chest is where the low frequencies reside, especially the native resonances.  It is relatively easy to address because humans are roughly the same size on average, so a simple eq trimming the frequencies somewhere between 120 and 250 Hz should do the trick.

 

Dark:  This usually is a term used in comparison to the upper frequencies.  As such, either decreasing the lower frequencies including the fundamentals or increasing the upper frequencies with an emphasis on harmonics can remedy the problem by evening out the response across the board.

 

Dull:  Along with dark, this usually means too much low register content in comparison to upper frequencies.  The upper frequencies are where you get words like “lively” and “bright” so again, the problem can be remedied by de-emphasizing fundamentals and low frequencies in comparison to the upper harmonics.

 

Ground Noise:  Constant hum between 50 and and 70 Hz, but can be extremely broad spectrum.  If possible filter it out, but it is often best addressed in tracking by using a ground lift or isolation transformer.

 

Muddy:  Too much competing low frequency content in the bass register.  Try etching out portions of the spectrum on each instrument and cutting unnecessary frequencies in other instruments in the bass range.

 

Rumble:  Relatively constant sound between 25 and 40 Hz.  Often caused by AC or other environmental sounds.  Easily addressed with a high-pass filter.

 

Thumpy:  Similar to Boomy–sudden excursions more of an emphasis between 20 and 50 Hz.

 

Tubby:  Low frequency resonances, like boxy, but with more bass collection (since bathtubs are more reverberant than boxes and contain low frequencies better due to density and thickness).  Try equing out low frequencies or using a high pass filter.

 

Warm:  As it pertains to bass, having good bass response without overpowering higher frequencies and without being overpowered by them.  On a scale: dull/dark, warm, bright.


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