Soundscape Products

Simple Explanations of Audio/Video Terms

Bandwidth -- Refers to the range of frequencies a component can reproduce. For audio components like receivers, "full bandwidth" is generally considered to be the entire frequency range of human hearing -- 20-20,000 Hz.

Digital Signal Processing (DSP) -- Some receivers use Digital Signal Processing for creating soundfields (simulated acoustic environments) and time delays and for precise steering of multi-channel Dolby Pro Logic information. When an audio signal is processed and routed in the digital domain, it is less susceptible to signal loss and added distortion.

Discrete output transistors -- Discrete devices are real transistors, capacitors and resistors that make up an amplifier. An amplifier output section comprised of real transistors offers some big advantages over the commonly used (because it's less expensive) IC chip amplifier. Discrete outputs offer higher current capacity, handle more heat, work over a wider impedance range, react faster to sonic transients, and thus in general produce lower distortion, more dynamic and lifelike sound.

Dolby Digital -- "5.1-channel" Dolby Digital has 6 discrete digital audio channels: 5 full-bandwidth channels (for front left/right, center, and surround left/right) and 1 "low frequency effects" subwoofer channel. Some receivers have Dolby Digital decoding built-in; others are simply Dolby Digital "ready" with inputs for hooking up an external Dolby Digital decoder.

Dolby Surround Pro Logic -- A 4-channel surround sound system designed to be played back through 5 speakers: a center channel speaker for on-screen sound, front left and right speakers for sound that moves with the action, and left and right surround speakers (both surround speakers reproduce the time-delayed mono surround channel which provides ambience and sound effects).

FM sensitivity -- Indicates a receiver's ability to pick up FM signals (a lower number is better).

High-current power -- The flow of current through your speakers' voice coils creates the electromagnetic force that moves the cones and domes, creating sound. The dynamic qualities of music and movie soundtracks create short-term high-current demands. If current flow is limited, the sound will be, too. A high-current amplifier (or a receiver that uses one) may sound punchier and more powerful than other models with the same wattage rating.

On-screen display -- Some A/V receivers let you view component/system status on your TV screen. Some use a GUI (Graphical User Interface) for easy remote point-and-click control via on-screen menus and icons.

Power amplifier -- The power amplifier takes the low-voltage signal supplied by the preamplifier and amplifies it to a sufficient level to drive speakers.

Preamplifier -- Also called a control amplifier or control center. A preamplifier (or preamplifier section of a receiver) handles the switching and selecting of signals, as well as amplifying them to the voltage level required for the input of a power amplifier.

Preamp outputs -- Often included on mid- to high-priced A/V receivers, these connectors provide unamplified, low-voltage line-level signals for components like a powered subwoofer or a separate power amplifier. Remote control -- The capabilities of receiver remotes can vary a lot from brand to brand, and even model to model. We group remotes into three different categories:

Audio/video remotes can operate several audio/video components from the same manufacturer. Multibrand remotes have pre-programmed commands for popular brands of gear Programmable remotes (also called "learning" remotes) can be programmed by the user to operate audio/video equipment from other manufacturers.

Receiver -- An audio component that combines a preamplifier, amplifier, and radio in a single chassis.

RMS power vs. peak power - The amount of continuous power, measured in watts, that an amplifier produces is called RMS power. The higher the RMS figure, the louder and cleaner your music sounds. When choosing an amplifier or receiver, the RMS rating is the power rating you should pay most attention to.

Stereo manufacturers often display peak power ratings on the face of their products. The peak power rating tells you the maximum wattage an amplifier can deliver as a brief burst during a musical peak, like a dramatic drum accent. The RMS figure is more significant.

S-video -- Using a 4-pin connector, an S-video jack transmits the chrominance (color) and luminance (brightness) portions of a video signal separately, for improved color accuracy and reduced distortion.

Tape monitor -- An especially versatile type of tape input/output loop found on some receivers and preamplifiers. It allows you to record and play back like a standard tape loop, but can also be used for connecting an equalizer, surround sound decoder, or other external signal processing device.

THD (Total Harmanic distortion) -- A measurement of the accuracy of an amplifier (or the amplifier section of a receiver). THD refers to the amount of internally generated noise. The lower the number, the better.

Video dubbing -- A "dub" is a copy of an original. A receiver that offers video dubbing lets you make a video-to-video copy through the receiver. Using an A/V receiver as the intermediary unit in the dubbing process has several advantages: You can use the receiver's internal switching, eliminating the need to hook and unhook cables between your video components, and you can easily monitor the dubbing process using the receiver's connections to your TV and speakers.

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Last Update: April 10, 2020

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Audio & Video
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