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Audio Engineering: Adjectives of Audio

This course will teach you how to understand some of the popular adjectives used to describe audio.
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25 students enrolled
Last updated 5/2015
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  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 1 Supplemental Resource
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What Will I Learn?
understand popular adjectives used to describe audio. For example, bright, dark, clean, colored, vintage, modern.
understand popular adjectives used to describe audio
understand the difference between vintage and modern.
understand the difference between dark and bright
understand the difference between clean and colored
Be able to relate to the other engineers
View Curriculum
  • This course requires no previous knowledge in audio or engineering
  • no specific software is not needed, but a daw is recommended
  • Access to an EQ plugin in a DAW is recommended to apply and practice what it covered in this course.
  • The DAW used in this course is Presonus Studio One
  • A pair of stereo headphones is highly recommended when listening to this course. Because of the frequency response of ear buds they will not give the best results when listening to examples in this course.

This course consists of the explanations of popular adjectives used to describe audio.

  1. Dark - this means the signal sounds vintage, to understand what vintage sounds like listen to some old recording and study the tone. Dark sounding also falls under colored.
  2. Bright - this means the signal has more high frequencies. If you want to make something sound brighter add some high frequency to it. Bright being the opposite of dark can be great on some vocals.
  3. Clean - clean means your signal is pure and accurate. This is a modern sound, the opposite of vintage. For example a clean mic pre means it doesn't change (or color) your sound. So what you put in is what you get back. Solid-state or transformerless is generally clean.
  4. Colored - this is the opposite of clean. Coloring your sounds means changing the tone from the original signal. Colored can be associated with vintage and sometimes dark. Different gear has different colors. If you listen closely you can hear differences between different pieces of gear.
  5. Muddy - this the second hardest term to explain, but here we go. Mud is a build of low mid frequencies (200-500hz) that makes the signal sound cluttered. Mud is not a positive thing and should never be taken as a compliment. It took me a long time to distinguish what mud was.
  6. Sterile - sterile means ultra clean. This is good for say orchestra where you usually want as little color as possible. Sterile can also come off sometimes as “too clean", meaning its so clean it's boring. These type of pres are crystal clear though.
  7. Transparent - this another word for clean and it's mostly associated with compressors and eq's. A transparent piece of gear means its not going to impart any color on the original signal during its processing. If you're happy with the tone of your signal but need to further process it then you need to reach for something thats transparent.
  8. Smooth - this to me differs in compressors, eq's, and mics. For compressors smooth means its compressing but you can't really hear the compression, even at high gain reduction. Any compressor, except maybe aggressive ones (more on that next) can be made smooth with the right settings.
  9. Aggressive - in a mic pre this means in your face, very forward sounding. The API 312 and 512 have been described as an aggressive mic pre. In a compressor this means it really clamps down on a signal even with gentle settings. FET compressors are known for being aggressive and being capable of a very fast attack time.
  10. Warm - this is the one you all have been waiting for. Warmth is the most used word when describing the sound of a piece of gear. Its the hardest one to describe because people who have no idea of what warmth is use the term freely. So what warmth is to you and how you perceive it will be different from others because the term is used so loosely. Where bright deals with high frequencies, warmth deals with the low to low mid frequencies. Tubes are associated with warmth because they add harmonic distortion (the good kind of distortion) to the those frequencies. This is what people are referring to when they say tube warmth.
Who is the target audience?
  • This course is for anyone looking to understand adjectives used in audio by audio engineers. Not matter what branch of audio you are into, this course will help expand your knowledge.
  • This course is recommended to audio engineers
  • This course is recommended to recording engineers
  • This course is recommended to mix engineers
  • This course is recommended to live sound engineers
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Curriculum For This Course
Expand All 21 Lectures Collapse All 21 Lectures 01:15:49
2 Lectures 03:49

This is the introduction to the course

Preview 02:04

This lecture goes over why learning these adjectives are important

Preview 01:45
Audio Adjectives
1 Lecture 03:11

This lecture goes over the 2 main categories of adjetcives used in audio

Preview 03:11
10 popular Audio Adjectives
10 Lectures 13:37

This lecture goes over what dark sounds like

Preview 01:07

This lecture goes over what bright sounds like

Preview 01:02

This lecture goes over what clean sounds like

Preview 01:01

This lecture goes over what it means for a sound to be colored


This lecture goes over what muddy sounds like


This lecture goes over what sterile sounds like


This lecture goes over what smooth sounds like


This lecture goes over what transparent sounds like


This lecture goes over what aggressive sounds like


This lecture goes over what warm sounds like

Adjectives applied to popular studio gear
1 Lecture 12:06

This lecture goes over adjectives used for popular studio gear

Adjectives applied to gear
4 Lectures 12:27

This is an example of bright vs dark

Bright vs Dark

this is an example of thin vs thick

thin vs thick

This is an example of dynamics vs squashed

Dynamics vs squashed

This is an example of clean vs colored

Clean vs Colored
3 Lectures 02:39

This lecture shows how to deal with some negative adjectives.

Adjectives you don't want to hear

Downloadable PDF of this course
28 pages

Contact info

Adjectives of Audio Quiz
10 questions
About the Instructor
4.3 Average rating
451 Reviews
9,998 Students
8 Courses
Independent Audio Engineer

Czar was born in Nashville, but got his musical roots while being raised in Memphis. He worked for a few studios in Memphis as well as owning his own recording studio called the Kremlin. In 2000 Czar founded Throneholder Productions, a production company for hip-hop, R&B, pop, and dance music. After years of producing independent artist, Czar later returned to Nashville to pursue a BA in audio production from the Art Institute of Tennessee Nashville, which he received with honors. During school he began to focus on engineering and mixing, which is where he finds most of his work since moving to Nashville. When he's not busy in a studio engineering or in the Kremlin mixing, Czar spends his spare time researching gear, blogging about audio, writing gear reviews, and posting helpful tutorial videos online to help others learn.

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