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Music and Audio Glossary of Terms—Part 3

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This post is part of a series called Music and Audio Glossary of Terms.
Music and Audio Glossary of Terms—Part 2
Music and Audio Glossary of Terms—Part 4

The modern world is full of three-letter acronyms, or TLAs, and other jargon. The world of music and audio is no different.

Every given topic area has its own specific abbreviations and terminology that can, at first, be impenetrable to some. In this tutorial I attempt to demystify a few of the terms that you're likely to read in our tutorials.


NLE—Non-Linear Editing

A non-linear editing system is a video or audio editing digital audio workstation, or DAW, system that performs non-destructive editing on source material. 

non-linear editing is often abbreviated to NLE. Likewise, a non-linear video editing system is known as NLVE and a non-linear audio editing system is known as NLAE.

The name is in contrast to 20th century methods of linear video editing and film editing. 

Noise Gate 

A noise gate is a device that attenuates a signal when the program level falls below a preset threshold.

Noise gates can make a voice over sound clean and professional in seconds if you use them correctly, for instance. 



An oscillator is a hardware device or software that generates an audio signal. It will normally generate a sine, square or triangle waveform at a given frequency to generate sound.


PCM—Pulse Code Modulation

Pulse Code Modulation, or PCM, is a method used for recording and storing samples in many audio formats. 

It is the method use to digitally store sampled analogue signals and is the standard form of audio in computers, compact discs, VoIP telephony and other digital audio applications.


The peak is the highest level of strength of an audio signal. Often refers to an unacceptably high level, where the signal begins to distort.

Phantom Power

A DC current which is sent through audio cables to provide power for devices such as microphones.

Phantom power supplies are often built into mixing consoles, microphone preamplifiers and other audio equipment. In addition to powering the circuitry of a microphone, traditional condenser microphones use phantom power for polarising the microphone's transducer element.


The relationship of an audio signal or sound wave to a specific time reference.

Phasing is the synchronisation, or lack synchronisation, between the sound waves in two similar signals. An effect in which a swirling sound is added to a signal similar to flanging. 

Phase cancellation is the complete cancellation of audio that occurs when two signals are 180 degrees out of phase. 

Phase shift is the phase relationship of two signals at a given time, or the phase change of a signal over an interval of time.

  • Fixing Phase


A Potentiometer, known as a Pot for short, is a variable resistor—that can be rotary or linear—that is used to control volume, tone, or other functions of an electronic device.



An RCA connector is a common type of audio and video connector that is often used in home entertainment systems and audio equipment. An RCA connector is also referred to as a phono connector or A/V jacks.

The name RCA means Radio Corporation of America. The organisation introduced the design in the early-1940s as a low-cost means of connection and disconnection of equipment. The design was later refined but remained compatible. 

Phono is an abbreviation of phonograph.


Reverb is an abbreviation of reverberation. Reverb is the persistence of sound after it is produced, such as the effect of sound waves bouncing off walls and other objects.

Reverb is created when a sound or signal reflects and a large number of reflections build up then decay as the sound is absorbed by surrounding surfaces. These surfaces can be objects in the space such as people, furniture, even the air.

The effect is most noticeable when the source sound stops but sound is left to reflect from surfaces. The sound decreases in amplitude until it reaches zero, or no sound.

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