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Glossary

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Welcome to Sound On Sound's indispensible, regularly updated, explanations of technical terms from the fields of Recording, Audio Production, Music Technology, MIDI, Music Software, Audio Plug-ins, Mac and PC Computing, Live Sound, Acoustics, Electronics and more...

If we do not explain a particular term below, please email glossary@soundonsound.com and we will add it to our next update.

Last updated: 05/11/21

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Unbalanced

A 2-wire electrical signal connection where the signal conductor is surrounded by a screen which provides a 0V reference and also guards against electrical interference.

Unison

To play the same melody using two or more different instruments or voices.

Unity Gain

A condition where the output signal is the same amplitude as the input signal; the overall system gain is then x1 or unity.

USB

Universal Serial Bus. A computer interface standard introduced in 1996 to replace the previous standard serial and parallel ports more commonly used. The USB1.1 interface operated at up to 12Mb/s, but this was superseded in 2000 by USB2.0 which operates at up to 480Mb/s. Most USB interfaces can also provide a 5V power supply to connected devices. USB3.0 was launched in 2008 and is claimed to operate at rates up to 5Gb/s.

USB connectors can be indentified by having a blue insert in the Type-A sockets and the letters SS (SuperSpeed). The latest edition, USB3.1 (launched in 2013) offers transfer rates of 10Gb/s, approaching that of the first generation of Thunderbolt interfaces. Like earlier USB interfaces, the USB3 format provides a 5V power supply, but the current rating has been increased from USB2.0's 200mA (1.0 Watts) to 900mA (4.5 Watts), and sockets designated as charging sockets can manage 1500mA (7.5 Watts).

USB-C

The latest (2014) incarnation of a Universal Serial Bus interface, carrying bidirectional data at speeds of 10Gb/s. USB-C is not compatible with previous generations (USB 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1) as it has a very different 24-pin connector which is symmetrical and employed at both ends of a free cable, and all devices have the same socket. Power is optionally available over USB-C connections at 5V with a current capacity of either 1.5A (7.5W) or 3A (15W).