Glossary of audio engineering terms

Glossary of audio engineering terms

Here’s a glossary I’ve compiled of the most common terms used in location audio and audio engineering.


Adapters – cabled or in-line audio format converters used for connecting different sound equipment

ADR – Automatic Dialog Replacement; the process of replacing dialog that is unusable in its present form

AGC – automatic gain control, use very sparingly

Assisted Listening – auxiliary listening monitors, usually for directors, script supervisors, clients and producers

Audio DA – audio distribution amplifier

Audio Mults, Audio Snakes – multi-pair cables, housed in a single cable, generally used for long cable runs


Boom Operator – assistant who operates a microphone at the end of a boom pole

Boom Pole – a lightweight (ex. graphite) pole, used for extending microphone reach


Cardioid – heart-shaped microphone pickup pattern

Condenser – a type of microphone that requires power


dBFS – means “decibels relative to full scale”. An abbreviation for decibel amplitude levels in digital systems which have a maximum available peak level. 0 dBFS is assigned to the maximum possible level.


Feedback – a high-pitched sound that occurs when a microphone “hears” itself from a PA speaker or headset

Frame Delay – an audio processor that delays the audio signal so the final video and audio will be in sync


Gaff tape – Gaffers tape; a cloth tape that is used extensively on productions for their light-tack quality


Headroom – the maximum audio signal level before distortion

Headset – microphones worn over the head; with or without earpiece

Hypercardioid – a polar pattern similar to the cardioid except there is more sound pickup in the rear


Lavaliere – tiny microphones (wired or wireless); may be visible for announcers and newscasters


Micro-Cat – a small “furry” windscreen used on lavaliere microphones

Monitors, Audio – speakers

MOS – acronym for “mitt out sound”; meaning no sound on the next shot


Omni – circular microphone pickup pattern


Phantom Power – low-wattage power for condenser microphones

Plant Mic – hidden microphone for dialogue or sound effects pickup

Playback – audio or video replay of pre-recorded material

Polar Pattern – microphone pickup pattern

Plug-in Transmitter – wireless transmitter that plugs into any adaptable microphone


Q-Box – troubleshooting listening device made by Whirlwind™.


RF – acronym for “radio frequency”


Saddlebag – a metal or fabric “saddlebag” that holds wireless receivers on a video camera

Shark Fin – flat-sided RF antenna; “bat-wing”

Shotgun – a long-tube type microphone with a supercardioid polar pattern that is predominately used on production sets

Stick – handheld microphone used for announcer stand-ups

Supercardioid – microphone polar pattern usually associated with “shotgun” microphones


TRS – acronym for tip, ring, sleeve; used in balanced audio connectors

T-Power – terminology for 12 volt microphone power


Weatherproofing – process of protecting against inclement weather

Whip – a standard rubber coated antenna

Windscreen – foam or cloth covering over microphone for wind protection; most microphones come with a built-in metal windscreen

Wireless – terminology for radio frequency equipment

“Work the mic” – when the on-camera talent maneuvers the microphone between themselves and the guest


XLR – acronym for a 3-pronged balanced audio connector


Zeppelin – hard meshed cover for a shotgun microphone used for wind protection