Digital Music Glossary


Read below for an alphabetical list of common terms explaining the ins and outs of your digital music.


AAC (advanced audio coding)
An audio compression format defined by MPEG-4. It’s higher quality than MPEG-3 (MP3) and requires less data for audio reproduction.

AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format)
An uncompressed digital audio format that delivers the best sound quality, requiring more bandwidth.

Album Art
Album cover art that usually downloads with iTunes Music Store purchases. You can view art in the iTunes window or on the Apple iPod from HP 30GB and 60GB with color display.

Data transmission via continuous, varying signal. Analog media includes VHS and traditional audio cassettes, vinyl records, and film. Analog video and audio quality quickly degrades and is inferior to digital quality.

Apple Lossless
A high-quality compressed digital audio file format that is approximately half the size of uncompressed files.

Digital spoken word file, such as audiobooks and radio programs, with four compression rates (Audible 1, 2, 3, and 4). iPods are compatible with rates 2, 3, and 4. (Various sites let users download audiobooks, radio programs, and audio versions of newspapers and magazines.)

Audio capture
See Capture

Audio frequency (AF)
Sound that is within the normal range of human hearing, usually between 20 hertz (Hz) and 20 kilohertz (kHz).

An iTunes setting that allows the iPod shuffle to automatically download current music library selections based on your preferences (random, rating, or frequency of play) when connected to a PC.

An iTunes setting that allows an iPod to automatically download current music library contents when connected to a PC.


The amount of data that can be transmitted within a set amount of time. Depending on the device, bandwidth is expressed in bits per second, bytes per second, or hertz.

Bit rate
The average number of bits that one second of audio data will consume. Standard MP3 bit rates are 64Kbps (kilobits per second), 96Kbps, 128Kbps, and 160Kbps. The higher the bit rate, the better the sound quality.

bps (bits per second)
A measurement of the speed at which data is sent over transmission lines. A bit is the smallest unit of information on a computer.

Bps (bytes per second)
A rate of data transfer, not to be confused with bits per second (bps). A byte is a number of bits that are usually treated as a unit.

Memory that temporarily stores data to help compensate for differences in the transfer rate of data from one device to another.

The process of writing a DVD, CD-R, or CD-RW (see definitions below). CD and DVD writers are sometimes called burners.


For a PC to receive or copy data (in this case, audio and video) from another device (VCR, digital video camera, stereo, microphone, etc.).

Capture card
A computer hardware device that receives digital audio or video from a source such as a digital camcorder or camera. In the instance of audio, it is also called a sound card.

CD (compact disc)
A laser-encoded storage media for digital data. A variety of formats are available for audio, video, and computer files.

CD-R (CD-Recordable)
A CD-R can store data as well as digital audio files. But information can only be recorded once; the disc cannot be burned with additional data and cannot be recorded over.

CD-RW (CD-Rewritable)
You can write, rewrite, and erase more than a thousand times on this medium. The data on CD-RW discs is only readable by CD-RW drives; sometimes computers need the identical software that was used to create a disc in order to read it.

Celebrity playlist
A feature in the iTunes Music Store in which celebrities compile songs into a playlist and describe the inspirations for their choices.

Click wheel
Touch-sensitive control standard on most iPods that navigates menus and settings, as well as controls music (Play/Pause, Fast-forward, Volume, etc.).

The process of reducing the range of audio signals in a recording, thus decreasing the size of the file. MP3 compression eliminates frequencies less audible to the human ear, though a bit rate below 128Kbps produces a discernible loss in sound quality.

Constant bit rate (CBR)
A type of encoding that maintains a fixed bit rate throughout a file, so that data is sent in a steady stream. Because more complex passages may be encoded with fewer than necessary bits, and relatively simple passages may be encoded with more bits than are necessary, CBR can potentially result in lower-quality sound.

Crossfade playback
In iTunes, the amount of time elapsed between songs. You can choose to hear songs fade one into the next with or without silence.


Data transmission via a fixed number of data points. Digital media includes all formats of CDs and DVDs. Digital video and audio quality is long-lasting and superior to that of analog.

Digital rights managment (DRM)
Technology that protects a piece of intellectual digital property such as a music, video, or text file. With DRM, copyrighted material downloaded from the Web may be restricted so that it cannot be freely distributed.

To transfer analog media to digital media (i.e., transferring VHS to DVD).

Disk Mode
An iPod setting that lets you use your PC-connected iPod as a hard drive to store data. Dock
An iPod cradle that connects to a PC to charge the battery and transfer songs. Select HP Media Center PC models have built-in docks.

DVD (digital video disc)
A second-generation compact disc storage media that holds 4.7GB, or several hours, of high-quality video.

DVD-R (DVD Recordable)
DVD-R offers a write-once, read-many storage format akin to CD-R and is used to master DVD-Video and DVD-ROM discs. It is also used for data archive and storage applications.

DVD-RW (DVD Rewritable)
A rewritable DVD format that is similar to DVD+RW. It has a read-write capacity of 4.38GB.

Double-layer DVD
Refers to either a DVD writer that burns two layers of data onto a DVD (rather than the traditional one layer) or 8.5GB-capacity DVD media (4.7GB was previously the storage maximum). You must have both the enabled writer and the media to take advantage of the 8.5GB storage. Also called dual-layer DVD.


A software application that converts an audio file into another format. For example, an MP3 encoder converts a WAV file into an MP3 file.

A software device that allows you to adjust musical frequencies such as bass and treble to control the quality of output.

To send data to a software application or storage media, or to an individual via e-mail.


FireWire port
High-speed external connection used for connecting peripherals, also referred to as "IEEE 1394."

FM transmitter
An iPod accessory that streams FM radio from a car or home stereo to an iPod, and iPod contents to be streamed to a car or home stereo.


GB (gigabyte)
A unit of data equal to 1,024 megabytes, or about a billion bytes. GB is a term used to discuss hard-drive capacity.

A category of music, such as jazz, classical, alternative, pop, etc.

Gracenote CDDB (CD database)
An online database of music CD information. When you play a music CD on a CDDB-enabled player such as iTunes, the CD is automatically identified and its information downloaded, including the artist, track lists, credits, etc.


Hertz (Hz)
The frequency of electrical vibrations (cycles) per second. One Hz is equal to one cycle per second.

HP Media Center PC
HP's complete PC solution to digital entertainment and management.


ID3 tag
Information embedded in an MP3 file, such as artist, title, track, etc. An ID3 tag editor lets you add and change this information. Without an ID3 tag, an MP3 would be recognizable only by the name of the file itself. ID3 tags are important to playlists because they identify pieces of music.

Information embedded in an MP3 file, such as artist, title, track, etc. An ID3 tag editor lets you add and change this information. Without an ID3 tag, an MP3 would be recognizable only by the name of the file itself. ID3 tags are important to playlists because they identify pieces of music.

To download or capture an audio, video, or image file.

iPod 20GB
About the size of a deck of cards, this iPod has a grayscale LCD display and comes with 20GB (5,000 songs) of storage.

iPod 30GB or 60GB with color display
About the size of a small wallet, this model displays full-color photos and Album Art, as well as storing and playing digital music files. Available in 30GB (7,500 songs or 12,500 photos) and 60GB (15,000 songs or 25,000 photos) capacities.

iPod mini
About the size of a business card, this model has a grayscale LCD display and comes in 4GB (1,000 songs) and 6GB (1,500 songs) capacities.

iPod shuffle
About the size of a pack of gum, this model has no LCD display, and comes in 512MB (120 songs) and 1GB (240 songs) capacities. Listening modes are random, repeat, and playlist order.

Apple's music management software, it allows you to create a music library, compile playlists, listen to global radio, purchase and download songs from the iTunes Music Store, and share music via network.


A software device that stores and catalogs audio files.


KB (kilobyte}
One KB equals 1,024 bytes. KB is a measurement of file size.

Kbps (kilobits per second)
One Kbps equals 1,000 bps. See bits per second.


An HP-invented direct disc labeling technology that burns text and graphics onto the surface of a CD or DVD using the disc drive’s laser and a specially coated LightScribe disc. A LightScribe disc drive burns data and creates labels using the same device.


MB (megabyte)
A unit of data equal to one million bytes. MB is a measurement of file size.

Mini tattoos
Tattoos sized to fit the iPod mini. See Tattoo.

Short for MPEG-1, audio layer 3. A form of digital audio compression that reduces the size of audio files without drastically compromising sound quality. MP3s reduce unnecessary data that is less audible to the human ear. These files end with .mp3.

Music library
A collection of audio files such as downloaded songs or albums.


To boost the volume of a track so that it's as loud as possible without distorting. This maximizes sound quality, eliminates noise, and produces an even volume among tracks from different sources.



Party shuffle
A feature of iTunes that automatically chooses and plays songs based on the contents of your library and playlists.

A custom index of musical pieces that play in a certain order. You can arrange your own playlists by artist, genre, mood, or any way you choose using an HP Media Center PC or software such as iTunes.

Music and spoken word programs in MP3 format that can be downloaded once or subscribed to via an RSS feed. Unlike traditional or Internet radio broadcasts, you can listen to them whenever you want and there are no Federal Communications Commission restrictions, meaning it is truly free speech.



RealOne Player
A software program that streams audio and video files.

To extract digital audio tracks from an audio CD. A software program that extracts audio files from a CD is called a ripper.


Secure audio file
In iTunes, an audio file that is password-protected.

In iTunes, a feature that selects and plays songs at random.

Smart playlist
In iTunes, a playlist created based on specific criteria, such as artist, genre, song rating, or duration.

Sound card
See Capture card

Streaming audio
Live audio received over the Internet without downloading it. Streaming does not save a copy of the audio on your PC, while downloading a file does. Internet radio stations generally use streaming audio to broadcast.

A speaker that produces low-audio frequencies also known as bass.

Three-dimensional sound, usually created or amplified by the placement of multiple speakers throughout a room or home theater.

To transfer and match music or photos on your PC to your iPod.


A protective, self-adhesive iPod wrapper that can be printed on before application. Tattoos can easily be personalized with images of musicians, cool band graphics, or other designs. They're easily removable and can be changed as often as desired.

On an audio CD, a track is a single section of audio (typically a single song or piece of music).

An electronic device that receives radio signals.


USB (universal serial bus) cable
A connector that supports a rapid data transfer rate; used with various hardware components (mouse, printer, etc.).

USB input
Connection port for USB cable.


Variable bit rate (VBR)
Variable bit rate specifies the sound quality level but allows the bit rate to fluctuate. During complex passages, VBR uses a higher-than-average bit rate but during simple passages uses a lower-than-average bit rate. VBRs save space without typically sounding worse.

Colorful animations that move while music plays. An option in both iTunes and Windows Media Center.


WAV (Windows audio)
A standard Windows audio format. WAV files produce extremely high sound quality but take up more space than MP3s. These files end with .wav.

Windows Media Player
A Microsoft-developed software program that plays streaming audio and video files.

WMA (Windows Media Audio)
Developed by Microsoft, WMA is a sound-file format that is even smaller than MP3. WMA offers near-CD-quality sound at an encoding rate of only 64Kbps (as opposed to MP3's 128Kbps), cutting the file size in half. Optional copyright protection is included in the WMA code, allowing the owner to restrict the use of protected material.