Specifically, I am referring to the hissing, buzzing, S-like, or fuzzy sound that is created when electronic speakers play sounds or music near their volume or frequency limits.

I recall having learned a term for this at some point in the recent past, but cannot remember it despite significant time spent searching online. If I recall correctly, this is a sound produced within the speaker, not just sound caused by the speaker vibrating adjacent objects.

  • If you're still looking for a more detailed answer, you could cross-post at the Audio-Video Production Stack Exchange. – Mark Beadles Jan 31 '12 at 12:40

Sibilance is a word for that type of sound. It tends to be caused by aliasing of frequencies that are above the range of human hearing.

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  • That was the work I was looking for. Thank you. I've now been able to do some more detailed reading on how to avoid this in speaker configurations. – B Sharp Feb 6 '12 at 23:04

Perhaps you are looking for "white noise"?

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    What I was thinking of wasn't really noise distributed across the full spectrum like white noise. It's generally concentrated more around a small frequency range. Thanks for pointing me to that article, it was a good read. – B Sharp Jan 31 '12 at 7:13

An webervst.com spterm.html webpage defines numerous terms for speaker-related distortions, including Boomy, Breakup, Buzz, Rattle, Cone Cry, Ghost Notes, Edge Yowl, Crunch, Damping, Diffused, Fizz, Flabbing, Farting Out, Harsh, Honking, Muddy, Peaky, Presence Notch, Voice Coil Rub. The web page attributes buzz and rattle to speaker damage, caused for example by exceeding a speaker's power limits.

Some of the distortions above are due to breakup, that is, to a speaker vibrating in sections rather than as a smooth single surface. The web page notes that "comb filtering and other anomalies" occur due to breakup. Breakup is a natural consequence of driving a physical device faster (ie at a higher frequency) than it can move as a whole.

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  • Thank you. That was an interesting page to read. Based on those definitions, it looks like breakup or harsh are probably most closely related to what I am trying to describe. Neither is exactly the word I was looking for, but at least I can now refer to the phenomenon in a way that people familiar with speakers will understand. – B Sharp Jan 31 '12 at 7:15

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