Q: I always thought that it was weird to say you were using a “-20dB” pad. How can a pad be negative? Doesn’t the term “pad” itself indicate that you are dropping the level? Wouldn’t a negative pad value indicate that the sound was actually getting louder?
A: Whoo boy, we’re not sure we want to step into this one. Put it this way: yes, the term “pad” does indicate a circuit or parameter used to drop or attenuate a signal level. So perhaps technically and semantically, “20dB pad” is more correct than “-20dB pad.”
But in the case of a specific product, “-20dB” on the label of an inline pad, for example, is certainly a valid way to indicate the amount of attenuation provided by the device.
And, the “-” nomenclature could be consider common usage. As long as everyone understands the meaning, it doesn’t cause any harm.
Finally, thinking outside the audio level box, we would also submit that a -20dB pad could be a washy background sound, often generated by a synthesizer, that is playing back at a -20dB level…