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Flat Vs Colored Discussion

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 

Regarding the flat sound vs colored sound and how different components affect the sound in different ways. You know, tubes are warmer, Cowon's BBE adds depth, Ety's are flat and accurate, etc. The observation I have for discussion is this - how can you know? It is a long trip from a musician's instrument to the listener's ears. Say you have a recording of a rock guitarist. Many rock guitarists prefer tube amps for their warm overdriven distortion. Also, maybe the player prefers a touch of reverb. Overall, the original recording is going to have a very warm sound.

 

So - the point I am making is this - unless you were present at the live performance, you can't know where the colorization (is that a word?) of the audio occurs. This is true for other situations as well. If you have a live jazz recording, like my favorite Wes Montgomery's Smokin at The Half Note, you can't know if the warmth, or depth is being produced by your equipment or if it is on the original recording. The "flattest" gear around had better reproduce that warmth and depth or it isn't flat at all, right? Hmmmm.

post #2 of 33

True no one will ever know how the original sounds unless you were there when they were making the original. As you progress/get farther into the 'audio' world your definition of accurate might change. wink.gif

post #3 of 33

Well one of the attributes of neutral/flat sound systems is that they make different bands sound very different from each other because they all have their own way of producing their music.

A coloured sound system will have a similar sound signature regardless on whats played on it.

Also a neutral/flat system tend to be very unforgiving, they simply do not hide flaws and poor sound quality, coloured system do because they add to the music, and may very well add what a poor production lacks.

post #4 of 33

I completely agree with what Adda said.

 

I think it takes a lot of trial and error to try to triangulate cause and effect when dealing with audio equipment, and there is no absolute certainty, there's always going to be some synergy effect we can't accurately define or faulty perception that prevents us from being 100% accurate. It's also easy to be totally off, I am all the time, which is why when I want to feel some level of confidence about an opinion I have about the sound signature of a piece of equipment, I have to do many hours of listening and testing.

 

I personally rely on movies to gauge coloration, I find the visual accompaniment to sounds makes it easier to be objective, and roll-off is easily apparent when gunfire and the mafia sound musical. When listening to music without any visual accompaniment I have the tendency to just try to enjoy, and I have a harder time differentiating between what I like to hear and what my mind thinks is most flat/neutral. Wish it wasn't so, but where I find neutral hi-fi audio most meaningful to me is in games and movies, not stereo music. For stereo music, I will usually get tired of neutral because, well, I don't think I actually want to hear the musicians :p, I prefer musicians+colored gear.

post #5 of 33
Thread Starter 

 

Studio recordings of classical guitar always seem to strive for flat an accurate. By flat I mean to reproduce the guitar without any colorization whatsoever, as a good concert grade classical guitar will have a very rich timbre and  tonal pallette and a good recording engineer will not want to change that in any way. Maybe that can be baseline of sorts.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by haloxt View Post

I completely agree with what Adda said.

 

I think it takes a lot of trial and error to try to triangulate cause and effect when dealing with audio equipment, and there is no absolute certainty, there's always going to be some synergy effect we can't accurately define or faulty perception that prevents us from being 100% accurate. It's also easy to be totally off, I am all the time, which is why when I want to feel some level of confidence about an opinion I have about the sound signature of a piece of equipment, I have to do many hours of listening and testing.

 

I personally rely on movies to gauge coloration, I find the visual accompaniment to sounds makes it easier to be objective, and roll-off is easily apparent when gunfire and the mafia sound musical. When listening to music without any visual accompaniment I have the tendency to just try to enjoy, and I have a harder time differentiating between what I like to hear and what my mind thinks is most flat/neutral. Wish it wasn't so, but where I find neutral hi-fi audio most meaningful to me is in games and movies, not stereo music. For stereo music, I will usually get tired of neutral because, well, I don't think I actually want to hear the musicians :p, I prefer musicians+colored gear.

post #6 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlatNine View Post

 

Studio recordings of classical guitar always seem to strive for flat an accurate. By flat I mean to reproduce the guitar without any colorization whatsoever, as a good concert grade classical guitar will have a very rich timbre and  tonal pallette and a good recording engineer will not want to change that in any way. Maybe that can be baseline of sorts.

1+ The Studio can go to......

post #7 of 33

"Neutral" or colored.

If you swing both ways, you'll have double the fun!  =D

post #8 of 33

uote:

Originally Posted by FlatNine View Post

Regarding the flat sound vs colored sound and how different components affect the sound in different ways. You know, tubes are warmer, Cowon's BBE adds depth, Ety's are flat and accurate, etc. The observation I have for discussion is this - how can you know? It is a long trip from a musician's instrument to the listener's ears. Say you have a recording of a rock guitarist. Many rock guitarists prefer tube amps for their warm overdriven distortion. Also, maybe the player prefers a touch of reverb. Overall, the original recording is going to have a very warm sound.


You play something which is a known and measureable quantity. Long sine waves come to mind.

 

And no: a good tube amp, driving a speaker within it's ability and not run into clipping will be flat.The "tube sound" is the effect of soft clipping.

post #9 of 33
There is no stereotypical tube sound across all amps. They're all different. Some add warmth and some are very flat. It depends on the circuit and tubes used.

I judge accuracy based on measurements (they have loads of value, despite what some would have you believe) and my personal experience playing several instruments in bands and orchestras. If you've spent ten years with a bass clarinet or tuba (my favorites) you know if a headphone reproduces it well or if it is adding bass that isn't there. When you play shows, you know what the sound is like in warm and cold venues. If the gear is adding sound that you don't get in real life, it's colored. I also have a good idea of what all the other instruments sound like since I've spent thousands of hours listening to them live.

The human voice is also a good indicator. We've all spent our entire lives listening to them. If a headphone sounds plasticky with vocals, that's easy to pick out.

Judging against personal experience with live music is the best way to gauge coloration.
post #10 of 33
Thread Starter 


The way I understand it, the tube sound is more than just clipping, which is why solid state amps don't produce the same sounds as tubes, generaqlly speaking. It was explained to me by an audio engineer that overdirving tubes generally produces harmonic overtones that are even multiples of the original frequency, whereas solid state amps produce multiples on odd harmonics. This was in the early 80's when he explained this to me, and at some point my head started to spin as he got way deeper into it. I don't have the depth to really comment on that, but as a former rocker, I know that I loved the sound of tubes over solid state, even when the latter was overdriven. (But now as a jazz player, I prefer the solid state amps - mostly because they are lighter! LOL!)
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

uote:

Originally Posted by FlatNine View Post

Regarding the flat sound vs colored sound and how different components affect the sound in different ways. You know, tubes are warmer, Cowon's BBE adds depth, Ety's are flat and accurate, etc. The observation I have for discussion is this - how can you know? It is a long trip from a musician's instrument to the listener's ears. Say you have a recording of a rock guitarist. Many rock guitarists prefer tube amps for their warm overdriven distortion. Also, maybe the player prefers a touch of reverb. Overall, the original recording is going to have a very warm sound.


You play something which is a known and measureable quantity. Long sine waves come to mind.

 

And no: a good tube amp, driving a speaker within it's ability and not run into clipping will be flat.The "tube sound" is the effect of soft clipping.

post #11 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlatNine View Post


The way I understand it, the tube sound is more than just clipping, which is why solid state amps don't produce the same sounds as tubes, generaqlly speaking. It was explained to me by an audio engineer that overdirving tubes generally produces harmonic overtones that are even multiples of the original frequency, whereas solid state amps produce multiples on odd harmonics. This was in the early 80's when he explained this to me, and at some point my head started to spin as he got way deeper into it. I don't have the depth to really comment on that, but as a former rocker, I know that I loved the sound of tubes over solid state, even when the latter was overdriven. (But now as a jazz player, I prefer the solid state amps - mostly because they are lighter! LOL!)


 

What do you feel is the semantic difference between "clipping" and "overdriving"?

post #12 of 33
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post


What do you feel is the semantic difference between "clipping" and "overdriving"?


x2

post #13 of 33


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

uote:

Originally Posted by FlatNine View Post

Regarding the flat sound vs colored sound and how different components affect the sound in different ways. You know, tubes are warmer, Cowon's BBE adds depth, Ety's are flat and accurate, etc. The observation I have for discussion is this - how can you know? It is a long trip from a musician's instrument to the listener's ears. Say you have a recording of a rock guitarist. Many rock guitarists prefer tube amps for their warm overdriven distortion. Also, maybe the player prefers a touch of reverb. Overall, the original recording is going to have a very warm sound.


You play something which is a known and measureable quantity. Long sine waves come to mind.

 

And no: a good tube amp, driving a speaker within it's ability and not run into clipping will be flat.The "tube sound" is the effect of soft clipping.



Don't forget output impedance (damping factor).  That could change the frequency response of the speaker depending on how erratic the speakers impedance to frequency is.  Solid state amps rarely have this issue in comparison.

post #14 of 33

Quote:

Originally Posted by Shike View Post


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

You play something which is a known and measureable quantity. Long sine waves come to mind.

 

And no: a good tube amp, driving a speaker within it's ability and not run into clipping will be flat.The "tube sound" is the effect of soft clipping.



Don't forget output impedance (damping factor).  That could change the frequency response of the speaker depending on how erratic the speakers impedance to frequency is.  Solid state amps rarely have this issue in comparison.


Bold added for clarity.

 

Yes. There are certainly quite a few factors at work in determining whether an amp is suitable to drive a given speaker; and an amp can only do what it can do. When tasked beyond its capabilities, the result is inevitably distortion.

post #15 of 33


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

Quote:

Originally Posted by Shike View Post


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

You play something which is a known and measureable quantity. Long sine waves come to mind.

 

And no: a good tube amp, driving a speaker within it's ability and not run into clipping will be flat.The "tube sound" is the effect of soft clipping.



Don't forget output impedance (damping factor).  That could change the frequency response of the speaker depending on how erratic the speakers impedance to frequency is.  Solid state amps rarely have this issue in comparison.


Bold added for clarity.

 

Yes. There are certainly quite a few factors at work in determining whether an amp is suitable to drive a given speaker; and an amp can only do what it can do. When tasked beyond its capabilities, the result is inevitably distortion.



That . . . has nothing to do with output impedance (damping factor).  You could have an amp that doesn't clip but exhibits poor output impedance/damping factor.

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