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I am now a true believer in "flat" ...

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

Over the last few months I have slowly been tweaking my system. I use the E-MU 0404 PCI sound card which has built in hardware EQ though the interface has a learning curve (it's not graphical!) I don't how "good" this EQ is, perhaps there is better out there, but I've been using it extensively.

 

I calibrated my system based on the assumption that listening to a sine sweep from 20-20000hz, it should sound "perfect". In other words, my perceived volume should be the same throughout the entire sweep - there should be no (or minimal, life isn't perfect) points where the volume seems to raise or drop. Of all the anomalies I found, it turned out to be about 95% spikes and only 5% dips. 

 

I had noticed from the beginning, starting with my HD 600 and moving onto a DT880, 600 ohm, there was always many things about the sound that did not sound lifelike. Rather than blame any potential problem with the music itself, I listened to the sweep on my Beyers. Without any EQ at all it sounds abysmal. There were points where the volume spiked so loudly it hurt my ears. This occured with the HD600 as well but sounded less balanced to my ears so I used the DT880 as a starting point.

 

(I also used pink noise to assist in making sure something was evenly leveled)

 

Right now I have *counts* ... 19 EQ inserts in the main mix of patchmix, as well as one for right channel only, and one for left channel only. (To do this I make foobar route each channel to it's own ASIO panel in the sound card. I know, I'm a genius) Now that every frequency is included and no frequency is emphasized more than the other (for all intents and purposes)... anything well-recorded (hell, anything decently recorded) sounds incredibly life like. I hear crazy details that I never heard before because they were over-shadowed by some other freq blasting in my ear or whatever other problem I corrected.

 

Is this true to human hearing? I don't know. I've read a lot about this but I've also heard many people say if you EQ to "flat" it will sound very wrong. There's a lot of ways to interpret this. FLAT as determined by a microphone and computer system is very different from calibration using my ears and my ears only.... in a way I've fixed everything wrong with human hearing. I somewhat believe this is the what a direct line into your brain might sound like, bypassing the ear. Of course it's not perfect. I already have my system balanced +23% to the RIGHT to compensate for my right ear not hearing as well. This has caused certain freqs (like 6500 hz) to create a very loud resonance in the right cup, so I must lower the volume of that frequency on that side to compensate. What happens is that my perceived volume of frequencies in this range is actually a combination of the ACTUAL frequency, plus the resonating frequenc(ies). This is not ideal by any means but the negative effects are not too bad, as it sounds pretty damn good anyway.

 

And you know what... the sound isn't bright. It isn't muddy. It isn't sterile and it isn't clinical or dead. It's alive, it's dynamic, there's just the right amount of everything. EQ is not wrong, it's not a bad word. Flat is not a bad word. Flat is not "boring"!! If this sound like this is wrong, then baby, I'm wrong.

post #2 of 32
Thread Starter 

But my question for you guys is this -- is it ridiculous that I have to EQ something so heavily to achieve this sound? I don't believe that it's my ears - it can't be. They are my reference for what sounds "life like". Vocals in my music now sound essentially perfect, like real life. I base this on voices I hear in real life. If my ears had that many problems, it would manifest itself to every sound in nature as well.

 

And of course, while I really recommend people strive for this ideal, it doesn't come without trade-offs. Anything that *isn't* well recorded will show itself with no mercy.

post #3 of 32

You're confusing equal loudness with a flat headphone frequency response/equalization (diffuse field or free field equalization for hifi headphones).

 

If you EQ for equal loudness (e.g. with a 20 Hz - 20 kHz sine sweep) the result has nothing to do with reality or the way it sounded in the studio. Not even close.

 

 

btw, this has nothing to do with belief...

post #4 of 32

If it sounds better to your ears, then do it.

 

If one sounds unnatural to you, and the other sounds lifelike and immersive, then who's to say you're wrong?

post #5 of 32

I've never heard of EQing to flat sounding "wrong;" what we got with an RTA in a car was "boring." It wasn't that it totally didn't sound like real instruments, but the Focals weren't "grabbing" the listener. 

post #6 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

You're confusing equal loudness with a flat headphone frequency response/equalization (diffuse field or free field equalization for hifi headphones).

 

If you EQ for equal loudness (e.g. with a 20 Hz - 20 kHz sine sweep) the result has nothing to do with reality or the way it sounded in the studio. Not even close.

 

 

btw, this has nothing to do with belief...


Oh? What SPL/FR chart would correspond to reality?

 

As to what it sounded like in the studio? For that you would need to match the speaker / room responses of the studio. They usually aim for "flat", but success varies.

 

With my own recordings: If I calibrate my in-room at recording point to flat with the same mic I use to record (since mics can be non-flat), then I get the same sound in play-back that I did at record. Any other calibration and there's measurable change.

post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

You're confusing equal loudness with a flat headphone frequency response/equalization (diffuse field or free field equalization for hifi headphones).

 

If you EQ for equal loudness (e.g. with a 20 Hz - 20 kHz sine sweep) the result has nothing to do with reality or the way it sounded in the studio. Not even close.

 

 

btw, this has nothing to do with belief...

 

 

Here's where I am confused -

 

If what I am doing is moving away from "reality", and as you say "not even close" to what was recorded in the studio, then if I spend a lengthy amount of time listening to music using this setup, my ears will become accustomed to it, correct? When I take my headphones off and start doing anything that makes noise, shuffling things around, will it not sound strange? If my ears/brain are compensating for the fact that I've removed 5 dB at 5700 hz, would that not be exaggerated?

 

I can say that when I remove all my EQ, everything immediately sounds like a tin can. If I listen to this for a while, eventually I adjust and it doesn't sound "as bad", but still not good at all to me. But the immediate result is awful. However, if I just take my headphones off and listen to everything around me - it sounds perfectly fine. Just trying to understand why I'm hearing what I'm hearing...

 

For the record, almost all the material I have that sounds real with my "equal loudness" EQ is either well-done modern day recordings, or most things I have on audiophile labels (most of my Audio Fidelity CDs sound amazing - and Hoffman has said many times that he strives for "lifelike vocals") so, it's not like I'm listening to poor material and mistakenly thinking it sounds good because I happen to be EQing what's wrong with it...

 

EDIT: and as I said, I realize I am bypassing many of the natural things that occur within the ear when sound reaches it. And likewise, sometimes it sounds so good like I am the microphone and they are singing right into my head... if we had implants that allowed a sound signal to go right to the brain - what would it sound like?

post #8 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

Oh? What SPL/FR chart would correspond to reality?

Oh what? What kinda question is that?

 

 

Quote:

As to what it sounded like in the studio? For that you would need to match the speaker / room responses of the studio. They usually aim for "flat", but success varies.

All I wrote is that if you eq for equal loudness contours you're very far away from something that could be considered flat in a studio setup.

 

Nobody listens with +10 to +20 dB at 100 Hz rising up to +40 to +60 dB (SPL) at 20 Hz...

 

 

Quote:
With my own recordings: If I calibrate my in-room at recording point to flat with the same mic I use to record (since mics can be non-flat), then I get the same sound in play-back that I did at record. Any other calibration and there's measurable change.

*applause*

 

post #9 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post

All I wrote is that if you eq for equal loudness contours you're very far away from something that could be considered flat in a studio setup.

 

Nobody listens with +10 to +20 dB at 100 Hz rising up to +40 to +60 dB (SPL) at 20 Hz...

 



Perhaps I didn't EQ for what you are calling equal loudness. I used my ears and my ears only, and have modified virtually every aspect of the freq. response until it sounds what I consider equal - not loud, not quiet, just right. I'm sure if you actually measure it with a device it will be all over the place.

post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vkamicht View Post

Here's where I am confused -

 

If what I am doing is moving away from "reality", and as you say "not even close" to what was recorded in the studio, then if I spend a lengthy amount of time listening to music using this setup, my ears will become accustomed to it, correct? When I take my headphones off and start doing anything that makes noise, shuffling things around, will it not sound strange? If my ears/brain are compensating for the fact that I've removed 5 dB at 5700 hz, would that not be exaggerated?

 

I see no problem fixing some "spikes" or resonances that shouldn't be there in the first place.

 

Also, I don't think that listening with headphones for a few hours will "reprogram" your brain. For example, you know how the voice of your family members sound like. Listening to a treble boosted can doesn't make all voices sound bassy suddenly.

 

I can say that when I remove all my EQ, everything immediately sounds like a tin can. If I listen to this for a while, eventually I adjust and it doesn't sound "as bad", but still not good at all to me. But the immediate result is awful. However, if I just take my headphones off and listen to everything around me - it sounds perfectly fine. Just trying to understand why I'm hearing what I'm hearing...

 

Right, being used to listening with boosted bass and suddenly disabling the EQ off course will make you notice a drastic change.

 

But you didn't EQ "reality", just the songs you listened to. I don't know how to describe this better and hope you understand what I'm trying to say.

 

 

For the record, almost all the material I have that sounds real with my "equal loudness" EQ is either well-done modern day recordings, or most things I have on audiophile labels (most of my Audio Fidelity CDs sound amazing - and Hoffman has said many times that he strives for "lifelike vocals") so, it's not like I'm listening to poor material and mistakenly thinking it sounds good because I happen to be EQing what's wrong with it...

 

Can you give us some numbers, e.g. boost at 100 Hz, 1 kHz, 10 kHz in dB, of your EQ curve? Do you listen at very low sound pressure levels?

 

EDIT: and as I said, I realize I am bypassing many of the natural things that occur within the ear when sound reaches it. And likewise, sometimes it sounds so good like I am the microphone and they are singing right into my head... if we had implants that allowed a sound signal to go right to the brain - what would it sound like?

 

Instead of implants just use in-ear mics. :p

 

Responses in bold.
 

post #11 of 32

Quote:

Originally Posted by xnor View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

Oh? What SPL/FR chart would correspond to reality?

Oh what? What kinda question is that?


The kind that induces a snide comment from you intended to distract us from the fact that you did not answer.

 

 

Quote:
Quote:

As to what it sounded like in the studio? For that you would need to match the speaker / room responses of the studio. They usually aim for "flat", but success varies.

All I wrote is that if you eq for equal loudness contours you're very far away from something that could be considered flat in a studio setup.

 

Nobody listens with +10 to +20 dB at 100 Hz rising up to +40 to +60 dB (SPL) at 20 Hz...

 

Perhaps we are talking past each other. If I can run sine sweeps and see a FR curve that's flat at the listening position: how am I not considered "flat in a studio setup"? How will the sound differ from "reality" (assuming that the recording is realalistic to begin with)?

 

Quote:
Quote:
With my own recordings: If I calibrate my in-room at recording point to flat with the same mic I use to record (since mics can be non-flat), then I get the same sound in play-back that I did at record. Any other calibration and there's measurable change.

*applause*


While I am glad you are impressed: you seem to have glossed over the problem it presents for your argument. "Flat" is indeed "realistic" in this example.

 

Can you tell me how "studio" examples are different?

post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 

I know what you are saying about the bass thing. But I have *barely* touched the bass and I don't believe it's overpowering at all. My "tin can" statement has to do with all the insane peaks that come back when I turn everything off. And yes I think I get what you mean about not EQing reality... 

 

Anyway, I can provide you with all the numbers to my EQ chain... I don't know how much it will help. Also I don't know how the E-MU card defines 1 "dB" because the same numbers used within the sound card vs. using another EQ like Electri-Q, the result sounds quite different. I found that I needed to use a lower number in Electri-Q to achieve the same result (if I recall correctly)

 

Let me also preface this by saying that even as I am writing it now, a lot of things look like they don't make a lot of sense and I probably could have condensed a few, or if I were to start from scratch knowing what I know now it would probably be a lot different. But this was over the span of a few months and I made small tweaks as I went - so that's why...

 

Main mix:

1. +2.0 dB @ 80 hz, 8.0 semitones bandwidth

2. -2.0 dB @ 210 hz, 2.0 st

3. -2.0 dB @ 300 hz, 12.0 st

4. -2.0 dB @ 325 hz, 6.0 st

5. -1.0 dB @ 500 hz, 6.0 st

6. -5.0 dB @ 750 hz, 12.0 st

7. -4.0 dB @ 1000 hz, 4.0 st

8. -4.0 dB @ 1275 hz, 4.0 st

9. -4.0 dB @ 2000 hz, 6.0 st

10. -3.0 dB @ 2350 hz, 5.0 st

11. +1.0 dB @ 3500 hz, 1.5 st

12. -3.5 dB @ 4600 hz, 12.0 st

13. -3.5 dB @ 5150 hz, 3.0 st

14. -5.0 dB @ 5700 hz, 3.0 st

15. +2.0 dB @ 7600 hz, 2.0 st

16. +2.0 dB @ 9800 hz, 4.0 st

17. -4.0 dB @ 12500 hz, 4.0 st

18. -2.0 dB Low Shelf @ 4000 hz corner frequency

 

Channel balance = +23 / 90 (where 0 is center and +90 is full right channel)


Right channel only:

1. -7.0 dB @ 6500 hz, 2.0 st (this one seems crazy but trust me, there is an insane resonance here in the right cup causing me to do this)

 

I don't know how to describe my average volume level in SPL... any tweaking I have done is at my normal "comfortable" listening level. Just loud enough to be fun but nothing too bad. I have always been sensitive to loud volume so I don't think I've ever listened at damaging levels.

post #13 of 32
Quote:

Originally Posted by JerryLove View Post

 

The kind that induces a snide comment from you intended to distract us from the fact that you did not answer.

 

You gotta be kidding, go sit on a tack.

 

While I am glad you are impressed [...]

 

Sarcasm. x_x


Responses in bold.

post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vkamicht View Post

Main mix:

1. +2.0 dB @ 80 hz, 8.0 semitones bandwidth

2. -2.0 dB @ 210 hz, 2.0 st

3. -2.0 dB @ 300 hz, 12.0 st

4. -2.0 dB @ 325 hz, 6.0 st

5. -1.0 dB @ 500 hz, 6.0 st

6. -5.0 dB @ 750 hz, 12.0 st

7. -4.0 dB @ 1000 hz, 4.0 st

...

 

That's not too bad. Equal loudness looks quite different though so I guess you mean you just adjusted some obvious peaks and did some slight balance adjustments.

 

Channel balance = +23 / 90 (where 0 is center and +90 is full right channel)

 

That's a bit strange, but I don't really know how much that is in dB's.

 

 

Responses in bold.
 

post #15 of 32

I EQ the heck out of my headphones to get a flatter FR. I hardly ever like how a headphone sounds by default. Like you, It does seem more natural to me, and I can hear details that were not there before!

 

Some people seem to believe that using an EQ at all is bad because it adds distortion. . . but I've never noticed a significant amount of distortion caused by an EQ, and the benefits seem great to me.

 

I think we are in a minority, most people like boosted bass, etc.

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