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Misconception of "neutral / accurate" - Page 2  

post #16 of 292
Strange that Lunatique's OP isn't in the top rated post of the last 7 days, it has 4 thumbs up while the 2nd top rated post has 3.
Edited by khaos974 - 7/28/11 at 9:58am
post #17 of 292

This post reminds me of the good old days of headfi 4 years ago! thumbs up!

post #18 of 292

Agree with everything OP has said, but you don't need to have expensive gear to have accurate sound -- with headphones, at least. I have a DT-880 and an 0404 USB (as my DAC/amp) and I have an extremely flat response - almost no deviations, the ones that I hear are very small and change DAILY so I consider them naturally occurring. Everything else I have cured with time, patience, and heavy doses of EQ. The sound is phenomenal and exactly as described, uncolored and let's the music be exactly what it is. I will forever stand by the idea that any serious headphone listener should use EQ.

post #19 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunatique View Post

 

First, I want to comment on the whole "pro audio gear sounds too analytical" thing


Great article and I agree 100% on the fidelity and accuracy thing.

 

So, where did the preconception of "pro audio gear sounds too analytical" came from if it's so widespread? Do people audition "pro" gear that has lots of coloration? And what "analytical" means? Are we talking about picking up subtle flaws in the material? Or sounding too harsh or cold, meaning exaggerated high end frequencies?

 

post #20 of 292
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jack black View Post

Great article and I agree 100% on the fidelity and accuracy thing.

 

So, where did the preconception of "pro audio gear sounds too analytical" came from if it's so widespread? Do people audition "pro" gear that has lots of coloration? And what "analytical" means? Are we talking about picking up subtle flaws in the material? Or sounding too harsh or cold, meaning exaggerated high end frequencies?

 

 

I suspect it partly has to do with how colored consumer audio gear sounds, such as having overly emphasized bass and exaggerated warmth. When an entire market segment gets used to that kind of sonic signature, they will think that's "the standard," and when they hear actual netural/accurate audio reproduction, it sounds alien to them.

 

One very common phenomenon among both audiophiles and pro audio guys is this:

 

When they transition from being inexperienced to experienced, they pick up critical listening skills along the way, and part of the skill has a lot to do with "unlearning" the colored sound they got used to as consumers. At first, they can't get used to the neutral/accurate sound reproduction because it sounds so different; the lack of exaggerated warmth, the lack of overly emphasized bass, the clarity of transients and details--it all makes them think the sound is cold and analytical. But that is only in comparison to an exaggerated warm sound. The same can be true if the person was used to consumer audio gear that sounds excessively bright to "fake" detail in the mid and treble frequencies, such as some of the Sony headphones out there--they'll listen to neutral/accurate and think it sounds dull and dark.

 

Eventually, they learn that what they had become used to in the past is the colored sound, and once they spend some time with a neutral/accurate sound, they'll be able to discern all the problems with colored sonic signatures. They'll be able to hear just how bloated the bass is in the old sound, obscuring important details in the low frequencies, masking details in the low-mids, and just sound like of muddy and vague in general. They'll also hear that intentionally contrived "warmth" is often just rolled off treble, and that kind of artificial contrivance is simply subjective, and on material that really need to have the "air" properly presented, the colored sounding system will be unable to do it. If the colored sound they were used to was overly bright, they'll learn that the brightness they thought was detail was actually very artificial sounding and in fact, quite unpleasant, once their ears got used to a neutral/accurate sound.

 

They'll also learn that if a recording sounds fatiguing or too bright on a neutral/accurate system, then it's the recording that's the problem, not the system. If you try to remedy the recording's problem by using a colored sounding system, then everything esle you listen to on that system will be colored! That is like purposely buying a TV that is too dark and cannot be adjusted to neutral/accurate, simply because a small percentage of movies you watch seems a bit bright to you. It's ass-backwards and illogical.

 

So instead of buying colored sounding audio gear, what you should do is to simply use an EQ unit and create presets that contain the kind of warmth you want to remedy those overly bright recordings, and then on the majority of material that isn't too bright, you simply turn the EQ off.

 

The truth is, material that sounds too bright are the small minority, and it's counter-intuitive to cater your system to a small minority of inferior recordings, when the majority sounds just fine.

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Lunatique - 7/28/11 at 7:49pm
post #21 of 292

Lunatique: Sorry if this was already said (I haven't read all of this thread yet), but I have a question. You referred to the acoustics of your room being important. How does this matter for headphones? Isn't the only important thing just it being quiet around you for open headphones?

post #22 of 292

1 question from a junior, if I audition headphones/amps or other equipment in a store, how I am supposed to know what the sound engineer wants me to hear so that i know the items i tried are not coloured?

 

And from my point of view, I mean in terms of portables(doesn't have a home rig), will a coloured portable amp compensate for the not-so-good internal portable amp to make it more neutral? If i try a portable amp and i like it(may be neutral or coloured), should i say that the amp is perfect because I do not know what is intended for me to hear?

post #23 of 292

You can't know for sure what the engineer wants you to hear; the best that you can do is trust that the record has been mastered by engineers who are well aware that people with various equipment will be listening to it. 

Other than that, you'd have to get familiar with how instruments sound live, and then see if a recording replicates that. Of course, you'll be doing this with your own gear, which will make you familiar with that gear; finally when you want to test new components, you should ideally be adding/substituting them into this existing chain of components you are familiar with, playing songs you know well.

 

If you like an amp, you like an amp. Lunatique is arguing that coloured gear can take you further and further away from the literal hifi (i.e. high fidelity) sound; he is not saying that everyone must seek hifi.

post #24 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ac500 View Post

Lunatique: Sorry if this was already said (I haven't read all of this thread yet), but I have a question. You referred to the acoustics of your room being important. How does this matter for headphones? Isn't the only important thing just it being quiet around you for open headphones?


My post discusses both speakers and headphones, but you're right, the room doesn't matter with headphones, as all you need is quiet; however, headphones are notoriously hard to design to sound neutral/accurate. The fact that we have probably less than 1% of headphones on the market capable of sounding full-range in the sub-bass region makes that problem glaringly obvious. Also, headphones are not nearly as dimensional sounding or dynamically exciting as speakers, so for anyone who's after a truly satisfying audio experience that can be described as musical nirvana, full-range speakers in a properly treated room is really the only option.

 

Even live music has room issues, and as much as people always bring up live music as some kind of standard for how good something should sound, they couldn't be more wrong. The environment can dramatically color the live performance. For example, many concerts are held in environments that were absolutely not designed for musical performances, such as stadiums and clubs. The acoustics in those places are abysmal. Even if you go to a dedicated concert hall, the seat you have will also make a big difference. Most people cannot afford the best seats in the house--the "sweet spot" in the entire concert hall, where acoustics sound the best.

 

post #25 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunatique View Post

They'll also learn that if a recording sounds fatiguing or too bright on a neutral/accurate system, then it's the recording that's the problem, not the system. If you try to remedy the recording's problem by using a colored sounding system, then everything esle you listen to on that system will be colored! That is like purposely buying a TV that is too dark and cannot be adjusted to neutral/accurate, simply because a small percentage of movies you watch seems a bit bright to you. It's ass-backwards and illogical.


Is it okay if 99% of my 'recordings' are very bright and fatiguing? tongue.gif

 

Accuracy be damned, I just want to enjoy my music. There are no recording engineers in the stuff I listen to, so I like to pretend it's my job to help them along the way with my coloured gear. And no offense, but I really don't care what the recording engineer thinks or intends, I only care for what the musicians/singers intended, that being, not giving me an evisceration every time I listen, ahahah.

 

I'm 100% with you on your definition of neutral/accurate though. I don't think most people here use headphones as some sort of a compromise for speakers, but rather, they enjoy the unique presentation that only a headphone can deliver, even though music is generally 'made' for speakers. So neutral/accurate is now some kind of 'ideal' that some headphone users strive for, as they know in their heads how something is 'supposed' to sound like through a headphone.

 

Even if we somehow get a ruler flat measuring headphone (to our ears), it doesn't mean that the headphone is accurate/neutral at all because it still throws a different soundfield than a pair of speakers, so you really have to throw all that knowledge out the window as there is no reference point as to what is accurate/neutral for a headphone.

 

And maybe it's because there is no holy grail for headphones, that it continues to draw quite a number of people into this hobby, and continues to lead some people down a neverending and usually expensive road. Headphones are just so personal that you are almost guaranteed to find something that sounds right for your ears

 

I remember taking your EQ curves out for a spin with some Isone Pro as well, but I didn't really understand the gravity of what I was hearing at the time (something neutral!). I thought it was really cool how it could mimic speakers, but at the end of the day, I'm wearing headphones for a reason. I'll promise to give it another shot if I should ever mature (doubt it =P) as a music listener and finally appreciate what's on the recording and how it should sound like. But until then, west side for life man, I'm the boss here, coloured all the way.

post #26 of 292

I think word of mouth is equally damning for neutral headphones though.  The K601 measures flatter than the HD800, yet since it was compared to the K701 many claimed it was mid-centric and "boring/sterile".  Being accurate seems like it's almost a death sentence to some headphones in the market, because now they can't claim to be musical adding their own character.  It's really irritating that good accurate headphones often aren't rewarded . ..  yet other more horrifying headphones get praised.

 

@deadlylover

 

Your post has a few contradictions.  What if the artist approved of the mastering, or wanted it mastered a specific way?  In that case, you very much are undoing what was intended and getting further away from it.  Next, since it doesn't apply to all items your gear shouldn't be set to do it regardless -- that's what equalizers with a proper bypass are for though if you really need to kill some frequencies.

 

"Even if we somehow get a ruler flat measuring headphone (to our ears), it doesn't mean that the headphone is accurate/neutral at all because it still throws a different soundfield than a pair of speakers, so you really have to throw all that knowledge out the window as there is no reference point as to what is accurate/neutral for a headphone."

 

Speakers aren't accurate either in terms of positional audio.  The only way to get true positional audio is binaural recordings through measurably accurate headphones.  Anything a speaker produces as a soundstage is unique to the speaker and not a true product of the recording as there's no proper way to emulate it in a speaker system.  We could also argue that binaural still won't be 100% accurate for positional audio since transducers themselves have dispersion characteristics, but is currently the closest we can get.

post #27 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shike View Post

@deadlylover

 

Your post has a few contradictions.  What if the artist approved of the mastering, or wanted it mastered a specific way?  In that case, you very much are undoing what was intended and getting further away from it.  Next, since it doesn't apply to all items your gear shouldn't be set to do it regardless -- that's what equalizers with a proper bypass are for though if you really need to kill some frequencies.

 

"Even if we somehow get a ruler flat measuring headphone (to our ears), it doesn't mean that the headphone is accurate/neutral at all because it still throws a different soundfield than a pair of speakers, so you really have to throw all that knowledge out the window as there is no reference point as to what is accurate/neutral for a headphone."

 

Speakers aren't accurate either in terms of positional audio.  The only way to get true positional audio is binaural recordings through measurably accurate headphones.  Anything a speaker produces as a soundstage is unique to the speaker and not a true product of the recording as there's no proper way to emulate it in a speaker system.  We could also argue that binaural still won't be 100% accurate for positional audio since transducers themselves have dispersion characteristics, but is currently the closest we can get.


Would the artist tell you to go to hell just because you are listening to his/her works with gear that isn't neutral? Never. All they want is for you to enjoy their works, I really don't think they truly care how you are hearing it, that's the recording engineers job =P.

 

Hmm I was a little unclear with that statement. I kind of meant that them recording engineers were using flat measuring speakers, so if you also use flat measuring speakers, then things start to make sense.

 

So if you do pop on some headphones, it can't really be accurate can it? Not unless you use the exact same headphone rig as the recording engineer, to hear whatever he intended. Then also comes the problem of individual differences in hearing/shapes of the ear and whatnot. You could argue that speakers also have some of the same variations with HRTF, but one can be certain that at least the equipment measures the same if you both have ruler flat speakers.

 

For headphones however, there is no same reference point as there is with speakers, nobody knows what a neutral headphone should measure like, as they have to result in frequency response trickery to sound natural. So it's fair to say that our actual ears kinda become the room's acoustics for a headphone, so we can't actually claim that we are exposed to the same sounds before our individual variations, since it's bloody difficult to shove a microphone up your trumpet. And while I have no proof, I think we can agree that individual variations in what we actually hear with headphones might be more dramatic than with speakers, you know, since people always make a kick in the fuss on how important a room's acoustics is. tongue.gif

 

Look at the history of transducers, there are agreed upon 'standards' for speakers, you can certainly see a trend in speakers manufacturers aiming to be ruler flat for their pro/monitoring gear. But what about headphones? All over the bloody place. So is it because they don't know what neutral should sound like? Or do they think that they've nailed what neutral should sound like, and everything else is wrong/different.

 

Two ruler flat measuring speakers from different makers should sound more or less exactly the same, but isn't it funny how there are no two same sounding headphones from different makers?

post #28 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deadlylover View Post


Is it okay if 99% of my 'recordings' are very bright and fatiguing? tongue.gif

 

Accuracy be damned, I just want to enjoy my music. There are no recording engineers in the stuff I listen to, so I like to pretend it's my job to help them along the way with my coloured gear. And no offense, but I really don't care what the recording engineer thinks or intends, I only care for what the musicians/singers intended, that being, not giving me an evisceration every time I listen, ahahah.

 

I'm 100% with you on your definition of neutral/accurate though. I don't think most people here use headphones as some sort of a compromise for speakers, but rather, they enjoy the unique presentation that only a headphone can deliver, even though music is generally 'made' for speakers. So neutral/accurate is now some kind of 'ideal' that some headphone users strive for, as they know in their heads how something is 'supposed' to sound like through a headphone.

 

Even if we somehow get a ruler flat measuring headphone (to our ears), it doesn't mean that the headphone is accurate/neutral at all because it still throws a different soundfield than a pair of speakers, so you really have to throw all that knowledge out the window as there is no reference point as to what is accurate/neutral for a headphone.

 

And maybe it's because there is no holy grail for headphones, that it continues to draw quite a number of people into this hobby, and continues to lead some people down a neverending and usually expensive road. Headphones are just so personal that you are almost guaranteed to find something that sounds right for your ears

 

I remember taking your EQ curves out for a spin with some Isone Pro as well, but I didn't really understand the gravity of what I was hearing at the time (something neutral!). I thought it was really cool how it could mimic speakers, but at the end of the day, I'm wearing headphones for a reason. I'll promise to give it another shot if I should ever mature (doubt it =P) as a music listener and finally appreciate what's on the recording and how it should sound like. But until then, west side for life man, I'm the boss here, coloured all the way.


If the musical artists you are listening to are bedroom musicians that can't afford to have professional mastering done to their music, then it's a matter of them not being able to afford it, instead of some kind of artistic statement. If they could afford mastering at high-end studios, you bet your ass they would do it. I don't know if you were joking when you said that 99% of the music you listen to have crappy production value with excessively bright sound, but you weren't joking, then you really should just add an EQ to your signal chain and use it when you need it. It's a far wiser choice than purposely having a colored sound system that deviates from neutral/accurate audio reproduction.

 

As for what the artist intended, I don't know if you know anything about the world of pro audio and musicians, but the mastering engineer always defer to the musical artist's preference if it's reasonable, and if the mastering engineer disagrees vehemently, then he'll simply pass on the gig and let someone else do the mastering. Also, you place far too much faith in musical artists. An overwhelming majority of musical artists don't know their head from their ass when it comes to things regarding audio production. Most just know how to sing, rap, or dance. Some know how to play instruments. Some can compose music and write lyrics. But quality audio production? Nope. You put them in a music production studio and they would be completely lost. Only a small percentage of musical artists know their way around a studio or have enough knowledge to know what is or isn't good for their music. If they had golden ears and could produce impeccable sounding recordings, then there wouldn't be a need for engineers to do recording, mixing, and mastering.

 

The stereo imaging of headphones have nothing to do with frequency response. So, if a pair of headphones sounds perfectly neutral/accurate, its stereo imaging wouldn't change that. You can simply use crossfeeds, or better yet, HRTF products like TB Isone or Smyth Realiser, which will make your headphones sound just like speakers placed in front of you.

 

And finally, whatever arguments are made when it comes to headphones vs. speakers, the bottom line is, there is a defined standard in the world of pro audio, and all respectable studios use speakers as their reference monitors. All of our most beloved albums are made with speakers (unless your favorite music are all made by Fruityloop Studio pirated by teenagers in bedrooms, with ****ty headset mics and rapping about banging bitches :D). The world's most respected studio engineers didn't all just decided on a whim to do critical audio work on speakers--they do it because it's the best option available. So if you want to hear music with the same level of satisfaction that is experiences when the mastering engineer and the musical artist are in the studio, bobbing their heads to the the tracks they just completed, while looking at each other with big grins because they know they just made an awesome recording, then speakers are the best option (but only if they are full-range and in acoustically properly treated room).

post #29 of 292
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by deadlylover View Post

 

Two ruler flat measuring speakers from different makers should sound more or less exactly the same, but isn't it funny how there are no two same sounding headphones from different makers?


I believe it's because it's much harder to design headphones that can achieve a full-range sounding response that's neutral and accurate. In my past correspondence with the Audez'e guys, I was told that there are only so much headphone engineers can do to shape the sound, and there are certain things that's out of their control and they can't do a thing about it. So they do what they can, but it's limited. All headphone companies try to come with clever ways to assert more control over how their headphones sound, but they are all limited in a similar way by the same issues that they have no real control over. All the different variations we hear in headphones aimed at the high-end market are probably the result of all the companies trying different solutions to hit that perfect ideal of neutral/accurate, and they all fall short in different ways.

 

post #30 of 292
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lunatique View Post

Large amount of sense


Heh I wasn't joking, not one bit. Imagine this, random Japanese high school girl singing, untreated room, $5 computer store mic, background instrumentals being played back through laptop speakers back into the microphone along with her voice. To add insult to injury, ~64kbps audio livestreaming bitrate. Oh, and half the time, they don't exactly know how to sing either. The end result? I still smile from enjoyment and cheer her on.

 

If one can EQ up something neutral to become coloured when needed, can't I just EQ something coloured to become neutral when I need it? You do it all the time, don't you? (well to be fair, in your case, it's tweaking ^^)

 

I'm waaaaaay out of my league when we're talking about music production and stuff. I'm stupid, I only listen to stuff that I like, so I don't really care how something sounds, at all tongue.gif.

 

Am I seriously unable to enjoy a track the same amount as somebody else with wicked accurate gear? Sounds a little like audiophile snobbery to me, but if that's how it is, then that's how it is.

 

An artist(painter) doesn't give a flying fudge how you interpret his/her works of art, so long as you enjoyed it for what it is. One can have a crappy black and white photo of The Starry Night, and it will still be able to speak for itself. Why is it suddenly different with music, when it is simply a different type of artform. Suddenly with music, it's all about right and wrong, where in reality, I thought it's only all about 'different'.

 

I'm not exactly trying to argue with you or anything, because clearly, you know what the hell you are talking about =P. I'm just trying to get myself on the same page........book. I must have a ton of catching up to do, because here I am, thinking that music was all about the emotion, rather than the recording.

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