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What determines the resolution of a headphone?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I know it's not really treble response, but does a brighter headphone usually help with detail retrieval? How would you effectively measure such a thing without just a listening test?

post #2 of 15
There are a lot of elements that cause loss of detail, but probably the most common one is masking. Frequency response imbalances can mask the frequencies an octave above or below. Flat response will eliminate masking and open up the detail a bit.
post #3 of 15

It really depends on the definition of resolution. I never did understood the terminology. If resolution is defined as ability to distinguish sound clearly, a specific narrow band filter blocking all other sound will clean up the specific sound you want to hear. 

 

For example; if you are listening to AM talk radio, you can improve the sound (voice) nicely by turning the bass and treble all the way down. So if the so called "detail" is a cymbal crash, a treble peak (bright) will help. But if the detail is a heart beat, a bright sounding headphone will not do much.

post #4 of 15

I think detailed == bright, big treble comes from the fact that a lot of headphones turn treble down. The details that are most often lost in most headphones is in the treble. When treble is even with the rest of the sound, suddenly all this detail appears to come out of nowhere. 

post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by wafflezz View Post

I know it's not really treble response, but does a brighter headphone usually help with detail retrieval? How would you effectively measure such a thing without just a listening test?

Just to add my 0.02 to the answers above.


Linearity - You don't want your headphones distorting the signal and producing something (in frequency domain) where there should be nothing.

 

Another one that I think it a bit less well understood by the average public is phase response. You want you're headphones to be producing the high frequencies and the low frequencies with the proper temporal relationship. Nonlinear phase response leads to a temporal smearing of the waveform, thus blurring the details. Things like preringing and postringing are examples of phase errors. Of course, I think there are those who will argue that this is secondary to frequency response.

 

Cheers


Edited by ab initio - 6/23/13 at 8:50pm
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys! This really does give quite a bit of insight as to what determines "detailed-ness" of a headphone or speaker. I knew it wasn't just voodoo magic that couldn't be objectively measured. 

post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by ab initio View Post

Another one that I think it a bit less well understood by the average public is phase response. You want you're headphones to be producing the high frequencies and the low frequencies with the proper temporal relationship. Nonlinear phase response leads to a temporal smearing of the waveform, thus blurring the details. Things like preringing and postringing are examples of phase errors. Of course, I think there are those who will argue that this is secondary to frequency response.

While there's no disagreement that non-linear phase response could be audible, the amount required is surprisingly high, and the threshold of audibility changes with frequency.  

 

Phase distortion is not the only cause of pre and post ringing.  A theoretically phase-linear, and band-limited square wave will display pre and post ringing too.  

post #8 of 15
I don't think I've ever heard headphones with phase problems. That's the sort of thing you get with speakers spread all over a concert hall.
post #9 of 15

When you say 'Resolution', I think more in terms of the ability to reproduce the various frequencies and amplitudes at the same time without loss of fidelity, and the biggest limitation that headphones will have is mechanical. Headphones that are brighter do not necessarily have higher fidelity if they cannot also accurately reproduce low frequencies as well.

 

Subjectively, however, headphones will often sound more detailed if they are brighter both due to the nature of low frequencies, which have harmonics that may cause problem frequencies, and the way we localize sounds (if someone snaps their fingers behind your head, the size and shape of your noggin will alter the sound, blocking smaller high frequency wavelengths and 'muffling' the sound - differentiating it's location from being right next to your ear.)

 

(edited to remove ugly blockyness)


Edited by NovicExpert - 6/27/13 at 9:05am
post #10 of 15

I think the resolution may be related to the decay of the sound.

Think of the signal input as an impulse.

If the resultant sound has slower decay, it may mix up with the subsequent impulse.

IMO, the resolution is higher if the sound decays more quickly.

post #11 of 15

What size of a decay time are you talking about? I've never found any headphones that echoed.

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

What size of a decay time are you talking about? I've never found any headphones that echoed.

Longer than the half-life of hydrogen-7, shorter than dental decomposition. 

 

Probably the wrong terminology.  A transducer can resonate and ring out for a while at the resonant frequency, usually a few ms, and that ring would decay, but "decay time" is usually something else, usually refers to reverb (RT-60, etc) or time constants found in ADSR generators (the D is "decay").

 

Here's a pic:

 

 

post #13 of 15

Who can hear slices of time that short? Especially masked underneath all the main tone.


Edited by bigshot - 6/28/13 at 10:25pm
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

Who can hear slices of time that short? Especially masked underneath all the main tone.

Well, it could...could possibly contribute to a form of coloration, but of course nobody would hear it as a sustained ring.  5ms would obviously be audibly integrated, so spreading a resonance over that kind of time would slightly, and artificially increase the average energy around that frequency.  

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

Well, it could...could possibly contribute to a form of coloration, but of course nobody would hear it as a sustained ring.  5ms would obviously be audibly integrated, so spreading a resonance over that kind of time would slightly, and artificially increase the average energy around that frequency.  


Yes, and it could also mask slightly something that otherwise would be uncovered during the ringing decay.  Figuring out thresholds to audibility like that can get complex in a hurry though there is some info on the subject.  How fast the decay at a given frequency is quick enough might not be a straightforward thing to answer.  But in general faster decay is better. 

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