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Is There a Correct or Proper Sound Presentation?

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 

I guess I am talking IEM's but could apply to headphones as well.  I'm taking about the amount of treble, midrange and bass.

Or is this still always personal preference.  I personally find forward midranges fatiguing over time especially at louder volumes where a more U or V shaped presentation seems to make the presentation more expansive and bigger.  Is completely balanced "correct" and everything else is wrong?  Why aren't all made "balanced".  Can't be all that hard to do....

post #2 of 56

'Making' a balanced headphone/IEM/Speaker is harder than it sounds.

 

That said, the idea I have in mind is that some music will pair well with a distinct sound signature, because it suits the style of music.

 

But, this means that the particular setup will be confined to that genre, and it won't sound as nice if you play some other kind of music on it.

 

So, a 'completely balanced' or 'flat' system eliminates those biases. The music sounds as its present in the recording, nothing more, nothing less.

post #3 of 56

Assuming proper engineering, a balanced response makes everything sound good.

post #4 of 56
Quote:

Originally Posted by Spyro View Post

 

Is There a Correct or Proper Sound Presentation?
 

I'm taking about the amount of treble, midrange and bass. Or is this still always personal preference.  I personally find forward midranges fatiguing over time especially at louder volumes...Is completely balanced "correct" and everything else is wrong?  Why aren't all made "balanced".

 

There is, the problem is how to know the specific sound as it was recorded. For example, if you really want to know what Nightwish's Century Child and Once sound like, you'd have to have Rotel and B&W in an acoustically treated room, to get close to what "consumer" set-up they have in Abbey Road, or Genelecs for studio monitors which is what they used for the succeeding albums (not sure if they also used these in Abbey Road, ditto the previous albums). Unlike classical music, concerts won't be a good indicator because it's not like they perform in the same acoustically good venues. If you're listening to Lil Jon, then your windshield shattering can be considered high-fidelity "just as the artist intended" (Diamond Audio's marketing blurb can be applicable to Audiobahn and Kicker too, it depends on what you're listening to anyway).


A balanced sound - in terms of measurements* and overall impression - therefore ensures that you're at the safest bet in being close to how how that music was recorded. While I personally prefer this on my set-ups though, if more particular tastes are concerned, I prefer for example using Grados on jazz than rock. It makes jazz sound a bit more raw and live, kind of like being front row and "right there" in a great way,** even my Dad borrows my brother's SR80i. By contrast rock music with a lot of instruments in it sound like they're all over the place and yet nowhere on the Prestige series.

 

*Source and amp are easier to measure, but they also need to be really flat, and the amp's impedance, current+voltage output, and distortion at your listening levels have to match the headphone's impedance and sensitivity.

**Kinda like this: http://i.imgur.com/63fal.jpg

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Spyro View Post

 

....a more U or V shaped presentation seems to make the presentation more expansive and bigger.

 

"Seems" is the keyword here. A strong midrange tends to present a soundstage with the shape of a V, with the pointy end the vocalist in front of you, and that's why a lot of people like that. Increasing the treble makes the soundstage seem bigger because you get to hear more where, for example, the cymbals are, but soundstage size isn't the same as imaging accuracy. I'm not sure how your set-up actually is, but as an example, I tried out my gear with some home audio CDPs and the soundstage is much larger, but not necessarily correct - bass drum in front of the vocals, drum rolls around me like 3D, but it gets old quickly because if I visualize that it's like Mr. Fantastic playing drums far out around the band, which of course isn't "hi-fi" given there's no such human with Reed Richards' abilities.

 

For speakers at home though I really loved my Pacific Pi10's, not just for the balanced sound but also the swivel mounts on the tweeters. I can give them nearly double the toe-in of the midbass to control higher frquencies while maintaining width - female vocals aren't as far out forward and I don't get the "Mr. Fantastic playing cymbals mounted in front of the guitarists"-effect. And this isn't just the room - some reasonably well-treated dealer showrooms still do that Mr. Fantastic out of place percussion imaging thing, or as with some speakers, a Sentinel-sized drummer instead of Mr. Fantastic.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Spyro View Post

 

Can't be all that hard to do....

 

Actually it is. A dynamic driver is the best example for this. It needs to be large in order to play lower frequencies at a certain distance,* but as it gets larger top end response begins to dip, and a larger driver may not be able to travel quickly on excursion (that pumping movement dynamic drivers do) or for the cone to stay rigid. Making it more rigid makes it heavier, making it slower and affecting PRAT, or making it more expensive. On speakers, the solution was to use specialized drivers, but these come with its own problem: passive crossovers can affect the sound too, and multiple drivers even with a good passive crossover can end up with a complex impedance load that in turn affects the signal going into it, requiring high-current, high power amps (those triple bass driver towers with the midrange and tweeter? For get about using an older, $299 MSRP entry-level receiver on those - chances are current $199 might actually be better). Active crossover set-ups aren't that easy to sell (much less set-up unless you're selling to pros, or amateur but well-informed car audio enthusiasts) - mass market this and many will be too lazy to set it up right, or destroy their equipment.

 

Cabinet and chassis design matter too. Acoustic issues related to dampening is one big problem - that's why big and bulky speakers are more expensive, because the enclosures take up more material and man-hours (and they'd invest on the finish if they'd go that far anyway, and you'd have to ship that. Some speaker kits come like Ikea furniture - thick MDF panels and you have to assemble them - but of course don't expect them to look like Duevel Jupiters when you're done (unless you just buy the drivers and build the enclosure from scratch). On headphones, the most popular example of this is how many people replace the plastic chambers on Grados. And then there's port design on speakers (also IEMs) - do it wrong and you end up with a speaker that reaches low but can't articulate individual notes, or worse, distorts on excursion.

 

"Fullrange" drivers aren't all they're cracked up to be either. On speakers, even Fostex drivers need a little help - you either add supertweeter to take over above 12khz, or use a filter crossover on the drivers that have peaks or get louder above a certain point, just ot bring all that down (still not fully getting 20hz to 20khz and flat).

 

Then finally there's the environment between you and the drivers - the room acoustics and toe-in, the earpads' and the eartips' fit and location of the drivers/port relative to your ear drum, etc. If you really want to measure a system at the headphone output, you have to use a ballistic dummy head built around and in an actual skull, with a molded ear canal leading to the measuring microphones (on whether you can fit two good quality mics inside an adult human head, I wouldn't really know).

 

*whether it's on an earcup by your ears, on a desk 1m away, or in a room 2m away from you and 0.5 away from the nearest wall

 

---------------------------------------

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

Assuming proper engineering, a balanced response makes everything sound good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post
 

That said, the idea I have in mind is that some music will pair well with a distinct sound signature, because it suits the style of music.

 

Just to add, think of balanced systems as good quality steak for a price point, then grilled (over coal or a brick, wood-fired oven) or cast-iron pan seared seasoned with just the bare essentials, like salt, pepper and maybe butter on the first done side. Personal preferences on genre-specific matching of headphones and speakers is when you use a specific glaze (truffle, teriyaki, PFChang's Chinese 5-spice NY Strip, etc) or sauce (pepper-liquor fillet steak gravy/au pois, garlic+mushroom gravy, etc).

post #5 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProtegeManiac View Post

 

Just to add, think of balanced systems as good quality steak for a price point, then grilled (over coal or a brick, wood-fired oven) or cast-iron pan seared seasoned with just the bare essentials, like salt, pepper and maybe butter on the first done side. Personal preferences on genre-specific matching of headphones and speakers is when you use a specific glaze (truffle, teriyaki, PFChang's Chinese 5-spice NY Strip, etc) or sauce (pepper-liquor fillet steak gravy/au pois, garlic+mushroom gravy, etc).

 

I have no idea what you're talking about here.

post #6 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

 

I have no idea what you're talking about here.

 

I meant the balanced system as the fundamentals, everything past that is gravy of debatable necessity/more particular tastes.

post #7 of 56

"Adding flavor" will drown out fine details, so you're effectively also taking something away from the original.

post #8 of 56

Just like adding a lot of salt to food will cover up the delicate flavors in the food itself.

post #9 of 56
^^
I agree, but I also think both the creation and appreciation of music are highly subjective activities.

The difference lies in how we appreciate it. Some of us wish to hear what was exactly created, so that we can enjoy it to the fullest, but not everyone may prefer that sound.

Thing is I'm still not sure if these preferences are nature or nurture.
post #10 of 56

Creation and appreciation are very subjective. Reproduction is a lot less subjective. The goal is pretty subjective.

 

I think that most people who prefer colored sound are choosing that because 1) They are very young and still ascribe to the "more is better" theory or 2) their equipment isn't capable of a realistic presentation, so they have to choose how to color the sound to make it sound good with substandard equipment.

post #11 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

Creation and appreciation are very subjective. Reproduction is a lot less subjective. The goal is pretty subjective.

 

I think that most people who prefer colored sound are choosing that because 1) They are very young and still ascribe to the "more is better" theory or 2) their equipment isn't capable of a realistic presentation, so they have to choose how to color the sound to make it sound good with substandard equipment.

 

In that case it would be nurture...balanced systems aren't exactly in everyone's price range.

post #12 of 56

Equalization can put it in everyone's budget range.

post #13 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by xnor View Post
 

"Adding flavor" will drown out fine details, so you're effectively also taking something away from the original.

I disagree.  That's insinuating that adding a bit of treble EQ diminishes or hides the amount of treble you are hearing?  If that were the case it would be virtually pointless to EVER have any EQ (bass and treble) knobs on any audio equipment going back 50 years to our beloved Sansui and Marantz receivers.

post #14 of 56

Adding a little bit of certain frequencies can cause an awful lot of problems. It's called "auditory masking". If you boost a frequency even a dB or two, it can cover up frequencies an octave higher in the spectrum. A friend of mine did a vivid demonstration of this for me... He took an equalizer and added 3 dB to a frequency around 3kHz. Suddenly the treble around 6kHz became muffled. It's weird to think adding something will decrease something else, but that is the truth.

 

The reason that a flat response sounds clearer and more present than a colored response is because there's no masking going on. All the frequencies come through equally.

post #15 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post
 

 

 

The reason that a flat response sounds clearer and more present than a colored response is because there's no masking going on. All the frequencies come through equally.

I don't have golden ears but I think I have decent ears.   A flat or off frequency eq setting sound really lethargic to me.  It sounds boring and cheap.  Sort of like that 9 transistor portable radio.

 

I suspect you will say that a real quality stereo system would never have that problem.....that flat or off would be the way to go.  I guess I could understand that but at what expense, just to hear un-EQ'd purer sound?

 

I think with portable listening we must compensate.  If I take my trusty W3's and an Ipod Classic (decent player) with no eq versus using treble booster setting with comply tips, the treble booster setting has MUCH more clarity and detail overall.  Like night and day.

 

Fake or phony, right or wrong...I guess it is still what sounds good to us.

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