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Strange vocal texture on some songs?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by bcaulf17, Dec 9, 2019.
  1. bcaulf17
    I got a pair of headphones recently and I really like the way they sound except for one thing; it seems to be on rare occasions, I’ve only found a few songs as an example, but sometimes vocals sound a bit strange.

    I don’t know how to describe it really; almost coarse and not smooth in the upper mids and lower treble, kinda like a cold, digital sound. Is this what people refer to as grain?

    The thing is it hasn’t come up that often for me. So it makes me wonder, is it actually the fault of the headphones, or more to do with the recording? I feel like if it were the headphones I would hear it more often than not.

    Just wondering people’s thoughts about this. Thanks!
  2. bigshot
    Could it be over driving? Does it happen more at loud volumes than quiet ones? Do you hear the same thing in other headphones?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
  3. bcaulf17
    It happens more at louder volumes but I still hear it at quiet ones so it seems to be inherent of the driver itself or the recording. I haven’t heard it in other headphones, if anything just “traces” of the artifact, I guess.
  4. bigshot
    If you hear it at lower volumes too it is probably a bad rip. Sometimes when you encode it can bump up the volume a hair. If the track is normalized up to 100% it might push it over into clipping. If you can, try lowering the volume level of the track a hair before encoding.
    bcaulf17 likes this.
  5. bcaulf17
    Appreciate your help bigshot!
  6. castleofargh Contributor
    What do people who own that headphone say about it? They're probably the ones to talk to.
    Do you have some measurements of it (frequency response? Maybe THD?) to see if something is boosted in a way that isn't typical. I for example go rapidly crazy if I'm having more 4kHz than I like. Maybe you're used to something more recessed in the mids(where voices are likely to make a mark)? Maybe check if you get the same impression when you listen to one driver at a time? It could be that they show some significant imbalance or that one side has some default, and that change could perhaps be what throws you off? (wild guess, you didn't exactly give us much to chew on ^_^).
  7. bcaulf17
    Hi thank you for your response.

    The headphone in question is the Drop x Beyerdynamic 177X Go. There isn’t a lot of discussion about it but one person mentioned that they have grain which might be what I’m hearing in those vocals, but I know grain means different things to different people (some say it means fuzzy treble but I don’t hear it that way).

    I will say that this texture is NOT fatiguing to me but I can tell it sounds a bit unnatural on those tracks, when the vocal sounds natural and then suddenly provides that texture once it hits a certain frequency; but it isn’t like this on most of my music.
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    Funny how I went to look for it on massdrop just to see measurements done by Head-fi ^_^.
    Maybe try to fool around with an EQ to find the specific frequency that might trigger this feeling. Sometimes happiness is that simple. And sometimes it just tells you that you want a different headphone.
    Personally, and based on this frequency response graphs, I would probably not be a huge fan. I really like having some significant presence at 2 and 3kHz(more at least than anywhere after 3kHz). that's how I happen to feel a more balanced response. Someone else might have different preferences so playing with an EQ is probably a good idea.

  9. bcaulf17
    That’s the think with me, one of the things I enjoy about this headphone is that the mids sound balanced and that region is toned down so guitars and vocals don’t sound too forward but just at the right level for me! It’s just that coarse texture of the vocals sometimes that makes me curious. Again I don’t find it to sound too fatiguing, just a bit unnatural.
  10. bigshot
    Digital sounding harshness that stays there no matter what volume level sounds like clipping to me.
  11. bcaulf17
    I compared the most obvious track I know between the 177X and the K371. On the K371, this artifact seemed to be present but not nearly as much. On the 177X, the noise was much more prominent in that region. So it kinda seems like it’s part of the recording, but one headphone is revealing it more?
  12. bigshot
    Yep. I think you are deducing where the problem lies. What source are you using for the song? MP3? CD? Lossless rip? The culprit appears to be the song itself, not the headphones. You aren't applying any sound processing like EQ are you?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
  13. bcaulf17
    Nope, no EQ. It’s high bitrate VBR AAC. In one of the other songs I tried, I didn’t notice it on the former headphone, if anything very little, while it was again more prominent on the other song. Rough, brittle texture to the vocal when it hits the upper midrange/treble.
  14. bigshot
    Do you have the original CD? I would check it to see if the sound is on the CD too. If it is, it's just a funky recording. If it isn't, I bet lowering the overall volume a hair before encoding to AAC would fix it.

    I've found that iTunes increases the volume a tiny bit when it encodes. If the song is already normalized up to 100% volume, it can push the top peaks into clipping. The way to fix it is to rip to AIFF or WAV in iTunes, then bring it into a sound editor and lower the volume a tiny bit. Then use the AIFF or WAV file to rip to AAC instead of the original CD. It isn't common, but I've run across a couple of albums that have this problem.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2019
  15. bcaulf17
    Thanks! I’m not too bothered with it, I was just trying to figure out if it was my headphones or the recording. Seems to be there in the recording but one headphone is revealing it more than the other.

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