Who wants perfectly accurate sound? - Page 2 - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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post #11 of 12 Old 08-29-12, 08:32 AM
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Re: Who wants perfectly accurate sound?

I read a phrase sometime ago that goes, "Who cares what the sheeple think? They don't do it often". That quite seems quite apt when tracking trends (such as the preponderance of mp3s often at low bitrates vs higher fidelity formats).

The flipside though is the Harman studies. Anyone perused Sean Olive's page citing studies that show that even uneducated/untrained listeners can identify, and indeed prefer more accurate sound? Before I go further, let me first clarify that the testifies was for speakers, not headphones.

As far as the definition of more accurate sound, there seems to be a disparity of opinions. Some would say that a flat in-room response is the most accurate, but is it? The Harman studies showed a statistically significant preference (oh, oh... there's that word. Reference, corrupted by a 'P'), for a particular in-room frequency response. The studies indicated that the ideal in-room FR is not flat as we might initially assume, it is 'smooth', i.e. with minimal dips or peaks through the frequency response, but with a descending slope as frequency increases.

This interestingly enough, conveniently occurs when a speaker with an anechoically flat FR is placed in an average sized room in a home, due to low frequency reinforcement coupled with high frequency air decay. Obviously, there are other factors like off-axis response (an even FR with a smooth rolloff as frequency increases the further off-axis the measurements are taken from appear to work well in the widest variety of rooms especially with minimal acoustic treatment).

I wondered about all this upon reading it and could only hypothesize based on my own experiences.

When I first began playing with Audyssey room correction, I like many others thought it killed my bass. Yes, the bass was tighter, but especially with music at lower levels, the perception was, "Where did my bass go?" I then looked at the REW measurements at the MLP and noted that Audyssey produced the 'Audyssey frequency response'. Pretty smooth, and also, pretty flat except for a rolloff above 10kHz.

It was when I tried Audyssey's Dynamic EQ at lower listening levels that I finally felt, "Ah, there's my bass". It was still lacking a little on some music discs, but much better. I measured the FR at the MLP and Lo and Behold, the FR was beginning to resembles what I now call the Harman Preferred Curve or HPC for short.

Apparently, Dynamic EQ or DEQ, boosts the bass at lower volumes to compensate for the equal loudness curves (where our acuity to the lowest and highest frequencies falls off sooner than with the midrange frequencies). Now I had a descending power response as frequency increases and yes, it was in fact preferable.

I then thought about how most of us hear music. Is it just that we've been conditioned to a descending power response due to the speakers we've been accustomed to? Conditioned to prefer it in the same way most of us are conditioned to prefer the jittery motion and visual artifacts of 24p to the point that higher frame rates and a smoother, sharper image is actually thought by many to be distracting and undesirable? Perhaps, but I don't think that's all of it.

I recall a band setting up on the high school field and playing in the open air. The guitars had amps of course, as did the singer's voice over the microphone, but the drums were live without electronic reinforcement. The kick drum just didn't have the thump it did when they played in the gymnasium. I think we're accustomed to the lower frequency reinforcement that naturally occurs in closed spaces whether it's a jazz club or concert hall etc. A flat FR just sounds weak in the low end by comparison. The problem is that the audio engineers are all over the place with music recordings. Some recordings sound great on a setup, while others sound anemic and still others have overbearing bass.

Movies on the other hand seem to have more consistent standards. On a calibrated setup, I know I'm hearing just about what the audio engineers/mixers intended me to hear. With music discs, who knows?

All that said though, I've found that the same preference follows for me as far as headphones go. A descending response as frequency increases is preferable. Unlike speakers that are flat in an anechoic chamber that seem to naturally produce this descending response in average rooms, headphones with flat FRs are going to pump that flat FR straight to my ears, and yep, while my Etymotics are great for checking a mix, I prefer the descending response of my Denons when actually listening to music.

As far as Joe Average goes though, yes, a vast majority seem to opt for whatever is cheap, or has great marketing to the uninformed (Bose anyone?), but the non-HT buffs who've had the opportunity to watch a movie in my HT unequivocally go, "Wow....", and every so often, if finances allow, I have another convert.


Max
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post #12 of 12 Old 08-29-12, 09:48 AM
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Re: Who wants perfectly accurate sound?

my perfect sound changes from song to song...
can be frustrating at times
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