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A Crucial Question: Does flat response for speakers and harman curve for headphones tend to be individual’s favourite response?

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#1
I respect Toole and Olive’s research and I understand that these are preferred response in blind test, though I do think Olive’s sample size is too small (usually 200-300 people in his various papers and only 50-60 in each strata like region, age etc) to safely establish a solid standard/target.
I personally like flat speakers more than coloured speakers (though not the case for headphones, I always feel harman curve having too much bass, I don’t need to eq my HD800s’s bass at all.)
But Are these preferred frequency response necessarily close to individual’s actual favourite response? I mean is it possible that an individual prefers flat and harman but at the same time prefer some different response more?
If that’s the case, wasn’t visiting shops and having as many demo as possible a more effective way than spending time reading measurements and analysing deviation from target(flat/harman) to find your favourite speakers and headphones, especially for non-professionals?
Then it circles back to just listen to the device...
 
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#2
Harman curve Lovers”: This group, which constitutes 64% of listeners, includes mostly a broad spectrum of people, although they’re generally under age 50. They prefer headphones tuned close to the Harman curve.

“More Bass Is Better”: This next group, which makes up 15% of listeners, prefers headphones with 3 to 6dB more bass than Harman curve below 300Hz, and 1dB more output above 1kHz. This group is predominantly male and younger — the listeners JBL is targeting with its headphones.

“Less Bass Is Better”: This group, 21% of listeners, prefers 2 to 3dB less bass than the Harman curve and 1dB more output above 1kHz. This group is disproportionately female and older than 50.”
Source: https://www.headphonesty.com/2020/04/harman-target-curves-part-3/


tl;dr: Yes it's a personal preference. I personally use the Harman Curve as a base/reference then I change a few things (usually more bass and a bit less trebles).
 
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#5
The Harman target is the average frequency response that professional recording engineers agree works best for monitoring music in production. It is the headphone equivalent to a flat frequency response for speakers.

The fact is, however, that headphones are not speakers. We don't listen to them like we listen to speakers, and they image music in a totally different way than speakers do. When we listen to music on headphones, we are not listening to the music as if it were being naturally presented to us live immediately in front of us. It is a completely different experience that our brains interpret in a unique way. For that reason, the Harman target is not the end-all be-all for how headphones should sound to people just listening to music.

Many people who hear headphones with this tonal balance remark at how neutral and balanced it is, but also how lifeless and clinical it sounds.

Many headphone manufacturers aim for a frequency response with elevated bass and treble, what is known as a "V-shaped" or "U-shaped" response. Perhaps this colors the music in some way, but most people agree that this coloration sounds more emotional and "musical."

For example, I have extensively listened to two pairs of top-of-the-line IEM's: the 64 Audio U18t and the Sony IER-Z1R. The U18t is no doubt the more neutral and resolving IEM of the two, but if really want to enjoy my music I reach for the IER-Z1R.

I can't tell you why music sounds better this way, but all I can say is that I've heard it enough to say that it's generally true. If you want my advice, I'd say that you should listen to headphones to get an idea of what you like instead of relying on measurements. Headphone measurements just don't tell you a whole lot like speaker measurements do.
 

bobbooo

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#6
For example, I have extensively listened to two pairs of top-of-the-line IEM's: the 64 Audio U18t and the Sony IER-Z1R. The U18t is no doubt the more neutral and resolving IEM of the two, but if really want to enjoy my music I reach for the IER-Z1R.
The Z1R matches the Harman target more closely than the U18t, so your preference for the former is entirely consistent with Harman's research.
 

Eetu

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#8
I've found that I also prefer a couple of dBs less bass than Harman on headphones. So somewhere between Diffuse Field/Etymotic and Harman. The 'bass boost' is an average, so if you feel like it's too much don't force it.
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sigbergaudio

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#9
@tomtrp

"I mean is it possible that an individual prefers flat and harman but at the same time prefer some different response more?"

and

"But can you prefer Harman and actually like some significantly different response more?"

So if you prefer something, that is your preference, as in what you favor most. So it sounds a bit like you're asking "If my favorite fruit is apple, can at the same time my MOST favorite fruit be pear" ? - I'm not sure what that means. If you have tasted both apple and pear, surely you would know what you like best? Are you asking whether there may be a different frequency response that you have not yet heard that you may prefer more? If so, I guess that could be the case. And something you can test by EQing?
 

Chromatischism

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#10
I've found that I also prefer a couple of dBs less bass than Harman on headphones. So somewhere between Diffuse Field/Etymotic and Harman. The 'bass boost' is an average, so if you feel like it's too much don't force it. View attachment 106172
Knowing that the ear seal determines bass level, how much of this could be attributed to variances there?

Could it be that some people thinking they prefer "more bass" are just not getting a complete seal, so they are not actually getting the harman target they think they are? That would lead them to believe the target is not for them.
 

Eetu

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#11
Knowing that the ear seal determines bass level, how much of this could be attributed to variances there?

Could it be that some people thinking they prefer "more bass" are just not getting a complete seal, so they are not actually getting the harman target they think they are? That would lead them to believe the target is not for them.
Good question and certainly possible. As we've seen for example with Amir trying out different headphone measuring equipment, mounting and creating a perfect seal can be fiddly/trial&error.

Although I don't recall reading so much about people preferring more bass than Harman, usually the opposite.
 

dasdoing

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#12
The Harman target is the average frequency response that professional recording engineers agree works best for monitoring music in production.
I don't think so. what do you base that assumption on? my observation on forums like Gearslutz and Mastering groups is that that they mostly leave the bass flat and aply a roll-off in the x kHz range only.
or they don't EQ at all, which will leave the bass flat-ish too (sice their rooms are bass treated) and will result in a slight roll-off in the x Khz range
 

Feelas

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#13
I don't think so. what do you base that assumption on? my observation on forums like Gearslutz and Mastering groups is that that they mostly leave the bass flat and aply a roll-off in the x kHz range only.
or they don't EQ at all, which will leave the bass flat-ish too (sice their rooms are bass treated) and will result in a slight roll-off in the x Khz range
Which, in the end, is the same.
 

Feelas

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#15
Well, I meant the fact, that either boosting or rolling-off is the same, pretty much; the boost is different.

Yet, engineer has to make mixes that translate, not sound well in well-absorbed room, thus the dilemma is moot in many points. One shouldn't theoretically try to estimate the engineers' rooms, for they don't target that exact room, merely set up the speaker so they allow them to make real, working corrections towards actual customers' rooms, I guess.
 

dasdoing

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#16
Well, I meant the fact, that either boosting or rolling-off is the same, pretty much; the boost is different.
ok, let me rephrase: there is a big dip of mid-range in the Harman target


Yet, engineer has to make mixes that translate, not sound well in well-absorbed room, thus the dilemma is moot in many points. One shouldn't theoretically try to estimate the engineers' rooms, for they don't target that exact room, merely set up the speaker so they allow them to make real, working corrections towards actual customers' rooms, I guess.
this is only half correct. there is no way to make something translate universily in the bass region since all rooms will have room modes in diferent frequencies.
while they will generaly "have an ear" on the tranlation issue, they will balance the mix to the room it is produced. So, if you want to listen to the intended balance, you will have to balance your reproduction close to theirs.
let's look at a critical example: classical orchestra music. Do you think they will cut the bass to account for untreated small room bass boost?
 

dasdoing

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#17
with that said, nobody should anybody dictate their preferences. but we are also very sugestive, and having a "standard" like the Harman curve can lead to "suboptimal preference". people should play around with the bass boost, and then play around with the HF roll-off.
personaly the bass boost does mask the mid-range for me. the bass is too much "in my face". I don't even know how stuff like this is even listenable with a heavy bass boost
 

Matias

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#18
I also prefer way less bass than the Harman curves, both speakers room target and headphones target.
 

abdo123

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#19
The Harman target is the average frequency response that professional recording engineers agree works best for monitoring music in production. It is the headphone equivalent to a flat frequency response for speakers.
I always thought mixers and recording engineers used something like the Genelec 8341A SAM™ for near-field listening, aren't the high frequencies like playing Russian rolette with headphones?
 
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Thread Starter #20
In sampling theory, that is actually enough to draw meaningful conclusions.
True. It is enough to draw meaningful conclusions.
But the statistical inference from the small sample to the general public's preference is weak.
In other words, the conclusion itself is valuable and meaningful, but its power to apply/predict individual's preference is so weak.
Their research is more like small sample size social science instead of more reliable, repeatable, predictable physical science.
 

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