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Consideration about Timbre

Discussion in 'Psychoacoustics: Science of How We Hear' started by Nowhk, Dec 22, 2017.

  1. oivavoi

    oivavoi Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    I think the main rational argument for room eq in the lowest frequencies is that the wave lengths usually are longer than the room, so that one doesn't actaully perceive any direct sound. This makes it more reasonable to do eq based on the room response. But for me, the proof has been in the subjective and anecdotal pudding. Every time I used a subwoofer in my pre-DSP days, I felt that it became "boomy" or muddy. Sometimes, I preferred not to use a sub because of that. But starting to use room-eq (or whatever one calls it) in the lower frequencies transformed the deep bass from over-powering and muddy to being clean and non-muddy.

    With speakers that don't go very low, I have never felt that the room poses a big problem.
     
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  2. Fitzcaraldo215

    Fitzcaraldo215 Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    Ok, as expecteted, the consensus is that the room affects the sound. No great shakes there. Also, the consensus is some rooms sound "better" than others in various ways.

    I think we also agree that we adapt to the sound of our system including the contribution of the room. The only issues of disagreement are the degree to which that adaptation can make the room perceptually "disappear" and what steps, if any, are effective in at least partially taming or ameliorating unpleasant or negative aspects of the room.

    Of course, like many things in audio, in the end it comes down to subjective choices of preference, ideally aided by measurements. Beliefs, biases, etc. also play a major role, as it is ultimately subjective. And, indeed, the "room EQ = bad" mindset may be based on bias, just as "room EQ sounds much better to me" or "it measures better at the listening chair so it must be better" might be.

    I have experimented in a number of rooms with competent room EQ tools using listening chair measurements as well as subjective listening, as have other listenener friends. Our consensus is that we very much like what it does, and we would not be without it. Perhaps that is arbitrary preference, but none of us wants to turn it off for maximum listening pleasure. Re-adaptation to the un-EQed sound after we have heard the difference is just not something we would even consider.
     
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  3. Nowhk

    Nowhk Member

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    So you are following "the path" in which you are adjust the sound as you prefer; as a sound engineering (even if in a major way) will do on mixing and mastering the artist's work. Thus, you are partecipating to the final step of the song, on which you are putting somethings your (selecting room/gears/eq and such). i.e. you are adding color deliberately, your "own" color.

    Does this fit with your vistion? It mostly fits with the DonH56 vision, and its totally opposite to the fas42 and Cosmik one :)

    P.S. what if we make a pool? :p
     
  4. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    The thing is, what does poor damping of a driver actually sound like? I can't say that I know for sure. How does it sound when working into its break-up region, combined with a tweeter working too low? And working at frequencies where it is beaming? With a phase shift through the crossover, plus other phase shifts and timing misalignments? And because the woofer's working over a wide range, Doppler distortion? And because it is bass reflex, smearing transients. What does this combination do to the timbre?

    I really don't know - but I do know that all of these deviations from neutral are built into conventional speakers by design. The result is super-complex. It can't be fixed by modifying the signal with DSP any more than an apple tree can be shaken in just the right way so that all the apples land in one basket at the same instant- there is no such signal.

    The speaker probably doesn't sound good - even if it 'measures well' in terms of steady state frequency response. And it may be why people feel the need to apply EQ. Maybe the above combination sounds loosely reminiscent of too much treble or excessive mid-range even though the measurements say otherwise. Maybe 'room correction' does something to make it sound different.

    The modern DSP-based, active, sealed speakers avoid building these problems in in the first place. They are *much* simpler, even if they contain a bit more hardware and software. And that is why they sound real without needing any trial-and-error 'voicing', as the D&D guy said.
     
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  5. Fitzcaraldo215

    Fitzcaraldo215 Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    Nope. I agree not at all to your stated view or Cosmik's. Fas42? Don't make me laugh or cringe. He's got nothing.

    I accept the experimental science about room correction via DSP, though you do not. Therefore, I accept the concept of mic measurement of speaker/room response around the listening seat and the default target curve provided by Dirac Live, my current tool of choice.

    That basic target curve, downward sloping with increasing frequency, goes back decades to experiments by B&K, and it is generally consistent with target room response curves derived much later by Toole and many others objectively and scientifically. The gist of those target curves is to provide what has been found to be perceptually flat frequency response, and it counteracts the discrepancy between human hearing and omni mics in reflective rooms. So, no, I am not using the room EQ target curve as some clumsily tunable tone control, adjustable to my whims and imagination and which distorts the artist's work or the recordist's intentions.

    On the contrary, I find DSP room EQ subjectively to offer sound much closer to what I believe was their intent using a wide range of recordings using a target curve derived from so much good science. How can sound with measurable frequency distortion and non-linearities at your ears in the room be better? Via the magic of our own adaptation to it? And, if I have heard something that sounds preferable and has measurements and science to support it, why would I persist in trying to adapt my ears to no-EQ, something I prefer listening to much less?

    The thing is I challenge my own adaptation to the sound of my system in my room. The adaptation concept to me is way overblown and simply does not make room-induced faults disappear. I listen frequently to other systems in other rooms, often with friends who are equipment reviewers with frequent, regular access to a lot of different equipment. More importantly, I think, is to make my reference, highly imperfect as it may be, the sound of live classical concerts in the hall, which I attend frequently, about 1-2 times monthly in a number of different venues. Yes, our acoustic memory loses the fullest details within seconds, but I think there are some essential aspects to the timbre, dynamics, spatiality, etc. of the sound of the live music experience that we retain.

    Poll all you like. Whatever the results here or elsewhere, an unscientific popularity contest adds nothing to the science or to our understanding of room effects or how to correct for them. Nor would it change the preference I can easily hear by switching it on and off in different rooms with different systems.
     
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  6. svart-hvitt

    svart-hvitt Senior Member

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    Just an observation, my 2 cents worth: To be able to offer the customer DSP based room compensation in an integrated solution/package demands a lot from the producer. Because software development often dwarfs hardware costs, it is financially difficult for most producers to add substantial software value-add to the product. Besides, it is also demanding from a coordination viewpoint. Many big firms have the knowhow and the financial muscles in-house, but due to internal fights - maybe due to prestige - it is difficult to coordinate work across divisions.

    In other words: There are lots of obstacles for audio producers to combine both SW and HW to create a state of the art product.

    I just wonder if this may explain some of the «resistance» against DSP room compensation among boutique firms and even the bigger but inflexible giants.
     
  7. DonH56

    DonH56 Major Contributor Patreon Donor Technical Expert

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    Here's what I have heard (at a local dealer's audiophile session not too long ago), practically verbatim, extra sarcasm in italics added by me: "My system is so good, so pure, so refined, that I don't need room correction, unlike your paltry gear that needs distortion-adding DSP processing to make it sound right. Adding DSP or room correction to my system would make it sound worse."

    I see no real value in arguing at that point; debating what is essentially a religious viewpoint is fruitless.

    To balance the argument, stating that "my system measures perfectly and thus must be perfect" can be equally misguided (condescending, arrogant, and all that jazz).
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 1:57 AM
  8. Fitzcaraldo215

    Fitzcaraldo215 Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    There is some truth to what you say. However, it should be noted that Home Theater giants like Denon/Marantz and others generally have had no problem with this in Mch systems. And, they have done so at reasonable final consumer prices. Mostly, though, they have relied on integrating 3rd party developed DSP correction suites from specialist firms - Audyssey and Dirac Live being the leaders.

    Some firms have tried to develop their own DSP EQ solutions, though these are generally considered inadequate, poor performers - Pioneer, Yamaha, Onkyo/Integra, Krell. I would not touch those. One successful, competent in-house developed tool is Anthem's ARC. And, in the case of Trinnov, their established EQ tools starting in the Pro market led them eventually to the development of their own HT prepros (expensive) employing their own EQ solution. Lyngdorf is also out there with a decent EQ tool, basically on their own esoteric gear, though it was also licensed to McIntosh. Harman also has its own sophisticated variants of DSP EQ mainly for the pro integrator market, like Amir.

    And, some very competent, though usually complex speecialty tools also exist for PC-only implementation, like Acourate and Audiolense, though Dirac also has a PC version, which I use.

    The big dichotomy seems to be the more accepting Mch consumer market vs. the very straight-laced, hyper-traditional, seldom rational, stereo audiophile market. The stereo audiophile market is also predominated by many small, specialist firms that lack the inhouse expertise or resources to even consider such features. That has parallels in the reasons passive speakers predominate over actives.
     
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  9. svart-hvitt

    svart-hvitt Senior Member

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    I support your point, obviously. FWIW, I have also heard people claim that DSP based room correction only works for audiophools - including Grammy winning mastering engineers - who make it all up in their heads, as if they wanted it so much to work that it works. Like cables.

    However, even if I believe DSP based room compensation has its merit (based on own experience and the theory that it makes sense to improve the frequency curve at the listening point), I cannot find any empirical evidence (blind tests, etc.) that such correction of the speaker output is preferred to non-correction. It would be great if such a test could be conducted. And it should be one of the easier tests to conduct.

    As a Genelec customer I keep updated on what happens in that firm. I think this week's blog post by Tomas Lund (for Lund's background: http://www.aes.org/events/143/presenters/?ID=6083) is interesting. This hardly seems like a person or a firm that base their work on beliefs alone:

    https://www.genelec.com/blog/immersive-monitoring-perceptive-perspective

    I also enjoyed Genelec's recent video presentation of G-Lab:



    Here's a background article on G-Lab as well:

    https://www.genelec.com/sites/default/files/media/References/Installations/case_study_g_livelab.pdf

    42 speakers are connected to one DSP based system, out of which 32 are for the audience area.

    I like watching professionals at work and in my eyes this hardly seems like amateurs at work - simply making it up like audiophools that DSP based room compensation is a valuable tool.

    But then again: I would very much like to see some hard evidence done on speakers with and without DSP based room correction.
     
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  10. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    ----- Deleted!! -----
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 6:10 AM
  11. DonH56

    DonH56 Major Contributor Patreon Donor Technical Expert

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    Uh, no, that was not directed at anybody on this or any other forum. I heard it at a seminar/sale pitch at a local audio store a few years ago. Although I have heard and read many similar things through the years. I should have italicized "your paltry" because that was not in the original quote that I remember; I'll go back and edit my post.

    Apologies to anyone who feels my comments were directed at them.

    I heard a lot of really bad CDs in 1981/1982 when they first came out (and a little before the consumer launch), and quite a few since. I think it is more about the mastering than the medium, especially these days, although the early 1980's ADCs and DACs often had very poor performance by today's standards.

    Edit: Tweaked my post and added a bit of balance to it.

    Edit 2: I confess I had not even really read your post, was just responding to this thread in general, but going back and reading through it I am at a loss how you thought I was referencing your post. Again, sorry for the confusion, and I have edited my post accordingly. Some days it just ain't worth the time to type.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 2:05 AM
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  12. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018 at 6:10 AM
  13. Nowhk

    Nowhk Member

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    Honestly I don't have any point of view. I'm here to uderstand my point of view, how in fact is honestly. Because, really I don't know :)

    Isn't this a contradiction? You have preference on using different room (thus, you confirm you are shaping in some ways) but you confirm you are not editing the tone control/artist intentions?

    If you got a difference between two rooms, you are aware you are listening two different stuff. Thus, there's a changing in content. Else you will hear the same.
    Tone control is the most evident, that's why I talked about timbre.

    I'm just arguing about the fact that (I believe) there isn't any chains that doesn't add distortion. Even with a totally flat gear in a grade studio, you cochlea/head position will distort a bit what you perceive. Period. In minor/major way, of course, but its physically impossible to preserve 100% the artist intent (the same artist probably don't know, since its conditioned by the gears where he's writing the piece).

    Basically, (I believe) an audiophile should reflect he won't never reach the perfection. Is there any benefit on listening a sound 99% accurate instead of (let say) 90%? If so, why? You got a distorted works anyway. And the setup money/time curve is very exponential. Anyone do whatever he wants, true, but is it really worth?

    Now, removing audiophile from the equation (1% in the world I think), lets talk about usual listeners (the big slice): what about them? (Yeah, I'm within that list).
    I've a "decent" playback system. Are you saying that I'm really far from the artist idea? (I believe) Major artists know nothing about frequency response and such, it just use sounds as "container". Ask "timbre" and they refers to a single type of instruments, nothing more. And what matters become from it. That's why people enjoy music I think, even on basic setups. Not for the "perfect timbre" the artist have in mind (which I think it never think about this), but for the major patterns you are able to extrapolate.

    In ANY cases, I don't understand the meaning of EQ/Different setups/Room correction :D Really I'm not able. Its a sort of focusing on somethings that (probably) isn't in the artist mind (in first place); but even if that's the target, the results of the playback you got won't never reach it, perfectly (world/life = entropy and chaos). Fake illusion?

    Manifest: I'm not here accusing one technic instead of another (offending setups or DSP and such), but understanding its meaning in first place, apart measurements (which is not music-art). Take me as a noob :)
     
  14. Cosmik

    Cosmik Major Contributor

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    Would you assume the same thing with video? i.e. that if you swap rooms, you have changed the 'content'?
     
  15. Nowhk

    Nowhk Member

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    What do you mean with "content"? That's the tricky part :) Without defining content, its an hard question :)

    If I watch a Woody Allen movie, probably I don't care about colors and texture (since I'm focusing not on colors or texture of the film). But between a real Cinema room and my living room (which also "light" impact the whole), yes I would say I can "notice" differences in colors/texture.
    That's pretty significant watching an Anime, for example. Using dfferent Full HD smart tv its even more noticeable.

    I wouldn't say content changes. But that's the point: if the content is not on the differences you hear (i.e. it is on a superior "layer"), changing the differences you hear (i.e. adjusting the sound) won't make many sense (while you are adjust them within some ranges, of course).
     
  16. Fitzcaraldo215

    Fitzcaraldo215 Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    Sorry if I misconstrued your Devil's advocate statement earlier.

    If you are referring to the smooth, downward sloping target curve (around 1dB per octave). as shaping, I do not see it that way. As I explained, it is an adjustment for known characteristics of omni mic measurements in reflective rooms based on good science in order to bring response to perceptually flat. Think for a moment about the irregular shape of the human ears, each on one side of the head, canted forward with a pinna and other irregularities. They do not respond to sound frequency in perfect omnidirectional fashion as a result, somewhat masking sound from some directions, unlike an omni mike which does "hear" all energy from all directions largely equally.

    Using a truly flat target curve results in perceptually too much energy, most noticeably in the highs. It does not sound flat to our ears. Toole explains this quite well in his latest book, and numerous other researchers confirm this. Measurably flat response is usually a good thing, but not when measuring a room with an omni mic for the purpose of achieving perceptably flat response.

    And, by the way, for ultimate refinement, the target curve may require adjustment for room cubic volume, with slightly more HF attenuation as room size increases due to more HF pickup from increased reflected energy as heard by the mic, but not as much by the ears. Typically, though, this is not a major concern, until we get to very large rooms, like auditoria, and the effect is totally accepted by acousticians and sound engineers.

    So, the concept is informed by very thorough psychoacoustic experiments, and my own anecdotal comparative testing gives me all the confirmation I need. But, by all means, check out the research.

    The key questions are, ideally, do we want measurably flat response at the speakers regardless of how the room may alter that response at our ears? Or, do we just need perceptably flat at our ears? Which will deliver a more faithful rendering to what was heard in the mastering studio? And, is there any value at all to psychoacoustic experiments?

    Yes, life would be nice and simple if we could just install equipment that was all measurably flat in frequency, including the speakers. But, our ears and complex room acoustics are very much an integral part of the playback system, affecting what enters our ear canals and what we hear perceptually. And, the effects of the room are measurable, though they require informed adjustment to deal with the fact that the measurement equipment - the omni mic - does not respond exactly the way that our ears do.

    Tone controls are someting else entirely, though they might, typically on a broadband basis, achieve some limited aspects of room correction that helps ameliorate some, limited negative room effects. But, typically, tone control adjustments are not mic calibrated, unlike competent EQ systems. EQ can also counteract narrow band bass modal issues, unlike broadband tone controls.

    Is this helpful?
     
  17. Nowhk

    Nowhk Member

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    The question is: do you really perceive the same, with your own systems, every time you approch to it? I'm not talking about having the same experience, but, for example, when you focus on the timbre of an instrument: you are really able to confirm you are getting the same? On every systems you use on listening music (different speakers/rooms, headphones, and so on). Really? Because if not... there's no sense on searching the perfection: it becomes a utopian research, which will vary (even if a bit) during the time.

    Also: what happens to you when you go to a concert? Basically, with what you say, you shouldnt, since you don't get a flat response at all. Do you just don't go there? So the concert itself (hall, reverb, and so on) won't "add" somethings magic to the artist work? (i.e. its own shape). Musically (I don't talk about drink beer with friends and have social behaviour), concert should be avoided with this point of view :O

    Yes, but only in the case one want a flat listening (and if, reading above, you can preserve it across listening; else, again it seems it doesn't make sense).
    And what about the systems which the target is the euphony of sounds (i.e. not researching a flat responses): they are shaping the sound right? I mean: once that add "bass" because he likes "bass" its not researching a flat response. Or at least, I don't think so. What are they do so? Fake the sound?
     
  18. Nowhk

    Nowhk Member

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    Exposing to the world of "higher quality", I'm not understanding the real meaning of this world.

    To erase some prejudice/bias, would you write here the score you get from this test? https://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/how-well-can-you-hear-audio-quality

    Feel free to use any kind of gears you have, and that you consider illustrious.
    I did 4/6 with a pair of AKG K240. But I'm sure that if I do the test again tomorrow, this value will change. You can repeat, rows are put random every time :)

    I'm very curious...
     
  19. Nowhk

    Nowhk Member

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  20. Fitzcaraldo215

    Fitzcaraldo215 Addicted to Fun and Learning

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    I am not a timbre nut. Instrumental timbre for even one instrument type varies all over the place. Live, there are subtle differences between Strads and Guarneris, even between various different examples of Strads or Guarneris.

    Check out this CD of the sound of an Erard vs. a Steinway piano:

    https://www.amazon.com/Ravel-Compared-Erard-Steinway-Vol-1/dp/B008S87SV0

    Yes, both clearly sound like pianos, but they also clearly sound somewhat different.

    Also, live, there are differences, but also general similarities in character or timbre of the same instrument at different seats in the hall or in different halls.

    As for recordings, we just do not know exactly what sound was recorded. Toole rightly calls that the Circle of Confusion. So, our best option is to have our audio systems reproduce whatever that actual recorded sound was with minimal deviations from perceptually flat frequency response, chief among other sonic characteristics. And, this is indeed the goal of high fidelity audio.

    Attempting to alter or manipulate that perceptually flat sound because you think you know what the recorded sound was supposed to be is a fool's errand. We have absolutely no basis for knowing the exact timbre, etc. captured in the recording. There is no good way to evaluate the exact timbre of instruments on a recording, ignoring incompetently engineered ones.

    I do not subjectively find that I am doing that in comparing live concert experience with my home listening experience, including the application of DSP room EQ. On the contrary, there are indications to me that room EQ removes some obvious deviations in the recorded sound with a wide range of recordings compared to my recollection of live concerts. It is subjective and inexact, and I might even be deceiving myself. But, the differences are obvious enough that I remain convinced I am doing the right thing, and certainly I prefer it for all my listening.
     

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