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The IEM Harman Target 2019 sounds "off" to me. Is it just me?

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Dazerdoreal

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My goal was not to tell you that my target is "objectively better" than Harman 2019. I also understand why people prefer a more V-Shaped sound and I dont blame them. I was just geniuinely confused that this is the sweet spot of how the majority perceives music and that it is perceived as the main "audiophile benchmark".

..

I had a thought recently. According to the Fletcher-Munson-Curve, people perceive music as more V-Shaped on higher volume.

So I listened to IEM Harman at a quieter volume (I guess ~70 instead of ~80 db), and I think I can understand its appeal better now. While it is not my "sweet spot" and I couldnt imagine listening to "louder" genres in this volume such as metal or orchestral music, this might be a good target for music which does not need loudness, as well as for passive listening in order to save my hearing.

That said, I couldnt imagine listen to this volume in a loud environment such as a train - even with Etymotics - unless the dynamic range of the music is very compressed.
 
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markanini

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Your take away is that the Harman target is not for you based on EQ-ing a single IEM with a largely different native response to it. I don't consider Harman-IE right for me personally but I'm not sure we have that I common. Because my conclusion came from trying multiple IEMs, some which have a native response very close to Harman-IE. Maybe you were led to believe the target was designed for EQing IEMs. In fact it was designed for benchmarking the native response of IEMs in to generate a score that maps to an average listener preference.
 

Chromatischism

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Your take away is that the Harman target is not for you based on EQ-ing a single IEM with a largely different native response to it. I don't consider Harman-IE right for me personally but I'm not sure we have that I common. Because my conclusion came from trying multiple IEMs, some which have a native response very close to Harman-IE. Maybe you were led to believe the target was designed for EQing IEMs. In fact it was designed for benchmarking the native response of IEMs in to generate a score that maps to an average listener preference.
So with my first IEM I tried to AutoEq with Wavelet to the Harman target and it sounded gawdawful. I just thought the AutoEq wasn't really good.

Later I got a set of IEMs which measured with the upper mid-range and treble below the Harman curve and found them to sound mostly neutral.

About a year or two later I got a new pair which measured pretty close to Harman. Stock they sounded almost as bad at the first with the AutoEq in the upper mid-range and treble.

My conclusion: the target really does sound that way.

Once I had the last pair fixed with EQ to remove all audible coloration (well, except the last 1-5% which is hard to nail down), I discovered that it more closely matches the IEF Neutral curve, bass notwithstanding.
 

asrUser

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I already tried several IEMs recently and it would be wrong to say all IEMs sound the same when eq'd to the same target curve, because this is what I hear! (looking at the folks telling me "science proofs this, proofs that..."). You just can't smooth the curves of all headphones, because if you try it on some headphones you get a wreck.
Generally Oratory's eq profiles are way better than AutoEQ. I think he takes his time to solve the problem frequencies of headphones. Same goes for amirm. AutoEQ on the other hand is just auto generated.
 
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Oso Polar

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For me Etymotic ER4XR with Oratory EQ to Harman (v. 2.9 from 11.02.22) sound absolutely perfect and spot on (BTW I like it better than unequalized TRUTHEAR x Crinacle Zero). Of course sound is VERY different compared to stock Etymotic tuning.
 

counterpoint

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I don't like the Harman target either. Too shouty, sounds unnatural, and fatiguing. I prefer my own target curve (green line). Volume level does make a difference hence the "loudness" button on receivers that compensates to provide more clarity at lower volumes. At the end of the day its all personal preference.

Harman IE 2019v2, Oratory 1990 and Personal 2022 Target Curves.png
 

Feelas

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I don't like the Harman target either. Too shouty, sounds unnatural, and fatiguing. I prefer my own target curve (green line). Volume level does make a difference hence the "loudness" button on receivers that compensates to provide more clarity at lower volumes. At the end of the day its all personal preference.

View attachment 239335
Yes, but Harman curve is more about the shape, not about exact shelf values... Which is precisely why most TWS BT headphones have some kind of customizable EQ implemented.
 

Kyle / MrHeeHo

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Other than slight sibilance I find all of the harman targets to sound the most "correct" sounding but I'm also still in my 20s which might have something to do with it
 

someguyontheinternet

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Skipped to the conclusions, because I didn't want to waste that much time. There are some points which are inaccurate or just wrong:

Reviewer impressions are subject to even more factors than measurement equipment so I cannot understand why he would put them on the same level or even put reviewer impression above measurements.

Since the Harman target was created for a specific setup it makes sense to use the same as a baseline for measurements. It has public research behind it even though it might not be technically the most accurate model. This creates a degree of certainty in reliability compared to other measurement equipment. What he correctly points out is that you need to be aware of how measurement results translate to your own perception, but he muddles it again by putting subjective impressions on the same level.

Target curves being only "somewhat helpful" is a gross misrepresentation of the science behind it. The point of the Harman target is not to be the one curve to fit all humans on the planet. It's a statistically backed baseline reference for human preference. The likelihood of having a preference close to the target is much higher than having one far away from the target. This makes the target the best starting point to research one's own preference, because in most cases no or only slight adjustments will be necessary.

The last point circles back to putting subjective impressions at the top which is absolutely misguided advice. The reasonable thing to do would be to check for biases before going to try different frequency responses. The "just stick to what you like" argument would completely prevent anyone from ever finding a better alternative.
 
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Common claim:

* Each individual has a unique ear canal and pinna, therefore everybody listening is unique and can't be shared.

In reality and because evolutionary reasons people do not listen significantly different. The notion that everybody lives in their own acoustic universe is nonsense. There's always the extreme outlier but that's rare.

But let's acknowledge that everybody has their unique auditory system and own acoustic fingerprint: It is just fantasy that reviewers and most people have the critical listening skills to discern those differences. There are other facts that debunk those notions, for instance, it is well known that other factors such as aesthetics, marketing, 'charisma' can destroy the little critical listening skills people had: "Looks pretty therefore sounds good."

And that's the real problem with most reviewers and 'audiophiles': they are not real critical listeners, they don't have the training, the certification, the validation required to become one. They are more like infotainers and influencers. Not to be taken too seriously since they are not much better than any random person doing that

That's ironically one of the reasons why the Harman research came to be: The charlatanry of reviewers and marketing.

Which is why we should be aware of certain 'reviewers' who advocate against this kind of research.
 

isostasy

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In reality and because evolutionary reasons people do not listen significantly different. The notion that everybody lives in their own acoustic universe is nonsense. There's always the extreme outlier but that's rare.

Do you have links to any research papers which back this up? This is what I have begun to feel is true also but have not seen any evidence for. Others in this thread make some reasonable statements regarding anatomy and hearing, e.g.
Don't forget that each person' ear anatomy is unique and different thus a target/curve doesn't fit all needs.
What target do you tune your over-ears to?

And even Axel Grell himself states two people might prefer entirely different IEM tunings due to the surpassing of the ear anatomy.

However, if this were true, would not a very large variety of different IEM tunings be required to cater for everybody's different anatomy? Or at least you'd expect large groups of people with broadly similar features deride a particular IEM which was created aiming at a target based on the ears of someone with completely different features?

hrtfVariance.jpg
(variation in HRTF)

This is not the case however. You have reviewers and consumers all broadly agreeing on what are good IEMS, and although they display differences in bass and upper treble, the common theme is that IEMs which do not demonstrate a sufficient rise peaking around 3kHz are not considered good, even though it would be reasonable to expect a sufficiently large group of people whose anatomy does not match this ear gain to disagree.

This leads me to be fairly astonished that my ER2XR sounds so correct. Given the 'anatomy is variable' argument, an IEM tuned to what researchers think an average human hears rather than what could be measured at my own eardrum shouldn't sound so correct. Yet it does. To bring my point back to the Harman IE 2019 target, Etymotics are measured moderately deficient in treble between around 3-10kHz, yet boosted to match they sound far too bright, and I've never heard anyone complain an Etymotic (bar the ER4P and ER3) lacks treble. The only explanations I can think of are that the Etymotic target is more correct above 2kHz, or the Harman IE 2019 is technically correct but, due to IEMs being placed so much closer to the eardrum, treble is perceived as that much louder so needs to be lowered. The latter seems scientifically dud to me though.

Therefore, @SalutaryGraveness , I agree with you that, for whatever reason, presumably psychological, even if measurements at the eardrum differ, what is truly heard ends up being remarkably similar (not accounting for hearing loss, of course).
 
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This leads me to be fairly astonished that my ER2XR sounds so correct.


I tried the Etymotic tuning via EQ and I actually liked it. Sounds good. I suppose the real thing is even better which is why wanted to buy the ER2XR.
The problem is that its design seems uncomfortable and cumbersome to wear. I am afraid is going to feel like wearing q-tips.

I don't think it should be a mystery why that's a good tuning. It is based on the DF target which has a solid premise: How neutral looks like in a fully reverberant room.
Some people might find its tonality a bit weird but it is not technically incorrect.
 

mkc

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Interesting now that EX2XR is brought up. Frankly my experience aligns with the above. I'm not certain if it's something to do with the EQ implementation or the EQ itself, but Harman IE target rarely works for me, though the headphones target works perfectly.

With the stock Ety tuning the xr sounds adequate, compared to Harman, to me, the low and high sounds slightly off, but the mid are better than Harman. Currently sticking with the stock tuning due to the mid-midhigh sounds too off for my liking.
 

restorer-john

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You’re probably right, but I believe the Harman target was developed to maximize the score preference, similar to the process of optimizing a cost function but slightly different from an “average”… Anyway, per Sean Olive himself, it should be used as a guideline, a good starting point, so I completely agree with you on this point and it can sound “off” to many…

The target was developed to sell the most Harman headphones to the masses of unthinking consumers.

Let's get serious, it was never about a reference grade audio reproduction standard. Right now the so-called 'preference' curve is just a horrible sounding EQ setting. Just like the classic smiley face on graphic EQs in the 1970s made by people pushing sliders until they thought it sounded 'better'. Hilarious.
 

Oso Polar

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The problem is that its design seems uncomfortable and cumbersome to wear. I am afraid is going to feel like wearing q-tips.
You'll not know until you'll try. I have ER4XR and their triple flange ear tips were not very comfortable for me but with double flange ear tips I find them very, very comfortable, better then most, actually - because nothing is touching the ear outside. Sound isolation is extreme, which is generally a good thing except I really don't recommend wearing them on a street unless you want to end up under a car or crash with some bike.
 

isostasy

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I tried the Etymotic tuning via EQ and I actually liked it. Sounds good. I suppose the real thing is even better which is why wanted to buy the ER2XR.
The problem is that its design seems uncomfortable and cumbersome to wear. I am afraid is going to feel like wearing q-tips.

I don't think it should be a mystery why that's a good tuning. It is based on the DF target which has a solid premise: How neutral looks like in a fully reverberant room.
Some people might find its tonality a bit weird but it is not technically incorrect.
I was a bit hyperbolic, sorry. I agree it's not a mystery but it seems slightly odd to me that the Harman over ear target sounds broadly correct to me but in ear, which is the talking point of this thread, really doesn't. It should be the same though because it's about frequency response at the ear drum, which should be the same whether you're wearing IEMs or headphones (unless I've got something seriously wrong, I'm sure this is what Dr. Olive has said though). The fact that the ER2XR is tuned by adding a fairly arbitrary bass boost underneath a modified DF tuning seems like it shouldn't work as well, compared to the Harman target which considers how the in-ear response is modified by the room through the whole spectrum.
Interesting now that EX2XR is brought up. Frankly my experience aligns with the above. I'm not certain if it's something to do with the EQ implementation or the EQ itself, but Harman IE target rarely works for me, though the headphones target works perfectly.

With the stock Ety tuning the xr sounds adequate, compared to Harman, to me, the low and high sounds slightly off, but the mid are better than Harman. Currently sticking with the stock tuning due to the mid-midhigh sounds too off for my liking.
What about the lows and highs sound off to you? I've tried small EQ adjustments, e.g. bringing down the ear gain a little, matching the bass and mid-bass to Harman, bringing up the treble a little, and it all ends up sounding worse so I listen without EQ now and it sounds pretty much spot-on to me.
The target was developed to sell the most Harman headphones to the masses of unthinking consumers.

Let's get serious, it was never about a reference grade audio reproduction standard. Right now the so-called 'preference' curve is just a horrible sounding EQ setting. Just like the classic smiley face on graphic EQs in the 1970s made by people pushing sliders until they thought it sounded 'better'. Hilarious.
I'm far from a Harman zealot, as is obvious from my other posts here, but I don't believe this other extreme of Harman bashing is very productive.
You'll not know until you'll try. I have ER4XR and their triple flange ear tips were not very comfortable for me but with double flange ear tips I find them very, very comfortable, better then most, actually - because nothing is touching the ear outside. Sound isolation is extreme, which is generally a good thing except I really don't recommend wearing them on a street unless you want to end up under a car or crash with some bike.
100% agree. You gotta give it a go and be ready for some experimentation. It took me a while to find my perfect fit, which is the long stemmed triple-flanged frost tips with the stem cut a bit shorter. I think part of the discomfort people find is that their ears are filled to the brim with wax, which prevents inserting the triple flanges properly. With clean ears and the right sized tips Etymotics are very comfortable.

@Dazerdoreal @Chromatischism could you please re-share the EQs you've posted earlier, but this time against the Etymotic target?
 

restorer-john

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I'm far from a Harman zealot, as is obvious from my other posts here, but I don't believe this other extreme of Harman bashing is very productive.

I can 'bash' whatever I like, just as you can. Harman/Kardon of old was a wonderful company and produced some incredible gear. Sadly, those days are long gone. That was before the 'expand at all costs' strategy and the soaking up of anything and everything good, only to blanket it under the boring banner of Harman International. JBL got wrecked. Infinity is just a brand shell. AKG- destroyed totally, including the factory, the engineers and the legacy. dbx= cheap processors now. Revel, their experiment, is just glossy looking cheap Asian board boxes at high prices. I could go on but you get the picture.

ASR sadly hangs its misguided hat on dubious 'preference' curves produced by, and for a company congolmerate that is hardly anything other than just another also-ran in the scheme of things. Not in the same league as many other large companies with much greater R&D budgets, engineers, and proven track records of producing product which has stood the test of time and not polarized opinion to the same extent as they have.

Nobody outside of this place really cares one iota about Harman. Most people in the real world have never heard of the brand. ASk your friends. It holds no sway because it has no real presence or gravitas. Just a corporate roll-up, and now just a tooth on a cog in the giant Samsung machine. Ironically the company that I remember made pocket transistor radio loudspeakers in the 1970s. Look at Samsung now.
 
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