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

Chromatischism

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@Chromatischism could you please re-share the EQs you've posted earlier, but this time against the Etymotic target?
There are 3 samples of the ER2XR which Crin measured, and there are significant differences between them.

One commonality I see though is that beyond 3 kHz there is a lot less energy than Harman – to me, these would sound better.

The deep insertion appears to avoid the 7500 kHz ear resonance compared to the Zeros, which would be nice to prevent cymbals from becoming too prominent, for example.

I don't believe I would prefer the brighter 1-3 kHz range, though. It's very possible I have higher than average ear sensitivity. I can still hear 15 kHz capacitor whine and I keep my ears clean, which could contribute (just guessing, I really don't know).

Here is my Zero EQ v ER2XR S3 v Harman:

graph Zero EQ v ER2XR 3 v Harman.png
 

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isostasy

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There are 3 samples of the ER2XR which Crin measured, and there are significant differences between them.

One commonality I see though is that beyond 3 kHz there is a lot less energy than Harman – to me, these would sound better.

The deep insertion appears to avoid the 7500 kHz ear resonance compared to the Zeros, which would be nice to prevent cymbals from becoming too prominent, for example.

I don't believe I would prefer the brighter 1-3 kHz range, though. It's very possible I have higher than average ear sensitivity. I can still hear 15 kHz capacitor whine and I keep my ears clean, which could contribute (just guessing, I really don't know).

...
Thanks, this is really interesting: your Truthear Zero EQ looks almost exactly like what I tried EQing my ER2XR to a while ago when I felt the ear gain was a bit too much, reducing the region between 1.5-4kHz by around 3-4dB. I ended up removing it and going back to stock which I realized sounded more correct to me.
 

Chromatischism

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Thanks, this is really interesting: your Truthear Zero EQ looks almost exactly like what I tried EQing my ER2XR to a while ago when I felt the ear gain was a bit too much, reducing the region between 1.5-4kHz by around 3-4dB. I ended up removing it and going back to stock which I realized sounded more correct to me.
Here is the same, but with the IEF Neutral target:

graph Zero EQ v ER2XR 3 v IEF.png


Even though both of us are differing in how much output we are using between 1-3 kHz, we (and Etymotic) agree that Harman IE has way too much energy from 3-10 kHz.
 
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Dazerdoreal

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One commonality I see though is that beyond 3 kHz there is a lot less energy than Harman – to me, these would sound better.
Same. An interesting Harman 2019 alternative I found is the Banbeucmas Target:
It has more lower mids and less energy in the siblance range, but also more a bit more high treble.

The Harman 2016 Target might also be worth checking out. It has less treble but more upper mids.
Oratory1990 also created a target curve called "USound" which is warmer overall (a bit too much upper bass for my taste).
 

GaryH

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My experience with the Harman 2019 IE target is with the Truthear x Crinacle Zero's.

If these are truly representative of the Harman IE target, it isn't for me. The upper midrange is overcooked and shifts the timbre of everything unnaturally upward.

I can't comment on the bass because the bass on this IEM doesn't follow Harman.

Here is my EQ target (in blue) plotted against the IEF Neutral and Harman 2019 IE v2 targets:

View attachment 238618

View attachment 238619

With this, I can't find anything wrong with the sound.

Harman is simply out of the question.
Got the Truthear Zero, tried your EQ. Honestly, it sounds all kinds of wrong...completely unnatural. I suspect due to your misguided sine sweep methodology. The Truthears stock already have somewhat disjointed bass and mids due to the dip between ~150 and 250 Hz. Your EQ just makes this worse by having an even more broadband (and so more audible) dip below Harman throughout almost the entire bass range (except the very lowest sub-bass, resulting in a complete lack of bass warmth) up to 150 Hz. Then the severe lack of energy in the ear gain region just makes everything sound really muffled and dull. And then there's the inexplicable high-Q 2 dB peak at 10 kHz which adds a nasty artificial zingyness to everything. Maiky's EQ taking the Truthear closer to the Harman target is far far better sounding, although I could do without filter 6 as that can add a bit of sharpness, and I can take or leave the 13 kHz notch filter.

Even better is a modified AutoEQ EQ (which it looks like is calculated based on an average of all 9 samples Crinacle measured, so will likely be a better match for the average user with any one random unit), after increasing the bass by ~2 dB to get up to Harman levels, and skipping the 10 kHz filter which unnecessarily reduces upper treble extension and the filter at ~8 kHz which can cause a bit of bothersome sharpness.

There's nothing wrong with the actual Harman in-ear target. There is with the stock Truthear response though, which has significant and audible deviations from it, despite what some might have you believe.
 

Chromatischism

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Got the Truthear Zero, tried your EQ. Honestly, it sounds all kinds of wrong...completely unnatural. I suspect due to your misguided sine sweep methodology.
That is definitely not the case, if you read about my EQ process. Besides, several are using my EQ and say it is a significant improvement, and that turning the filters off is painful when reverting to the stock sound of the Zero or the Harman target. And, there is nothing wrong with using sine sweeps to identify where the biggest resonances are. Crinacle himself recommends it. What I hear there matches perfectly with what I hear in music, so it's a valid test.

And, I listen to a lot of music with these which is how I actually developed and fine-tuned the EQ.

They sound like two well-placed, neutral speakers in a room with subs and room correction.

If it isn't working for you, something else is going on. What tips are you using? This might sound personal, but do you have any known high-frequency hearing loss? And, what music are you testing with? Those are significant variables.

It is very possible that I have more sensitive hearing than you. I can't stand bright speakers. But, I know I'm not the only one judging by how many have heard an improvement with this. It is also possible that your music choices aren't revealing the problems, or that you are using a different brand of tips which are quite different.

The Truthears stock already have somewhat disjointed bass and mids due to the dip between ~150 and 250 Hz. Your EQ just makes this worse by having an even more broadband (and so more audible) dip below Harman throughout almost the entire bass range (except the very lowest sub-bass, resulting in a complete lack of bass warmth) up to 150 Hz. Then the severe lack of energy in the ear gain region just makes everything sound really muffled and dull. And then there's the inexplicable high-Q 2 dB peak at 10 kHz which adds a nasty artificial zingyness to everything. Maiky's EQ taking the Truthear closer to the Harman target is far far better sounding, although I could do without filter 6 as that can add a bit of sharpness, and I can take or leave the 13 kHz notch filter.
I don't have any filters above 7.5 kHz. You might have gone back and found an old version instead of following the link in my signature.

And the bass "warmth" you feel like you are missing, could mean you have gotten used to exaggerated sound there in your specific music. You can hear it when you listen to Justin Chancellor's bass guitar at the opening of Jambi. If you don't merge the bass boost down by 100-120 Hz you'll hear what I mean. It's supposed to have the right balance between meaty, yet clean, and not bloated. It's similar in a lot of other music but that is one example that highlights it well. It is especially apparent on rock and metal music, which is like a pink noise test for your system.
 
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Chromatischism

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The biggest sin of the Truthear Zero is the excess energy in the 5 khz area. Ignore the Harman target...it's just too much. It sounds like an overly bright Polk speaker until you knock that down by 4-5 dB.

Then, the upper bass is exaggerated to the point where vocals and lower midrange instrument clarity get muddied.

If you fix those two areas, you go a long way toward good sound. Further refinements make them great, and easily worth the asking price.

This is what the Truthear Zero, a Harman tuning in the highs, sounds like to me, stock:

Polk Monitor 40 Series II Frequency Response Measurements Bookshelf Speaker.png


Polk Monitor 40 Series II Predicted In-room Frequency Response Measurements Bookshelf Speaker.png



I posted my measurements here, where you can see a good comparison and what's wrong with the Harman target:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ds-off-to-me-is-it-just-me.38113/post-1348208

And, keep in mind that you can not simply judge the highs and lows by how far they are from a target. If you're listening to complex music as you should, if you raise the highs, you hear less bass. If you lower the bass, you hear more highs. Raise both, and you hear less from the mids, which is a no-go. It is the balance of all of it that we hear.
 
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isostasy

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Got the Truthear Zero, tried your EQ. Honestly, it sounds all kinds of wrong...completely unnatural. I suspect due to your misguided sine sweep methodology. The Truthears stock already have somewhat disjointed bass and mids due to the dip between ~150 and 250 Hz. Your EQ just makes this worse by having an even more broadband (and so more audible) dip below Harman throughout almost the entire bass range (except the very lowest sub-bass, resulting in a complete lack of bass warmth) up to 150 Hz. Then the severe lack of energy in the ear gain region just makes everything sound really muffled and dull. And then there's the inexplicable high-Q 2 dB peak at 10 kHz which adds a nasty artificial zingyness to everything. Maiky's EQ taking the Truthear closer to the Harman target is far far better sounding, although I could do without filter 6 as that can add a bit of sharpness, and I can take or leave the 13 kHz notch filter.

Even better is a modified AutoEQ EQ (which it looks like is calculated based on an average of all 9 samples Crinacle measured, so will likely be a better match for the average user with any one random unit), after increasing the bass by ~2 dB to get up to Harman levels, and skipping the 10 kHz filter which unnecessarily reduces upper treble extension and the filter at ~8 kHz which can cause a bit of bothersome sharpness.

There's nothing wrong with the actual Harman in-ear target. There is with the stock Truthear response though, which has significant and audible deviations from it, despite what some might have you believe.
Would it be possible for us all to stop EQ bashing each other? 'All kinds of wrong', 'misguided', 'severe lack of energy', 'nasty artificial', 'really muffled'; it's just unnecessary when you consider the role of EQ as a tool to meet individual personal preference. You don't like @Chromatischism 's EQ, we get it, but that's all it means: you don't like it.

Could you please elaborate on the 'significant and audible deviations' the Truthear Zero shows from the Harman IE 2019 v2 target, and who these people are trying to persuade us to 'believe' otherwise? The AutoEQ ranking (which you have shown to place some faith in given your use of the EQ) rates good compliance with the Harman target with low standard deviation and low absolute error.
 

Chromatischism

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The biggest deviation from Harman IE 2019 v2 that I see is in the bass region as described by Gary, but there is also a 5 kHz resonance that peaks above a little bit. But the issue is that perfect compliance to that target does not mean you automatically get great sound. For many people, it seems that curve needs to come down faster above 3 kHz. Harman's upper midrange and treble gain is too round and carries the boost too far, leading to an overly sizzly sound.
 

617

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The Harman Target is just an average of a population sound preference, gives you a quite important information and is a great achievement. But mathematically speaking most of us will fall around it, not necessarily in the death center, your preference will fall barely off to greatly off from it., it is expected. Nothing wrong with that.
I strongly suspect there are a lot of audiophiles who prefer a more analytical sound, which would deviate from the balanced but bassy harman target. Just judging by the music taste of audiophiles and the music you hear at shows. I would also say there is a tradition for professional headphones to have a very articulate and slightly elevated treble as it makes it easier to hear certain mundane problems in a recording setting such as noise or hum.
 

Chromatischism

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I strongly suspect there are a lot of audiophiles who prefer a more analytical sound, which would deviate from the balanced but bassy harman target. Just judging by the music taste of audiophiles and the music you hear at shows.
I would submit that the majority of music audiophiles play at shows is not appropriate testing material as it doesn't really stress the full capabilities of speakers.
 

isostasy

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The biggest deviation from Harman IE 2019 v2 that I see is in the bass region as described by Gary, but there is also a 5 kHz resonance that peaks above a little bit. But the issue is that perfect compliance to that target does not mean you automatically get great sound. For many people, it seems that curve needs to come down faster above 3 kHz. Harman's upper midrange and treble gain is too round and carries the boost too far, leading to an overly sizzly sound.

I agree compliance doesn't mean you automatically get great sound. That's not what Gary said though; he said there were 'significant and audible deviations' from the Harman target; not 'a little bit' as you say. The algorithm used by Jaakko Pasanen's AutoEQ, which I believe uses the same criteria as the original Harman research, rates it as being highly compliant, and Amir's measurement showed what he described as 'superb' compliance. To reiterate, I'm not making any argument about sound quality (my favourite IEM is the ER2XR which is not only Harman deviant, it was never designed to target Harman), I'm taking issue with the fact that Gary calls the joint-7th most compliant IEM amongst oratory1990 and crinacle's database to show 'significant and audible deviations' from Harman to the extent he considers it not even representative of a Harman-tuned IEM. It's then bizarre that he recommends using the AutoEQ filters despite these being based on the measurements which AutoEQ itself rates as already highly compliant. It's like arguing the DCA Stealth shows 'significant and audible deviations' from the Harman OE target.

How are we supposed to have discussions on a forum titled 'audio science review' if people use scientific terminology such as 'significant ... deviations' to assert things which are evidently not true? Whether you like the Truthear Zero or not, it is highly compliant with the Harman IE 2019 v2 target, and unless you have your own contradictory measurements, you are simply wrong to assert otherwise.
 

Aperiodic

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A theory about the Harman curve controversy popped into my head. Tell me what you think.

The adjustments the Harman curve makes (it's EQ at the driver, essentially) are pleasing and are not so different from what you get from a lot of EQs already in place in production settngs, Some studios use the 'flattest' monitors they can find, perhaps trying to assure broadest compatibility. So if John Q. Engineer dials in the warm sound s/he wants as presented to him/her by those 'flat' monitors, and you then play it back on a system that has a similar 'signature', you're essentially 'stacking' the EQ and ending up with boom car sound. Think the 'deep voice announcer' on your local classic-rock radio station. Sounds tubby as hell on my Tivoli One table radio, which has 'warm' mid bass to make the 3.5" driver sound 'bigger'. Same effect on the sound.
 

GaryH

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What tips are you using?
Stock smallest, narrow bore.
This might sound personal, but do you have any known high-frequency hearing loss?
Nope.
And, what music are you testing with?
See below.
I don't have any filters above 7.5 kHz. You might have gone back and found an old version instead of following the link in my signature.
So what was the methodology that led to the previously included high-Q filter at 10 kHz (which I believe was actually 3 dB initially)?
There's your problem. Your test music has highly compressed dynamic range, which is often audibly fatiguing, so you're likely pulling down the frequencies our ears are most sensitive to in order to try to compensate for this. It also doesn't have a very smooth spectrum, and is lacking upper high frequency energy. What you need to do is use well-mixed and mastered test tracks that do have a smooth, broadband spectrum, with good dynamic range, and are proven to produce better listener performance (more discriminating and reliable sound quality judgements) in controlled blind tests, such as the music tracks near the top of this list of those tested by Harman ranked by listener performance they produce. Then you should hear how unnatural your EQ sounds.
 

Chromatischism

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So what was the methodology that led to the previously included high-Q filter at 10 kHz (which I believe was actually 3 dB initially)?
Basing my EQ on the measurements. That was a mistake, because it turns out at those higher frequencies, those peaks and dips do not occur at those places. It's very possible that the measurements are using a different insertion depth.
 

Chromatischism

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There's your problem. Your test music has highly compressed dynamic range, which is often audibly fatiguing, so you're likely pulling down the frequencies our ears are most sensitive to in order to try to compensate for this. It also doesn't have a very smooth spectrum, and is lacking upper high frequency energy. What you need to do is use well-mixed and mastered test tracks that do have a smooth, broadband spectrum, with good dynamic range
You mean like the John Williams and Michael Giacchino tracks I also posted?

By the way, Tool is done by Bob Ludwig, one of the best in the industry. Their tracks have excellent quality and are frequently used to test speaker systems.
 

GaryH

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Would it be possible for us all to stop EQ bashing each other? 'All kinds of wrong', 'misguided', 'severe lack of energy', 'nasty artificial', 'really muffled'; it's just unnecessary when you consider the role of EQ as a tool to meet individual personal preference. You don't like @Chromatischism 's EQ, we get it, but that's all it means: you don't like it.
I'm not 'bashing' anyone. I'm giving my impressions of an EQ developed involving a (yes, misguided) methodology that experts in the field like Dr Sean Olive have clearly stated is "bogus"; an EQ that has been repeatedly claimed to "be a big improvement for most people" (a remit far exceeding 'individual personal preference'), which is not supported by my impressions, but more importantly not supported by scientific research.
Could you please elaborate on the 'significant and audible deviations' the Truthear Zero shows from the Harman IE 2019 v2 target
and who these people are trying to persuade us to 'believe' otherwise?
Pretty much every reviewer (including the collaborator of said IEM).
The AutoEQ ranking (which you have shown to place some faith in given your use of the EQ) rates good compliance with the Harman target with low standard deviation and low absolute error.
I never said it doesn't show good compliance. I said it doesn't show excellent compliance (which is what has been repeatedly claimed by many). And here 'excellent' has a very specific meaning as defined by Sean Olive, as a preference rating of 90 or above. The Truthear Zero's rating of 81 is significantly below this, in no small part down to the parameter you failed to mention: its slope of the logarithimc regression fit of the error (i.e. overall spectral tilt) of 0.3 (0 being neutral, <0 warmer, >0 brighter), mostly due to its broadband elevation over the Harman target in the upper mids / lower treble, which chimes with many people finding them somewhat 'shouty'.

I agree compliance doesn't mean you automatically get great sound. That's not what Gary said though; he said there were 'significant and audible deviations' from the Harman target; not 'a little bit' as you say.
Looks like you're employing a colloquial definition of significant. Here's a proper definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:
sufficiently great or important to be worthy of attention; noteworthy
In scientific language it's equivalent to 'not insignificant'. It also looks like you're making the common mistake (as many have done with the Truthear) of thinking a small-amplitude but low-Q (broadband) deviation is 'little', when audibly it is not, as Dr Floyd Toole shows in his book.

It's like arguing the DCA Stealth shows 'significant and audible deviations' from the Harman OE target.
It does (under the correct definitions above). Less than the Truthear Zero, but still there.
How are we supposed to have discussions on a forum titled 'audio science review' if people use scientific terminology such as 'significant ... deviations' to assert things which are evidently not true? Whether you like the Truthear Zero or not, it is highly compliant with the Harman IE 2019 v2 target, and unless you have your own contradictory measurements, you are simply wrong to assert otherwise.
As shown above, I'm using the terminology just fine.
 
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GaryH

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By the way, Tool is done by Bob Ludwig, one of the best in the industry.
Even many of the 'best in the industry' succumbed to the loudness wars at its peak in the 2000s. But as mentioned previously the most important factor that produces reliable and discriminating listener judgements as determined by Harman's scientific research is having a smooth spectrum over the whole frequency range. And that track doesn't (with its deviation from smooth looking suspiciously similar to the inverse of your EQ...):
Jambi.png


You mean like the John Williams and Michael Giacchino tracks I also posted?
Neither do they. Williams (lacking in sub/lower-bass):
Star Wars.png


Giacchino (starts to drop off above ~5 kHz):
A Biosyn' We Will Go.png


Compare with Bird on a Wire by Jennifer Warnes, near the top of Harman's scientifically determined list of best test tracks:
Bird on a Wire.png


Because you don't understand the methodology
Nah, I understand it fine. There's not much to it:
1) starting with a sine sweep to identify the hot areas that needed attenuation, and 2) a LOT of music listening over several weeks. What I hear on the sweeps mirrors what I hear with music, so there is agreement, for me.
What you don't seem to understand is that the invalid results from step 1 bias-prime your perceptions in step 2, exacerbated by the fact that your test music is sub-optimal as shown above which means they will produce less reliable and discriminating sound judgements.
 
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Chromatischism

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Even many of the 'best in the industry' succumbed to the loudness wars at its peak in the 2000s. But as mentioned previously the most important factor that produces reliable and discriminating listener judgements as determined by Harman's scientific research is having a smooth spectrum over the whole frequency range. And that track doesn't (with its deviation from smooth looking suspiciously similar to the inverse of your EQ...):
I never claimed that track offered "smooth spectrum over the whole frequency range". I specifically stated it was an example of an obvious area that reveals a major problem with the sound of the Harman IEM target curve. The harmonics of an electric guitar are super sensitive to tonal imbalance and you can pick up on it instantly without listening the whole track. It simply sounds wrong, which is why your track measurements are misleading. Our brains do not average an entire song together. The brain hears moments in time of a few milliseconds. You keep glossing over the important details in my posts and twisting their meaning, and I'm getting tired but I feel like I must respond because others may read your posts and get the wrong idea.

Anyway, I listen to a wide range of music. I only offered a few good examples. It is far from the full list.

What I did with the Truthear Zero is in the end, simple. And here is the part you keep glossing over: they now sound much closer to two neutral speakers in a room with subs and room correction. If you want to argue that a speaker that is flat from 33 Hz in-room to 20 kHz, with controlled directivity from 1800 Hz and up, is a wrong, misguided type of sound, go right ahead. But it's a very strange argument to make, both objectively and subjectively.

We agree about the stock Harman tuning being overly bright. And the fix for some of us has been EQ:
Out of the box with no EQ I find them painfully hot in the treble to the point of them being unlistenable for me. I should mention I've grown accustomed to eq corrected headphones that are close to neutral after EQ.
(Curiously, I tried it out and my independently tuned-to-my-idea-of-neutral EQ is sonically nearly identical to Chromaticism's in the treble... )
Well, now I've tried it as well out of curiosity. Sounds very smooth indeed
Thank you, I definitely like your EQ more than stock sound. Especially after listening to EQ for a while, turning off those two midrange notches is painful.
After trying Chromatischism's EQ i noticed a great improvement, notably in the highs mids area (still can't understand how a lot of people don't seem to notice the Big problem there).

This is not a sample of everyone who's ever tried this IEM, but it's enough to make you say hmm...

Also, I do not claim that people who like the Harman target are wrong or bad. We can't prove why there is such a large discrepancy, but there are a number of hypotheses I've put forward, those being:
  • Lack of a neutral in-room reference
  • Non-revealing test material
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Short-term enjoyment of a brighter sound
  • My own hearing (and others) just being more sensitive.
All of them are very real and could be in play in any combination.
 
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