• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Transparency in sound explanation?

Joined
Jan 25, 2019
Messages
171
Likes
17
#1
I wonder what transparency means and influence the overall sound frequency response/sound signature, I wanna know how I should choose my equipment. So, for EXAMPLE: EL8 Titanium headphones, this is the frequency response graph: https://diyaudioheaven.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/el-8-closed.png?w=1168) that seems very well extended lows and highs, it have little bass boost, almost flat mids and boosted treble, how i should choose the equipment's transparency? More transparency on treble and low frequencies, or viceversa with more mid transparency? Actually, what really means transparency on audio frequencies? An Expert explaining would be really appreciated :)
 
Last edited:

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
2,729
Likes
4,445
Location
The Neverlands
#2
Below certain limits of distortion (whatever kind) we cannot hear differences in well performed blind tests.
That's the point where something becomes transparent.
Varies from person to person.
Since you are a cable believer most likely nothing will ever be transparent to you as you hear differences that are not there in reality.
 
Joined
Jan 25, 2019
Messages
171
Likes
17
#3
Below certain limits of distortion (whatever kind) we cannot hear differences in well performed blind tests.
That's the point where something becomes transparent.
Varies from person to person.
Since you are a cable believer most likely nothing will ever be transparent to you as you hear differences that are not there in reality.
Mhh ok.. But I would like to know more about the questions with EL8 example.. I bet your cable skeptical :)
 

RayDunzl

Major Contributor
Central Scrutinizer
Joined
Mar 9, 2016
Messages
7,167
Likes
3,587
Location
Riverview, FL
#4
I believe in cables. In fact, I have some.

I used to work at a car rental (long long ago. So long ago that a Priest from somewhere in the Yucatan came through whose Driver's License number was 9 and his telephone number was 5).

We'd get regular people from up north who would say "We don't believe in credit cards!" when it came time for the deposit.

I kept one under the counter to whip out and say something like "Here is one! Do you believe now?"
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
2,729
Likes
4,445
Location
The Neverlands
#5
Mhh ok.. But I would like to know more about the questions with EL8 example.. I bet your cable skeptical :)
Well ... the measurements you linked to are mine.
I stand by my conclusion/evaluation on the website.

Frequency response is not the only factor in headphone's transparancy as acoustics are involved and there is measurement error in all headphone measurements that exceed borders of audibility.
There is no perfect or ideal headphone.
There are a quite few that sound perfect to some people though or at least good enough.
There are people that feel nirvana is reached at the $ 15.- price point already.
 

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
6,691
Likes
6,708
#6
I think a little miscommunication about transparency is going on here.

What is transparency?

Let us say we have a good source for a music signal and it feeds directly into a good amplifier which power good phones or speakers. Then we take a pre-amp and put between the source and the amp. If we can hear no difference with the pre-amp in or out then the pre-amp is transparent to the input signal. It has no audible consequences.

Now it is not clear to my knowledge what headphones are transparent to the input signal. Because we don't know what is required. There is the problem of phones sounding different on my head vs yours due to size and shape of the ears we have being different. Just for one example. We also know a plain flat response right at your ears doesn't sound like it should like the real signal. So how should it differ to sound proper? We don't know. We know somethings, and some is being worked on. There is no hard and fast target response for phones to know which ones are transparent.

Harman has done work on speakers so they seem to have a target for speaker performance that most people prefer. They have done and are working on what target response for headphones most matches sounding like good speakers. But that isn't nearly so well worked out in my opinion. And I'm not sure it is a well conceived idea in some ways as phones and speakers just don't sound the same.

So the not so helpful advice to listen to a few headphones with several pieces of your favorite music and see what satisfies you is about all we can offer on headphones I think.

Solderdude knows much more about phones than I do, so his advice is worth paying attention to. Maybe he can fill in where some of my ideas in this post are behind the times. His review of the EL8 sounds fairly good in my reading. It is a bit shouty and lacks body. If you can boost the lower mids and maybe shave off a bit of treble it apparently would improve this phone just going by solderdude's review of it. Maybe that sort of advice is what you were hoping to find.

For what it is worth, I have some DT880s, owned some Grados and Stax at one time. solderdude's description of how those sound is pretty close to how I would have described them. His opinion of their strengths and weaknesses also mirror my own. So I think his suggestions are worth knowing.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jan 25, 2019
Messages
171
Likes
17
#7
Well ... the measurements you linked to are mine.
I stand by my conclusion/evaluation on the website.

Frequency response is not the only factor in headphone's transparancy as acoustics are involved and there is measurement error in all headphone measurements that exceed borders of audibility.
There is no perfect or ideal headphone.
There are a quite few that sound perfect to some people though or at least good enough.
There are people that feel nirvana is reached at the $ 15.- price point already.
Wait. Does that EL8 Titanium measurements on dyiaudioheaven are yours? There Is no perfect headphone, but i could be an ideal headphone for each person, if only he could find out what type of freq response he could like..
 

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
3,517
Likes
2,766
#8
Wait. Does that EL8 Titanium measurements on dyiaudioheaven are yours? There Is no perfect headphone, but i could be an ideal headphone for each person, if only he could find out what type of freq response he could like..
Yes, @solderdude is Diyaudioheaven :)

Re: your question about the ideal headphone being for a particular listener being the one with a frequency response they like, this is kind of correct, but is different from the question of transparency.

A transparent device is, like @Blumlein 88 and @solderdude have explained, a device that makes no audible difference when it is added to the signal chain. But a person could prefer a device that does make an audible difference over one that does not.

Harman's headphone testing, for example, showed that younger listeners tended to prefer headphones with elevated levels of bass compared to older/more experienced listeners. This does not mean that these headphones are transparent; it means rather that they are preferred by some listeners. There are extra complications when it comes to headphones because it is very difficult to determine what the frequency response of the headphones are on a particular listener's head. With speakers, we have similar (but arguably not quite as complex) problems, because the electronic signal does not contain information about the polar response of the speaker or the room, and every speaker/room is different in this regard. So, from a theoretical perspective at least, two speakers could have different polar responses and/or be set up differently/in different rooms, and still be equally true to the source. So it doesn't quite make sense to talk of a headphone or speaker as transparent - the performance of the device cannot be fully separated from the effects of the room or the listener's head. Harman has done a lot of research, however, on what most listeners prefer, and this shows some clear trends which are useful for speaker/headphone designers and for listeners wanting to use measurements to make informed choices about which devices to audition or buy.

When it comes to an active electronic component or a cable, it is easier (but still difficult) to determine whether something is transparent. The question is, can the listener reliably discern under controlled conditions whether the device is or isn't in the signal chain.

We can also look at the results of controlled studies in which, for example, distortion is digitally added to signals which are used to test listeners. For example, there have been studies that have showed that some listeners, under some conditions, have been able to reliably discern some music signals with 0.01% added nonlinear distortion from the same music signals without added nonlinear distortion.

From this we can conclude that, if a device (e.g. a DAC or amp) produces 0.01% nonlinear distortion, it is unlikely to be transparent to all listeners with all signals.

However, I'm not aware of any study, for example, in which any listener has been able to reliably discern a music signal with 0.001% added nonlinear from the same signal with no added nonlinear distortion. From this (and from other studies into masking), we can conclude that a device that produces 0.001% or less nonlinear distortion is likely to be transparent to most listeners with most signals.
 

Cosmik

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 24, 2016
Messages
3,013
Likes
1,855
Location
UK
#9
I think I have an interesting twist on what constitutes transparency.

In the world of film and video there has been a debate raging over frame rate. Higher frame rate is objectively closer to reality than standard film, but cinema-goers hate it. To quote the above article:
It's like being on a film set in person: all of the magic is lost. You get to see behind the curtain and you're no longer under the spell…
What happens with higher frame rate (and I haven't necessarily seen this argument elsewhere) is that more accurate motion portrayal creates - literally - more accurate depth information for the brain i.e. even on a 2D cinema system, motion creates 3D for the brain. Slower frame rates distort that depth information, but don't affect the static, more intellectual 'monocular depth perception' based on scale, perspective, occlusion and so on. With slower frame rates you get a peculiar distortion of reality that you can't quite put your finger on: it's like looking at a moving painting rather than real life. If it had been designed for that purpose it would have been a brilliant invention. As it is, I think it was a complete fluke.

Now, if you asked most cinema-goers and film-makers what they prefer, most of them would say they prefer the less transparent, lower frame rate. And if you asked them which seems most [edit] more transparent, I think there would be confusion. Many people on the web ask "Why does high frame rate looks so strange"? Like these two:
It makes everything look unnatural, taking you out of the story. Like if you were watching behind the scenes stuff instead of the actual film/show, right? If that's what you're talking about, then we've both been bamboozled by the soap opera effect.

-- Yeah, it looks fucking horrible and people who don't notice are the worst. You can see all the makeup on the actor's faces. The fact that they're acting becomes super noticeable. The fact that they're on a set becomes super noticeable.
So a real world example of where 'transparent' is *not* preferred, and seems "unnatural".
 
Last edited:

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
3,517
Likes
2,766
#10
I think I have an interesting twist on what constitutes transparency.

In the world of film and video there has been a debate raging over frame rate. Higher frame rate is objectively closer to reality than standard film, but cinema-goers hate it. To quote the above article:


What happens with higher frame rate (and I haven't necessarily seen this argument elsewhere) is that more accurate motion portrayal creates - literally - more accurate depth information for the brain i.e. even on a 2D cinema system, motion creates 3D for the brain. Slower frame rates distort that depth information, but don't affect the static, more intellectual 'monocular depth perception' based on scale, perspective, occlusion and so on. With slower frame rates you get a peculiar distortion of reality that you can't quite put your finger on: it's like looking at a moving painting rather than real life. If it had been designed for that purpose it would have been a brilliant invention. As it is, I think it was a complete fluke.

Now, if you asked most cinema-goers and film-makers what they prefer, most of them would say they prefer the less transparent, lower frame rate. And if you asked them which seems most transparent, I think there would be confusion. Many people on the web ask "Why does high frame rate looks so strange"? Like these two:

So a real world example of where 'transparent' is *not* preferred, and seems "unnatural".
Interesting perspective. I wish I had more technical knowledge of film to be able to put this in context or at least to be able to rule out variables other than frame rate that may be at play here.

In your view @Cosmik are there any particular metrics in audio that frame rate in film correspond to?

And do you see this as relevant to the question of the reproduction system only, as we're discussing here? One thing that sticks out to me is that the film discussion you're referring to concerns both the recording and reproduction as a whole. In terms of audio reproduction, the recording itself is fixed and the question concerns only reproduction.
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
2,729
Likes
4,445
Location
The Neverlands
#11
There Is no perfect headphone, but i could be an ideal headphone for each person, if only he could find out what type of freq response he could like..
I only know what headphones I like and what their response is (usually with EQ and/or modifications).
That doesn't mean someone else may like it as well and may not be your preference either.
I can only publish my findings (measurements and subjective) and is what my site is about.
 

Cosmik

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 24, 2016
Messages
3,013
Likes
1,855
Location
UK
#12
Interesting perspective. I wish I had more technical knowledge of film to be able to put this in context or at least to be able to rule out variables other than frame rate that may be at play here.

In your view @Cosmik are there any particular metrics in audio that frame rate in film correspond to?
Well it did occur to me that inaccurate phase and timing might be a similar 'can't quite put your finger on it' distortion of reality. And I have also seen people say that they feel fully directional speakers might be too lean compared to the richness and warmth that a conventional (and therefore not quite accurate) speaker might produce in a room. Maybe distortion itself might come under this category, too.
And do you see this as relevant to the question of the reproduction system only, as we're discussing here? One thing that sticks out to me is that the film discussion you're referring to concerns both the recording and reproduction as a whole. In terms of audio reproduction, the recording itself is fixed and the question concerns only reproduction.
Well there is an issue with the reproduction side only that even Tom Cruise has got involved with! This is where a TV is set up to artificially increase the frame rate with interpolation. Subjectively (and pretty much objectively) it is very similar to 'genuine' higher frame rate.

Personally, I agree that cinema needs the film look - certainly for films that have been developed for that look. But I am a fan of high frame rate for live music, comedy, and those old studio TV dramas from the 70s (on interlaced video prior to the development of digital 'artificial film look' and therefore with a high update rate), that were so intense, intimate and immediate.

I could imagine that there might be a possible parallel in the audio world.
 

svart-hvitt

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 31, 2017
Messages
2,375
Likes
1,137
#13
I wonder what transparency means and influence the overall sound frequency response/sound signature, I wanna know how I should choose my equipment. So, for EXAMPLE: EL8 Titanium headphones, this is the frequency response graph: https://diyaudioheaven.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/el-8-closed.png?w=1168) that seems very well extended lows and highs, it have little bass boost, almost flat mids and boosted treble, how i should choose the equipment's transparency? More transparency on treble and low frequencies, or viceversa with more mid transparency? Actually, what really means transparency on audio frequencies? An Expert explaining would be really appreciated :)
Transparency is a metaphor.

If a window is fully transparent, you’ll see the outside as if there were no window.

If a window has colour, it will alter the information that you perceived of the view to the outside.

In hifi, transparency is necessary.

For amusement, some like to see the outside through a coloured window.

You see, just a metaphor. No math. In more technical terms, transparency means the full reproduction of the original waveform.
 

sergeauckland

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Patreon Donor
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
961
Likes
1,765
Location
Suffolk UK
#14
Yes, @solderdude is Diyaudioheaven :)



When it comes to an active electronic component or a cable, it is easier (but still difficult) to determine whether something is transparent. The question is, can the listener reliably discern under controlled conditions whether the device is or isn't in the signal chain.

We can also look at the results of controlled studies in which, for example, distortion is digitally added to signals which are used to test listeners. For example, there have been studies that have showed that some listeners, under some conditions, have been able to reliably discern some music signals with 0.01% added nonlinear distortion from the same music signals without added nonlinear distortion.

From this we can conclude that, if a device (e.g. a DAC or amp) produces 0.01% nonlinear distortion, it is unlikely to be transparent to all listeners with all signals.

However, I'm not aware of any study, for example, in which any listener has been able to reliably discern a music signal with 0.001% added nonlinear from the same signal with no added nonlinear distortion. From this (and from other studies into masking), we can conclude that a device that produces 0.001% or less nonlinear distortion is likely to be transparent to most listeners with most signals.
Do you have any references for such a study? I'm interested because studies I've seen show that most people can't even hear 1% harmonically related distortion, so 0.1% can be comfortably considered transparent as far as distortion goes for most people.

If the study you referred to used non-harmonically related distortion, or other signals that can't or rarely exist in audio reproduction, then possibly we can be more sensitive, equally, if statistically those that could hear 0.01% distortion are, say, 0.001% of the population, then does it matter? Just like a few lucky (or unlucky) people can hear well above 20kHz, is it then sensible to say that human hearing exceeds 20kHz just because a few outliers can hear it?

I think we have to be very careful how listening tests are interpreted and look at the methodology and statistics.

S.
 
Joined
Sep 20, 2018
Messages
41
Likes
3
#15
because enghlish is not my first language,
I can only google it haha
I think transparency may mean a impression or feeling about sound.
 

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
3,517
Likes
2,766
#16
Do you have any references for such a study? I'm interested because studies I've seen show that most people can't even hear 1% harmonically related distortion, so 0.1% can be comfortably considered transparent as far as distortion goes for most people.

If the study you referred to used non-harmonically related distortion, or other signals that can't or rarely exist in audio reproduction, then possibly we can be more sensitive, equally, if statistically those that could hear 0.01% distortion are, say, 0.001% of the population, then does it matter? Just like a few lucky (or unlucky) people can hear well above 20kHz, is it then sensible to say that human hearing exceeds 20kHz just because a few outliers can hear it?

I think we have to be very careful how listening tests are interpreted and look at the methodology and statistics.

S.
I agree with all your points in general Serge. I’ve posted a lot on this topic in other threads but I’m on the phone right now and will need some time to find the links. In fact IIRC you’ve seen most of these links and we’ve discussed them :)

Anyway, yes I agree that studies in which participants were able to hear very low levels of distortion are the exception rather than the rule and that for most applications nonlinear distortion in the range of 0.1-0.01% is likely to provide transparency or at least not create any objectionable distortion. But I’ve tried to find holes in those studies that found lower thresholds and it’s difficult - with the one obvious proviso that the level of distortion in the reproduction system is itself going to be at least as high as the level of distortion being tested. It’s also worth noting that distortion below 0.1-1% is generally not perceived to be objectionable and indeed often appears to be preferred.

A
 

flipflop

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2018
Messages
410
Likes
365
#17
Transparency is a metaphor.

If a window is fully transparent, you’ll see the outside as if there were no window.

If a window has colour, it will alter the information that you perceived of the view to the outside.

In hifi, transparency is necessary.

For amusement, some like to see the outside through a coloured window.

You see, just a metaphor. No math. In more technical terms, transparency means the full reproduction of the original waveform.
I was going to bring up the analogy myself and I think it demonstrates @Cosmik has a wrong view on transparency.
'The outside' is equivalent to the music/film recording. The 'window' is equivalent to the gear (amp, DAC, speakers, headphones, TV, monitor, etc.) used to reproduce the recording. Only the window can be transparent.
In the artistic process of creating the recording, everything goes. If a director chooses to shoot a movie at a low frame rate or if a musician wants to add noise and distortion to his song, it doesn't make them any less transparent.
 

Cosmik

Major Contributor
Joined
Apr 24, 2016
Messages
3,013
Likes
1,855
Location
UK
#18
I was going to bring up the analogy myself and I think it demonstrates @Cosmik has a wrong view on transparency.
'The outside' is equivalent to the music/film recording. The 'window' is equivalent to the gear (amp, DAC, speakers, headphones, TV, monitor, etc.) used to reproduce the recording. Only the window can be transparent.
In the artistic process of creating the recording, everything goes. If a director chooses to shoot a movie at a low frame rate or if a musician wants to add noise and distortion to his song, it doesn't make them any less transparent.
I am very much a pro-transparency person. The point I was making, however, was that some recordings may be created in the expectation that 99% of listeners don't have transparent equipment. In a way, those of us who do have reasonably transparent equipment may be in the same position as those people who have the fast frame rate option enabled on their TV. We are going to be hearing every separate track, edit, crackly fader, etc. while most people will be hearing a relatively blurred wall of sound. I wouldn't have it any other way, however :).
 
Top Bottom