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Can human ear hear "High Fidelity" sound consistently?

This is a serious question - though the way human ears receive the sound waves is an objective mechanical process - how that sound is processed and "heard" is influenced by many factors including age, hearing ability, and subjective bias, psychological influences and some more.

Can "listening" be a purely objective process?

If listening was a purely objective process then it should not only be possible to measure what every person hears (not audiometry - quality of sound) but also to have a table that can be used to determine good and bad of any sound produced and such a scale should be universally applicable. Right? By that logic everyone would like or hate the same singer?

if listening was a purely objective process then everyone should like or hate the same sound? Right?

In case listening by a human being is not intrinsically objective, then even if sound recording, reproduction and amplification are pure science - would that make any difference in real life?
 
The human factor

The human factor

This is a serious question - though the way human ears receive the sound waves is an objective mechanical process - how that sound is processed and "heard" is influenced by many factors including age, hearing ability, and subjective bias, psychological influences and some more.

Can "listening" be a purely objective process?

If listening was a purely objective process then it should not only be possible to measure what every person hears (not audiometry - quality of sound) but also to have a table that can be used to determine good and bad of any sound produced and such a scale should be universally applicable. Right? By that logic everyone would like or hate the same singer?

if listening was a purely objective process then everyone should like or hate the same sound? Right?

In case listening by a human being is not intrinsically objective, then even if sound recording, reproduction and amplification are pure science - would that make any difference in real life?
Interesting question! May I say, perhaps the question is a little too broad. One could say listening IS subjective, and dominated by numerous variables. However, let's ask the question which upstream componentry most closely contributes to the most accurate approximation of the sound produced by an original source ?

Then, the question becomes, given a particular original sound, which components REPRODUCE that sound in a way which most closely resembles the original FOR A PARTICULAR LISTENER/OR, FOR ANY LISTENER. Another words, rather than an AB test between components, we do an "original"/"replayed" test of the sound !

So, if we are familiar (in our minds) to what a clarinet sounds like, or drums, or a bass, etc, a system playing those sounds should cause us to feel a "recognition" of those sounds which resonates with our idea of that voicing.

Nothing to do with actual accuracy, but rather, how the sound affects our memory of the sound! The sound of the voice of someone we know, should trigger a familiarity sensation that is pleasant rather than jarring....

Recently, in my efforts to find a higher powered amplifier, and resting on the theorem that all competent amplifiers should sound the same, I found myself listening to four alternate amplifiers all of which were a distant second to my lower powered amplifier in the only characteristic I find important to me in my listening - the realism in timbre in a sound. Voices which sound nuanced, and having depth and complexity, and not a smeared, glossy, veneered version of the "real thing". Did the more powerful amplifiers produce more bass ? Yes! Better sense of scale? Yes ! But three seconds of listening to my lower powered amp and all was settled.

Now, I just want to know how it is doing this...And why can't other amps do this AND have power, until at silly money levels (around 4 times the price of my $2500 unit).
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Irritation of PA sound

Irritation of PA sound

...Then, the question becomes, given a particular original sound, which components REPRODUCE that sound in a way which most closely resembles the original FOR A PARTICULAR LISTENER/OR, FOR ANY LISTENER. Another words, rather than an AB test between components, we do an "original"/"replayed" test of the sound !

So, if we are familiar (in our minds) to what a clarinet sounds like, or drums, or a bass, etc, a system playing those sounds should cause us to feel a "recognition" of those sounds which resonates with our idea of that voicing.
There is a lot of truth in this being more significant than the replay equipment, such as older people with reduced frequency range enjoying their music more.

I spent the weekend at intolerable lunches and parties because my ears seem to be more sensitive to deep bass and it drowns out everything else. At Saturday lunch there was a singer/DJ with a PA system with two large bass drivers pointing straight at me from about 10 feet away (it was a sit-down do). It was not particularly loud, but I couldn't her a word anyone said. Sunday evening was a West End party for about 300 with a big band and DJ with serious speakers. Noisy as hell, bass-heavy "music" (if you could call it that) and I had to leave the room as I was getting chest pains.

I just don't get these ultra-low frequencies. I can't think of a natural source for them. A tuba goes down to about 35-40Hz, which is the published limit of my SHL5+. The fact that they don't go below that is one of the reasons why I like them so much.
 

Jeff_C

Member
LF standing waves in rock concert

LF standing waves in rock concert

...Noisy as hell, bass-heavy "music" (if you could call it that) and I had to leave the room as I was getting chest pains.

I just don't get these ultra-low frequencies. I can't think of a natural source for them. A tuba goes down to about 35-40Hz, which is the published limit of my SHL5+. The fact that they don't go below that is one of the reasons why I like them so much.
Your mention of chest pains reminds of of a Supertramp concert I went to about 3 decades ago. The rhythmic steady pulses from the bass guitar hitting the same note caused me severe chest pains. I remember writhing around in my seat wondering why those around me did not seem to be feeling the same physical pain. I was seriously considering leaving the concert to escape the pain. I survived to the end of that particular song and the sensation subsided.

I assume the bass guitar notes were causing standing waves in the concert hall. I still wonder why I was affected by it so badly. I do not think there is anything painful about low frequencies per se, but they are more troublesome to keep under control from creating standing waves.
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Recent rock concert experiences

Recent rock concert experiences

Your mention of chest pains reminds of of a Supertramp concert I went to about 3 decades ago. The rhythmic steady pulses from the bass guitar hitting the same note caused me severe chest pains. I remember writhing around in my seat wondering why those around me did not seem to be feeling the same physical pain. I was seriously considering leaving the concert to escape the pain. I survived to the end of that particular song and the sensation subsided.

I assume the bass guitar notes were causing standing waves in the concert hall. I still wonder why I was affected by it so badly. I do not think there is anything painful about low frequencies per se, but they are more troublesome to keep under control from creating standing waves.
Akin to nothing, I went to Supertramp at the O2 a couple of years ago and it was great, every song a hit, had a great time. Radiohead at the 02 was astonishing, a wall of sound, but strangely bearable. Not too low frequencies and far less of a repetitive beat. I think it is much more to do with unnatural low frequencies than loudness.

I went to a performance by Hofesh Schechter, makes Radiohead sound like a string quartet. About 250 drummers on stage at one point and 20 odd electric guitarists (and two string ensembles). Worried about the building collapsing, but the lack of ultra low frequencies meant I survived.
 

Jeff_C

Member
Bass Guitar E string = 80Hz

Bass Guitar E string = 80Hz

Akin to nothing, I went to Supertramp at the O2 a couple of years ago and it was great, every song a hit, had a great time. Radiohead at the 02 was astonishing, a wall of sound, but strangely bearable. Not too low frequencies and far less of a repetitive beat. I think it is much more to do with unnatural low frequencies than loudness.

I went to a performance by Hofesh Schechter, makes Radiohead sound like a string quartet. About 250 drummers on stage at one point and 20 odd electric guitarists (and two string ensembles). Worried about the building collapsing, but the lack of ultra low frequencies meant I survived.
This experience with chest pains at the Supertramp concert was the one and only time I have experienced such a thing. I have been to many rock concerts in the earlier part of my life.

There are no unnatural low frequencies from a bass guitar. The lowest fundamental is 80Hz (same as a double bass). I have never been given chest pains from listening to an acoustic double bass so I do think that the loudness has a bearing. My best guess is that my chest pains were caused when the volume was loud enough (and the frequency was "right" to excite the room setting up standing waves, but I would like to hear others' views or explanations.

Edit - I think I got the frequency of the E string wrong. I just checked to make sure and it is 41.2Hz . The acoustic double bass is tuned the same as the electric bass low E = 41.2Hz
 

ssfas

Well-known member
Reproducing all frequencies?

Reproducing all frequencies?

This experience with chest pains at the Supertramp concert was the one and only time I have experienced such a thing. I have been to many rock concerts in the earlier part of my life.

There are no unnatural low frequencies from a bass guitar. The lowest fundamental is 80Hz (same as a double bass). I have never been given chest pains from listening to an acoustic double bass so I do think that the loudness has a bearing. My best guess is that my chest pains were caused when the volume was loud enough (and the frequency was "right" to excite the room setting up standing waves, but I would like to hear others' views or explanations.

Edit - I think I got the frequency of the E string wrong. I just checked to make sure and it is 41.2Hz . I suppose I will now have to check that the acoustic double bass is tuned the same as the electric bass
I didn't mean to start a discussion of rock concerts, taking the pipe and slippers brigade down memory lane.

The point I was trying to make is that, if like me very LF sound is destructive to the musical experience, and others cannot hear over 5kHz (or lower), high fidelity would be a flat response from say 40Hz to 5kHz. It is all relative. The same could be said for those with colour blindness, they see the world different as some hear the world different.

The contra-argument is that a music system should be able to reproduce all the frequencies in the recorded source. That's fine for the purists, but pointless if you can't hear it.

Perhaps before buying audio equipment we should get our ears tested and find out what our ears can actually hear.

Much better a flat response from 40Hz to 5kHz than a wobbly response over 20Hz to 15kHz.
 

Hipper

New member
Brave designer

Brave designer

I'm 61 and can't hear 10kHz. 8 and 6.3kHz require a 4dB boost on my EQ for test tones to sound about the same level as 5kHz and below through my speakers. I had thought both my ears heard the same (based on turning my back on the speakers) but discovered the other day whilst listening to headphones that my right ear is not as good as my left. A 7kHz noise was played and I only heard it in the left ear. Turning the headphones around it was still in the left ear.

As a result, using my equaliser, I've rolled off the frequencies above 10kHz. I couldn't hear any difference with the roll off or with flat to 20kHz.

The ideal test would be to find someone who has not heard western musical instruments (perhaps someone deaf from birth who has recovered their hearing completely, or a Kaspar Hauser) and then play him something. The difficulty is how can he describe what he is hearing. It's the same problem as 'is the red you are seeing the same as my red'.

My speakers are VMPS, an American brand no longer made as the designer died a couple of years ago. He arranged at the annual Consumer Electronics Show for a 'live vs recording' session. He bought in a small ensemble. They played live and it was recorded there and then. This recording was then played back through his speakers. I never heard it but it seemed to go down well and was a pretty brave thing to do.

http://www.stereophile.com/ces2010/live_ivsi_recorded_with_vmps/index.html
 

Apperup

Member
Bass notes and instruments

Bass notes and instruments

This experience with chest pains at the Supertramp concert was the one and only time I have experienced such a thing. I have been to many rock concerts in the earlier part of my life.

There are no unnatural low frequencies from a bass guitar. The lowest fundamental is 80Hz (same as a double bass). I have never been given chest pains from listening to an acoustic double bass so I do think that the loudness has a bearing. My best guess is that my chest pains were caused when the volume was loud enough (and the frequency was "right" to excite the room setting up standing waves, but I would like to hear others' views or explanations.

Edit - I think I got the frequency of the E string wrong. I just checked to make sure and it is 41.2Hz . The acoustic double bass is tuned the same as the electric bass low E = 41.2Hz
5 string basses goes to a low B 31 hz, both bass guitars and 5 string double basses used in symphonic orchestras.
 
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