Hard to get used to non-EQed music

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Tom_Mack, Feb 26, 2002.

  1. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Since CDs were invented up until last year, I had always listened to music that had some EQ to it. My portable system had a 5 band EQ. I always had the left most band (bass) all the way up, the second and fouth bands 1/4 the way up, the center band neither up or down, and the right band (treble) half way up. My walkmans always had Mega-bass. The string bass/bass guitar always had a very forward, noticable sound. This is how I expected music to sound.

    Last year, I bought my first "real" system: A yamaha 596 receiver, Paradigm monitor 7 mains, cc-370 center, mini-monitor rears and pdr-10 sub. Having read how tone controls are a bad thing on this forum, I tried listening without gains to the bass/treble. Everything sounded very "clean", but lifeless in the bass and bright in the treble. The bass control was set at 50hz and just seemed to muddy up the sound if turned up.

    Recently, I tried two new receivers to upgrade from the entry level Yamaha (and to get rid of the brightness): the Maranatz 8200 and Denon 3802. The Marantz (returned due to design flaws) sounded wonderful, very detailed. The Denon sounds great too: maybe a little less detail in the treble, but more detail in the sub 100hz bass. But the mid-high bass in all receivers still sounded far in the background from what I was used to. The denon and Marantz bass control seemed to fill in a small range: maybe from 80-120 hz.

    Do most popular rock CDs master the sound this way? Is un-EQed bass guitar usually noticably softer than its lead guitar counterpart? There are groups that have a more forward bass mastering (Many jazz recordings, Lenny Kravitz, Jimi hendrix), but it seems like most rock recordings have the bass no where near the volume of the guitar, drums... Sometimes it seems close to inaudible!

    So, am I right with this? Is this the way the recordings were made to sound? Or Is this poor cd mastering?

    Or is it my speakers or maybe me!
     
  2. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    It's actually the combination of your room and speakers interacting, not the tone controls on your receiver.

    By this I mean your main speaker placement, your listening position, your sub crossover frequency and sub placement. It also depends on the sound character of your speakers.

    All speakers produce standing wave peaks and nulls in a normal room in the bass frequencies
     
  3. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the reply, but this isn't the problem. The system has been in two different rooms, and while everything sounds much better in the new room this mid-bass "problem" is still there. I am almost sure that I am just expecting a boosted bass by listening to sources with EQ/Bass boost throughout the years. I used my SPL meter and ran test tones in 10 hz incrementals starting at 50 hz and going up to 300 hz. There were some small dips and peaks, but overall I have a quite flat frequency responce.

    I have tried many, many different speaker/sub placements to get the best freq responce.

    Anyone else go from the cheap "mega" bass/bass boost discmans and boomboxes to a better setup and wonder where the upper bass went?
     
  4. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    Tom,

    I'll be honest, measuring frequency response from 50Hz and up isn't enough, you are missing the very foundation of the music.

    I found when I properly placed, adjusted the xover frequency, and Eq'd my sub it formed an important foundation for 2-channel CD music.

    In other words getting the lowest 2 octaves of sound (20Hz-40Hz and 40Hz-80Hz) correctly crossed to my main L&R had a HUGE impact of the entire sound of my system.

    This setup made a large difference in the mid-bass region as well, much cleaner with no muddiness whatsoever.

    So in response to your question, I think it may still be your speakers and setup parameters.
     
  5. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Give it more time. You have to undo years of bad sound. [​IMG]
    Have you calibrated your speaker levels with an SPL?
    I went from two large floor standers that I had rebuilt with some very potent 10" subs, and when I moved to my bookshelf/sub setup, it took me a while to get used to, because the mid-bass was much more full. I did wonder "where did the midrange go?" at first, but it turned out to be that my former setup was not correct. I also had to do significant tweaking to speaker placement and calibration to some extent, as Bruce said. Very small changes can have large effects.
    I have found that many, often older, rock recordings ARE, in fact, quite flat. The better your system, the more you will notice less than optimal recordings. I have found that rock often has more kick than thump.
    I leave my tone controls flat, because I like to hear music the way it was recorded. ALWAYS setup your system flat and tweak from there. If it doesn't sound good flat, it won't really sound good with tone adjustments either, IMO.
     
  6. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Bruce, I will have to check the sub 50hz frequencies. I guess I am not expecting much down there because the PDR-10 is a small entry level sub that starts dropping off at 35hz. I can get it to go lower with some other room placements, but it gets very boomy. I'd save up for the EQ for the sub, but I would rather save the money for an SVS! [​IMG]
    John, The experience you describe is exactly what I am hearing! And yes, most of the older rock recordings are the problem. I had considered getting the Sony DA5ES receiver because of its variable EQ setting for each speaker, but I know that the amps of the Sony are brighter than the Denon and one of the main reasons for getting the new receiver was to help with the harsher high notes that the Yamaha was giving me. Plus as you said, adding tone controls (or EQ with the Sony) to a close to flat frequency responce would just ruin the way things are supposed to sound. It may help to make a few recordings sound better (to me), but I would be re-adjusting those settings for every bad recording I have!
    Hopefully, I can retrain my ears to undo all those years of distorted sound!!!
     
  7. Evan S

    Evan S Cinematographer

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    Tom, my experience was very similar to yours. I think it has to do partially with setup and "sweet spot" but more so with your own adjustment of the new sound.
    Recently I upgraded my speakers to Paradigm Reference 40's in a two channel setup in my bedroom. My source component is a very fine Sony SCD-555ES player and my receiver is a very good sounding (but OLD!) Harman Kardon model 680I. Prior to the Paradigm's I had Acoustic Research Rock Partner bookshelf speakers and I used the "loudness" setting on my HK (which effectively boosts bass and treble in low volume listening). When I got the Paradigm's I thought "finally, I got "real" speakers". Now I can set the tone controls flat. Boy was I disappointed. Everything sounded thin and hollow. I listen to a lot of rock music and found the full bodied sound I had liked now sounded veiled and hardly as forceful. I was stunned and had more than a little buyers regret. I was using no subwoofer in this setup.
    One day I put on the new disk from Maxwell...entitled "Now". From the first note, the bass was vibrant, full and lively. Everything sounded wonderful. All of a sudden I realized it wasn't the speakers or electronics...it was the RECORDING! The older rock stuff that I loved so much just didn't emphasize the bass lines to the degree that I liked. I was hearing the music the way it was recorded...not artificially changing the sound.
    I think that it will take your ears about 2 weeks to get used to the way the music was intended to be heard. Nothing against tweeking the gains in low frequencies if that makes the music sound better, but realize that as John said...when you make advances to your electronics and speakers, bad recordings will be accetuated and will actually stand out as being WORSE than you even remembered.
    That's the way it was for me. Just wanted you to know it isn't you and you alone!!![​IMG]
     
  8. Rick_Brown

    Rick_Brown Second Unit

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    Hey, Tom, I know what you mean. You were probably doing the best you could with the poor speakers in your old portable by boosting the bass and treble eq's. Something else that happens when you use excessive eq boost/cut is that you get "holes" in the overall frequency response. I had a friend who had a 5-band eq on his home stereo system and he used to move all of them to a +6bd boost, which sounded better to him (mainly because it was louder). But this actually produced a zig-zag response ///// curve as the frequencies lying in between the eq center points are not boosted as much. I got him to move them back to flat, turn up the overall volume to compensate, and then make very minor eq changes as needed. Over time he agreed it was better. Stick with it...
     
  9. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Keep an ear open for how bass guitars sound like instruments, how you can tell the difference between the bass guitar and the kick drum even though they hit together, how you can identify the sound of an acoustic bass guitar from an electric bass guitar. Those are the first things that hit me, that instead of hearing a vague unidentifiable note that just spelt "bass", I could actually hear music down in those frequencies. Yes, it takes a while to get used to not having your chest kicked in with every note. However, for me, there's no going back. I'd much rather hear the little nuances of the bassist's plucking and sliding fingers in a jazz bass solo, and I don't miss the old "assault" presentation of bass at all.
     
  10. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Saurav

    You bring up a good point about hearing the instrument itself rather than just BASS!

    One of the examples I had of bass that seemed too quiet was the theme song from the movie "The Emporers New Groove". I had watched the movie over a friends house and the bass guitar was very noticable compared to the other instruments. He was using a $450 Sony receiver and sony speakers. I later found out the bass EQ was turned all the way up for every channel and the bass boost was turned on. When I had watched the movie at home the bass volume was much less. But now that I think about it, on the Sony system the bass was much less defined, and while loud, it was distorted. Turning up the bass on my system seemed to boost the bass a little, but it kept the more defined sound without distorting it.

    I guess the loud bass I am used to could just be distorted bass that makes the low notes more noticable. Right?
     
  11. Frank_S

    Frank_S Supporting Actor

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    I think most people(including myself)increase sub level or bass because their system is either not calibrated or speaker placement is'nt optimal. 2 great tools to own are 1)an SPL meter and 2) a disc that outputs bass warble test tones from 200-20hz. Stereophile has 2 test discs with these and other tones which are helpful. There are many more expensive tools available but these 2 combined total $50 so not too high a cost. I know personally that by using the test CD I have been able to finetune my system far better than I ever could by ear.
    A good example is how low I cross(20hz) my sub(Rel Storm III) with my mains(N804). Just recently I moved my sub because of holes at 63hz and boost at 40hz. The overall image and soundstage improved dramatically and I was able to fill the holes and smooth the bass response just by moving the sub and recalibrating. When your sub is properly blended with your mains, it should'nt stand out, it should just extend the lower frequencies where your mains roll off.
    Experiment with speaker placement and get to know your system better by using simple tools. Most of us are fighting a bad room to begin with so take the time and have patience to optimize what you have to work with. [​IMG]
    FWI, if you want to hear some real low bass, get Fiona Apple(Tidal),Santana(Supernatural),Suzanne Vega(Nine objects of desire),Sarah McClaughlin(Surfacing), lots of bass heavy tracks. [​IMG]
     
  12. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  13. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree that with the very low notes (sub 50hz), what I am trying to compinsate for is the note I cannot reproduce and therefore boost the harmonics.

    But most bass notes I feel are lacking in my everyday listening are much higher non-harmonic frequencies. The bass guitar notes that seem lacking are definately above 80hz. The bass tends to disappear mostly during loud sequences when the lead guitar in rock music and horns in jazz seem way too loud in comparison to the bass.

    The bass seems fine in the soft to soft-moderate volumes but when the guitar comes in loud, the bass goes away.
     
  14. Ray R

    Ray R Stunt Coordinator

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    Welcome to the darkside Tom. You have just opened the door to the never ending quest for the perfect sound. Do you go to see live music at all? I do and the goal for my system is to recreate that live sound. Unfortunately many and I mean many live rock shows are not set up to produce a flat response. They are EQed for impact and pumping up the bass is the best way to grab the attention of the crowd.

    I currently have my sub boosted anywhere from 4-6 dB. Purist will scoff, but the goal of my system is to recreate that live sound which I can tell you is almost never flat. Do I lose some accuracy? Probably some, but then again accuracy is usually not a top priority of bar bands.

    In the end all that matters is if you can get lost in the music you are playing. Why allow yourself to be constantly bothered by a feeling that the bass isn't loud enough while you are listening to your favorite music. It takes away from the whole experience of taking time to really listen to music.
     
  15. Tom_Mack

    Tom_Mack Stunt Coordinator

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    Ray R -
    Its funny that you bring up live music. Last week I went to see Billy Joel and Elton John in concert. This was the first concert I had been to since I bought my system so I was really paying attention to the sound quality. The upper bass was REALLY lacking in the loud sequences. The treble was overpowering. The low toned drums could be heard well but the bass player was invisable.
    I think my problem has a lot to do with the way I listen to music. I am a tuba player so I am used to following the bass lines. When I listen to music, I also follow the bass lines instead of listening to the lead vocals/instruments. Last night, I tried to follow the other instruments. It sounds simple, but its really hard for me. My ear wanted to just listen to the bass, but I strained to listen to the other instruments for the full effect. After awhile, things started to sound a little better. I still wanted to hear a louder bass, but there was a better balance with the other instruments without the boosted bass.
    I guess what I have to realize is that the bass is not a lead instrument (unless you are John Entwhistle). I tried listening to some rhythum guitar during some songs and it too seemed to disappear at times. Do I still want to boost the bass? YES! For now... But I hope to get over this illness.... [​IMG]
     
  16. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  17. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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