Let's try to shed a little light on this whole "warm" vs. "bright" thing....

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Kevin Alexander, Jun 29, 2002.

  1. Kevin Alexander

    Kevin Alexander Screenwriter

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    If you listen to most people on this forum, the general concensus is that "warm = good" and "bright = bad". The thing that gets confusing sometimes is that 2 different people can listen to a setup and one walks away w/ the impression of it being what they describe as "warm", while the other feels that the presentation was on the "bright" side. I get the impression that these descriptions are misapplied at times - if we like the sound, it's automatically "warm" (which equates w/ good), but if we don't like it, it was "bright" sounding. I'm not trying to tell anyone what they do or don't hear, but could it be w/ this issue that different ears are hearing different things? Personally, I happen to prefer a brighter presentation w/ movies and music, not an ear splitting, tinny, nails-across-the-chalkboard type sound, but a well balanced sound that doesn't roll off the upper frequencies. To me, the term "warm" is a description of equipment devoid of the higher frequencies, and that concentrates more on midrange and a some bass - the thought of that reminds me of my old HK AVR80/ Polk LS series speakers. Although costing close to $4000, this combo produced the most dull, uninspired sound I can remember (which I attribute to that model of Polk speakers). If that's what you call "warm", you can have it. Am I off in what some of you describe as "warmth"? If I am, I'd appreciate your explanation of it. Thanks.
     
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Kevin, shall we shed a bright light or a warm light on the subject? [​IMG]
    Seriously, this is an excellent topic of discussion. I agree that the consensus is that warm is good and bright is bad. However, it is obviously difficult to convey things we hear into words. To my mind, "warm" often means the highs are rolled off; "bright" often means that the highs aren't rolled off and the presentation is detailed. "Forward" is sometimes used to describe systems that err on the bright side.
    Systems or individual components can be too warm or too bright, and I have heard both. I find overly warm systems and components to be lifeless and "slow". The bass and/or mid-range can be smeared. That's no good to my ear. Obviously, and I say obviously because this angle gets more airtime, overly bright systems or components can be downright harrowing. The key is to strike a balance.
    All things considered, I prefer a sound on the bright side if I have to lean one way or the other. It can't make my ears bleed or peel paint off the walls. However, I like the detail that often comes along with a brighter presentation. I think many people seek a warm presentation to tame the "glare" or edge that we often observe with digital audio, namely CDs. However, it is easy to go too far on the warm side and lose musicians. If a recording is very digital, I don't mind a system that brings that out because that's the way the recording is. If a system brings out a digital glare that is inherent to a recording, I will benefit by hearing all the good qualities that the recording has to offer. If I move to a warmer system, I might lose something in the process. I don't want that. Again, I won't go too far in my quest for detail or transparency such that things get overly bright. As I said, there is such a thing as too bright, where the music is no longer enjoyable. One needs to find a balance.
     
  3. Tim Hoover

    Tim Hoover Screenwriter

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    I wouldn't say that generally warm=good and bright=bad, as it's all really a matter of opinion. We can't objectively state that a certain piece of equipment is warm or bright - unless compared to other pieces - because everyone's taste varies as to what constitutes warm or bright. There is no set standard as to what warm or bright are exactly.
    Personally, I am really sensitive to treble. I prefer what some would call warm, because the commonly described "bright" is too bright for my tastes. And on the flip side, what I would term "warm" would be extremely warm for some tastes. I do enjoy a detailed sound, but not so much as to make me uncomfortable. Again, this level varies from person to person.
    As this is such an intensely personal preference, I am glad to have so many choices available to me for sonic presentation. Keith probably also appreciates this, so he wouldn't have to live with my standard of a detailed presentation and I with his [​IMG]
     
  4. Robert_Dufresne

    Robert_Dufresne Stunt Coordinator

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    Keith

    Very well said I think you hit the nail wright on the head
     
  5. Bill_Weinreich

    Bill_Weinreich Second Unit

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  6. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    I have heard "bright" equated with "detail" as well, so not necessarily a bad thing. Also goes with your room environment too. For some rooms, bright might be better (a "dead" one), or warm for others (a "lively" room).

    I personally think (putting on my flamesuit now), that a lot of what is judged warm vs bright is simply the listener's expectation as applied to a particular piece of equipment. (Gee, it costs more, so it must sound better: hence warm vs bright. I have seen this applied to the Outlaw vs the Rotel pre/pros so many times it's laughable.)

    And as applied particularly to electronics (*not* speakers), if it's so easy for some to ascertain warm vs bright, then why can't that typically be measured? Say by a "hotter" frequency response curve?
     
  7. joe logston

    joe logston Stunt Coordinator

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    i think that the more accurate the speaker the more brighter it sounds a lot of times the speaker position and set up will fix the unaccurate smeared sound of the highs that hurts your ears, you got to set speakers up right for accurate highs, and a lot of the the software will smear the sound to, thats why a lot of people get tube stuff to roll off the smeared highs from speaker set up and bad software, turntables roll off the highs to. digital domain is a lot more accurate that analog but it is almost to accurate for the speakers and equitment, and the sound studios and the mites they use, but its getting a lot better, the software,there will be a time wend it like a live performance. in the near future.
     
  8. Martice

    Martice Screenwriter

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  9. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    No question that room acoustics can influence our perception of sound. I was considering an all-things-being-equal scenario where the sound quality boils down to the equipment. For example, let's consider one room and vary the equipment. Still, a bright system in one room could be tamed in a different room or in the same room with acoustic treatments.
    In the end, the room is part of the system. No question about it. However, in discussions of systems, it is too hard to incorporate the room. There are too many factors to consider, and I would bet that few of us could adequately describe our rooms over the Internet. The only commonality in our discussions is the equipment.
    Robert,
    Thanks for the kind words. Every once in awhile, something clicks in my melon. [​IMG]
    Bill,
    Dover, DE, huh? I'm a Delawarean too. That makes four of us on the HTF that I know of. [​IMG] Perhaps some [​IMG] among us Delawareans is in order.
     
  10. Bill_Weinreich

    Bill_Weinreich Second Unit

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    Yeah Keith. A De meet is in order dont ya think?

    PM me and maybe someday we could set something up.
     
  11. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    I usually judge too "bright" by the fact that listening to my favorite tunes causes listener fatigue within an hour or two.

    I like detail and nuance, but not if it causes fatigue.
     
  12. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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    I agree that the terms bright and warm get thrown around way too much. It seems like they are the only two words to describe speaker performance. Then the terms get thrown into amplifier performance as well, and people try to match the combos.

    Truth be told amplifier performance is very very good these days, even on the cheaper units. Almost every amp on the market has generally linear response making speaker the weakest point of most systems. If you want a "bright" system I guess you would look for a speaker with peaks in the high frequencies, and for a "warm" system peaks in the mid-range.

    Of course when you start buying speakers for peaks in certain frequencies, you are getting away from the true definition of hi-fi...the faithful reproduction of sound.

    J
     
  13. Kevin C Brown

    Kevin C Brown Producer

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    Justin- Amen, brother! Very nicely worded post.
     
  14. Kevin Alexander

    Kevin Alexander Screenwriter

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  15. Michael R Price

    Michael R Price Screenwriter

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    I agree about the confusions and looseness of these terms but I would like to make a comment about people not liking brightness.

    I love brightness. I hate harshness. They are two completely different things. Brightness is the realistic reproduction of high frequencies, like the crash of cymbals or a blaring trumpet. Harshness and fatigue is what happens when a system tries to produce realistic treble and doesn't do it right. Most audiophile-type systems which are "warm" don't even try to produce realistic treble. They may not be fatiguing, but the sound is pretty lifeless. Does it sound anything like a real trumpet or real drumkit?

    That sounds a bit extreme, but I think it represents my opinion well, especially concerning speakers.

    I don't know how we can call amplifiers bright and warm because the differences aren't really in terms of frequency response (as in the amount of high frequency sound). Maybe we call good amps warm for lack of a better term, and bad solid state amps bright because they produce high frequency distortion?
     
  16. Kevin Alexander

    Kevin Alexander Screenwriter

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    Great explanation Michael. Brightness and harshness are indeed 2 different things.
     
  17. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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  18. Lee-c

    Lee-c Second Unit

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    I think a big part of the problem here might be that few speakers reproduce extremely
    accurate highs, and if the highs aren't done accurately, then it's rather unpleasant. And since this
    is generally what enthusiasts are stuck with, they move toward more warm sounding gear to avoid
    the less-than-ideal high freq.'s.

    I understand this. Ideally, I would like the highs to be just like the real thing (or very close).
    Since in reality that isn't likely to happen, I'd rather the gear lean a bit on the warm side
    so that no harshness or fatigue sets in during long listening sessions. Detail is nice, but if
    I have to go one way or the other, I'd rather err a tad on the side of warmth, rather than endure
    sound that is annoying or harsh on the ears over time.
     
  19. AntonS

    AntonS Stunt Coordinator

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  20. Kevin Alexander

    Kevin Alexander Screenwriter

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    Nobody intentionally chooses a harsh sound. Since all of us have a certain sensitivity to hearing that's specific to us as individuals, we're going to hear things that we like that others may dislike, and vice versa. Even here in this thread, some continue to equate the term "warmth" w/ good. And if it's not on the warm side, it's fatiguing and harsh. This is not true. It is possible to strike a good balance in choosing equipment.
     

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