Newbie Help: Bright vs. Revealing vs. Warm

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by HowardGjr, Jun 17, 2002.

  1. HowardGjr

    HowardGjr Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm pretty much a newbie but I have spent a good bit of time over the last couple months auditioning speaker systems. I definitely have a preference for sound generated by what is referred to as warm systes vs. bright (or even revealing) systems. FYI...I determined that I have this preference by taking notes on systems I listened too and later looking up reviews for that speaker/component. In other words, I used a pretty unscientific methodology [​IMG].
    If I were to look at the audio spectra for a system that appears to be "bright" vs. a system that sounds "warm", what differneces would I see? What physical phenomena with regards to construction and composition in speakers, amplifiers, pre-processors, and cables leads to warmer sound?
    Finally, does this indicate a bias or defiency in my hearing? or is it just a matter of taste?
     
  2. Kwang Suh

    Kwang Suh Supporting Actor

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    Well, based on my tiny knowledge, I'd say:
    Brighter:
    Metal dome tweeters, esp. Titanium
    Smaller sized woofers
    Smaller number of woofers
    Smaller sized cabinets
    Bookshelf speakers
    Crossover point
    Warmer:
    Composite/Aluminum/Silk dome tweeters
    Larger sized woofers
    Larger number of woofers
    Larger sized cabinets
    Floor standing speakers
    Crossover point
    Revealing:
    Generally, the more money you spend, the more revealing the speakers [​IMG]
     
  3. John Dunlap

    John Dunlap Stunt Coordinator

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    "Tiny knowledge??" I would say that's the most informatve description I have heard on the whole bright vs. warm thing. I tend to favor "warm" so I guess that explains why I own a pair of floorstanders with Aluminum Domes and multiple 6.5" woofers !
     
  4. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    I disagree with some of those statements. I find that most aluminum tweeters sound brighter than most or all titaniums that I've heard. Woofer size does not have as much to do with it as the woofer material. Metal or metalized mid/mid bass drivers tend to be bright, as in the case of Axioms, however the reduction in flexibility also translates into a bit more clarity or accuracy, IMO. In the case of Axiom, it is very well executed, particularly the lack of a crossover on the mid bass driver. Stiff drivers tend to have a brighter sound.
    I also completely disagree that floor standing speakers are any warmer than a bookshelf of the same family with the same size drivers. This is certainly not universally true, though floor standers can often have better bass response due to the larger cabinet, that does not make them "warmer". The drivers and crossover determine this for the most part. I have no idea about multiple drivers. My Monitor 5s sound very similar to my Minis, though they have two of the same mid bass drivers in a larger enclosure. I don't find that they sound "warmer" than the Minis.
    Cabinets can have a noticeable effect on the sound of a speaker. Resonance in the cabinet can definitely alter the sound, and a poorly designed and/or built cabinet can make a speaker sound "muddy". A vented speaker versus a sealed one also can cause this. The type of crossover and slope can have a large impact.
    Overall, it is the total design of the speaker, each of the factors together that determine the overall "voice" of a speaker. The sound is definitely affected by the pairing of a specific receiver's qualities with a certain speaker.
    As to what specifics there are in determining these qualities in electronics, that is entirely trade secret and is determined by circuit design and specific internal component selection. What actually makes one amp sound different from another, I can't say, but I can hear it. I don't think it really matters what makes a component sound the way it does, just that you like it. [​IMG]
     
  5. Mike OConnell

    Mike OConnell Second Unit

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    I would tend to disagree with the size of the woofers having anything to do with the bright vs. warm phenomena of speakers, or for that matter floorstanders vs. monitors.

    The tweeter is normally the element of the speaker that will have the most to do with the "brightness" of the speaker.

    One other type of tweeter that is bright - horn loaded tweeters.

    I have a monitor with silk dome tweeter and 6.5" "woofer" that is not bright, but is very revealing.

    Of course, a pair retails for $3,500 (Dynaudio Contour 1.3SE)......and for the most part Dynaudio's are considered a warm speaker, with the better ones being very revealing.

    Good luck,
    Mike
     
  6. Kwang Suh

    Kwang Suh Supporting Actor

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    Listening to some Energy speakers where the only difference was the woofer size, I'd have to say that the larger woofers made them much warmer - almost to the point of boomy.

    I almost always find Titanium drivers to be more bright than Aluminum.

    Note that my statements are general, and of course there's going to be exceptions.

     
  7. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    The difference between them is more midrange clarity, lower bass extension and noticably increased sensitivity. I hadn't noticed this, but I did notice they were louder and I confirmed it on Paradigm's site (room/anechoic) Mini - 89dB/86dB, M5 - 91dB/88dB. When I recalibrated for the 5s, I had to bring them each down a few dBs to match the Mini's calibrated ref level. Timbre wise, they sound identical. A 2dB gain is a decent jump for an otherwise similar speaker. The Monitor 3, on the other hand, sounds boomy to me, and I attribute that mostly to the 8" vs 6.1" mid.

    There is a definite improvement in bass extension, but the most noticable difference is where it rolls off. Deep male vocals do not sound as boomy with the 5s as they did with the Minis.
     
  8. Nico

    Nico Stunt Coordinator

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    Howard, you just have to listen to many different material of speakers and decide for yourself what's bright vs warm. Your preference and perception of music/sound may be different with others.

    Nico
     
  9. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  10. Manuel Delaflor

    Manuel Delaflor Supporting Actor

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    I would say that "warm" is usually taken as a good thing by some hifi enthusiasts, however, the sound of the music in a live performance is anything but "warm" or "soft" (by the way, the same people tends to call more lifelike speakers as "bright", "revealing" or even "harsh").
    Broadly speaking, "soft" or "warm" speakers are all those which use dome tweeters and cone mids, "bright" speakers are those from Klipsch, some Altec's or Avantgarde, which use Horns.
    And yes, if you are thinking that I believe Horn speakers do a better job when representing sound you are right. [​IMG]
     
  11. Kwang Suh

    Kwang Suh Supporting Actor

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  12. HowardGjr

    HowardGjr Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for all the replies. This forum has been great.
    Nico -- This of course the essence of whole thing. However, I was hoping to hone in on some common physical things to look for to help me out. There are just TOO many speakers/components to listen too. I was hoping to be able to "reduce the playing field"
    Saurav -- [​IMG] Thanks for your reply on this topic and on many others...I actually found out what "bright" meant after reading another post of yours and reading the linked article. I think that your exactly right on the difference between "more bass" vs. warm.
    Manuel -- I did get that for most systems warm is thought to be complimentary.
    Just for the record -- I should have probably said I like darker -- (decreasing output with increasing frequency) vs. lighter sound. Light is The audible effect of a frequency response which is tilted counterclockwise.
    According to the stereophile article, Brightness/Brilliant:
     
  13. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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  14. HowardGjr

    HowardGjr Stunt Coordinator

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    Saurav -- thanks again for the help. I got calibration confused with equalization -- ah the joy of learning something new. There are plenty of ways to mess up. :b

    This is what I was driving towards:
     
  15. Larry B

    Larry B Screenwriter

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    Saurav:
     
  16. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Robert Harley's "Guide to High End Audio" and Laura Dearborn's "Good Sound". I may have the names or spellings wrong [​IMG] Anyway, those are the two I see recommended most often. Maybe Amazon or eBay would have them, I remember searching through eBay once and finding an older edition of the first book up for sale.
     
  17. Mike Veroukis

    Mike Veroukis Second Unit

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    I would argue that a bright or harsh speaker emphasizes the high frequencies more then the lower frequencies. It however has nothing to do with the range of the speaker. It makes no difference if the speaker goes from 30Hz to 20KHz or 150Hz to 20KHz if the frequencies above 1K are > 0dB while the frequencies below 1K are < 0dB off the response curve. Of course that's a very quick and dirty explanation. The thing is, if the high frequencies are emphasized more a listener might wish to turn up the volume to feel more bass. Doing so will cause the high frequencies to be much louder then desired and thus turns the volume back down due to harshness.

    A speaker that does not overly emphasize the highs over the mid-range would sound neutral. A peak in the mid-range would sound warm. A speaker that emphasizes bass over everything else would sound dark as all the detail in the sound would be "buried" below the bass (especially if it's boomy).

    At any rate, the room the speakers are playing in quite often is the real determining factor of how a speaker sounds. If you have concrete walls, floor and ceiling it's gonna be bright and harsh no matter what speaker you use. One dance club here in town has such a setup, and although it has a cool "underground" look and feel, it sounds horribly harsh! The speakers they use are good high-end pro speakers, I wouldn't change those, what they need is some serious room treatments to soften up the sound. Of course, turning down the treble would help but it wouldn't stop the high frequencies from shrilling off ever wall and floor.

    - Mike
     
  18. Manuel Delaflor

    Manuel Delaflor Supporting Actor

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    Mike

    I think the real question here is: What is to have a "neutral" response?

    As you stated, it is taken for granted that a flat response, the one that doesn't emphasizes mids nor highs nor bass, is the one that give us a neutral response (and because of this, the holy grail of what is needed to represent what is in the recording with a higher degree of accuracy).

    But I think this answer is old and based on false assumptions, it has been shown that often people doesn't like a speaker that is "perfectly flat" (say no more than 1dB of variance in the frequency response in all the spectrum). Furthermore it has been proven that even the ultrahigh cost speakers are NOT FLAT at all. So, flat sound is not necesarily neutral sound (at least this is my conclusion).

    I think also that this shows that there are a lot more than simply frequency response when dealing with what can be called natural or neutral sound.

    Oh, by the way, I can't agree more on what you say about the room and its role in the response of the speakers.
     
  19. Mike Veroukis

    Mike Veroukis Second Unit

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    Manuel,
    True, I believe that the truly neutral speaker is a theoretical entity and does not exist in real life. However, let's say we take the mean deviation for the highs, mids and lows and compare them. If they are roughly the same I'd say it's a neutral speaker.
    I've noticed many debates on the forums of speaker 'A' being labeled as bright only for owners to defend it as being neutral. These words are all rather relative of course as the only way to really tell for sure is to have all the musicians together right next to your speakers playing along and a/b switch between them (or have a really good spectral analyzer which might be a bit more practical and cheaper depending on which band you're listening too). So, I don't think it's really a mistake on what these words mean but more of how the sound relates to one's own tastes and experiences.
    If it hurts your ears it's gonna be bright/harsh. That's a given. But there will always be some people who can tolerate the harshness better then others, so there is no absolute harshness threshold for us all. "Dark" should also be easy to pick out as the bass drowns out everything else and you're left with a sound lacking detail and clarity.
    I think the biggest confusion is between neutral and warm. It doesn't help that people like to call whatever they prefer as "warm" since that's a more positive sounding word, much more so then "flat" or "neutral". But I can also see why we call our favorite response curves "warm" as they tend to be the frequencies our voices are limited to. Except when screaming or yelling, most people don't have a bright voice. [​IMG] It makes perfect sense to be most comfortable with an un-natural boost in those those frequencies as those are the ones you naturally focus on.
    Anyways, to make things more interesting most recordings are not recorded flat. If speakers aren't truly flat I'd guess that most recording gear isn't flat either. In fact, I'm sure that in many cases they intentionally EQ it to be either warm or bright depending on the intended market. Likewise I think speaker makers build speakers that will colour the sound in particular ways to make it sound warmer or brighter to make it more appealing to particular markets. Mere speculation on my part of course but it makes sense.
    Those are my thoughts on the matter, feel free to disagree. [​IMG]
    - Mike
     
  20. Chu Gai

    Chu Gai Lead Actor

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    Now as you're narrowing down the playing field, and my what a playing field it is, just keep in mind that the table or guide you've constructed will be highly dependent upon the room you'll be playing the speakers in. Hard reflective surfaces, improper placement can lead one to a general disatisfaction and that speaker you swore is warm, now sounds shrill and you may well be saying 'where'd the overall eveness go'. Interesting though to read about people's perceptions and how audio terms take on very unique meanings to us all.
     

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