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Soundbites

Jul 05, 2016

Find Your Signature Sound Profile

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                     Did you know, the sound you hear is like your own fingerprint-UNIQUE to you!

You might ask, what’s this got to do with headphones and SoundWhiz? A lot actually…take a few moments and see just how you can tune your sound to your own personal desire.
It generally goes without saying, but each of us like to listen to different music. We have different ‘tastes’ depending on a huge array of factors including cultural background, age, gender, musical knowledge and so on.

Additionally, whether we like the sound of any given track will depend on multiple factors that influence the way that sound is reproduced for you.

For example, the recording equipment, post-recording processing of the music to make it ‘sound’ a particular way (music production), the medium it is stored on (Eg CD, vs compressed MP3 or streamed), the bluetooth sound profile used, the quality and size of the speakers, and the shape and structure of the headphone all play a significant role in ‘shaping’ the sound that you hear.

However, if two people were to take the same piece of music, play it on the same headphones, at the same volume, they would actually hear something quite different!

That’s because you are one of a kind and just like your fingerprint, the structure of your ear is unique to you.

The shape, diameter, length angle and curve of your ear canal is quite different to the next person’s. The size of your eardrum is different.

The size, angle separation and flexibility of tiny bones in your middle ear that conduct sound from your eardrum to your inner ear are different to everyone else. The coil of your cochlea is yours and yours alone.

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Further, as you age, how and what you can hear also changes. Part of this is just the changing size and shape of your body. But as we get older, the frequencies we can hear also change.

For example, kids can readily hear sounds in the 16-20khz range, but this begins to drop off in a natural process called presbycusis as we age, the onset of which is sometimes observable in people as young as 18. This test can be fun experiment to do with your kids.

Play the ‘brillance range’ shown below on loudspeaker. They will absolutely freak out a high volume, blocking their ears (it works a treat when getting their attention)!

Presbycusis is very different from noise-induced hearing loss, which happens as a result of acute or sustained exposure to very loud noises. Curiously, noise-induced hearing loss usually makes it harder to hear lower frequencies, such as those between 3 kHz and 6 kHz, whereas presbycusis gradually erodes our ability to hear higher frequency sounds in general. General hearing sensitivity also decreases almost twice as fast in males as in females, particularly in the upper frequencies.  Put these things together, and it is easy to see how your ear represents a unique listening device!

How our brains interpret the signals received by our ears and assigns meaning to them also impacts on how we perceive sound.  Since birth (and perhaps before), our brains have been learning to interpret the signals produced by our ear, and turn that into ‘hearing’. This process is called the ‘Head Related Transfer Function’.   Brent Butterworth described this really well in 2015 as follows:

“Because everyone’s HRTF is different, each of our brains has a different compensation curve — sort of like an EQ curve –that it applies to incoming sounds. When that compensation curve is combined with the characteristics of your body, the result is the sound you hear every day. When the characteristics of your body are eliminated through the use of headphones, your brain still applies the same compensation curve. And because each of our compensation curves is a little different, our responses to the same headphone can be different.”

What this means for you is that to squeeze every ounce of joy from your new SoundWhiz headphones, you need to invest a little time to ensure it matches both your physiology (the shape of your ear) and your personal ‘HRTF curve’.

Today, let’s focus on easy ways to adjust the sound produced by your headphone to match both what you ‘prefer” to hear and what you brain is expecting to hear.

It’s a simple process using easily available tools called graphic equalizers.

You may or may not be familiar with sound curves. This is  sound represented on a graph, with ‘loudness’ on the vertical access in the sound frequency along the horizontal access, like in the image below.

soundcurve_large

Human hearing is generally accepted to cover the range 20Hz to 20Khz. Sounds in the low frequencies between 20Hz and 250Hz constitute the ‘bass’. Sounds above about 4000Hz (4Khz) are the ‘trebles’ and everything in between is the ‘mid-range’.  To go one level deeper, there are 7 commonly accepted ‘bands’ in the music, described in the table below, from sub-bass to Brilliance.

Take a few moments to play the audio for each one to get a handle on what the acoustic sounds like at various frequencies.

Frequency Range  Range Name Listen
20 to 60 Hz  Sub-bass
60 to 250 Hz  Bass
250 to 500 Hz  Low Midrange
500 Hz to 2 kHz  Midrange
2 to 4 kHz  Upper Midrange
4 to 6 kHz  Presence
6 to 20 kHz  Brilliance

Graphic Equalizers (EQs) simply allow you to adjust the loudness of a particular music ‘band’, enabling you to customize the sound to something you love.

To save you time, I’ve selected some of the best EQs for you to try.

I suggest using an equalizer that is easy to use every time you play music from your device, one that has an in-built volume control, good presets for different music types, and a reasonable number of music bands to make adjustments on.

Many EQs have 5 bands, and I wouldn’t bother with anything less. You can always scale up as you gain knowledge and advance your audiophile love for sound.

Most apps these days come with ‘freemium’ (include ads) and ‘premium’ (you pay to remove the ads and sometimes unlock additional features). That said, some have ads that are super-intrusive, so we’ll stay clear of the worst offenders.

EQUALIZERS FOR ANDROID

Music Volume EQ deserves a mention if only because it has been downloaded a whopping 50 million times and has a 4.2 star rating over 500k review. And it is a simple to use app with 5-band EQ. But no presets or ability to save your profiles, so for me it falls short. Here are my top 3:

1. Equalizer Music Player Booster (by DJiT)

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A retro-style equalizer app that enables full music playback and controls. Basically, replaces your default device music player.

Main Features

  • 5-Band Equalizer
  • Bass Booster Function
  • 10 Present Sound Profiles
  • Ability to Save your custom profiles

2. Equalizer (by Smart Android Apps LLC)

eq3-android_large

A simple user interface and friendly icons make this app a joy to use. The free version doesn’t allow you to save custom profiles, but you can upgrade easily for just a few $s.

Main Features

  • 5-Band Equalizer
  • 10 Present Sound Profiles
  • The BIG thing that sets it apart is that it is the only EQ I’ve come across that integrated with Spotify so that you can add your own EQ to streamed music. The Spotify iOS app actually has a basic EQ built in, but using Equalizer on android is a better experience.

3. Music Player Booster (global appdev)

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Currently the highest user-rated of the apps mentioned here (albeit with a measly 7000-odd reviews), this app is quite similar to the first app in the list (coincidentally of the same name.

Main Features

  • 10-Band Equalizer. Knowing what we know now about how different ears give different sounds, in my view you really want to be working towards as many bands as possible to get the sound just right for you.
  • 15+ Present Sound Profiles
  • Ability to save your custom profiles

EQUALIZER FOR iOS

Hands down, the best three equalizers for iOS devices are Equalizer +, MolaEqualizer and EQu.

1. MolaEqualizer

MolaEqualizer-iPhone-and-iPad-App_large

This is a simple little Equalizer that enables you to boost the music by up to an additional 20db past the native restrictions of iOS. Just be careful doing that with your SoundWhiz headphones, they’re already plenty loud!

Main Features

  • 5-Band Equalizer.
  • Volume & Playback control
  • Loudness boost!

2. Equalizer + (by DJiT, who also developed the android Equalizer Music player Booster)

equalizer_-ios_large

This is a terrific and simple free EQ tool and native music player.  You can upgrade to the ‘pro’ version of this, but not really sure why you would.

Main Features

  • 5-Band Equalizer.
  • Native Music Volume & Playback control
  • Lots of Presets
  • Ability to save your custom profiles

3. EQu

EQu-App-for-iPhone_large

Finally, probably the champion of all EQs, is EQu. Truly a quality app, with just about every feature you could wish for, with an almost infinite ability to customize your sound on 1000 bands! 

Truly a wonderful creation to match the sophistication of our ears!  I don’t recommend jumping into this until you’ve lived with one of the 5-or 10 channel EQs though, just so you become familiar with how to use them.

Main Features

  • 1000-Band Equalizer (basically, you can adjust just about any frequency you finger can grab!)
  • Presets
  • Ability to save your custom profiles

Before I go, and thanks for staying with me, I hope you’ve found this useful. It truly is worth trying…it can be simply intuitive to what you want to hear so at the very least, download an APP and have some fun.

With that mind remember while we can use Equaliser Apps to personalise what we hear, it is not a constant.

Each piece of music is unique too! So, settings to make one piece of music sound a-maz-ing might make another piece sound flat.  Thus, you need to have the APP on your smart phone ready for action anytime you just want to boost your sound!

If you want to know even more there is a short but instructive post how various instruments fit in to the sound spectrum, on The Music Espionage website. The main graphic is below.

Frequency-Chart_large

What you’ll notice is that the kick drum has its fundamental range below 200 Hz (bass), whilst the cymbals are pretty much all above 200hz extending all the way up to about 15Khz. 

So different instruments will tend to be enhanced or subdued as you fiddle with EQ. Also, notice that there are almost no instrumental tones below 50hz or above 15Khz. 

Upping the sub bass too much will tend to overpower your acoustics very quickly, so tread lightly. Conversely, upping the +15khz range will really not enhance much of your acoustics, but what it will do is increase the audible hiss of static, electronic interference and so on between your devices…something to consider.

If you skim read all of the above to get to the bullets like a lot of us do, here are 5 top tips for getting to grips with EQs.

  • Move the sliders for any given EQ band slowly, a DB at a time until you’re happy. Moving them in big jumps can make a big difference to that channel, but overpower other frequencies.
  • Be especially careful with the sub-bass and brilliance ends. Reducing the 15kHz+ range can be useful to remove static and hiss from your music playback.
  • Realize that different genres, and different pieces will have quite different profiles, and so don’t assume your new ‘perfect sound’ will still work for the next artist you listen to.
  • If you’re not getting enough bass from your SoundWhiz headphones, first try getting a better fit before upping the <200hz range. Poor acoustic seal in your ear canal is the most likely cause of apparent lack of bass than the speaker itself, and that’s why we put different sized buds in for you.
  • In an effect known as the Fletcher Munson response, your brain actually registers sound differently as the volume increases. Listening at top volume will cause you to adjust different elements of the EQ than if you were listening at mid volume. Generally EQ at high volume and then adjust to a more comfortable volume for listening.

Stay tuned in #Soundwhiz @soundwhiz. Connect with us on Social for more great tips on audio with attitude.

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