Is a FLAT response the IDEAL?

Sounds in nature are not a flat response, quite often, there are natural attenuators, accelerators and amplifiers, including horns (caves), wind and water, let alone reflections, absorption and diffraction.

Similarly the holy grail (one of them) of recreating outdoor, concert or live music, and so on, abound with these shifts in the environment or context where the experience happens and the recording takes place. Are we depending on the mic positioning, and mic performance, along with mixing equipment, format and so on, to enable recreation of the environment when moving to playback. How does a flat response curve help?

Of course, we have DSP. For Club, Hall, Rock, Indoor, Outdoor and may other shifts to music recordings. And mastering adds reverb as another way to create a 3D version of context/venue. These are averaging processes that apply universal shifts to shape a standard curve across the music stream continuously.

So why is it that we pursue flat response curves? Or DSP generated fixed curves? How does flat recreate that live ’being there’ experience.

When designing equipment including components, such as DACs, and speakers, most seek to judge against a flat frequency response.

Mind you, how on earth can we allow other than flat. Turntables as most here know, use the RIAA curve to fix the problems of hearing that itself is not flat. But even that is aimed to deliver a flat hearing response.

I don’t understand. If we are trying to model or capture the original event, how does flattening everything help? And, what are the alternatives? How do we achieve close to the venue or location, given so many unique variables, that our approximations just don’t seem close to the original. It’s no wonder... Have we selected flat because it is the best average we’ve got?

Do immersive audio methods of sound reproduction do it better? Some prefer pure stereo, some like DSP, some multi-channel and multi-speaker methods including ambiophonics.

Where does the ’flat curve’ fit into the equation here, vs say cross-over design or powered speakers or upgrades as a priority? Should we care about it?

Well that’s enough to launch this inquiry...


Flat is a reference point.  But, it really depends on personal preference, in the end.

No you can't. An EQ will change both the direct sound and the room response. Fix one and you can break the other.

The OP is not talking about room response. He just wants to know if flat is right or wrong. I have answered that. 

An EQ has already been used even before you plug in your speakers. The mastering engineer and the mixing engineers would have used plenty of EQ unbeknown to the audiophile. The EQ would have been used to balance the sound but you will need to retune the sound because everybody has diffferent hearing, different room and different speakers.This is why every speaker on the market has a different frequency response curve. Every speaker designer has their own opinion about what sounds good and so every speaker is tuned according to their preference and their room. The goal of an audiophile is to go out and find a speaker which is miraculously tuned exactly to your requirements and that of the speaker designer, which is highly unlikely wouldn't you say?

AFAIC the only way you could truly get true reproduced flatness in record playback is if your listening room and playback equipment are identical to that which recorded it. other than that it is a crapshoot. the most you can hope for in the real world is to avoid the noted audio sins of shriek and boom and to have sound clean enough and close enough to relative neutrality that you can discern something of what the original recording engineer heard in his studio control room. you are NOT gonna hear but an approximation of what went on in the studio auditorium itself, not even with krell and wilson on hand. it is, with the exception of minimally mic’ed direct to stereo recordings in real spaces, all a game of manufacturing and consuming sonic sausages.


(1) Aspiring to make the the room response flat is desirable because it helps to remove the particular way that a particular room alters the sound of recorded media upon playback—it’s a room-specific endeavor, not a global ideal, and the point is not “it sounds good.” The point is accuracy. If the recording is bad no equalization will make it sound “good;” EQ to your heart’s delight to make it sound “good” to you;.

(2) OP obviously didn’t read the Wikipedia article from which he or she copied the graph; if he or she did, it would clearly be understood that the RIAA curve is a solution for the challenges presented by the vinyl record medium to accurately reproduce the recorded sound—it has nothing to do with room response; it is not a good or bad, like or dislike, subjective, choice, judgement, kind-of-thing. It’s more akin to zipping a computer file and unzipping it when needed—nothing sexy or controversial about that.


Nice unsupported accusations about me there.

Here’s some quotes from Wiki

“The purposes of the equalization are to permit greater recording times (by decreasing the mean width of each groove), to improve sound quality, and to reduce the groove damage that would otherwise arise during playback.”


”RIAA equalization is a form of pre-emphasis on recording and de-emphasis on playback. A recording is made with the low frequenciesreduced and the high frequencies boosted, and on playback, the opposite occurs. The net result is a flat frequency response, but with attenuation of high-frequency noise such as hiss and clicks that arise from the recording medium. Reducing the low frequencies also limits the excursions the cutter needs to make when cutting a groove. Groove width is thus reduced, allowing more grooves to fit into a given surface area, permitting longer recording times. This also reduces physical stresses on the stylus, which might otherwise cause distortion or groove damage during playback.”

I suggest this is a much wider discussion than what has been raised so far. Your point could have been served by sharing this: