Is flat frequency response a hoax?


I have seen a number of speaker companies claiming that their design has a ruler flat response. They then proudly display a graph with a flat line as if it's an indication of its superior quality. Poppycock.

Flat response is a myth. Everybody has different hearing so there's no reason to expect that there would be a one size fits all frequency response.
We don't all wear the same sized shoes do we? Everybody has different sized feet. 

There are plenty of flat response speakers that sound horrible. I've heard quite a lot. There are many non ruler flat great sounding speakers too.
Do not be duped by this hogwash. 

If the mixing engineer used a pair of speakers that is 3db down in the mids and top end then he may have boosted that region by a similar amount. Now when the track gets played on a ruler flat speaker it sounds too bright. So as you can see, a flat response is useless.







kenjit
@ kenjit

The question - "is flat frequency response a hoax?
The answers - "poppycock"                       - " Do not be duped by this hogwash. "                       - " So as you can see, a flat response is useless. "
Why ask a question when you, once again, have all the answers?

             



Your problem is that you are using a ruler to measure frequency response. 
Oh good another useless thread attacking the the speaker manufacturing industry. So what is your agenda?
Not only that, but human beings do not hear flat response as flat independent of volume. Try looking up Fletcher-Munson Curves. Our subjective experience of loudness changes with frequency and volume. This is why the loudness controly used to be so common- we need up to 20 dB of bass boost at low volume because at low frequencies what we hear drops off much faster at low volume than for midrange and treble. This is all on top of room response.

The best article on this I have seen was written by a recording engineer. They all know exactly what I'm talking about. In monitoring the recording the volume its played at affects the balance they hear which in turn affects the response they build into the recording. In short the only way to hear what they heard is to play it at the volume they heard it at. Which you have no way of knowing, yet perfectly explains why so many recordings have a playback volume that sounds "right".

Engineers know if they record what will sound flat at a loud volume that it will not sound right when played back either softer or louder than that. Its what they do. Now ask yourself how many times you've heard this fact discussed or even mentioned by the same audiophiles who think flat response is so important. I'm waiting. What's that? Never? Right.

Now where this really matters more than anywhere else is low bass. Subs. All these guys thinking EQ gonna solve all their problems. Every once in a while they will admit it only works at one location. Everywhere else is messed up even more than before. But never, ever do they mention the fact that EQ is volume dependent. What you need, if flat response is your goal, is EQ that varies with volume. Which no one has.

None of which is to say flat response is a hoax. Its a real thing. It can be measured. People can even listen and fairly reliably agree when response is tilted up or down or has peaks or dips. But there's a whole lot more to it than people think. And when they do every once in a while take the time to understand, well then guess what? They realize flat response is but one tiny little detail out of a whole encyclopedia of details, any one of which is just as important, or pretty darn close.

If the shoe fits, kenjit.

Everybody has different sized feet.



Why ask a question when you, once again, have all the answers?
Because some people may not know the answer and need to be taught. Other people may not be willing to accept the truth and they may need a bit of persuasion. There are many myths in this hobby that need to be revealed. 
In monitoring the recording the volume its played at affects the balance they hear which in turn affects the response they build into the recording. In short the only way to hear what they heard is to play it at the volume they heard it at.
There are many factors that affect the response they build into the recording. Playing it at the same volume is not the answer. Your hearing is unlikely to be the same as theirs. Thats going to affect what you hear
why so many recordings have a playback volume that sounds "right".
nonsense. I will play my music at the volume that suits me. If it doesnt sound right then it needs to be fixed. Why should we be forced to listen at a particular volume? 
" Because some people may not know the answer and need to be taught. Other people may not be willing to accept the truth and they may need a bit of persuasion. There are many myths in this hobby that need to be revealed. "

Save us all the trouble and just give us the brand of cheap ear buds you listen to so we can be enter your audio nirvana


@kenjit...…………………...

Thank you very much for schooling us.  I have been in this hobby for 50+ years so I do not need schooling on your audio thoughts and beliefs.   Although you may think you have all the answers, you don't.
Vanilla is by far always the most popular flavor of ice cream. 

Why do you guys continue to indulge this guy?
If you ignore him, there's hope he may actually go away...
I quit eating ice cream because none was custom built for my taste buds.
Just the ice without the cream tastes fairly flat
I quit eating ice cream because none was custom built for my taste buds.

You're using the wrong analogy. The audiophile community is quite big. There is no similarly large community of ice cream eating enthusiasts that is as fastidious about the flavor of their ice cream as audiophiles are about sound. 

You are either not a real audiophile or you are in denial. If you dont care about sound quality, what makes you an audiophile?

You may be duped into buying a speaker because its designer says its perfectly flat. This is a myth. What you need is a speaker that is tuned to your ears not a flat response. 

If you disagree, you need to state your reasons and stop being sarcastic. 



Even before it was recorded it isn’t flat. I played Carnegie Hall in NY, and Avery Fischer in NY, and my instrument sounds way different in each hall
There is a rumor going around that I am perfect.   That's a hoax too!
Now now I know what happened to that kid in the movie “Polar Express”.
I think you are underestimating my Ice Cream tasting abilities.  

Honestly though, we buy speakers that we like the way the sound, correct?  Why then would they have to be custom tuned to my ears, whatever that means.  Can you please give us an example of what the heck you mean when you say that?

I mean, wouldn’t the speakers have to be tuned to our ear, to all of the associated equipment, to our room, to our musical tastes, to our mood, to the volume?  

I’m 100% certain of one thing though, and that is that Kenjit only has problems, no solutions; must be rough

"What you need is a speaker that is tuned to your ears not a flat response."

If you’re so smart, then do it! Buy a speaker and DSP-tune it to your ears! What is stopping you?

I’m dead serious. What is your excuse for not even trying to solve the problem you believe to be so important?

Are you a real audiophile? Or are you in denial? If you don’t care about sound quality enough to DO something about it when you CAN, what makes you an audiophile?

Duke
Congratulations to Kenjit for resurrecting a theme I thought died in the 1980’s.
Kenjit, I am wondering if  you have a social or neurological atypicality that, if we knew about it, would help us better relate to what you are saying?

This is not the first post you have written that riles people up and where no one is sure what your real intentions in posting are. 

Speaking for myself, this would be very useful to know. As things stand, I don’t know whether or not to give you the benefit of the doubt, and that would be nice to know. I am writing all this without snark or disdain. Just trying to grasp what makes you tick. Can you help? 

To be clear, I am not seeking an answer that goes back to your op or is otherwise audiophile related. 

Thanks for whatever light you can shed. 




Music is curvy, and if anybody thinks it's flat that's likely duo to their cranium being crammed into something.
Kenjit and his troll-baiting threads need to go away and let the adults have intelligent conversations. 
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kenjit
... some people may not know the answer and need to be taught. Other people may not be willing to accept the truth and they may need a bit of persuasion. There are many myths in this hobby that need to be revealed.
Yes, we’ve heard this all before.
Beware the audio guru.
Indeed, be cautious of all those who would pretend to be a savior.
" You are either not a real audiophile or you are in denial. If you dont care about sound quality, what makes you an audiophile? "
He doesn't use cheap earbuds for his "golden ears ".
Hey Audiokinesis, they do it already. It is called a hearing aid:)
kenjit 

It is clear that if you put speakers with a "flat response" in a room that has been acoustically treated so that when a flat signal is projected into the room the listener will hear a perfectly flat response.....and if that sounds like BS that is because it is. 
I have seen a number of speaker companies claiming that their design has a ruler flat response. They then proudly display a graph with a flat line as if it’s an indication of its superior quality. Poppycock.
Flat response is a myth. Everybody has different hearing so there’s no reason to expect that there would be a one size fits all frequency response.
We don’t all wear the same sized shoes do we? Everybody has different sized feet.
Once again, you prove that you have almost no idea how and why speaker companies design, build and test speakers.

When frequency response is measured, white noise is used (all frequencies at equal amplitude). This is to get a baseline. Individual differences in human hearing is not taken into consideration at this point.

If one is shopping for speakers (not you of course, you use cheap earbuds), it is a great idea to have a baseline measurement to work off of.

There are plenty of flat response speakers that sound horrible. I’ve heard quite a lot. There are many non ruler flat great sounding speakers too.
Do not be duped by this hogwash.

This is true, but there is a good chance how bad the speaker sounds is unrelated to having a flat frequency response. Frequency response is one of many measurements that are used to determine performance.

If the mixing engineer used a pair of speakers that is 3db down in the mids and top end then he may have boosted that region by a similar amount. Now when the track gets played on a ruler flat speaker it sounds too bright. So as you can see, a flat response is useless.

So, who’s fault is that?

It is not up to the speaker company to try to design their products to compensate for every engineer’s picadillos and idiosyncrasies.

Flat frequency response is a very useful measurement. Without a known starting point, adjustments to modify the sound, might be a shot in the dark.

Let me add, that if your speaker is not relatively flat, how would you even know if the recording is 3db up or down in the mids and top end?
Given that imperfection in replicating a live performance from a recording is inevitable, one might ask what the next best thing would be, within whatever constraints are imposed.

And, what yardstick should we use to evaluate how well we are doing in our pursuit of "the next best thing"? Is it frequency response, waveform fidelity, subjective preference, or some weighted average of many factors?

My personal belief is that it is subjective preference, that some things matter more to the ears than others, and that we should juggle the inevitable compromises accordingly. In other words, I believe the goal is the closest possible recreation of the PERCEPTION of hearing live music, within whatever constraints we have.

If "what matters most" becomes "what matters most to the ears", then the answers inevitably involve psychoacoustics.

So getting back to the topic at hand, flat frequency response has not been found to be subjectively preferable in controlled blind listening tests. A "flat" measured response has been found to sound like the top end is tipped up too much, while a gently downward-sloping frequency response has been found to SOUND LIKE it is actually "flat".

Imo "sounds like it is flat" would be an appropriate goal, rather than "actually measures flat", at least for home audio (the goal posts are in a different place for studio monitors). This is not the only thing that matters of course, but I think it’s one of them.

Duke
Can anyone provide the name of a speaker company that claims ‘ruler-flat’ frequency response?
The company is Rulerflat  speakers but they dont exist anymore... :)
Phase shift vs frequency would also be useful in addition to frequency response.  Impedance vs frequency might also suggest what is happening with the phase.  Two speakers might have identical flat response vs frequency, but sound very different because of phase shifts (different harmonics summing).  Still, all measurements are useful.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/measuring-loudspeakers-part-one-page-6
"Can anyone provide the name of a speaker company that claims ‘ruler-flat’ frequency response?"

Neumann studio monitors come to mind. See data for the KH-420:

https://en-de.neumann.com/kh-420#technical-data
 
Duke
but sound very different because of phase shifts (different harmonics summing). Still, all measurements are useful.
poppycock. if different harmonics are summing they will show up on the frequency response. 
And, golden ears strikes again...

Have you let the adults in the room know that you are playing on their computer?

If they ask what you're doing, just tell them you are trying to inform a highly knowledgable community the correct way to think about speakers, and, how they have been wrong in their pursuits through the entirety of their decades long journey. 

Remember, a hobby is supposed to be a journey, not a destination. 

You only care about the destination, apparently one that you, and only you seem to be able to fully appreciate.

Betcha those earbuds go mighty loud, huh?



poppycock. if different harmonics are summing they will show up on the frequency response.

Not true - they won't.  Frequency response shows only amplitude (loudness) at each individual frequency and not how combination of them like chord or tone with a lot of harmonics will sound when there is a phase shift between them.


People are actually responding seriously to this. I love it. This is the funniest thing I’ve read in days. 
Your hypothetical mastering engineer, who masters on a single flawed speaker and, what, hasn’t even bothered to zero out the frequency response before analysis, is ludicrous. This hypothetical person/situation is, as you say, “poppycock”.

A circular, self-referential straw man argument—precisely like the one kenjit set up with this caricature of a completely unprofessional mastering engineer—is a worthless rhetorical device. If your goal is to arrive at truth, this is a disingenuous way of going about it.

In reality, a professional mastering engineer reviews program material across numerous grades and styles of speakers; from mobile devices to planar magnetic/electrostatic, to massive vintage JBLs or Altecs, and even gigantic audiophile multiway towers like Dynaudios and Wilsons.

The situation kenjit posits, a poorly mastered recording made by an unprofessional engineer, is useless because such a poor recording will only sound correct on a system with the same flaws as the original one that the recording was mastered on.

This is precisely why a professional mastering engineer first zeros a mastering system to a reference standard before going to work. It is also why this entire thread is pointless.
A flat frequency response is exactly what you want if you want to avoid any obvious character in a loudspeaker. Once you become aware of sonic anomalies in a loudspeaker it's difficult to forget them and let that speaker disappear.

The fact that many favourite recordings of yours may have been recorded using loudspeakers with a non ruler flat FR is unfortunate. They won't, and they can't sound the same with different loudspeakers. Unless you know exactly where the anomalies occur and can correct them with DSP, but it's probably best to not go there - use tone controls instead.

Many recordings back in the 60s and 70s were done using JBLs in the US and large Tannoys in the UK and perhaps this explains the popularity of these loudspeakers to this day. 

It begs the question why there isn't a BBC type frequency response standard for the use of monitoring loudspeakers in recording studios. Ditto for microphones.

The fact your room may also affect FR is something else you also need to be aware of. 

To say that a flat frequency response matters most is a different argument entirely. Sometimes heavy damping is used to flatten the frequency response but unfortunately it tends to also flatten the dynamics and the life out of the sound too.

As then there's the question of 'how flat is ruler flat?'  Perfect pitch anybody?


Following millercarbon’s comments on loudness compensation, Yamaha has made “variable loudness” controls on their receivers and amps, mostly mid-fi admittedly, for decades. Few if any high end companies have tried to solve this particular problem, even McIntosh. I’d like to see something like this: a contour control where the input sensitivity and output gain can be equalized to calibrate the tonal correction properly. Otherwise you get too much or to little boost on each input source and recorded level, and no way to adjust for speakers’ sensitivity room size etc. Yamaha has come closest to this,
but it could be done even better. 
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People are free to waste their time as they please but good luck convincing the dogmatic of anything they choose to not believe, including conspiracy theories about flat frequency response.

Hey look people lie about most anything. Why should frequency response be any different?

Now back to listening to my gear,which by happens to have very flat frequency response on the grand scale of things, with my golden ears.....



The earth has the appearance of flatness. Does that impact the quality of life? Probably not.

Specs are a Julian Hirsch promulgated legacy or most likely fantasy. HH Scott wrote, "If it sounds terrible and measures great then you are measuring wrong. And if it sounds great and measures terrible then you are still measuring wrong."

How a system sounds in your location is all that matters. Keep in mind that when you move the system to a new location it will never sound the same--maybe better; maybe worse? Voicing.



Rodman, thanks for point me to those two articles on Dunning-Kruger.