Is it too bright or is it high resolution?

It has been said in the forums that one mans bright sounding amp is another mans high resolution amp. Some amps and preamp combinations can deliver a high resolution presentation and to others this may be considered too bright sounding. Is there a fine line that can distinguish between the two? Personally I like very revealing & the fine details delivered but the wife says it sounds a tad bit too bright.
Well your wife does not have have the high frequency hearing loss we middle aged to older men doūüėĘ
Grannyring, it could be very true and it has been mentioned before that women just hear better then men. Good point!
My wife and I did have our hearing checked and she could here the high frequency test notes above 12k -14k and I could not! I could hear nothing and she picked them out with no problem. I heard the deeper notes that escaped her ability. I was told this is common as you stated.
Revealing should not equal bright . It should reveal what's on a recording . If every track or album sounds bright then it is not revealing what is on the source material. Hifi makers love to add the sizzle and boost highs because it seems more dramatic .
maplegrovemusic, you and I are on the same wavelink, to me it is not bright but  to my ears it is revealing & exactly what you said, it is whats on the recording, bringing out all the details. I think you just stated the difference. I can understand how some inexperienced people could think otherwise.

I enjoy revealing and the highest resolution.  Happy Listening!
Jafant, thank you for saying that. I don't the luxury of having a group of audiophiles on standby when i play the next CD but what I do have is some experience and I'm going to trust my ears.
I have always liked the "bright" highs, but I interpreted them as detailed. But as I aged, I find that my tastes have changed. Not wanting to dull the highs but to have the detail without the "Schrill" or piercing. I have begun looking to replace my Revel Performa F32's and am looking to gain a more balanced sound without drawing so much attention to the highs as in your face. I am sure my hearing is diminished over the past 30 years or so, although a recent hearing test, the Dr said I still had exceptional hearing for a man much younger. But he did say I am missing some mid to high frequencies. So my point, Phd, is maybe your listening habits have changed and might be part of what you're experiencing. One last thought, I have a good CD player and a few years back it seemed too bright and I changed cables. This made a significant difference in taming that "schrillness" for the lack of a better word.
Is it too bright or is it high resolution?


The answer is in the ear of the beholder.
There is a very fine line between high definition and too bright.
You will know it when you cross it. You will find that your listening sessions growing shorter as listening fatigue begins to set in sooner and sooner.

While I do enjoy high definition, I do realize that one can go too far.
I have heard systems that have reached the point of sterile, amusical, and uninvolving.
Decades ago TAS had an anecdote about an audiophile who goes to a live symphony concert and turns to his companion and asks, "where are all the high frequencies?"
Too bright being high resolution is a generalization. To get high resolution, you need a system where the source and amp can actually reproduce the fine detail, and then speakers that can deliver it as well.  Many budget and vintage speakers simply can not.

One can have a harsh/bright sounding system that can't reproduce fine detail.
Too bright being high resolution is a generalization ...
One can have a harsh/bright sounding system that can't reproduce fine detail
I agree completely. There's no inherent link between brightness and resolution. In fact, some of the highest-res recordings I have - the ones that are filled with detail and nuance - aren't bright at all. They may be extended on top, but never bright. Brightness is actually often the result of distortion, not detail.
Brightness can also be caused by tipped up upper mids which does give the impression of more detail. I hear this tendency in some systems, speakers, silver wire etc... The same detail is there, but it is tipped up a tad and a tad more noticeable to our ears. I call this brightness. 
@onhwy61 "an audiophile who goes to a live symphony concert and turns to his companion and asks, "where are all the high frequencies?"

So true! I find many hifi systems present the treble region in greater volume than live. That is brightness, and shouldn’t be a goal. In a full orchestra from the very back of the stage a delicate triangle can be heard throughout the hall, often cutting through louder passages of multiple strings or woodwinds. Great systems can do the same, allowing that clarity & detail without overemphasizing it. That’s transparency, not brightness and more is almost always better. Brightness is fatiguing and amusical, but transparency isn’t. As I’ve learned to become better at separating the two, my enjoyment and involvement in the music increases. Oh, and the brighter gear had to go! Cheers,

Bright is a bad thing. Its a coloration.

Detailed is a good thing.

Quite often the two are found together. This gives detail a bad name!

Its possible to be extremely detailed and yet quite relaxed. Brightness is often not an actual frequency response error; instead its often caused by distortion (particularly in solid state and digital but can manifest from tubes and analog easily enough) which the ear converts into tonality.

By adding brightness, this can cause a system to temporarily seem more detailed. But in time it will be seen for what it is- a coloration, and not a very pleasant one.

This is just another way of restating what Spencer posted above.
Bright is bright. It's not hi-rez. But detailed is a different matter.
Let me guess: you listen to mostly to digital music? Vinyl won't sound that way nearly as much.

Also: Maybe think about a preamplifier that has tone controls?  Spousal happiness is pretty important, especially when it's time to upgrade.  The audio rig, not the spouse, that is.
If recordings were all equal and a standardized perspective was established then an agreement on brightness vs high resolution could be discussed effectively.  As recordings, material and perspectives can vary dramatically, the answer is a moving target.  I favor detail but with warmth and liquidity.  As a former drummer, cymbals need to cut through with all their complexity and shimmer!  I hate dullness and cloudiness.  That's a big reason why I gave up on tubes;)

theo, thank you for your thoughts on this subject matter, in fact I thank you all. You might be right, my listening habits have changed. Everytime I have revisted gear I remembered liking in the past has proven to be a disappointment, as this hobby is a progression. And yes some interconnects can change the sound up to be more agreeable but with this current combination has barely changed the sound to a warmer presentation.

 The ss CJ amp does have a warm sound with more detail then one could ask for but its presentation became brighter with the addition of a CJ tube preamp I like what I'm hearing right now (although the wife thinks it sounds a bit bright) and as atmasphere and jmcgrogan2 mentioned if this would become intolerable over time then it would prove to be coloration.

IIRC, J Gordon Holt used to refer to bright as a proper attribute in audio reproduction.  It was excessive brightness that was an issue.

Beyond that, the OP's question is like asking:  Do apples taste good, or are they too sweet?  It is indeed a matter of personal taste.  Many peoople enjoy sound that I find excessively bright, etched and grainy.  I value smooth, liquid sound with well-proportioned detail and transients that are there, but not over-emphasized.  YMMV.

I like to hear what triggers my "ear brain" into believing I'm listening to a live mic feed!
IMHO, much of the brightness attributed to amps is actually due to the speakers. Speakers which are not time & phase aligned have the tweeter in early arrival, leading to an impression of detail, and, or brightness (YMMV). Almost all of the speakers measured by JA in The Stereophile exhibit this. That this is generally successful in the marketplace can be seen in the preceding remarks. Many persons try to attenuate this effect by playing with cables. (Just my $0.02)

Improper room treatment can make neutral speakers seem overly bright.

Ragged top ends are often mistaken for "high resolution" because they over-emphasize narrow parts of the audible spectrum. Several "high end" makers use this trick. Because you can hear certain details stand out, the average listener doesn’t realize what they are missing, or that it’s not very natural sounding.

Also, having speakers that can show differences between gear is not very useful in my mind. I want speakers that can reproduce music. The discernment of upstream gear is usually a sign of inferior design IMHO. A good speaker should sound great with a variety of amps.

There are exceptions when the nature of the speaker is such, it must be hard to drive. I’m thinking of Apogee type full bandwidth ribbons or electro-statics. Just no way to make them amp friendly.


By the way, I completely disagree with the idea that lack of time alignment has anything to do with brightness.

Some of the brightest sounding speakers to my ears where old Thiels. Perfectly time aligned. Just like some garbage high-end speakers lately. No correlation between time-alignment and tonal balance.

The 2 pairs of speakers I listen to are smooth as butter and are NOT time co-incident and they do not sound bright, because that's how I designed them. 



post pics here in Virtual Systems.  Happy Listening!
Men's hearing loss is our natural evolution meant to prevent us from killing women as we age.  IMHO. It doesn't decline fast enough, which is why we die sooner.  Again, IMHO.  

Soix, funny stuff! I may find my wife's voice bright even though I have age appropriate male hearing loss in the upper most frequencies. 
I think it's the sheer over-abundance of words that gets us in the end.  Ever been in a room full of women before?  It's daunting.  Yet their hearing is better.  I've come to realize that homosexual men are called gay because they're probably genuinely happy.  And their hearing is probably fine.  Just a theory. 

Better hearing based on sex is a myth...... our household has been a living experiment in this regard with my wife 9 months younger than myself, and our fraternal twins - boy and girl.

In listening tests over the years, the results are usually the same as far as order, best to worst.

1) son 2) daughter 3) me 4) wife

Now what I do feel might be tainting the results is that I think my son is cheating, and my wife could care less. I am 55 and can still make out 17khz on a good day.

This video imo helps to prove that hearing is more than a sex thing; it is also based on many factors, and variables including lifestyle, health, heredity, occupation etc....

So IMO, in order to determine what a person means by bright or high resolution; I feel one needs to understand what their hearing ability is to begin with.

I could hear the 16khz tone in this video - how bout you phd, others ?

Funny stuff!!!

Maybe I'm the odd man out, but I'd give anything for my wife to sound brighter and more detailed.


soix & gregkohanmim that's about  the funniest posts I have read yet on Audiogon, hilarious. What is even more compelling is that there seems to be some glimmer of truth to it.
Every human ear is different. No two are alike. The brain receives impulses from tiny hairs growing in a snail inside your head. The size, shape and length of hairs are different in every ear.  It really is amazing just how much we can agree. Traditionally men loose their hearing from working in loud environments, shooting guns, and playing in rock bands. If you've done none of those things, then your hearing can be every bit as good as a woman of your age, unless she has been doing those things. 

'Bright', HO, seems to go 'mano e mano' with resolution.  Speed in response of the given radiator is another factor....

Just another 'balancing act' with everything involved.  One item in a given system could effect the overall performance....or what I gather from the various topics pursued in the forums here @  AG.....
Ah, male hearing.  I will never forget the Twilight Zone episode in which a babbling wife never stopped talking.  Her long suffering husband just suffered in silence (he dared not interrupt).  Then, one day, while in the car, he rubbed his right ear, and discovered that tugging on his ear lobe shut off the hearing in that ear (the wife was seated to his right) until he tugged it a second time.  The episode ended with the two of them cruising down the road, the wife rambling on about who-knows-what, and, having tugged his right ear lobe, a smiling, oblivious husband.  I'd like to see someone try to air something like that these days!  
PHD - Ha ha - 

Seriously, if I could accomplish that AND switch her to tubes so she also sounds warm, laid back and non-fatiguing?

In a heartbeat!


This "brightness or resolution?" question has been on my mind a  long time. When I first got interested in high end audio in the mid-1980's, I visited many high-end audio stores around the country. I was struck me how, very often the most expensive equipment was (to me) noticeably & unacceptably bright--and often was also lacking in upper bass/lower midrange content. I ultimately found very high resolution systems (preamp/amp/speakers) that weren't bright in the least, had realistic warm/impact in the bass region, yet managed to  convey all the details on LPs, FM radio, or CDs.

I am now repeating this journey in desktop audio & headphones, where many highly respected products are literally treble cannons.

My objection now, as it was then, is that elevated treble (whether in pursuit of "resolution," or just the pleasure some get from amped up treble) sounds nothing like real music. I've been in music halls, jazz clubs, and other performance spaces countless times, and barring music that's entirely electronically conveyed (which plays by different rules), the treble sounds nothing like it does on audio systems. IRL, treble from things like triangle, violins, and high notes of the piano shimmers & sparkles, but disappears quickly; while bass instruments create sound that lingers, while also impacting one's body. In actual performances, details are all simply there, as produced by musicians, with no emphasis needed in any part of the frequency range.

Only in audio equipment does elevated treble impersonate detail.
For me, with a new high resolution system, I do find that some recordings emphasize mid- to high- frequencies, more brittle sounding obviously than the actual performance live. Maybe it is the Wilson speakers.

Since I am also a neuroscientist/neurosurgeon, I would say that there is no gender difference between age-related hearing loss, unless you are referring to older men married to younger wives. I am a product of the 1960s, and went to about a dozen Jimi Hendrix concerts, and many more by Cream, the Doors, Big Brother, etc. I was recently tested by an audiologist and I have no loss of frequency across the entire range - there are significant inter-individual differences in the ability of the muscles of the inner ear to protect against volume-induced damage.

One must wonder if a "to bright"  presentation may be the result of harmonic distortion. Whether this is an amplifier issue a preamplifier issue or the interplay between the electronics and speakers. I am certain that we all want all of the details without undue brightness.
Hearing checks are not the answer.  If your system is unpleasant in the upper frequency(s) then it is time to approach your system problems in that area. Easier said than done.
For example if your speakers have metal dome tweeters then they could possibly be a source of the brightness. As others have mentioned, room acoustics and cables are certainly contributing as well.
brightness and clarity are two different things.  brightness is emphasis on the higher frequencies, and clarity is the definition between instruments, singers, etc.  When wearing sun glasses, the high frequency waves are eliminated, but (especially on the new coated lenses) definition is increased.
If it sounds good to you, isn't that all that matters? Now if your trying to get your system to sound neutral and non-bright, then your going to have to hear other well established systems along with having trusted audiophile friends help you tweak your setup. 
stringgreen, you are more receptive to this question as opposed to the other thread, are you ok? No, I tried wearing sunglasses but unfortunately they did nothing to calm the high frequences but thanks for your input
One must wonder if a "to bright" presentation may be the result of harmonic distortion. Whether this is an amplifier issue a preamplifier issue or the interplay between the electronics and speakers. I am certain that we all want all of the details without undue brightness.
Trace amounts of higher ordered harmonics cause brightness as the ear converts distortion into tonality. It also uses the higher ordered harmonics to gauge sound pressure (rather than fundamental tones) and so is more sensitive to them than modern test equipment.
 When you inserted the CJ pre amp
 Did you invert the polarity at both speakers?
@stringreen re the difference between brightness and clarity you are spot on. Your definition of clarity lines up exactly with what I got adding a super-tweeter to my system -- definitely not 'bright' but much more insight into the recorded space and the different elements of the performance -- more details on my experience here
audioconnection, not at first because I was unaware that the CJ preamp inverts phase. But I did recently invert the polarity to the speakers and it now does sound different on most CDs. Thanks for your question.
The subjective term "bright" or "brightness" relates to the high frequency content of the sound source.   It's a fact that human hearing is most sensitive to sound between about 500 Hz and 5000 Hz.  Above and below that range the human auditory system falls off sharply and varies greatly one person to the next.  That is to say we all hear differently which leads to the wide range of opinions on what sounds bright or dull and so forth. To further complicate matters, our hearing changes throughout the day, especially at higher frequencies.  To prove that point, listen to your sound system in the morning after a quiet nights sleep then listen again after driving home in your car after a days work.  It will sound different.  The electronics and speakers did not change, your hearing did.

When it comes to high end amplifiers there are certain differences that cannot be measured but can certainly be heard.  The classic example is tube amps versus solid state.  Tube amps generally sound warmer while solid state amps are regarded as brighter.  Again referring to high end equipment, the differences are small but they are there.  I currently own a pair of Audio Research Ref 610T's and a Pass Labs 350.8 and must admit I hear differences with identical music sources.  To me, some music selections sound better on one amp and others sound better on the other amp.  In general, my wife prefers the 610T's which to her ear and I agree delicate and revealing yet enormously powerful when needed and above all, easy to listen to.  The Pass seems to be a bit more punchy in the high end and harsher when pushed which may appear brighter but I don't think I would call it that.  Perhaps a few harmonics are added but nothing big to speak of.   So, problem solved.  I got two great amps and one great wife and all is good just waiting for the next great audio adventure.   


I have heard very expensive systems (even with tube electronics) that made my ears bleed - plenty of resolution, but also an a-euphonious bite. This is with recorded music that I was familiar with and generally enjoyed listening to on other systems. If this is how the original engineer intended it to sound, then we disagree on what sounds good.

On the other hand, I have heard other systems both modestly priced and quite expensive that have rewarding levels of content and spatial details and speed, while providing a neutral window on the recording, meaning some recordings are on the warm side, some slightly distorted or over heated, some emphasize the treble, and some/many sound just right. The difference along this price spectrum is that you generally pay to get more detail, speed and clarity at volume. Listening room plays a bigger role in all this than we may want to admit. Just try to tell your partner you need $100,000 for your new hifi and another $50,000 to redo your listening room so it doesn't hurt their ears. They will tell you what is not-too-bright...
I have heard very expensive systems (even with tube electronics) that made my ears bleed - plenty of resolution, but also an a-euphonious bite. This is with recorded music that I was familiar with and generally enjoyed listening to on other systems. If this is how the original engineer intended it to sound, then we disagree on what sounds good.

I agree reed and I'll actually go quite a bit further and say almost every system I've heard is way too distorted in treble especially but also everywhere else. And this is true even for mega buck systems. Time of day, weather, setup, mistakes in the system and simply being used to hearing the distortion all contribute to the sad state of affairs. And I don't even have to open the whole can of worms know.

Good point but can someone explain what accounts for distortion in the treble region on some systems?
Damaged drivers
bad connections

I think the question might be a bit too broad.