My history with treble.

I could write a dissertation. I’ll be brief. In the ‘70s one of the rules of thumb was to be carful when auditioning speakers not to mistake excess treble as greater detail and a positive attribute. While I did not buy any speakers that were too trebly… I realize in retrospect that for the first twenty years or more I continued to discover what real natural treble sounded like, and it was not what I thought. Part of it was that, getting treble right is about really good equipment… which I often could not afford… was sparsely available in the solid state arena… although it definitely was in the high end tube arena.

So, let’s cut to the epiphany. So, late 80’s. I had ~ $5K components… top of the line Pass preamp and amp. One of the things I noticed was that the treble energy was going down in my systems as I upgraded. I was doing a really deep dive into interconnects. The better ones were further attenuating the treble. But when it did it sounded better.

Slowly I came to realize that what was happening was the better equipment was removing high frequency hash and distortion that I thought was “treble”. I had been in concerts (like The Who, Jefferson Airplane (yeah, I am that old), Moody Blues… and dorm room parties. I thought distortion was treble.

I remember buying this incredibly well received power cord for digital. It further reduced the “treble”. I remember how it just took away the last of the tin in the treble. I remember my dismay. Then I played Enigma’s first album. On one of the cuts is the sound of a single strike to a big bell. I was just shocked… it was so real… so midrange instead of shhhh. Then I started listening to cymbals… of my god, they sound like brass! I have been listening to trashy treble for twenty years.

I think this was the moment I realized I didn’t actually know what real music sounded like. I started to go out and listen to real instruments. My systems took a big turn towards better in every way. There have been lots more epiphany’s along the way… but, this is how you learn.


The audiophiles journey is a long one of learning. I am sure some folks took shorter paths than I have. But these fundamental changes in my perception of what sound quality and reality have been the most rewarding and profound. On the other hand, you often can see me running out of some high end audio store with my hands clasped over my ears while some guys are slapping each other on the back congratulating themselves on how great some system is that has ear splitting detail and distortion being played at 90db. . 

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Great thread! Because high frequencies and bass are the most difficult factors to get right from the components.. Acoustic change everything but cannot make bad speakers good ...

I respectfully disagree that the mid-range is the most difficult to get right in hi-end audio. The mid-range in modern hi-fi is far back (not laid back), vague, and no soul.

I agree with "cannot make bad speakers good."


Took the OP WAY TOO LONG to realize what accurate treble reproduction sounds like!! By 1982 I was designing and building loudspeakers. I loved the Dynaudio 28 mm soft dome tweeter. I knew by then what clear, accurate treble reproduction was about. I just finished refurbishing a 1965 pair of AR-2ax speakers. Not happy with the sound of the 1-3/8” phenolic dome tweeters, I took them apart and rebuilt them. Using my own butyl formulation for the surround, they now sound very impressive, even by modern standards. AR aficionados are aghast….

The “accepted” way these are supposed to sound:


After tweeter redesigned, rebuilt, original tweeter components:


Really lucky I did not try to start designing speakers… I bet they would have been harsh.

Until my actual REAL retirement I was required to take a hearing test every two years for my job.  I did this for 7 years and discovered my slowly fading high frequency hearing.  It’s a shame because I really enjoyed the high frequency and mid level frequency detail, but unless I crank up the treble and a bit of bass it’s just not the same.  Headphones help a lot, thank you Bowers & Wilkens for their excellent noise cancelling Bluetooth wireless cans.  Seriously thinking of selling my NAD C700 and Klipsch RP800 speakers, the enjoyment just isn’t there anymore. Sigh…