Are you hearing everything?

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Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Thu Dec 06, 2012 7:05 am

When composing music, I use what's called "monitors," which are professional speakers designed specifically for composing and mixing. With them, I can hear every last sonic boom or mouse squeak. So, this morning when uploading a couple new songs, I didn't have the monitors on--just my very modest (to put it nicely) Sony speakers--and I was checking the sound of the new songs along with a couple others on the same page. I was stunned. Lots of mid-range but precious little of anything else and to the point where I heard the drum in one of the songs only because I knew it was there.

This got me thinking: Are you using little computer speakers when trying to blend sight and sound while building shows? If so, your ability to sync audio with visual will be so much easier (and pleasanter) if you have decent speakers. The most important thing is frequency response: Check the specs for speakers you're considering, looking for a range of 20 or 30 Hz to around 20,000 Hz (20 kHz). Listen to speakers before buying because the casing can affect sound. (One of my Sony speakers has an irritating buzz.) Also, what sounds good to someone else may not sound at all good to you.

Price: You'd be surprised by what you can find in a garage sale for five dollars.

Barbara
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby DickK » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:23 pm

Yeah, I hear ya -- sorta.

I'm pretty sure these ears are no longer hearing everything :x I used to be a picky audiophile, but I gave up on the whole idea a decade ago after seeing the results of a hearing test. It's still not bad, but let's just say there's not much need for me to worry about the high end response of the speakers any more. <sigh> :|

None-the-less, your point is well taken--my PC outputs to an inexpensive AV Receiver/AMP and a pair of decent speakers that are 2 orders of magnitude better than the junk sold as 'computer speakers'.

Dick
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:41 pm

Dick, getting older brings on a lot of annoying things. Can you compensate at all for the high-range loss? I know nothing at all about such things, but I was wondering if it help if the treble were turned up.

Speaking of the "changes" that happen to us as we age, I had a really weird one happen to me. I went to have my eyes checked because I wasn't seeing as well with my glasses while driving, and I'd also had to stop using my glasses to watch TV because the glasses blurred the image. Lo and behold, my problem was that my distance vision had gotten better and I needed weaker, not stronger, glasses. I've never heard of such a thing, but the optometrist said that, though it does happen, it's not common. Wouldn't it be nice if something equivalent happened with your hearing?

Barbara
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby tdew » Fri Dec 07, 2012 5:55 pm

I've heard of the vision thing. My brother in-law had to have his license changed to take off the required glasses.

As for the hearing changes as we age - a few years ago this was all over the place. There are sounds that teens can hear that anyone over 25 or 30 usually can't hear.
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby AMD » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:21 pm

Some good info on the speakers, Barbara.

The vision thing, actually, seems to be fairly common and definitely related to age. When he was younger, my husband wore glasses for distance; as he got older, he didn't need glasses to drive at all but needed reading glasses. I used to tease that I hope he was seeing as well as he claimed and not feeling his way down the highway. Even night driving seemed to be no problem at all for him. The same thing seems to be happening to my vision but to a lesser extent than my husband.

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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Sat Dec 08, 2012 5:19 am

Wouldn't it be nice if everything worked that way? We'd grow younger as we grew older.

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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby DickK » Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:39 am

BarbaraC wrote:Lo and behold, my problem was that my distance vision had gotten better and I needed weaker, not stronger, glasses. I've never heard of such a thing, but the optometrist said that, though it does happen, it's not common.

That's happening with me, too. After decades of stability, my eyes are changing quite rapidly again and this time it's improving the distance vision. I was told that it was pretty common if your eye issue was simple myopia in the first place. It's actually not good news, the changes in the eye are many and overall not a good thing, but a side effect of some of the changes can be to correct some of the near sightedness. Unfortunately, the other effects like slower pupil reaction time, changes in the composition of the fluid inside, etc. aren't good--just normal effects of aging. Still, I'll take the distance improvement as a tiny compensation!

In the case of the ear, there are a couple changes happening, but if I recall correctly the main one is that the tiny hairlike structures that sense the vibrations get stiffer over time making them less sensitive to sound level and to high frequencies. The amazing thing is that our brains compensate so we don't even notice these slow changes until they get quite bad. If I look at the frequency response chart from a hearing test, I intellectually know the >15K Hz is effectively gone and the >10K Hz is diminished (perfectly normal), but the world sounds fine. Part of that is that, in most circumstances, there's not much up there to start with but part of it must be the brain compensating. So, yes, we can bump up the treble but at least for me, I don't. It doesn't sound right because it increases everything from maybe 2kHz on up. I'd need a multi-band equalizer in the system so I could adjust only the upper parts of the treble.

In the end it just means I really don't need to pay much attention to the full-range accuracy of the nice 1" dome tweeter in my main speakers--it's putting out 2kHz to 20kHz but I'm not getting much out of the top half of that and not missing it much. Not the only thing that doesn't work as well these days! :|

Dick
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Sat Dec 08, 2012 9:15 am

Dick, hearing loss is no laughing matter, but when you spoke of how the hairs stiffen, a squirrel in my brain chattered, "We need to use hair conditioner!"

Don't try to envision it.

Barbara
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby Jean-Paul » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:29 pm

Hi everyone,

Reading this discussion was very interesting, but as usual there is
a big misunderstanding between the important of high fidelity sound
and what the ear can or cannot hear.
The dynamic range (frequency response) and distortion percentage
in an audio system has everything to do with fidelity of sound reproduction.
A good comparison between a good and a bad audio system is:
If you take a very high definition photo, mask it with a circular gradient
mask, the center of your photo will be perfectly clear and progressively
fading out to black. That is the equivalent of your high fidelity audio
system. Take the same photo but using a very low definition (very soft image)
using the same masking technique as the first example, the center of the
photo will be very soft fading out to black. That represents your low
fidelity audio system.

Having perfect hearing or very bad hearing, high fidelity audio will always be
a great advantage. Through a good high fidelity system a person with very bad
hearing will recognize a familiar voice but probably not through a low fidelity
audio system.

In other words, whether you have 100% vision or 5% vision, clean glasses are
always a +.
Like the saying goes, that was my 2 cents worth.

Have fun
Amicalement, Jean-Paul

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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby DickK » Sat Dec 08, 2012 6:37 pm

Agreed, a good sound system is always valuable.

As I'm sure you know, "good" has lots of characteristics and frequency response is one of them. The idealized goal there is, of course, a flat response over the audible range. I'm not saying it ever becomes okay to have a bad system with major alteration in the audible sound. I'm just saying that virtually anyone over 50 years old who's worried about finding speakers that are nice and flat all the way out to 20kHz is worried about the wrong thing, because whether the speaker can do it or not, we're not going to hear it. But I think we'd all agree (back to Barbara's original post) that the typical speakers with a computer, or worse, the thing embedded in a laptop is not the way to experience music or even voice.

So to her original question--"are you hearing everything?" Nope, but as you point out, a decent sound system is still important if you want to hear the music properly. And for speakers I'd look for a decent powered sub+satellite combination or an inexpensive amp/receiver with some bookshelf type speakers. It's not just the speakers that figure in the final sound and if you're even slightly picky, a separate amp and speakers will really help.

Dick
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:37 am

I went from computer speakers (eek!) to an amped system with those Sony speakers. Then I sat down at my son's computer, which is set up specifically for mixing music and so has what's called an audio interface (no amp required) and powered "near-field monitor" speakers. I listened to music I knew well, stunned by the nuances I'd never before heard. Those nuances weren't in just the lows and highs. They were also throughout the mid-range.

I ended up getting my own "mixing station," and when composing, I can hear everything--the good, the bad, and the ugly--but when listening back on the Sony speakers, I'm always appalled. As much as one quarter of the sounds are often not there.

Conclusion: I need replacement speakers, ones friendly to mid-range. Realizing I'm unlikely to be alone in this, here's the method I'll use:

Armed with a CD containing music where multiple instruments are used (Moody Blues or Pink Floyd would be good), I'll go to a store where I can play the CD while switching amongst speakers, eliminating until I'm down to the set with which I can hear at least most of the music. Remembering to not listen to speakers that go over the budget line would be good. Maybe I'll bring cash with me, leaving the credit card at home.

Barbara
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby Jean-Paul » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:24 am

Hi guys,
Barbara,
I see that your PC is capable of driving speakers without the need of
external amplification.
As a retired professional musician and professional piano tuner tech.
(consecutive carriers going from 1963 to 1988) I know very well the
musicians temperament and passion.
I see that you are preparing to go on a VERY VERY DANGEROUS MISSION.
You are perfectly right DO NOT LIVE HOME WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD :!:
Please permit me to suggest that once you have made a choice, before
your make your purchase, go back home, ask your husband to go back to the
store with you and bring your computer tower so that you can verify that those
speakers well performs to your satisfaction on your PC.
I hope you will find what you are looking for and please let us know how you did.

Have fun
Amicalement, Jean-Paul

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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Sun Dec 09, 2012 12:19 pm

I see that your PC is capable of driving speakers without the need of external amplification.

The studio monitors are what's called "active," which means they're internally amplified.

The speakers I plan on buying (and that my husband has no say in :D ) will be driven by the same amplifier that currently drives the two Sony speakers that I can't wait to throw in the trash.

Not only will I have to leave my credit card at home, but I'll also have to leave my son there, too, because he's an exceedingly bad influence.

Barbara
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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby Jean-Paul » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:51 pm

Very good Barbara, I am familiar with the terms active or static
speakers, I was not familiar with the term studio monitor.
That does simplify things, you don't have to bring your husband
with you to carry your PC tower, I am certain that he will be very
happy with that LOL !!!
Make sure you bring that small Sony amp, so that you can verify
that the speakers you choose well match (impedance and power).
Don't rely on tech. specification.

Have a good evening,
Amicalement, Jean-Paul

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Re: Are you hearing everything?

Postby BarbaraC » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:11 pm

The amp is a fairly decent Aiwa, but even when the Sony speakers are hooked up to the amp they belong with, they aren't any better. However, my son and I spent some time today listening to music on the monitors and then switching to the small speakers, then back to the monitors, and it turns out that if it's well-mixed music, it doesn't sound all that bad on the small speakers. He suggested I use the monitors when mixing and then listen on the small speakers, which will tell me what most people will probably hear. I can then polish the mix to suit a more average speaker.

It turns out my son isn't such a bad influence after all!

Barbara
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