Learn more about sound

One of the five human senses is hearing. With it, we hear the world around us.

Most of us have sounds we remember from childhood. For some, it is the voices of relatives and friends, or the creaking of wooden floorboards in the grandmother's house, or maybe it is the sound of train wheels on the railway that was nearby. Everyone will have their own.

What do you feel when you hear or remember sounds familiar from childhood? Joy, nostalgia, sadness, warmth? The sound is able to convey emotions, mood, encourage action or, conversely, soothe and relax.

In addition, sound is used in various areas of human life - in medicine, in the processing of materials, in the study of the deep sea, and many, many others.

At the same time, from the point of view of physics, this is just a natural phenomenon - vibrations of an elastic medium, which means that, like any natural phenomenon, sound has characteristics, some of which can be measured, while others can only be heard.

When choosing musical equipment, reading reviews and descriptions, we often come across a large number of these same characteristics and terms that authors use without appropriate clarifications and explanations. And if some of them are clear and obvious to everyone, then others for an unprepared person do not carry any meaning. Therefore, we decided to tell you in simple language about these incomprehensible and complex, at first glance, words.

If you remember your acquaintance with portable sound, it started quite a long time ago, and it was such a cassette player that my parents gave me for the New Year.

Learn more about sound

He sometimes chewed the film, and then he had to unravel it with paper clips and a strong word. He devoured batteries with an appetite that would be the envy of Robin Bobbin Barabek (who ate forty people), and therefore my, at that time, very meager savings of an ordinary schoolboy. But all the inconveniences paled in comparison with the main plus - the player gave an indescribable feeling of freedom and joy! So I "got sick" with a sound that you can take with you.

However, I would err against the truth if I said that since that time I have always been inseparable from music. There were periods when there was no time for music, when the priority was completely different. However, all this time I tried to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of portable audio, and, so to speak, keep my finger on the pulse.

When smartphones appeared, it turned out that these multimedia processors can not only make calls and process huge amounts of data, but, which was much more important for me, store and play a huge amount of music.

The first time I got hooked on the "telephone" sound was when I listened to the sound of one of the musical smartphones, which used the most advanced sound processing components at that time (before that, I confess, I did not take a smartphone seriously as a device to listen to music). I really wanted this phone, but I couldn't afford it. At the same time, I began to follow the model range of this company, which had established itself in my eyes as a manufacturer of high-quality sound, but it turned out that our paths constantly diverged. Since that time, I have owned various musical equipment, but I do not stop looking for a truly musical smartphone that could rightfully bear such a name.

My knowledge of portable sound grew, and along with my knowledge, my understanding of what to pay attention to in the first place, and what can be sacrificed, grew. I would like to share this knowledge with you, dear readers.

Characteristics

Among all the characteristics of sound, a professional can immediately stun you with a dozen definitions and parameters that, in his opinion, you definitely, well, you should definitely pay attention to and, God forbid, some parameter will not be taken into account - trouble …

I will say right away that I am not a supporter of this approach. After all, we usually choose equipment not for the “international audiophile competition”, but still for our loved ones, for the soul.

We are all different, and we all appreciate something different in sound. Someone likes the sound "lower", someone, on the contrary, is clean and transparent, for someone certain parameters will be important, and for someone - completely different. Are all parameters equally important and what are they? Let's figure it out.

Have you ever encountered the fact that some headphones play on your phone in such a way that you have to do it quieter, while others, on the contrary, make you turn the volume up to full and still not enough?

In portable technology, resistance plays an important role in this. Often, it is by the value of this parameter that you can understand whether you will have enough volume.

Resistance

Measured in Ohms (Ohm).

Georg Simon Ohm - German physicist, derived and experimentally confirmed the law expressing the relationship between the current strength in the circuit, voltage and resistance (known as Ohm's law).

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This parameter is also called impedance.

The value is almost always indicated on the box or in the instructions for the equipment.

There is an opinion that high-impedance headphones play quietly, and low-impedance headphones play loudly, and for high-impedance headphones you need a more powerful sound source, and a smartphone is enough for low-impedance headphones. You can also often hear the expression - not every player will be able to "rock" these headphones.

Remember, low-impedance headphones will sound louder on the same source. Despite the fact that from the point of view of physics this is not entirely true and there are nuances, in fact this is the easiest way to describe the value of this parameter.

For portable equipment (portable players, smartphones), headphones with a resistance of 32 ohms and below are most often produced, however, it should be borne in mind that different impedance will be considered low for different types of headphones. So, for full-size headphones, an impedance up to 100 ohms is considered low-resistance, and above 100 ohms - high-resistance. For headphones of the in-ear type (“plugs” or earbuds), a resistance indicator up to 32 ohms is considered low-resistance, above 32 ohms - high-resistance. Therefore, when choosing headphones, pay attention not only to the resistance value itself, but also to the type of headphones.

Important: the higher the headphone impedance, the clearer the sound will be and the longer the player or smartphone will work in playback mode, because. high-impedance headphones draw less current, which in turn means less signal distortion.

AFC (amplitude-frequency response)

Often in the discussion of a particular device, whether it be headphones, speakers or a car subwoofer, you can hear the characteristic - “pumps / does not pump”. You can find out whether the device, for example, will “pump” or is more suitable for vocal lovers without listening to it.

To do this, it is enough to find its frequency response in the description of the device.

Learn more about sound

How to read such a graph?

The graph allows you to understand how the device reproduces other frequencies. At the same time, the fewer drops, the more accurately the equipment can convey the original sound, which means the closer the sound will be to the original.

If there are no pronounced “humps” in the first third, then the headphones are not very “bass”, and if vice versa, they will “pump”, the same applies to other parts of the frequency response.

Thus, looking at the frequency response, we can understand what kind of timbre / tonal balance the equipment has. On the one hand, you might think that a straight line would be considered an ideal balance, but is it?

Let's try to understand in more detail. It just so happened that a person uses mainly medium frequencies (MF) for communication and, accordingly, is best able to distinguish this particular frequency band. If you make a device with a "perfect" balance in the form of a straight line, I'm afraid that you will not really like listening to music on such equipment, since most likely the high and low frequencies will not sound as good as the middle ones. The way out is to look for your balance, taking into account the physiological characteristics of hearing and the purpose of the equipment. There is one balance for voice, another for classical music, and a third for dance music.

The graph above shows the balance of these headphones. Low and high frequencies are more pronounced, in contrast to the middle ones, which are less, which is typical for most products. However, the presence of a "hump" at low frequencies does not necessarily mean the quality of these very low frequencies, since they may turn out to be, although in large quantities, but of poor quality - mumbling, buzzing.

The final result will be influenced by many parameters, ranging from how well the case geometry was calculated, and ending with what materials the structural elements are made of, and you can often find out only by listening to the headphones.

In order to roughly imagine how high quality our sound will be before listening, after the frequency response, you should pay attention to such a parameter as the harmonic distortion factor.

Harmonic distortion factor

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In fact, this is the main parameter that determines the sound quality. The only question is what is quality for you. For example, the well-known Beats by Dr. Dre at 1kHz have a total harmonic distortion of almost 1.5% (above 1.0% is considered pretty mediocre). At the same time, oddly enough, these headphones are popular with consumers.

It is desirable to know this parameter for each specific frequency group, because the allowable values ​​differ for different frequencies. For example, for low frequencies, 10% can also be considered an acceptable value, but for high frequencies, no more than that same 1%.

Not all manufacturers like to indicate this parameter on their products, because, unlike the same volume, it is quite difficult to comply with it. Therefore, if the device you choose has a similar graph and you see a value of no more than 0.5% in it, you should take a closer look at this device - this is a very good indicator.

We already know how to choose the headphones/speakers that will play louder on your device. But how do you know how loud they will play?

There is a setting for this that you've probably heard of more than once. Nightclubs love to use it in their promotional materials to show how loud it will be at a party. This parameter is measured in decibels.

Sensitivity (loudness, noise level)

The decibel (dB), a unit of sound intensity, is named after Alexander Graham Bell.

Learn more about sound

Alexander Graham Bell is a scientist, inventor and businessman of Scottish origin, one of the founders of telephony, the founder of Bell Labs (formerly Bell Telephone Company), which determined the entire further development of the telecommunications industry in the United States.

This parameter is inextricably linked with resistance. A level of 95-100 dB is considered sufficient (in fact, this is a lot).

For example, the volume record was set by Kiss on July 15, 2009 at a concert in Ottawa. The sound volume was 136 dB. By this parameter, Kiss outperformed a number of famous competitors, including such bands as The Who, Metallica and Manowar.

At the same time, the unofficial record belongs to the American team The Swans. According to unconfirmed reports, at several concerts of this group, the sound reached a volume of 140 dB.

If you want to repeat or surpass this record, remember that a loud sound can be regarded as a violation of public order - for Moscow, for example, the standards provide for a sound level equivalent to 30 dBA at night, 40 dBA during the day, and a maximum of 45 dBA at night, 55 dBA during the day.

And if the volume is more or less clear, then the next parameter is not so easy to understand and track as the previous ones. It's about dynamic range.

Dynamic Range

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Essentially, this is the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds without clipping (overdrive).

Everyone who has ever been to a modern cinema has experienced what a wide dynamic range is. This is the very parameter due to which you hear, for example, the sound of a shot in all its glory, and the rustle of the boots of a sniper sneaking on the roof, which this shot fired.

The greater range of your equipment means more sounds that your device can transmit without loss.

At the same time, it turns out that it is not enough to convey the widest possible dynamic range, you need to manage to do it so that each frequency is not just audible, but audible with high quality. One of those parameters that can be easily assessed by almost everyone when listening to a high-quality recording on the equipment of interest to him is responsible for this. It's about detail.

Details

This is the ability of the equipment to divide the sound into frequencies - low, medium, high (LF, MF, HF).

Learn more about sound

It depends on this parameter how clearly individual instruments will be heard, how detailed the music will be, whether it will turn into just a hodgepodge of sounds.

However, even with the best detail, different equipment can produce very different listening experiences.

It depends on the ability of the equipment to localize sound sources.

In reviews of musical equipment, this parameter is often divided into two components - stereo panorama and depth.

Stereo Panorama

In reviews, this setting is usually described as wide or narrow. Let's see what it is.

It's clear from the name that we are talking about the width of something, but what?

Imagine that you are sitting (standing) at a concert of your favorite band or artist. And in front of you on the stage, the instruments are arranged in a certain order. Some are closer to the center, others are farther.

Learn more about sound

Represented? Let them start playing.

Now close your eyes and try to distinguish where this or that tool is located. I think you can easily do it.

And if the tools are placed in front of you in one line one after another?

Learn more about sound

Let's bring the situation to the point of absurdity and move the tools close to each other. And ... put the trumpeter on the piano.

Learn more about sound

Do you think you'll like this sound? Can you figure out which tool is which?

The last two options are most often heard in low-quality equipment, the manufacturer of which does not care what sound his product produces (as practice shows, the price is not an indicator at all).

High-quality headphones, speakers, music systems should be able to build the correct stereo panorama in your head. Thanks to this, when listening to music through good equipment, you can hear where each instrument is located.

However, even with the ability of the equipment to create a magnificent stereo panorama, such sound will still feel unnatural, flat due to the fact that in life we ​​perceive sound not only in the horizontal plane. Therefore, such a parameter as the depth of sound is no less important.

Sound depth

Let's go back to our fictional concert. Let's move the pianist and violinist a little deeper into our stage, and put the guitarist and saxophonist a little forward. The vocalist will take his rightful place in front of all the instruments.

Learn more about sound

Did you hear that on your musical equipment?

Congratulations, your device is able to create a surround sound effect by synthesizing the panorama of imaginary sound sources. And to put it simply, your equipment has good sound localization.

If we are not talking about headphones, then this issue is solved quite simply - several emitters are used, placed around, allowing you to separate the sound sources. If we are talking about your headphones and you can hear it in them, congratulations for the second time, you have very good headphones in this parameter.

Your gear has a wide dynamic range, is well balanced and localizes sound well, but is it ready for sharp sound changes and rapid rise and fall of impulses?

How is her attack?

Attack

From the name, in theory, it is clear that this is something swift and inevitable, like a blow from a Katyusha battery.

Learn more about sound

But seriously, here's what Wikipedia tells us about it: The attack of sound is the initial impulse of sound production, necessary for the formation of sounds when playing a musical instrument or when singing vocal parts; some nuance characteristics of various methods of sound production, performance strokes, articulation and phrasing.

If you try to translate this into understandable language, then this is the rate of increase in the amplitude of the sound until it reaches a given value. And if it’s even clearer - if your equipment has a bad attack, then bright compositions with guitars, live drums and fast sound changes will sound cottony and deaf, which means goodbye to good hard rock and others like it ...

Among other things, in articles you can often find such a term as sibilants.

Sibilants

Literally - whistling sounds. Consonant sounds, during the pronunciation of which the air flow rapidly passes between the teeth.

Remember this friend from the Disney cartoon about Robin Hood?

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There are a lot of sibilants in his speech. And if your equipment also whistles and hisses, then alas, this is not a very good sound.

Remark: by the way, Robin Hood himself from this cartoon is suspiciously similar to the Fox from the recently released Disney cartoon "Zootopia". Disney, you're repeating yourself :)

Sand

What does it mean when the author writes that “sand” is heard at high frequencies, at high volume?

Another subjective parameter that cannot be measured. And you can only hear.

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In essence, it is close to sibilants, expressed in the fact that at high volume, when overloaded, high frequencies begin to fall apart and the effect of pouring sand appears, and sometimes high-frequency rattling. The sound becomes somehow rough and at the same time loose. The sooner this happens, the worse, and vice versa.

Try at home, from a height of a few centimeters, slowly pour a handful of granulated sugar onto the metal lid of the pan. Did you hear? Here it is.

Look for a sound that doesn't contain sand.

Frequency range

One of the last immediate parameters of sound that I would like to consider is the frequency range.

Measured in hertz (Hz).

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the main achievement is the experimental confirmation of the electromagnetic theory of light by James Maxwell. Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Since 1933, the unit of measurement of frequency, which is included in the international metric system of units SI, has been named after Hertz.

This is the parameter that you are 99% likely to find in the description of almost any musical technique. Why did I leave it for later?

You should start with the fact that a person hears sounds that are in a certain frequency range, namely from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Anything above this value is ultrasonic. Everything below is infrasound. They are inaccessible to human hearing, but available to our smaller brothers. This is familiar to us from school courses in physics and biology.

Additional Features

All of the above characteristics directly relate to the quality of the reproduced sound. However, the final result, and therefore the pleasure of watching / listening, is also affected by the quality of the source file and the sound source you use.

Formats

Everyone knows this information, and most people already know about it, but just in case, let's remind you.

There are three main groups of sound file formats:

  • Uncompressed audio formats such as WAV, AIFF
  • lossless compressed audio formats (APE, FLAC)
  • lossy audio formats (MP3, Ogg)

We recommend that you read more about this by referring to Wikipedia.

We note for ourselves that it makes sense to use the APE, FLAC formats if you have professional or semi-professional equipment. In other cases, the possibilities of the MP3 format, compressed from a high-quality source with a bit rate of 256 kbps or more (the higher the bit rate, the less loss in audio compression), are usually enough. However, this is more a matter of taste, hearing and individual preferences.

Source

Equally important is the quality of the sound source.

Since we were originally talking about music on smartphones, let's look at this particular option.

It wasn't that long ago that sound was analog. Remember reels, cassettes? This is analog sound.

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And in your headphones you hear analog audio that has gone through two stages of conversion. First, it was converted from analog to digital, and then converted back to analog before being fed to the earphone / speaker. And the result - the sound quality - will depend on the quality of this conversion.

In a smartphone, the DAC is responsible for this process - a digital-to-analog converter.

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The better the DAC, the better the sound you will hear. And vice versa. If the DAC in the device is mediocre, then no matter what your speakers or headphones are, you can forget about high sound quality.

Conclusion

Sound is an inexhaustible topic.

I hope that thanks to this material, a lot of things in music reviews and texts have become clearer and easier for you, and previously unfamiliar terminology has gained additional meaning and meaning, because everything is easy when you know it.

Both parts of our educational program about sound were written with the support of Meizu. Instead of the usual praising devices, we decided to make useful and interesting articles for you and pay attention to the importance of the playback source in obtaining high-quality sound.

Why is this needed for Meizu? The pre-order of the new musical flagship Meizu Pro 6 Plus has begun the other day, so it is important for the company that the average user is aware of the nuances of high-quality sound and the key role of the playback source. By the way, if you pre-order before the end of the year, you will receive Maison à vendre a gift for a Meizu HD50 headset smartphone.

We have also prepared a musical quiz for you with detailed comments on each question, we recommend you try your hand:

Learn more about sound

One of the five senses available to a person is hearing. With it, we hear the world around us.

Most of us have sounds we remember from childhood. For some, it is the voices of relatives and friends, or the creaking of wooden floorboards in the grandmother's house, or maybe it is the sound of train wheels on the railway that was nearby. Everyone will have their own.

What do you feel when you hear or remember sounds familiar from childhood? Joy, nostalgia, sadness, warmth? The sound is able to convey emotions, mood, encourage action or, conversely, soothe and relax.

In addition, sound is used in various areas of human life - in medicine, in the processing of materials, in the study of the deep sea, and many, many others.

At the same time, from the point of view of physics, this is just a natural phenomenon - vibrations of an elastic medium, which means, like any natural phenomenon, sound has characteristics, some of which can be measured, others can only be heard.

When choosing musical equipment, reading reviews and descriptions, we often come across a large number of these same characteristics and terms that authors use without appropriate clarifications and explanations. And if some of them are clear and obvious to everyone, then others for an unprepared person do not carry any meaning. Therefore, we decided to tell you in simple language about these incomprehensible and complex, at first glance, words.

If you remember your acquaintance with portable sound, it started quite a long time ago, and it was such a cassette player that my parents gave me for the New Year.

Learn more about sound

He sometimes chewed the film, and then he had to unravel it with paper clips and a strong word. He devoured batteries with an appetite that would be the envy of Robin Bobbin Barabek (who ate forty people), and therefore my, at that time, very meager savings of an ordinary schoolboy. But all the inconveniences paled in comparison with the main plus - the player gave an indescribable feeling of freedom and joy! So I "got sick" with a sound that you can take with you.

My knowledge of portable sound grew, and along with my knowledge, my understanding of what to pay attention to in the first place, and what can be sacrificed, grew. I would like to share this knowledge with you, dear readers.

Characteristics

Among all the characteristics of sound, a professional can immediately stun you with a dozen definitions and parameters that, in his opinion, you definitely, well, you should definitely pay attention to and, God forbid, some parameter will not be taken into account - trouble …

I will say right away that I am not a supporter of this approach. After all, we usually choose equipment not for the “international audiophile competition”, but still for our loved ones, for the soul.

We are all different, and we all appreciate something different in sound. Someone likes the sound “lower”, someone, on the contrary, is clean and transparent, for someone certain parameters will be important, and for someone completely different. Are all parameters equally important and what are they? Let's figure it out.

Have you ever encountered the fact that some headphones play on your phone in such a way that you have to do it quieter, while others, on the contrary, make you turn the volume up to full and still not enough?

In portable technology, resistance plays an important role in this. Often, it is by the value of this parameter that you can understand whether you will have enough volume.

Resistance

Measured in Ohms (Ohm).

Georg Simon Ohm is a German physicist who developed and experimentally confirmed the law expressing the relationship between current strength in a circuit, voltage and resistance (known as Ohm's law).

Learn more about sound

This parameter is also called impedance.

The value is almost always indicated on the box or in the instructions for the equipment.

There is an opinion that high-impedance headphones play quietly, and low-impedance headphones play loudly, and for high-impedance headphones you need a more powerful sound source, and a smartphone is enough for low-impedance headphones. You can also often hear the expression - not every player will be able to "rock" these headphones.

Remember, low-impedance headphones will sound louder on the same source. Despite the fact that from the point of view of physics this is not entirely true and there are nuances, in fact this is the easiest way to describe the value of this parameter.

For portable equipment (portable players, smartphones), headphones with a resistance of 32 ohms and below are most often produced, however, it should be borne in mind that different impedance will be considered low for different types of headphones. So, for full-size headphones, an impedance up to 100 ohms is considered low-resistance, and above 100 ohms - high-resistance. For headphones of the in-ear type (“gags” or earbuds), a resistance indicator up to 32 ohms is considered low-resistance, above 32 ohms - high-resistance. Therefore, when choosing headphones, pay attention not only to the resistance value itself, but also to the type of headphones.

Important: the higher the headphone impedance, the clearer the sound will be and the longer the player or smartphone will work in playback mode, because. high-impedance headphones draw less current, which in turn means less signal distortion.

AFC (frequency response)

Often in the discussion of a particular device, whether it be headphones, speakers or a car subwoofer, you can hear the characteristic - “pumps / does not pump”. You can find out whether the device, for example, will “pump” or is more suitable for vocal lovers without listening to it.

To do this, it is enough to find its frequency response in the description of the device.

Learn more about sound

How to read such a graph?

The graph allows you to understand how the device reproduces other frequencies. At the same time, the fewer drops, the more accurately the equipment can convey the original sound, which means the closer the sound will be to the original.

If there are no pronounced “humps” in the first third, then the headphones are not very “bass”, and if vice versa, they will “pump”, the same applies to other parts of the frequency response.

Thus, looking at the frequency response, we can understand what kind of timbre / tonal balance the equipment has. On the one hand, you might think that a straight line would be considered an ideal balance, but is it?

Let's try to understand in more detail. It just so happened that a person uses mainly medium frequencies (MF) for communication and, accordingly, is best able to distinguish this particular frequency band. If you make a device with a "perfect" balance in the form of a straight line, I'm afraid that you will not really like listening to music on such equipment, since most likely the high and low frequencies will not sound as good as the middle ones. The way out is to look for your balance, taking into account the physiological characteristics of hearing and the purpose of the equipment. There is one balance for voice, another for classical music, and a third for dance music.

The graph above shows the balance of these headphones. Low and high frequencies are more pronounced, in contrast to the middle ones, which are less, which is typical for most products. However, the presence of a "hump" at low frequencies does not necessarily mean the quality of these very low frequencies, since they may turn out to be, although in large quantities, but of poor quality - mumbling, buzzing.

The final result will be influenced by many parameters, ranging from how well the case geometry was calculated, and ending with what materials the structural elements are made of, and you can often find out only by listening to the headphones.

In order to roughly imagine how high quality our sound will be before listening, after the frequency response, you should pay attention to such a parameter as the harmonic distortion factor.

Harmonic distortion factor

Learn more about sound

In fact, this is the main parameter that determines the sound quality. The only question is what is quality for you. For example, the well-known Beats by Dr. Dre at 1kHz have a total harmonic distortion of almost 1.5% (above 1.0% is considered pretty mediocre). At the same time, oddly enough, these headphones are popular with consumers.

It is desirable to know this parameter for each specific frequency group, because the allowable values ​​differ for different frequencies. For example, for low frequencies, 10% can also be considered an acceptable value, but for high frequencies, no more than that same 1%.

Not all manufacturers like to indicate this parameter on their products, because, unlike the same volume, it is quite difficult to comply with it. Therefore, if the device you choose has a similar graph and you see a value of no more than 0.5% in it, you should take a closer look at this device - this is a very good indicator.

We already know how to choose the headphones/speakers that will play louder on your device. But how do you know how loud they will play?

There is a setting for this that you've probably heard of more than once. Nightclubs love to use it in their promotional materials to show how loud it will be at a party. This parameter is measured in decibels.

Sensitivity (loudness, noise level)

The decibel (dB), a unit of sound intensity, is named after Alexander Graham Bell.

Learn more about sound

Alexander Graham Bell is a scientist, inventor and businessman of Scottish origin, one of the founders of telephony, the founder of Bell Labs (formerly Bell Telephone Company), which determined the entire further development of the telecommunications industry in the United States.

This parameter is inextricably linked with resistance. A level of 95-100 dB is considered sufficient (in fact, this is a lot).

For example, the volume record was set by Kiss on July 15, 2009 at a concert in Ottawa. The sound volume was 136 dB. By this parameter, Kiss outperformed a number of famous competitors, including such bands as The Who, Metallica and Manowar.

At the same time, the unofficial record belongs to the American team The Swans. According to unconfirmed reports, at several concerts of this group, the sound reached a volume of 140 dB.

At the same time, it turns out that it is not enough to convey the widest possible dynamic range, you need to manage to do it so that each frequency is not just audible, but audible with high quality. One of those parameters that can be easily assessed by almost everyone when listening to a high-quality recording on the equipment of interest to him is responsible for this. It's about detail.

Details

This is the ability of the equipment to divide the sound into frequencies - low, medium, high (LF, MF, HF).

Learn more about sound

It depends on this parameter how clearly individual instruments will be heard, how detailed the music will be, whether it will turn into just a hodgepodge of sounds.

However, even with the best detail, different equipment can produce very different listening experiences.

It depends on the ability of the equipment to localize sound sources.

In reviews of musical equipment, this parameter is often divided into two components - stereo panorama and depth.

Stereo Panorama

In reviews, this setting is usually described as wide or narrow. Let's see what it is.

It's clear from the name that we are talking about the width of something, but what?

Imagine that you are sitting (standing) at a concert of your favorite band or artist. And in front of you on the stage, the instruments are arranged in a certain order. Some are closer to the center, others are farther.

Learn more about sound

Represented? Let them start playing.

Now close your eyes and try to distinguish where this or that tool is located. I think you can easily do it.

And if the tools are placed in front of you in one line one after another?

Learn more about sound

Let's bring the situation to the point of absurdity and move the tools close to each other. And ... put the trumpeter on the piano.

Learn more about sound

Do you think you'll like this sound? Can you figure out which tool is which?

The last two options are most often heard in low-quality equipment, the manufacturer of which does not care what sound his product produces (as practice shows, the price is not an indicator at all).

High-quality headphones, speakers, music systems should be able to build the correct stereo panorama in your head. Thanks to this, when listening to music through good equipment, you can hear where each instrument is located.

However, even with the ability of the equipment to create a magnificent stereo panorama, such sound will still feel unnatural, flat due to the fact that in life we ​​perceive sound not only in the horizontal plane. Therefore, such a parameter as the depth of sound is no less important.

Sound depth

Let's go back to our fictional concert. Let's move the pianist and violinist a little deeper into our stage, and put the guitarist and saxophonist a little forward. The vocalist will take his rightful place in front of all the instruments.

Learn more about sound

Did you hear that on your musical equipment?

Congratulations, your device is able to create a surround sound effect by synthesizing the panorama of imaginary sound sources. And to put it simply, your equipment has good sound localization.

If we are not talking about headphones, then this issue is solved quite simply - several emitters are used, placed around, allowing you to separate the sound sources. If we are talking about your headphones and you can hear it in them, congratulations for the second time, you have very good headphones in this parameter.

Your gear has a wide dynamic range, is well balanced and localizes sound well, but is it ready for sharp sound changes and rapid rise and fall of impulses?

How is her attack?

Attack

From the name, in theory, it is clear that this is something swift and inevitable, like a blow from a Katyusha battery.

Learn more about sound

But seriously, here's what Wikipedia tells us about it: The attack of sound is the initial impulse of sound production, necessary for the formation of sounds when playing a musical instrument or when singing vocal parts; some nuance characteristics of various methods of sound production, performance strokes, articulation and phrasing.

If you try to translate this into understandable language, then this is the rate of increase in the amplitude of the sound until a given value is reached. And if it’s even clearer - if your equipment has a bad attack, then bright compositions with guitars, live drums and fast sound changes will sound cottony and deaf, which means goodbye to good hard rock and others like it ...

Among other things, in articles you can often find such a term as sibilants.

Sibilants

Literally - whistling sounds. Consonant sounds, during the pronunciation of which the air flow rapidly passes between the teeth.

Remember this friend from the Disney cartoon about Robin Hood?

Learn more about sound

There are a lot of sibilants in his speech. And if your equipment also whistles and hisses, then alas, this is not a very good sound.

Remark: by the way, Robin Hood himself from this cartoon is suspiciously similar to the Fox from the recently released Disney cartoon "Zootopia". Disney, you're repeating yourself :)

Sand

What does it mean when the author writes that “sand” is heard at high frequencies, at high volume?

Another subjective parameter that cannot be measured. And you can only hear.

Learn more about sound

In essence, it is close to sibilants, expressed in the fact that at high volume, when overloaded, high frequencies begin to fall apart and the effect of pouring sand appears, and sometimes high-frequency rattling. The sound becomes somehow rough and at the same time loose. The sooner this happens, the worse, and vice versa.

Try at home, from a height of a few centimeters, slowly pour a handful of granulated sugar onto the metal lid of the pan. Did you hear? Here it is.

Look for a sound that doesn't contain sand.

Frequency Range

One of the last immediate parameters of sound that I would like to consider is the frequency range.

Measured in hertz (Hz).

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the main achievement is the experimental confirmation of the electromagnetic theory of light by James Maxwell. Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Since 1933, the unit of measurement of frequency, which is included in the international metric system of units SI, has been named after Hertz.

This is the parameter that you are 99% likely to find in the description of almost any musical technique. Why did I leave it for later?

You should start with the fact that a person hears sounds that are in a certain frequency range, namely from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Anything above this value is ultrasonic. Everything below is infrasound. They are inaccessible to human hearing, but available to our smaller brothers. This is familiar to us from school courses in physics and biology.

Learn more about sound

In fact, for most people, the real audible range is much more modest, moreover, for women, the audible range is shifted up relative to the male, so men are better at distinguishing low frequencies, and women are better at high frequencies.

Why, then, do manufacturers indicate on their products a range that goes beyond our perception? Maybe it's just marketing?

Yes and no. A person not only hears, but also feels, feels the sound.

Have you ever stood near a large speaker or subwoofer playing? Remember your feelings. The sound is not only heard, it is also felt by the whole body, it has pressure, power. Therefore, the larger the range specified on your equipment, the better.

Learn more about sound

However, you should not attach too much importance to this indicator - you rarely see equipment whose frequency range is narrower than the limits of human perception.

Additional Features

All of the above characteristics directly relate to the quality of the reproduced sound. However, the final result, and therefore the pleasure of watching / listening, is also affected by the quality of the source file and the sound source you use.

Formats

Everyone knows this information, and most people already know about it, but just in case, let's remind you.

There are three main groups of sound file formats:

  • Uncompressed audio formats such as WAV, AIFF
  • lossless compressed audio formats (APE, FLAC)
  • lossy audio formats (MP3, Ogg)

We recommend that you read more about this by referring to Wikipedia.

We note for ourselves that it makes sense to use the APE, FLAC formats if you have professional or semi-professional equipment. In other cases, the possibilities of the MP3 format, compressed from a high-quality source with a bit rate of 256 kbps or more (the higher the bit rate, the less loss in audio compression), are usually enough. However, this is more a matter of taste, hearing and individual preferences.

Source

Equally important is the quality of the sound source.

Since we were originally talking about music on smartphones, let's look at this particular option.

It wasn't that long ago that sound was analog. Remember reels, cassettes? This is analog sound.

Learn more about sound

And in your headphones, you hear analog audio that has gone through two stages of conversion. First, it was converted from analog to digital, and then converted back to analog before being fed to the earphone / speaker. And the result - the sound quality - will depend on the quality of this conversion.

In a smartphone, the DAC is responsible for this process - a digital-to-analog converter.

Learn more about sound

The better the DAC, the better the sound you will hear. And vice versa. If the DAC in the device is mediocre, then no matter what your speakers or headphones are, you can forget about high sound quality.

All smartphones can be divided into two main categories:

  1. Smartphones with dedicated DAC
  2. Smartphones with built-in DAC

At the moment, a large number of manufacturers are engaged in the production of DACs for smartphones. You can decide what to choose by using the search and reading the description of a particular device. However, do not forget that among smartphones with a built-in DAC, and among smartphones with a dedicated DAC, there are samples with very good sound and not very good, because the optimization of the operating system, the firmware version and the application through which you listen to music play an important role. In addition, there are software kernel audio mods that improve the final sound quality. And if engineers and programmers in a company do one thing and do it competently, then the result is worthy of attention.

That said, it's important to know that in a head-to-head comparison of two devices, one with a good built-in DAC and the other with a good dedicated DAC, the latter will always win.

Conclusion

Sound is an inexhaustible topic.

I hope that thanks to this material, a lot of things in music reviews and texts have become clearer and easier for you, and previously unfamiliar terminology has gained additional meaning and meaning, because everything is easy when you know it.

Both parts of our educational program about sound were written with the support of Meizu. Instead of the usual praising devices, we decided to make useful and interesting articles for you and pay attention to the importance of the playback source in obtaining high-quality sound.

Why is this needed for Meizu? The pre-order of the new musical flagship Meizu Pro 6 Plus has begun the other day, so it is important for the company that the average user is aware of the nuances of high-quality sound and the key role of the playback source. By the way, if you pre-order before the end of the year, you will receive Maison à vendre gift for Meizu HD50 headset.

We have also prepared a musical quiz for you with detailed comments on each question, we recommend you try your hand:

Learn more about sound

One of the five senses available to a person is hearing. With it, we hear the world around us.

Most of us have sounds we remember from childhood. For some, it is the voices of relatives and friends, or the creaking of wooden floorboards in the grandmother's house, or maybe it is the sound of train wheels on the railway that was nearby. Everyone will have their own.

What do you feel when you hear or remember sounds familiar from childhood? Joy, nostalgia, sadness, warmth? The sound is able to convey emotions, mood, encourage action or, conversely, soothe and relax.

In addition, sound is used in various areas of human life - in medicine, in the processing of materials, in the study of the deep sea, and many, many others.

At the same time, from the point of view of physics, this is just a natural phenomenon - vibrations of an elastic medium, which means, like any natural phenomenon, sound has characteristics, some of which can be measured, others can only be heard.

When choosing musical equipment, reading reviews and descriptions, we often come across a large number of these same characteristics and terms that authors use without appropriate clarifications and explanations. And if some of them are clear and obvious to everyone, then others for an unprepared person do not carry any meaning. Therefore, we decided to tell you in simple language about these incomprehensible and complex, at first glance, words.

If you remember your acquaintance with portable sound, it started quite a long time ago, and it was such a cassette player that my parents gave me for the New Year.

Learn more about sound

He sometimes chewed the film, and then he had to unravel it with paper clips and a strong word. He devoured batteries with an appetite that would be the envy of Robin Bobbin Barabek (who ate forty people), and therefore my, at that time, very meager savings of an ordinary schoolboy. But all the inconveniences paled in comparison with the main plus - the player gave an indescribable feeling of freedom and joy! So I "got sick" with a sound that you can take with you.

My knowledge of portable sound grew, and along with my knowledge, my understanding of what to pay attention to in the first place, and what can be sacrificed, grew. I would like to share this knowledge with you, dear readers.

Characteristics

Among all the characteristics of sound, a professional can immediately stun you with a dozen definitions and parameters that, in his opinion, you definitely, well, you should definitely pay attention to and, God forbid, some parameter will not be taken into account - trouble …

I will say right away that I am not a supporter of this approach. After all, we usually choose equipment not for the “international audiophile competition”, but still for our loved ones, for the soul.

We are all different, and we all appreciate something different in sound. Someone likes the sound “lower”, someone, on the contrary, is clean and transparent, for someone certain parameters will be important, and for someone completely different. Are all parameters equally important and what are they? Let's figure it out.

Have you ever encountered the fact that some headphones play on your phone in such a way that you have to do it quieter, while others, on the contrary, make you turn the volume up to full and still not enough?

For portable equipment (portable players, smartphones), headphones with a resistance of 32 ohms and below are most often produced, however, it should be borne in mind that different impedance will be considered low for different types of headphones. So, for full-size headphones, an impedance up to 100 ohms is considered low-resistance, and above 100 ohms - high-resistance. For headphones of the in-ear type (“plugs” or earbuds), a resistance indicator up to 32 ohms is considered low-resistance, above 32 ohms - high-resistance. Therefore, when choosing headphones, pay attention not only to the resistance value itself, but also to the type of headphones.

Important: the higher the headphone impedance, the clearer the sound will be and the longer the player or smartphone will work in playback mode, because. high-impedance headphones draw less current, which in turn means less signal distortion.

AFC (amplitude-frequency response)

Often in the discussion of a particular device, whether it be headphones, speakers or a car subwoofer, you can hear the characteristic - “pumps / does not pump”. You can find out whether the device, for example, will “pump” or is more suitable for vocal lovers without listening to it.

To do this, it is enough to find its frequency response in the description of the device.

Learn more about sound

How to read such a graph?

The graph allows you to understand how the device reproduces other frequencies. At the same time, the fewer drops, the more accurately the equipment can convey the original sound, which means the closer the sound will be to the original.

If there are no pronounced “humps” in the first third, then the headphones are not very “bass”, and if vice versa, they will “pump”, the same applies to other parts of the frequency response.

Thus, looking at the frequency response, we can understand what kind of timbre / tonal balance the equipment has. On the one hand, you might think that a straight line would be considered an ideal balance, but is it?

Let's try to understand in more detail. It just so happened that a person uses mainly medium frequencies (MF) for communication and, accordingly, is best able to distinguish this particular frequency band. If you make a device with a "perfect" balance in the form of a straight line, I'm afraid that you will not really like listening to music on such equipment, since most likely the high and low frequencies will not sound as good as the middle ones. The way out is to look for your balance, taking into account the physiological characteristics of hearing and the purpose of the equipment. There is one balance for voice, another for classical music, and a third for dance music.

The graph above shows the balance of these headphones. Low and high frequencies are more pronounced, in contrast to the middle ones, which are less, which is typical for most products. However, the presence of a "hump" at low frequencies does not necessarily mean the quality of these very low frequencies, since they may turn out to be, although in large quantities, but of poor quality - mumbling, buzzing.

The final result will be influenced by many parameters, ranging from how well the case geometry was calculated, and ending with what materials the structural elements are made of, and you can often find out only by listening to the headphones.

In order to roughly imagine how high quality our sound will be before listening, after the frequency response, you should pay attention to such a parameter as the harmonic distortion factor.

Harmonic distortion factor

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In fact, this is the main parameter that determines the sound quality. The only question is what is quality for you. For example, the well-known Beats by Dr. Dre at 1kHz have a total harmonic distortion of almost 1.5% (above 1.0% is considered pretty mediocre). At the same time, oddly enough, these headphones are popular with consumers.

It is desirable to know this parameter for each specific frequency group, because the allowable values ​​differ for different frequencies. For example, for low frequencies, 10% can also be considered an acceptable value, but for high frequencies, no more than that same 1%.

Not all manufacturers like to indicate this parameter on their products, because, unlike the same volume, it is quite difficult to comply with it. Therefore, if the device you choose has a similar graph and you see a value of no more than 0.5% in it, you should take a closer look at this device - this is a very good indicator.

We already know how to choose the headphones/speakers that will play louder on your device. But how do you know how loud they will play?

There is a setting for this that you've probably heard of more than once. Nightclubs love to use it in their promotional materials to show how loud it will be at a party. This parameter is measured in decibels.

Sensitivity (loudness, noise level)

The decibel (dB), a unit of sound intensity, is named after Alexander Graham Bell.

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Alexander Graham Bell is a scientist, inventor and businessman of Scottish origin, one of the founders of telephony, the founder of Bell Labs (formerly Bell Telephone Company), which determined the entire further development of the telecommunications industry in the United States.

This parameter is inextricably linked with resistance. A level of 95-100 dB is considered sufficient (in fact, this is a lot).

For example, the volume record was set by Kiss on July 15, 2009 at a concert in Ottawa. The sound volume was 136 dB. By this parameter, Kiss outperformed a number of famous competitors, including such bands as The Who, Metallica and Manowar.

At the same time, the unofficial record belongs to the American team The Swans. According to unconfirmed reports, at several concerts of this group, the sound reached a volume of 140 dB.

If you want to repeat or surpass this record, remember that a loud sound can be regarded as a violation of public order - for Moscow, for example, the standards provide for a sound level equivalent to 30 dBA at night, 40 dBA during the day, and a maximum of 45 dBA at night, 55 dBA during the day.

And if the volume is more or less clear, then the next parameter is not so easy to understand and track as the previous ones. It's about dynamic range.

Dynamic Range

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Essentially, this is the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds without clipping (overdrive).

Everyone who has ever been to a modern cinema has experienced what a wide dynamic range is. This is the very parameter due to which you hear, for example, the sound of a shot in all its glory, and the rustle of the boots of a sniper sneaking on the roof, which this shot fired.

The greater range of your equipment means more sounds that your device can transmit without loss.

At the same time, it turns out that it is not enough to convey the widest possible dynamic range, you need to manage to do it so that each frequency is not just audible, but audible with high quality. One of those parameters that can be easily assessed by almost everyone when listening to a high-quality recording on the equipment of interest to him is responsible for this. It's about detail.

Details

This is the ability of the equipment to divide the sound into frequencies - low, medium, high (LF, MF, HF).

Learn more about sound

It depends on this parameter how clearly individual instruments will be heard, how detailed the music will be, whether it will turn into just a hodgepodge of sounds.

However, even with the best detail, different equipment can produce very different listening experiences.

It depends on the ability of the equipment to localize sound sources.

In reviews of musical equipment, this parameter is often divided into two components - stereo panorama and depth.

Stereo Panorama

In reviews, this setting is usually described as wide or narrow. Let's see what it is.

It's clear from the name that we are talking about the width of something, but what?

Imagine that you are sitting (standing) at a concert of your favorite band or artist. And in front of you on the stage, the instruments are arranged in a certain order. Some are closer to the center, others are farther.

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Represented? Let them start playing.

Now close your eyes and try to distinguish where this or that tool is located. I think you can easily do it.

And if the tools are placed in front of you in one line one after another?

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Let's bring the situation to the point of absurdity and move the tools close to each other. And ... put the trumpeter on the piano.

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Do you think you'll like this sound? Can you figure out which tool is which?

The last two options are most often heard in low-quality equipment, the manufacturer of which does not care what sound his product produces (as practice shows, the price is not an indicator at all).

High-quality headphones, speakers, music systems should be able to build the correct stereo panorama in your head. Thanks to this, when listening to music through good equipment, you can hear where each instrument is located.

However, even with the ability of the equipment to create a magnificent stereo panorama, such sound will still feel unnatural, flat due to the fact that in life we ​​perceive sound not only in the horizontal plane. Therefore, such a parameter as the depth of sound is no less important.

Sound depth

Let's go back to our fictional concert. Let's move the pianist and violinist a little deeper into our stage, and put the guitarist and saxophonist a little forward. The vocalist will take his rightful place in front of all the instruments.

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Did you hear that on your musical equipment?

Congratulations, your device is able to create a surround sound effect by synthesizing the panorama of imaginary sound sources. And to put it simply, your equipment has good sound localization.

If we are not talking about headphones, then this issue is solved quite simply - several emitters are used, placed around, allowing you to separate the sound sources. If we are talking about your headphones and you can hear it in them, congratulations for the second time, you have very good headphones in this parameter.

Your gear has a wide dynamic range, is well balanced and localizes sound well, but is it ready for sharp sound changes and rapid rise and fall of impulses?

How is her attack?

Attack

From the name, in theory, it is clear that this is something swift and inevitable, like a blow from a Katyusha battery.

Learn more about sound

But seriously, here's what Wikipedia tells us about it: The attack of sound is the initial impulse of sound production, necessary for the formation of sounds when playing a musical instrument or when singing vocal parts; some nuance characteristics of various methods of sound production, performance strokes, articulation and phrasing.

If you try to translate this into understandable language, then this is the rate of increase in the amplitude of the sound until it reaches a given value. And if it’s even clearer - if your equipment has a bad attack, then bright compositions with guitars, live drums and fast sound changes will sound cottony and deaf, which means goodbye to good hard rock and others like it ...

Among other things, in articles you can often find such a term as sibilants.

Sibilants

Literally - whistling sounds. Consonant sounds, during the pronunciation of which the air flow rapidly passes between the teeth.

Remember this friend from the Disney cartoon about Robin Hood?

Learn more about sound

There are a lot of sibilants in his speech. And if your equipment also whistles and hisses, then alas, this is not a very good sound.

Remark: by the way, Robin Hood himself from this cartoon is suspiciously similar to the Fox from the recently released Disney cartoon "Zootopia". Disney, you're repeating yourself :)

Sand

What does it mean when the author writes that “sand” is heard at high frequencies, at high volume?

Another subjective parameter that cannot be measured. And you can only hear.

Learn more about sound

In essence, it is close to sibilants, expressed in the fact that at high volume, when overloaded, high frequencies begin to fall apart and the effect of pouring sand appears, and sometimes high-frequency rattling. The sound becomes somehow rough and at the same time loose. The sooner this happens, the worse, and vice versa.

Try at home, from a height of a few centimeters, slowly pour a handful of granulated sugar onto the metal lid of the pan. Did you hear? Here it is.

Look for a sound that doesn't contain sand.

Frequency Range

One of the last immediate parameters of sound that I would like to consider is the frequency range.

Measured in hertz (Hz).

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the main achievement is the experimental confirmation of the electromagnetic theory of light by James Maxwell. Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Since 1933, the unit of measurement of frequency, which is included in the international metric system of units SI, has been named after Hertz.

This is the parameter that you are 99% likely to find in the description of almost any musical technique. Why did I leave it for later?

You should start with the fact that a person hears sounds that are in a certain frequency range, namely from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Anything above this value is ultrasonic. Everything below is infrasound. They are inaccessible to human hearing, but available to our smaller brothers. This is familiar to us from school courses in physics and biology.

Learn more about sound

In fact, for most people, the real audible range is much more modest, moreover, for women, the audible range is shifted upward relative to the male, so men are better at distinguishing low frequencies, and women are better at high frequencies.

Why, then, do manufacturers indicate on their products a range that goes beyond our perception? Maybe it's just marketing?

Yes and no. A person not only hears, but also feels, feels the sound.

Have you ever stood near a large speaker or subwoofer playing? Remember your feelings. The sound is not only heard, it is also felt by the whole body, it has pressure, power. Therefore, the larger the range specified on your equipment, the better.

Learn more about sound

However, you should not attach too much importance to this indicator - you rarely see equipment whose frequency range is narrower than the limits of human perception.

Additional Features

All of the above characteristics directly relate to the quality of the reproduced sound. However, the final result, and therefore the pleasure of watching / listening, is also affected by the quality of the source file and the sound source you use.

Formats

Everyone knows this information, and most people already know about it, but just in case, let's remind you.

There are three main groups of sound file formats:

  • Uncompressed audio formats such as WAV, AIFF
  • Lossless compressed audio formats (APE, FLAC)
  • lossy audio formats (MP3, Ogg)

We recommend that you read more about this by referring to Wikipedia.

We note for ourselves that it makes sense to use the APE, FLAC formats if you have professional or semi-professional equipment. In other cases, the possibilities of the MP3 format, compressed from a high-quality source with a bit rate of 256 kbps or more (the higher the bit rate, the less loss in audio compression), are usually enough. However, this is more a matter of taste, hearing and individual preferences.

Source

Equally important is the quality of the sound source.

Since we were originally talking about music on smartphones, let's look at this particular option.

It wasn't that long ago that sound was analog. Remember reels, cassettes? This is analog sound.

Learn more about sound

And in your headphones, you hear analog audio that has gone through two stages of conversion. First, it was converted from analog to digital, and then converted back to analog before being fed to the earphone / speaker. And the result - the sound quality - will depend on the quality of this conversion.

In a smartphone, the DAC is responsible for this process - a digital-to-analog converter.

Learn more about sound

The better the DAC, the better the sound you will hear. And vice versa. If the DAC in the device is mediocre, then no matter what your speakers or headphones are, you can forget about high sound quality.

All smartphones can be divided into two main categories:

  1. Smartphones with dedicated DAC
  2. Smartphones with built-in DAC

At the moment, a large number of manufacturers are engaged in the production of DACs for smartphones. You can decide what to choose by using the search and reading the description of a particular device. However, do not forget that among smartphones with a built-in DAC, and among smartphones with a dedicated DAC, there are samples with very good sound and not very good, because the optimization of the operating system, the firmware version and the application through which you listen to music play an important role. In addition, there are software kernel audio mods that improve the final sound quality. And if engineers and programmers in a company do one thing and do it competently, then the result is worthy of attention.

That said, it's important to know that in a head-to-head comparison of two devices, one with a good built-in DAC and the other with a good dedicated DAC, the latter will always win.

Conclusion

Sound is an inexhaustible topic.

I hope that thanks to this material, a lot of things in music reviews and texts have become clearer and easier for you, and previously unfamiliar terminology has gained additional meaning and meaning, because everything is easy when you know it.

Both parts of our educational program about sound were written with the support of Meizu. Instead of the usual praising devices, we decided to make useful and interesting articles for you and pay attention to the importance of the playback source in obtaining high-quality sound.

Why is this needed for Meizu? The pre-order of the new musical flagship Meizu Pro 6 Plus has begun the other day, so it is important for the company that the average user is aware of the nuances of high-quality sound and the key role of the playback source. By the way, if you pre-order before the end of the year, you will receive Maison à vendre gift for Meizu HD50 headset.

We have also prepared a musical quiz for you with detailed comments on each question, we recommend you try your hand:

Learn more about sound

One of the five senses available to a person is hearing. With it, we hear the world around us.

Most of us have sounds we remember from childhood. For some, it is the voices of relatives and friends, or the creaking of wooden floorboards in the grandmother's house, or maybe it is the sound of train wheels on the railway that was nearby. Everyone will have their own.

What do you feel when you hear or remember sounds familiar from childhood? Joy, nostalgia, sadness, warmth? The sound is able to convey emotions, mood, encourage action or, conversely, soothe and relax.

In addition, sound is used in various areas of human life - in medicine, in the processing of materials, in the study of the deep sea, and many, many others.

At the same time, from the point of view of physics, this is just a natural phenomenon - vibrations of an elastic medium, which means, like any natural phenomenon, sound has characteristics, some of which can be measured, others can only be heard.

When choosing musical equipment, reading reviews and descriptions, we often come across a large number of these same characteristics and terms that authors use without appropriate clarifications and explanations. And if some of them are clear and obvious to everyone, then others for an unprepared person do not carry any meaning. Therefore, we decided to tell you in simple language about these incomprehensible and complex, at first glance, words.

If you remember your acquaintance with portable sound, it started quite a long time ago, and it was such a cassette player that my parents gave me for the New Year.

He sometimes chewed the film, and then he had to unravel it with paper clips and a strong word. He devoured batteries with an appetite that would be the envy of Robin Bobbin Barabek (who ate forty people), and therefore my, at that time, very meager savings of an ordinary schoolboy. But all the inconveniences paled in comparison with the main plus - the player gave an indescribable feeling of freedom and joy! So I "got sick" with a sound that you can take with you.

However, I would err against the truth if I said that since that time I have always been inseparable from music. There were periods when there was no time for music, when the priority was completely different. However, all this time I tried to keep abreast of what is happening in the world of portable audio, and, so to speak, keep my finger on the pulse.

When smartphones appeared, it turned out that these multimedia processors can not only make calls and process huge amounts of data, but, which was much more important for me, store and play a huge amount of music.

The first time I got hooked on the "telephone" sound was when I listened to the sound of one of the musical smartphones, which used the most advanced sound processing components at that time (before that, I confess, I did not take a smartphone seriously as a device to listen to music). I really wanted this phone, but I couldn't afford it. At the same time, I began to follow the model range of this company, which had established itself in my eyes as a manufacturer of high-quality sound, but it turned out that our paths constantly diverged. Since that time, I have owned various musical equipment, but I do not stop looking for a truly musical smartphone that could rightfully bear such a name.

My knowledge of portable sound grew, and along with my knowledge, my understanding of what to pay attention to in the first place, and what can be sacrificed, grew. I would like to share this knowledge with you, dear readers.

Characteristics

Among all the characteristics of sound, a professional can immediately stun you with a dozen definitions and parameters that, in his opinion, you definitely, well, you should definitely pay attention to and, God forbid, some parameter will not be taken into account - trouble …

I will say right away that I am not a supporter of this approach. After all, we usually choose equipment not for the “international audiophile competition”, but still for our loved ones, for the soul.

We are all different, and we all appreciate something different in sound. Someone likes the sound “lower”, someone, on the contrary, is clean and transparent, for someone certain parameters will be important, and for someone completely different. Are all parameters equally important and what are they? Let's figure it out.

Have you ever encountered the fact that some headphones play on your phone in such a way that you have to do it quieter, while others, on the contrary, make you turn the volume up to full and still not enough?

In portable technology, resistance plays an important role in this. Often, it is by the value of this parameter that you can understand whether you will have enough volume.

Resistance

Measured in Ohms (Ohm).

Georg Simon Ohm is a German physicist who developed and experimentally confirmed the law expressing the relationship between current strength in a circuit, voltage and resistance (known as Ohm's law).

This parameter is also called impedance.

The value is almost always indicated on the box or in the instructions for the equipment.

There is an opinion that high-impedance headphones play quietly, and low-impedance headphones play loudly, and for high-impedance headphones you need a more powerful sound source, and a smartphone is enough for low-impedance headphones. You can also often hear the expression - not every player will be able to "rock" these headphones.

Remember, low-impedance headphones will sound louder on the same source. Despite the fact that from the point of view of physics this is not entirely true and there are nuances, in fact this is the easiest way to describe the value of this parameter.

For portable equipment (portable players, smartphones), headphones with a resistance of 32 ohms and below are most often produced, however, it should be borne in mind that different impedance will be considered low for different types of headphones. So, for full-size headphones, an impedance up to 100 ohms is considered low-resistance, and above 100 ohms - high-resistance. For headphones of the in-ear type (“gags” or earbuds), a resistance indicator up to 32 ohms is considered low-resistance, above 32 ohms - high-resistance. Therefore, when choosing headphones, pay attention not only to the resistance value itself, but also to the type of headphones.

Important: the higher the headphone impedance, the clearer the sound will be and the longer the player or smartphone will work in playback mode, because. high-impedance headphones draw less current, which in turn means less signal distortion.

AFC (frequency response)

Often in the discussion of a particular device, whether it be headphones, speakers or a car subwoofer, you can hear the characteristic - “pumps / does not pump”. You can find out whether the device, for example, will “pump” or is more suitable for vocal lovers without listening to it.

To do this, it is enough to find its frequency response in the description of the device.

How to read such a graph?

The graph allows you to understand how the device reproduces other frequencies. At the same time, the fewer drops, the more accurately the equipment can convey the original sound, which means the closer the sound will be to the original.

If there are no pronounced “humps” in the first third, then the headphones are not very “bass”, and if vice versa, they will “pump”, the same applies to other parts of the frequency response.

Thus, looking at the frequency response, we can understand what kind of timbre / tonal balance the equipment has. On the one hand, you might think that a straight line would be considered an ideal balance, but is it?

Let's try to understand in more detail. It just so happened that a person uses mainly medium frequencies (MF) for communication and, accordingly, is best able to distinguish this particular frequency band. If you make a device with a "perfect" balance in the form of a straight line, I'm afraid that you will not really like listening to music on such equipment, since most likely the high and low frequencies will not sound as good as the middle ones. The way out is to look for your balance, taking into account the physiological characteristics of hearing and the purpose of the equipment. There is one balance for voice, another for classical music, and a third for dance music.

The graph above shows the balance of these headphones. Low and high frequencies are more pronounced, in contrast to the middle ones, which are less, which is typical for most products. However, the presence of a "hump" at low frequencies does not necessarily mean the quality of these very low frequencies, since they may turn out to be, although in large quantities, but of poor quality - mumbling, buzzing.

The final result will be influenced by many parameters, ranging from how well the case geometry was calculated, and ending with what materials the structural elements are made of, and you can often find out only by listening to the headphones.

In order to roughly imagine how high quality our sound will be before listening, after the frequency response, you should pay attention to such a parameter as the harmonic distortion factor.

Harmonic distortion factor

In fact, this is the main parameter that determines the sound quality. The only question is what is quality for you. For example, the well-known Beats by Dr. Dre at 1kHz have a total harmonic distortion of almost 1.5% (above 1.0% is considered pretty mediocre). At the same time, oddly enough, these headphones are popular with consumers.

It is desirable to know this parameter for each specific frequency group, because the allowable values ​​differ for different frequencies. For example, for low frequencies, 10% can also be considered an acceptable value, but for high frequencies, no more than that same 1%.

Not all manufacturers like to indicate this parameter on their products, because, unlike the same volume, it is quite difficult to comply with it. Therefore, if the device you choose has a similar graph and you see a value of no more than 0.5% in it, you should take a closer look at this device - this is a very good indicator.

We already know how to choose the headphones/speakers that will play louder on your device. But how do you know how loud they will play?

There is a setting for this that you've probably heard of more than once. Nightclubs love to use it in their promotional materials to show how loud it will be at a party. This parameter is measured in decibels.

Sensitivity (loudness, noise level)

And if the volume is more or less clear, then the next parameter is not so easy to understand and track as the previous ones. It's about dynamic range.

Dynamic Range

Essentially, this is the difference between the loudest and quietest sounds without clipping (overdrive).

Everyone who has ever been to a modern cinema has experienced what a wide dynamic range is. This is the very parameter due to which you hear, for example, the sound of a shot in all its glory, and the rustle of the boots of a sniper sneaking on the roof, which this shot fired.

The greater range of your equipment means more sounds that your device can transmit without loss.

At the same time, it turns out that it is not enough to convey the widest possible dynamic range, you need to manage to do it so that each frequency is not just audible, but audible with high quality. One of those parameters that can be easily assessed by almost everyone when listening to a high-quality recording on the equipment of interest to him is responsible for this. It's about detail.

How is her attack?

Attack

From the name, in theory, it is clear that this is something swift and inevitable, like a blow from a Katyusha battery.

But seriously, here's what Wikipedia tells us about it: The attack of sound is the initial impulse of sound production, necessary for the formation of sounds when playing a musical instrument or when singing vocal parts; some nuance characteristics of various methods of sound production, performance strokes, articulation and phrasing.

If you try to translate this into understandable language, then this is the rate of increase in the amplitude of the sound until it reaches a given value. And if it’s even clearer - if your equipment has a bad attack, then bright compositions with guitars, live drums and fast sound changes will sound cottony and deaf, which means goodbye to good hard rock and others like it ...

Among other things, in articles you can often find such a term as sibilants.

Sibilants

Literally - whistling sounds. Consonant sounds, during the pronunciation of which the air flow rapidly passes between the teeth.

Remember this friend from the Disney cartoon about Robin Hood?

There are a lot of sibilants in his speech. And if your equipment also whistles and hisses, then alas, this is not a very good sound.

Remark: by the way, Robin Hood himself from this cartoon is suspiciously similar to the Fox from the recently released Disney cartoon Zootopia. Disney, you're repeating yourself :)

Sand

What does it mean when the author writes that “sand” is heard at high frequencies, at high volume?

Another subjective parameter that cannot be measured. And you can only hear.

In essence, it is close to sibilants, expressed in the fact that at high volume, when overloaded, high frequencies begin to fall apart and the effect of pouring sand appears, and sometimes high-frequency rattling. The sound becomes somehow rough and at the same time loose. The sooner this happens, the worse, and vice versa.

Try at home, from a height of a few centimeters, slowly pour a handful of granulated sugar onto the metal lid of the pan. Did you hear? Here it is.

Look for a sound that doesn't contain sand.

Frequency Range

One of the last immediate parameters of sound that I would like to consider is the frequency range.

Measured in hertz (Hz).

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the main achievement is the experimental confirmation of the electromagnetic theory of light by James Maxwell. Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves. Since 1933, the unit of measurement of frequency, which is included in the international metric system of units SI, has been named after Hertz.

This is the parameter that you are 99% likely to find in the description of almost any musical technique. Why did I leave it for later?

You should start with the fact that a person hears sounds that are in a certain frequency range, namely from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Anything above this value is ultrasonic. Everything below is infrasound. They are inaccessible to human hearing, but available to our smaller brothers. This is familiar to us from school courses in physics and biology.

In fact, for most people, the real audible range is much more modest, moreover, for women, the audible range is shifted up relative to the male, so men are better at distinguishing low frequencies, and women are better at high frequencies.

Why, then, do manufacturers indicate on their products a range that goes beyond our perception? Maybe it's just marketing?

Yes and no. A person not only hears, but also feels, feels the sound.

Have you ever stood near a large speaker or subwoofer playing? Remember your feelings. The sound is not only heard, it is also felt by the whole body, it has pressure, power. Therefore, the larger the range specified on your equipment, the better.

However, you should not attach too much importance to this indicator - you rarely see equipment whose frequency range is narrower than the limits of human perception.

Additional Features

All of the above characteristics directly relate to the quality of the reproduced sound. However, the final result, and therefore the pleasure of watching / listening, is also affected by the quality of the source file and the sound source you use.

Formats

Everyone knows this information, and most people already know about it, but just in case, let's remind you.

There are three main groups of sound file formats:

  • Uncompressed audio formats such as WAV, AIFF
  • lossless compressed audio formats (APE, FLAC)
  • lossy audio formats (MP3, Ogg)

We recommend that you read more about this by referring to Wikipedia.

We note for ourselves that it makes sense to use the APE, FLAC formats if you have professional or semi-professional equipment. In other cases, the possibilities of the MP3 format, compressed from a high-quality source with a bit rate of 256 kbps or more (the higher the bit rate, the less loss in audio compression), are usually enough. However, this is more a matter of taste, hearing and individual preferences.

Source

Equally important is the quality of the sound source.

Since we were originally talking about music on smartphones, let's look at this particular option.

It wasn't that long ago that sound was analog. Remember reels, cassettes? This is analog sound.

And in your headphones, you hear analog audio that has gone through two stages of conversion. First, it was converted from analog to digital, and then converted back to analog before being fed to the earphone / speaker. And the result - the sound quality - will depend on the quality of this conversion.

In a smartphone, the DAC is responsible for this process - a digital-to-analog converter.

The better the DAC, the better the sound you will hear. And vice versa. If the DAC in the device is mediocre, then no matter what your speakers or headphones are, you can forget about high sound quality.

All smartphones can be divided into two main categories:

  1. Smartphones with dedicated DAC
  2. Smartphones with built-in DAC

At the moment, a large number of manufacturers are engaged in the production of DACs for smartphones. You can decide what to choose by using the search and reading the description of a particular device. However, do not forget that among smartphones with a built-in DAC, and among smartphones with a dedicated DAC, there are samples with very good sound and not very good, because the optimization of the operating system, the firmware version and the application through which you listen to music play an important role. In addition, there are software kernel audio mods that improve the final sound quality. And if engineers and programmers in a company do one thing and do it competently, then the result is worthy of attention.

That said, it's important to know that in a head-to-head comparison of two devices, one with a good built-in DAC and the other with a good dedicated DAC, the latter will always win.

Conclusion

Sound is an inexhaustible topic.

I hope that thanks to this material, a lot of things in music reviews and texts have become clearer and easier for you, and previously unfamiliar terminology has gained additional meaning and meaning, because everything is easy when you know it.

Both parts of our educational program about sound were written with the support of Meizu. Instead of the usual praising devices, we decided to make useful and interesting articles for you and pay attention to the importance of the playback source in obtaining high-quality sound.

Why is this needed for Meizu? The pre-order of the new musical flagship Meizu Pro 6 Plus has begun the other day, so it is important for the company that the average user is aware of the nuances of high-quality sound and the key role of the playback source. By the way, by placing a paid pre-order before the end of the year, you will receive a Meizu HD50 headset for your smartphone at Maison à vendre.

Why is this needed for Meizu? The pre-order of the new musical flagship Meizu Pro 6 Plus has begun the other day, so it is important for the company that the average user is aware of the nuances of high-quality sound and the key role of the playback source. By the way, by placing a paid pre-order before the end of the year, you will receive Maison à vendre Maison a vendre gift to the smartphone Meizu HD50 headset.

We have also prepared a musical quiz for you with detailed comments on each question, we recommend you try your hand: