We all hear sound and we all listen to music. Whether we are in the car driving to work or shopping at the mall, we are constantly listening to music. The more we listen to music, watch movies, and participate in other activities that require us to listen intently; our ears start to recognize quality audio. We can help train our ears to hear quality sound and distinguish the good from the bad as we start to understand the attributes of good sound. As we listen to different headphones, we can hear the differences between them. For example, the Monster Beats by Dre will sound a lot different than the Grado RS2i. This blog is a basic introduction to some thoughts behind good sound quality. The intent is to change the way you listen to your music the next time you put on a pair of headphones. For this introduction to good audio, I will break the concept into three different questions that you can ask yourself as you listen to the music.
Question 1: Is the music loud enough?
The loudness of the music should be at a level that is comfortable to listen to. When the source volume is set at an average level, the speakers or headphones should not be to loud that you have to turn the volume down or too soft that your ears strain to hear the music.
Question 2: Is the music clear enough?
The clarity of the music is very important. This is what allows you to understand the music. When listening to music with vocals, the clarity is what allows the listener to hear, understand, and comprehend the words that are said. For those that are listening to spoken word, the clarity of the music is what allows the listener to distinguish the difference between words that sound similar (such as “cat” and “bat”).
Question 3: Do you feel like you are there?
Hearing music is different than experiencing it. As you listen to the music, listen to see if you feel like you are at the original performance. Higher quality recordings will be able to do a better job of retaining the quality of the original recording, but the speakers play a vital role in delivering that sound to your ears. Can you hear the sound stage? Does the sound from each instrument independent and not become muddy with the others? Is the sound separation apparent? Many of these questions relate to the main question at hand. You want to be able to feel like you are listening to a live performance, not a recording. The greater the fidelity, the better the speakers are able to do this.