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Unrealistic Bass? How many actually hear Live acoustic music?

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tascam

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Most speakers including some MLs sound like HiFi instead of music for a number of reason. I have been a music composer for 40 years. I do film scoring for PBS, have recorded 3 jazz albums and play various instruments including jazz piano and flaminco guitar. People talk about how "amazing" the bass is on speakers like the Protegy and Odessey. If you are listening to electronic music, that is one thing. If you are trying to duplicate a real event, then more bass is not better. When you stand in front of a jazz trio, the bass is not booming in your face,; it is filling in the bottom octives. If you are acutely aware of the bass, unless it is a bass solo, something is wrong. Many speakers sound like jukeboxes and bear no resemblence to real acoustic sound. One of the reasons I like the ascent i (granted with 400 watts per channel of McIntosh power) is because the bass is tight and fast like real bass sounds and when played at realistic levels, it blends in in a very real way. I have heard this speaker in at least 10 locations and just as many for the Protegy. The protegy has more bass, but to my ear, slower and more artificial sounding (like Hi Fi), as oppossed to real acoustic music. I hope the Summit with the adjustable bass would solve this problem. For the money, I still prefer the Ascent I, and without a sub for 2 channel use.
 
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Jean-Marie

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I fully agree with you Mr Tascam.

I ran to the same conclusion when I heard the Prodigy for the first time. ( and many of non ML speaker's)
The "force forward" bass of these brought often the bass in front of the scene. I don't like neather the "boomy" sound, as you say, something is definitly wrong with that.

I switched the bass gain on -3db position of my Ascent to get the bass soft enough.

But it's thru that boomy bass often impress people and help to sell.
 

risabet

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In total agreement!

Most systems generate hi-fi bass that is excessive when compared to the real thing. The difficulty arises in that many audiophiles don't listen to live, acoustic music and more importantly, most speakers are bought by average joes who are impressed by that boomy bass.
 

Sky Saw

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I think that bass is often used as a substitute for presence, which might also explain why lovers of the CLS (which have outstanding presence) aren't really bothered that much by its lack of true bass response. I have also noticed that when ML owners add a sub to their setup, a common comment is that it adds air or soundstage depth (which relates to my presence theory).

Something that has always bothered me is when some audiophiles, including professional reviewers refer to bass impact as slam (have you ever read someone comment on Krell amplifiers and not use that word?). Who wants to listen to more slam? Listening to literally over a thousand live (unamplified) concert situations where percussion is used, none of it ever made me think of the bass impact as slam (including Verdi's Requiem and Mahler's 6th symphony).

I've never heard the Prodigy or Odyssey, so I can't comment on their bass response, but I find that my Ascent-i have way more bass than my former speakers, Aerius and Rogers LS35/a, and I have to admit that the bass from the Ascents is addictive. If the bass from the bigger MLs bothers you, I bet you would find tremendous satisfaction partnering those speakers with a nice tube or hybrid amplifier.
 

DavidG

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Consumer demand. . .

I think the main reason for the over emphasized bass in many modern speakers is simply down to market demand and requirement. If we look at many speakers on the market today, it's clear that they're biased toward delivery of bass far more than anything else.

ML are by no means the worst for this. If we look at the top spec B&Ws, the bias is clearly towards bass delivery. For me, the worst offender at the moment is the Meridian DSP series - the DSP 8000 (£28,000!) has a single tweeter, small midrange driver, and 6 large bass drivers. This system is driven by five power amps of unspecified power - 1 each for treble and mid, and the remaining 3 doing bass duties. I use Meridian electronics, and gave serious consideration to the DSP series, but found them all to be far too bass-oriented for my listening.

I guess that a lot of the orientation towards low frequencies is driven by the increasing popularity of home cinema systems, and with the increasing demand for these systems, bass-heavy speakers are just going to become more common. Of course, what the designers and buyers of these systems forget is that 90% or more of most music happens in the mid-range, and for real music lovers a system with fantastic mid-range response will always give the best results. I think that if we were to re-visit this topic in 5 - 10 years we may find the balance shifting towards mid-range response and balance, rather than just booming bass!!

Cheers,

David
 

SteveInNC

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DavidG said:
I guess that a lot of the orientation towards low frequencies is driven by the increasing popularity of home cinema systems, and with the increasing demand for these systems, bass-heavy speakers are just going to become more common. Of course, what the designers and buyers of these systems forget is that 90% or more of most music happens in the mid-range, and for real music lovers a system with fantastic mid-range response will always give the best results. I think that if we were to re-visit this topic in 5 - 10 years we may find the balance shifting towards mid-range response and balance, rather than just booming bass!!

Cheers,

David
While I agree with the general sentiment that much of today's offerings overdrive bass, it's also arguable that there is musical content below the 35hz spec of the Ascent. As part of attempting to tune my system, I was running Digital Video Essentials which has a sweep tone from 15hz to 20Khz. The Ascents have a dramatic roll off below their spec'ed 35hz. I didn't even notice any sound below about 33hz, either audibly or viscerally, then they came alive as the tone swept up. I consider this a good argument for a sub in this case, albeit balanced against the rest of the system output.
 

Sky Saw

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SteveInNC said:
it's also arguable that there is musical content below the 35hz spec of the Ascent.
Roberto posted an interesting chart (it may have been on the old forum) that shows that there is very little non-synthesized music below 40-50Hz (ie very few instruments go below 40Hz). So unless you listen to a lot of synthesized music or HT, you are not losing much musical content by not having a sub. Roberto, do you feel like giving that chart another show?

This is not to say that a sub does not provide positive benefits to a system. I'm just saying that it does not add musical information that is absent from a system that only goes down (flat) to 35HZ for most music.
 

risabet

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The lowest freequency. . .

in the modern orchestra is generated by the Bb Contrabassoon at 29.1Hz. Though rarely scored, when it is there it should be heard. Works by Hindemith and Ravel (Mother Goose Suite) utilize this woodwind to good effect. Larger scale works by Mahler, Strauss, Shostakovich and Dukas (Sorcerer's Apprentice) also use this rare instrument. Thus response below 35Hz is necessary, IMO, for orchestral music.
 

garmtz

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Having no instruments < 35 Hz is not the most important reason to buy a subwoofer. Most important to ME are the way in which a subwoofer can increase perception of space in recordings: the recording room sounds much bigger and more realistic with a subwoofer. Furthermore, it increases realism of the mids and highs and adds 'air' around instruments.
 

socialxray

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And what about those giant koto drums that are bigger than a person? They must go down real low!

Ok so yeah if you listen to most pop/rock/R&B music that was made before the mid 80's you could probably do without that 15-incher sitting in the corner. Jazz fits in there nicely too since the lowest notes are almost always about 35 Hz.

I think for better or worse Rap started the bass heavy trend and HT has definitely had an influence as well.

Yet, I think Garmtz's point is sound. A good subwoofer does make a difference if there is a difference to be had. If you are obsessive about your music (and if you are reading this then you are) you want that last ounce of performance if it exists. If the music goes that low then you want it! Even if it is just ambience.

Most importantly, I am not sure if this has more to do with the loudspeaker than current recording trends. Most high-end equipment is pretty much created to be as neutral as possible. Of course there are variations but they are really in degrees. If a loudspeaker is "warm" sounding it is usually not boomy unless there is an interaction with the room. On the other hand, many modern popular recording want to give you that visceral feeling along with the music which for most people is really stirring. That just seems to be the trend nowadays.

Now with that being said there are a lot of culprits out there too. (Polk Audio floorstanders make the music sound like it is coated in molasses.) So make sure to vote with your wallet.

But I must confess that I myself love to listen to electronica with the deep throbbing beats and rock music with kick drums that are more kick than drum. So bring on the bass baby!! SlapBAM!! BOOM!!! ouch.
 
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SteveInNC

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socialxray said:
And what about those giant koto drums that are bigger than a person? They must go down real low!

Ok so yeah if you listen to most pop/rock/R&B music that was made before the mid 80's you could probably do without that 15-incher sitting in the corner. Jazz fits in there nicely too since the lowest notes are almost always about 35 Hz.
Here is a reference (http://koniaris.com/music/notes/) on musical notes and notation where the author indicates that pianos go down to 27.5Hz, bass guitars down to 30.9Hz, and of course there are always pipe organs, such as this one that goes down to 8Hz!, via a 64-foot pipe (http://theatreorgans.com/atlcity/index2.htm)
 

Sky Saw

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risabet said:
in the modern orchestra is generated by the Bb Contrabassoon at 29.1Hz. Though rarely scored, when it is there it should be heard. Works by Hindemith and Ravel (Mother Goose Suite) utilize this woodwind to good effect. Larger scale works by Mahler, Strauss, Shostakovich and Dukas (Sorcerer's Apprentice) also use this rare instrument. Thus response below 35Hz is necessary, IMO, for orchestral music.
Composers tended to use the contrabassoon for its unique sonority rather than its bass plumbing capabilities. I don't know of a single piece that actually calls for the contra to play its lowest note, do you?

Also, 35Hz is the Ascent's bass response measured to be flat (by ML). While that may or may not be true, as will certainly be room-dependent, the speakers will play notes lower than 35Hz at reduced Db levels.

I used to have bookshelf speakers that I doubt reproduced much below 70Hz. That means that I rarely heard (felt) deep bass fundamentals, but the overtones, and thus much of the information was present. So its not like missing the lowest frequencies is depriving a person of noticing the low notes altogether.

All in all, I think the pursuit of deep bass for classical music is way, way over-rated. However, I agree that Garmtz' point about subs offering other contributions to the listening experience may make a sub a worthwhile addition.
 

roberto

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the lower scales of music...

Sky Saw said:
Roberto posted an interesting chart (it may have been on the old forum) that shows that there is very little non-synthesized music below 40-50Hz (ie very few instruments go below 40Hz). So unless you listen to a lot of synthesized music or HT, you are not losing much musical content by not having a sub. Roberto, do you feel like giving that chart another show?

This is not to say that a sub does not provide positive benefits to a system. I'm just saying that it does not add musical information that is absent from a system that only goes down (flat) to 35HZ for most music.
Hola Sky Saw...because I love bass and I was some time ago a bass player, I do like to listen a bass player where he is, at the stage, and I have noticed that If I do have heavy bass notes in my system, the instrument at the stage is too forward on most of the musical scales of the notes than where he or she, the player, should be. This was my findings, due to use a subwoofer with my CLS IIz. All I can say is this:
1) Normally, the most lower notes are not played in any instrument, due to its difficult to produce them!!!
2) also...the musicians do use the lower notes that are above 50 Hz at the lower scales because their musical instruments can play them without effort ...if you don´t think that this is right, ask any musician that you know to find out how many songs or works he plays using the very lower notes (A-B or C)...and if you have a system with a role off starting at 40Hz, it will give - 10dBs 20 Hz...even at -10dBs, the bass notes are there.
3) yes, there are only a few musical intruments that could go there, very deep, like organ, harp, piano, baritone basson, bass drum to mentione some...but again, my point is: how often the musican uses this very low notes? How many music do you listen and can you get that uses this lower notes and you usually listen?...I´m not saying that to listen an organ or the bass notes of a big drum is not important, what I want to point out is that our ears were made for mid-range, and most of the music is there, at the mids and lower highs...95% fo the music is between 50 Hz to 10K...as a pure tones, the other upper frequency is needed for the harmonic structure and for the echoes and resonances...
Happy listening,
Roberto.
 

risabet

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Sky Saw said:
Composers tended to use the contrabassoon for its unique sonority rather than its bass plumbing capabilities. I don't know of a single piece that actually calls for the contra to play its lowest note, do you?

Also, 35Hz is the Ascent's bass response measured to be flat (by ML). While that may or may not be true, as will certainly be room-dependent, the speakers will play notes lower than 35Hz at reduced Db levels.

I used to have bookshelf speakers that I doubt reproduced much below 70Hz. That means that I rarely heard (felt) deep bass fundamentals, but the overtones, and thus much of the information was present. So its not like missing the lowest frequencies is depriving a person of noticing the low notes altogether.

All in all, I think the pursuit of deep bass for classical music is way, way over-rated. However, I agree that Garmtz' point about subs offering other contributions to the listening experience may make a sub a worthwhile addition.

I agree, I can think of no works where the low fundamental is used and as a previous owner of Spica TC-50's I agree that one can appreciate bass instruments w/o the fundamental present. However, the fundamental is required IMO, in works for organ and the bigger orchestral works as stated above. I have however heard the lowest contrabassoon note and it is truly low.
 

Muad'Dib

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As much as I'm all about a flat frequency response, it really is not a very efficient way for people to hear. Obviously the manufacturers are trying to say, "Hey look, we're not introducing 'any' distortions on OUR part" but the ability of a human to hear various sounds is far from equal (refer to Fletcher-Munson curves for reference). This of course is aside from any training that an individual may have in an instrument which helps them to pick that instrument out of a crowd.

I think if manufacturers (and even live venues) were to start EQ'ing reproductions based off said curves of audibility, we would be able to hear more aspects of the music. Of course it would also make it near impossible to use normal rooms in a house because of all the resonances we would be faced with eliminating.

Again, I like flat frequency responses and I don't like places with stupid loud bass. If people want visceral bass, I think they should just have foam earplugs passed out to them as they will achieve the same boomy crappy sound they are looking for thanks to the occlusion effect. For what it's worth, sound is transmitted through the sternum approximately 50dB down and also through the nasal/oral cavities when applicable. Given the addition of these alternate routes of transmission, there is absolutely no need to blast music at 150dB SPL just so people have the sensation of "Wow - there is a lot of bass" or whatever.

End of soap box. Hope it makes sense but I'm dead tired, very rushed, and typing this has made me late to clinic. Time to drive like a fiend :D

-D
 

Peter Hogan

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Another thing I haven't seen mentioned is how the sub interacts with the room. A sub that has a flat frequency response in an anechoic room (where most are measured), will be VERY different in a normal room, and that response will also vary considerably depending on its location in the room. It is not uncommon to see variations of more than 20db in SPL across the subs frequency range. This can make one bass note seem overly loud, while a different one may be lost in the music for being too soft.

Good placement followed by good equalization can make a HUGE difference in how the sub sounds. I didn't appreciate how big a difference until I did mine a while back. It was one of those things that once done, you say to yourself "If I'd known it would make THIS much difference, I would have done it long ago"...

It is also something that is nearly impossible to do by 'ear', you need the proper tools to measure the frequency response. You can generally make large improvements by adjusting the position of the sub first, then use equalization for the final adjustments. When equalizing, try to lower the peaks, rather than boosting the valleys, as that will suck up all the sub amplifiers power at those frequencies, trying to match the rest of the curve.

I used a product called ETF along with a calibrated microphone to do the measurements. I don't have any affiliation with them, but the product works very well, and can be found here: http://www.etfacoustic.com/

HTH,
Peter
 

thepogue

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My two cents...

I think as far as bass goes it really depends on the music source.......i enjoy rock, electric blues and Prog.....which are all very bass intensive...if you enjoy strings...well...then the bigger guns might well make for an unreal presentation...but playing Pink Floyd "The Wall" really doesn't call for a sense of realisim...in fact it tries to trandscend it.

Good Post, Pogue
 
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