My history with treble.


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

ghdprentice

«Cymbal, attack,sustain,decay time says it all »-- Anonymus acoustician

 

 Deep bass must sound seismic, upper bass and deep mids must sound like lavas flows; first high register must sound as cold  honey and higher register as ice cold melting... The mids and voice must sound completely natural , realistic , without anything colored...

i just describe my headphone sound system...

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

I think those of us of a certain age have gone through the evolution of what should sound natural which involves all the things you mentioned. My journey was similar and it wasn't until my last speaker purchase that I discovered pretty much the same thing you did: natural and brassy sounding brass instruments without the etch and distortion that used to pass for treble.

The treble is more detailed, has much better decay, air and ambience and it's not the least bit shrill. I've yet to wince while listening anymore and that's a good thing in my book.

All the best,
Nonoise

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That may very well be all there is to it and validates the idea of evolving tech. Driver tech, as well as magnet tech, is still evolving. Not everything to be done has been done.

All the best,
Nonoise

Slowly I came to realize that what was happening was the better equipment was removing high frequency hash and distortion that I thought was “treble”. 

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

Many still are. More's the pity. So you been red-pilled, and see the matrix. Good on you. 

Well said, and I couldn't agree more.  Most natural high frequency music is pleasant and airy, and don't sound like harsh sizzle .  

I can relate. I didn’t know what a really good system sounded like until I moved to a small town. I discovered that an audio reviewer lived there. I introduced myself by email. He generously invited me over for a listen. After my jaw dropped to the floor, I asked him how?

He said ’getting rid of distortion’. After the foundation of good components - the key is clean power, quality cabling and vibration control. He also had a fantastic room.

I have a NAD C316BEE V2 basic clean amp. It plays through Klipsch Cornwall 4’s. Klipsch are alive. Treble alive. And just a simple BACK TURN of the treble knob eliminates listening fatigue. So easy, yet as audiophiles… this solution bothers us KNOWING we have done this. If we forget that we did that, went to bed, got up and then sat down for a listen next day, it’s all sounding good… “Ooops… when did I do that”… hmmmm

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mahgister

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

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

I agree with "cannot make bad speakers good."

Alex/Wavetouch

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

The “accepted” way these are supposed to sound:

https://youtu.be/6kslE66VVHU

 

After tweeter redesigned, rebuilt, original tweeter components:

https://youtu.be/jmtrzxDpLV4

@wolfie62 

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

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

That's the best description I've ever read of harsh treble. Even with good tweeters, it's still there to some degree.

There is a fantastic solution, but since it requires some DIY, it's not for everyone. Have you noticed almost every loudspeaker review that includes measurements has a graph showing crazy phase and impedance curves? Even those that cost six figures are not immune. Flattening those curves is the solution.

That's where a Zobel Network makes a massive difference. Even better is the recently discovered Improved Zobel Network. It does involve removing the drivers from the enclosure and taking measurements. Not just tweeters, but all drivers. Once the components are calculated using the measurements, they are attached between the driver's terminals.

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Many tweeters or their installation are flawed.  In my experience, electrostatics do the job in upper frequency range.


That’s where a Zobel Network makes a massive difference. Even better is the recently discovered Improved Zobel Network. It does involve removing the drivers from the enclosure and taking measurements. Not just tweeters, but all drivers. Once the components are calculated using the measurements, they are attached between the driver’s terminals.

This sounds like a random circuit being thrown in to solve a random non-existent problem.

Zobels are used to ensure accurate behavior of the crossover circuits by flattening the impedance the filter (high or low pass) sees, but willy-nilly adding Zobels to already working crossover circuits is madness.

Not to mention, they always soak up current and therefore watts.

I notice that the KEF Reference 1 Meta actually seems to use these and the result is a hot impedance mess that requires a much bigger amplifier than it would otherwise.

I’m not saying Zobels are bad, far from it, I can’t think of a speaker I’ve made that didn’t use them, but that adding them is no more a panacea than reducing inductor impedance. Speaker crossover changes like this must fully evaluate the electro-acoustic behavior before committing to them and this is where crossover simulators can really help.  I wrote an introduction to the circuit here:

 

https://speakermakersjourney.blogspot.com/2016/12/crossover-basics-zobel_8.html

 

Also, one problem hobbyists get themselves into is in placing the speaker the wrong way, pointing the speakers directly at your head instead of flat to the wall, which many are designed to be. Fixing tin-can resonances by using a notch filter (not a Zobel) can really reduce distortion in the audible band, but make sure you are listening the right way first.

Hmm.  The one thing I don't see mentioned, especially if you are old enough to have been auditioning equipment in the 1970's: when was the last time you had your hearing professionally checked? Obsessing over treble response in equipment doesn't mean s**t if you don't know what your hearing capability is!  You might be surprised.

@wolf_garcia

 

Nelson Pass started Threshold in 1974 and was designer of their amps. They followed with preamps not designed by him.

@ghdprentice good thread...

i guess i have been lucky, even in my youth and in college i was often around naturally produced music -- live singing, piano, guitar (steel and nylon strings), woodwinds, with minimal or no amplification

so i have always heard the obvious forms of distortion that are usually present in many hifi systems, and the ones that do have low levels of it (coming from whatever sources, there are many) have greatly impressed me, and in my own system building over time, i have really strived for that kind of purity of sound

i have found sometimes achieving purity of timbre and tone as a result of keeping distortion at low levels requires some sacrifice of perceived slam and pace... reminds me of my early times with magnepans and quad esl’s -- their presentation was low distortion but they had their limitations in sheer volume and sense of slam with electronic music (bass, drums and the like)

it is also why though i have tried so many times over the years, i simply can’t live long with super high efficiency speakers, horn loaded ones etc etc... they do their own kind of distortion that my listening can’t tolerate

This sounds like a random circuit being thrown in to solve a random non-existent problem.

An absolutely false assumption. Each driver was carefully tested with a Dayton Audio Test System DATS-V3 and the components were determined to match the results.

You are entirely correct that average values would be totally inappropriate and achieve nothing.

I am disappointed you have assumed that I am an average deadhead yobbo, who makes ill-informed guesses.

My results are mighty impressive, but might need a slight fix as the required values of the components are not manufactured. Some in parallel and series can get close, but not close enough to achieve the best result.

@jjss49

Thanks for your comments. I think you were observant as well.


I listened to music, probably a lot more than most. I was a geologist and drove for over 8 hours a day, I had a very high end portable system in my motel room (think bad treble)… I had a high end system at home. But back then solid state just did not get treble right. I did not have musicians around me… so nothing to compare to.

I started the tread thinking, perhaps there are some folks that haven’t really thought about this and also haven’t had anything to compare… and it would be helpful. I find real learning can come in big jumps. This was one of mine.