Written by 6:42 am Headphone + Accessory Reviews

Is Neutrality Old-Fashioned?

What is flat frequency response? If you do all your listening through Hip-Hop media mogul-approved earphones you may never know…


After listening to the most popular headphones on the planet,
which have enough extra bass response to turn any frequency below 200 Hz into a
sonic sledgehammer, I can’t help but wonder whether transducers with a neutral
harmonic frequency presentation are a thing of the past.

Voicing, or varying from trying to achieve ruler-flat frequency
response, has been around for many years, but only lately have earphones become
so obviously and intentionally skewed. It’s as if the folks in control have
decided that just as there’s no such thing as too loud, there’s no such thing
as too much bass.

Granted, I’m not against a bit of judicious
frequency-tailoring. The Studio Electric compact monitors were voiced so they
were down at least one dB at 3.5 kHz and I loved the way they performed. But when
the first thing and only thing you hear clearly is the bass, well that’s not
what higher fidelity is supposed to be about.

So what can an audiophile do? If current trends continue, soon
there will be little but “voiced” earphones on the market. Obviously you can
vote with your wallet – don’t buy bass-heavy earphones, AND when you hear one
of these sonic monstrosities, let anyone around you know that they suck. I know
I do.

But there is some good news…as young hip-hop moguls embrace
bass-heavy transducers, more will use them as their mixing references. And
since these earphones emphasize bass, the bass on mixes won’t be as overbearing
compared with mixes done on neutral monitors where the engineers would have
turned the bass up even more. Yes, I know it’s a tiny glass of lemonade from
all those lemons, but once you throw away harmonic neutrality there’s not a lot
left behind… 

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