Monday, January 20, 2014
I fiddled with the equalizer settings on my phone as I waited for the elevator. As if I could find an acceptable music setting, for transducer that is smaller than the fingernail on my pinky. In addition to the phone function, internet connectivity and multitude of applications, I have three thousand seven hundred and fifty two songs loaded on my phone, produced by six hundred and eleven different artists.
The range of human hearing is approximately thirty one Hz at the low frequencies and up to eighteen kHz on the high end. A fifty Hz sine wave is approximately twenty two feet long. The acoustic energy of a kick-drum at 100db can blow out a lit match from six feet away.
Headphone acoustics are significantly different than room acoustics because you are using an acoustic coupler as opposed to propagating the sound through free-space. Most of what we hear from a typical pair of in-ear headphones is above one thousand Hz. The kick drum you hear is actually fourth or fifth harmonics of the actual sixty to eighty Hz drum sound.
A few months back I saw an interview with Neil Young and he was championing a return to sonic quality in music. According to Young, digital music files download quickly, but suffer a significant loss in quality. Bitrates for most tracks on iTunes average 256kbps AAC audio encoding, which is drastically inferior to the quality of recorded source material in almost every case.
My first car had a stereo system that I designed myself. It included custom loudspeakers enclosures and a passively crossed sub-woofer. I used the components from a pair of JBL console studio monitors and paired them with foam surround eight inch subs in a ported box. My music options were FM radio or any one of the 24 eight track tapes I carried in my faux leather tape case. My friends and I would sit in the parking lot of the local donut shop until early in the morning talking, drinking beer and listening to Zeppelin, Aerosmith and sometimes even Neil Young.
In the elevator I read a new Facebook post, typed an emoticon on my friend’s page and clicked like on his status. As the doors slid open, I hit play on “The Needle and the Damage Done” and headed to the train to begin another week.