Sound Signatures – The Beginner’s Guide

The characteristics of a device’s Sound Signatures are referred to as its sound signature. It refers to how the drivers of headphones are tuned to amplify or reduce specific frequencies. Some headphones, for example, will have more pronounced bass, whereas others may have enhanced mid-range frequencies.

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Sound Signatures

WHAT IS SOUND SIGNATURE? 

When we buy an audio device, we hope not only that it will last a long time, but also that it will sound exactly the way we want it to. Our hopes are the same whether we are purchasing headphones or speakers, whether they are expensive or inexpensive. We are constantly purchasing new devices that are distinct from the previous ones in order to find the one that will perfectly suit our needs and tastes.

Unfortunately, there is one “minor” issue: we don’t always know what we’re looking for, which makes our search even more difficult. The perfect sound that we’re looking for is actually a sound signature, and each pair of headphones and speaker has their own. It is up to our subjective feelings whether we like it or not.

 

The accuracy, frequency response, SNR, distortion, and other features of headphones and speakers can be tested and characterized, but the main factor that affects their quality is the personal taste of each user. When you say that a certain pair of headphones doesn’t sound good, it doesn’t necessarily imply that the headphones were poorly manufactured or tuned. In some cases, it simply means that they do not appeal to you.

If you go into an audio store and try on a few different but similarly priced headphone models, you will notice that they all sound completely different. This occurs because manufacturers are constantly striving to satisfy everyone’s preferences by tuning their headphones in a variety of ways.

 

Some devices sound flat and neutral, while others have a certain amount of sound coloration, and manufacturers do this to satisfy different tastes and build the perfect headphones/speaker for every music genre. Yes, music genre is important because rock or hip-hop music sounds better when played through headphones or speakers with exposed bass.

For all of these reasons, we decided to write this beginner’s guide to sound signatures and introduce you to various signatures in order to help you find the one that best suits you. So stick with us as we navigate the path to your ideal device.

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Types of Sound Signatures

As you are probably aware, there are numerous ways to categorize audio devices, particularly headphones and speakers. They are classified based on their shape, height, placement type, and so on, but they can also be classified based on their sound signature. Although every pair of speakers and headphones sounds different, there are only six basic sound signatures and, as a result, six headphone/speaker categories.

Extra bass

As the name suggests, this sound signatures is distinct due to the extra punchy and emphasized bass. Low frequencies are more exposed and louder than the others, making the music sound energetic and intoxicating. Low-frequency sounds are commonly used in hip-hop songs, but they are also an essential component of electronic music. If you like bass headphones and a bassy signature, look for a pair of Beats, but V-Moda and some Sony and Sennheiser models are also good. When it comes to speakers, we recommend investing in good subwoofers and finding the best location for them in order to improve bass quality and volume.

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Just one more thing: avoid boosting bass frequencies. Exaggeration may result in a boomy sound that is unpleasant to listen to, as well as the loss of all fine details in the songs, particularly in the low-midrange region.

V-shaped

The name itself may appear strange, but it is actually quite simple. When the frequency response is shown in a single line (frequency response curve), the line looks like the letter V because the low frequencies are at the beginning and the high frequencies are at the end. This leads to the conclusion that the most important characteristics of a V-shaped sound signature are very exposed bass and treble. While the bass is quite elevated and the treble is clearly audible, the mid-range frequencies are placed somewhat behind the previous two ranges. What we mean is that V-shaped music features neutral vocals that are overpowered by the bass and treble.

Audiophiles dislike this V-Shaped frequency response, but it works for the majority of users, and many of them find it very pleasant, especially when hearing it for the first time. This occurs because the booming bass and strong sparkling highs are a great formula for creating exciting music that brightens the songs. This sound signature is ideal for reproducing hip-hop, rock, and pop songs, but it should not be used to listen to classical music or vocal-oriented or mid-centric music.

Because the sound is quite exciting and lively (also known as the “fun sound”), headphone users enjoy it, which is why headphones with this sound signature are so popular. It’s just very pleasing to the human brain.

However, you should be aware that headphones/speakers with this type of signature may sound unnatural to some listeners, and that vocals may sound hollow in some cases.

If you want to try a pair of headphones with this type of sound signature, pick one of the V-Moda models and you won’t be disappointed.

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Sound Signatures

Flat

Although it may not appear so, a flat sound signatures is very popular, particularly among audiophiles. The word flat may not adequately describe it (it sounds more like a disadvantage than a positive trait), but the flat sound actually means something positive. This sound signature is referred to as flat because the low, mid, and high frequencies in one line are all at the same level all of the time. None of them are significantly more exposed or emphasized than the others, which is why the flat line appears (aka flat frequency response).

Flat sound signatures are described as natural sounding, and because natural sound is so popular in today’s world, more and more well-known manufacturers are attempting to create headphones and speakers that sound exactly like the original studio recording. This is why companies like Audio Technica, Beyerdynamic, AKG, and others are attempting to create the perfect natural headphones.

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Unfortunately, this is not possible, at least not completely, because each speaker and headphone model has its own unique feature that cannot be completely eliminated. This is why they all sound unique. The truth is that you can use different shaped and sized speakers and place them in accordance with your room acoustics to make your speakers sound more neutral. However, there isn’t much you can do about the sound signature of your headphones.

Apart from being described as boring by some bass enthusiasts, the most significant disadvantage of this sound signature is that it cannot be fully realized with current audio devices.

Bright

Professionals value devices with this sound signatures because bright headphones are excellent at revealing all flaws in a recording. This means that if you want to hear every detail and flaw, these headphones are ideal; however, they are not suitable for listening to poorly recorded music because the experience will be unpleasant.

Bright sound signatures have boosted high frequencies as well as higher than usual mid-range frequencies. The treble can be sharp, but not to the point of being problematic. In fact, increasing the frequency range usually results in a clearer, less warm sound.

Warm

Given that we have already described the bright sound signatures, we could say that the warm signatures is the polar opposite of the bright. If increasing the mid and high frequencies brightens your audio, increasing the mid and low frequencies adds a lot of warmth and smoothness. If you have a device with this sound signature, your bass will be emphasized along with the vocals, making saxophone or cello recordings very pleasant.

One of the new trends in the music industry is warm and smooth sound, and more and more manufacturers are attempting to tune their headphones/speakers to sound warm. Warm sounds are commonly associated with comfort and relaxation, which is why people enjoy them (apart from the fact that this sound signatures probably emphasizes vocals more than any other). However, this signature should be used with caution because it can introduce too much bass into the song.

If you’re looking for a brand that makes warm-sounding headphones, consider Beyerdynamic, Jabra, AKG, or Bose. This is most likely the area where you have the most options, and you can’t go wrong with any of the manufacturers mentioned.

Balanced

The last signature on the list is the most important. In fact, this is something that all headphone/speaker manufacturers strive for. This sound signatures is associated with perfectly balanced frequencies from low to high, where all of them are naturally reproduced and balanced but not overly enhanced or flat. They have some color, but nothing spectacular.

Actually, a balanced sound signatures is somewhere between a bass and a bright signature. You can hear everything perfectly if you have a speaker or a pair of headphones with this kind of sound signature. The sound is vibrant and well-balanced, like a perfect blend of instruments and vocals, with lows, mids, and highs.

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The problem is – this goal is hardly achievable and we can’t really say that we can think of a pair of perfectly balanced dynamic headphones. If you want to give it a shot, you should consider purchasing some balanced models with dynamic drivers from Audio-Technica, Sennheiser, or Beyerdynamic.

They are not perfectly balanced, but they are close. You can, on the other hand, try more expensive planar magnetic headphones, which are known for their balanced and extended frequency response. HIFIMAN, MrSpeakers, Audeze, and OPPO are the go-to brands.

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Sound Signatures – The Beginner’s Guide 4

What Do People Want?

There is no definitive and perfect answer to this question, but we will try to wrap up this story with a few clever ideas.

In theory, users (and, of course, manufacturers) of headphones and speakers want/make a device that is perfectly clear and reproduces all details as naturally as possible. We’re always complaining about too much or too little volume, a lack of bass, boomy sound, hissing highs, muddy vocals, and so on.

The truth is that you will not find a device that combines all of the positive attributes because nothing is perfect and, finally, it does not all depend on the device itself. The recording quality, speaker placement, and room acoustics all have a significant impact on the final product – the sound you hear through your headphones or speakers.

The best thing you can do is find something that can handle the conditions in which it is used as well as the type of music you are playing, because not all headphones are designed for every type of music and not every speaker system can deliver the same performance in every room and with every music genre. The average human ear and brain can’t detect many differences and nuances, and our brain is excellent at adjusting to different sound signatures and audio styles, so we can easily fool it.

True sensitivity to these differences is developed through experience, which can only be obtained through extensive experimentation. You can’t tell if your headphones are bright unless you hear the warm ones. So, try as many as you can, learn to tell the difference, and you’ll know exactly what you want and need, and you’ll be one step closer to finding your ideal headphones/speakers.

FAQs About Sound Signatures

What are the different types of sound signatures?

Flat, Balanced, Bright, V-Shaped, Extra Bass, and Warm/Smooth are the five sound signature categories.

What is neutral sound signature?

Neutral. It sounds exactly like a neutral sound signatures. In any range, levels are not emphasized, and the sound is reproduced as accurately as possible. Reference headphones have a neutral sound signature and are therefore ideal for mastering and studio work.

What is bright sound signature?

A bright sound signatures indicates that the highs (treble) are emphasized. This sound signatures is popular among audiophiles because it produces a more detailed sound. It is appropriate for those who listen carefully and enjoy picking out subtleties in their tracks.

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