What Is An Audio Cycle (Cycle Of Confusion)

- Nov 18, 2020-

The link between music production and music playback is audio files.


Audio files are recorded in the recording studio. In music production, the sound engineer/mixer will use effects, EQ, etc. to process the original recording files into music. Usually, the final release of music needs to be listened to on monitor speakers (usually using monitor speakers).


In music playback, consumers use speakers/headphones, but the speakers usually used by consumers are not the monitor speakers in the final mix. The sound of the headphones used by consumers is usually the same as the sound of the monitor speakers in the final mix. different. The listening environment of the consumer is also usually different from the room when mixing.


As for acoustic engineers who make speakers and headphones, they usually make subjective evaluations of some products (but sometimes they don't). The subjective evaluation of speakers and headphones during the development process is usually to play specific music. But in many cases, acoustic engineers and product managers do not know the recording environment in which the test music is being used, the monitor speakers used in the mixing, and what the mixer wants to express.


The sound engineer does not know what speakers/headphones and listening environment consumers use. Consumers do not know what speakers and recording environment the sound engineer uses. Sometimes even the acoustic engineers who make headphones don’t know what the sound of the speakers look like. Consumers who use headphones don’t know what the sound of the speakers look like. Audiophiles who use HiFi speakers and headphones to enjoy symphony and comment have never even been to the theater , Acoustic engineers who use symphony to tune speakers and headphones have never been to the theater scene. Even the same music can behave differently in different studios.


Everything is isolated. All aspects of the audio link: sound engineer, acoustic engineer, and consumer.


The audio vicious circle has been around for decades since it was proposed, but why hasn't it been resolved? Even the improvement is minimal?


Reason 1: Fighting each other


In the speaker and headphone industry, there are numerous companies, such as Harman, Sony, Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, Baohua, Dynaudio, Jinlang, Tianlang, Shure, Audio-Technica, Yamaha, Zenith, ATC, Shiba and so on. Some of them are only for consumer audio products, some are only for monitoring audio products, and some are for both consumer and monitoring products. But sometimes even companies that produce consumer products and monitoring products at the same time cannot reach a unified internally. Let alone between different companies.


Even within the same company, some large companies usually have a reference system for unifying sound styles, which is a reference point for unified subjective evaluation by different acoustic engineers in different R&D centers. At present, many companies in the industry have similar systems, some are standardized, and some are non-standard but still have a certain reference significance. But even so, even in the same company, there are many acoustic engineers, acoustic system engineers or product managers who do not use similar reference systems, and even in the same department, each acoustic engineer’s tuning style is completely different.


Reason 2: There is no strong standard


Cinemas have industry-recognized industry standards similar to the X curve, and theaters also have some standards. However, whether it is monitor speakers or HiFi speakers, monitor headphones or HiFi headphones, or recording studios, there has long been a lack of convincing standards. One of the reasons is that, for a long time, even some professionals in the industry have generally believed that people's subjective feelings on the sound of speakers and headphones cannot be measured.


Harman International is one of the few companies that simultaneously produces HiFi speakers, monitor speakers, cinema speakers, concert/theatre speakers, HiFi headphones, monitor headphones, car speakers, microphones, Bluetooth speakers and other audio equipment in almost every field. So some people in the company believe that Harman is obligated to take the responsibility of setting industry standards, so there have been decades of research that I personally consider to be great.

However, decades of research by Dr. Floyd Toole and Dr. Sean Olive have proved that the subjective feelings of humans receiving sound can be correlated with objective test data. However, even if Dr. Floyd Toole defined the "Spinorama" speaker test method as early as 1985, it was not until 2015 that this test method became the American national standard. During the five years from 2015 to 2020, the standard was adopted. There are only a handful of speaker manufacturers. All this is slow.


Not to mention, the sound of the sound box received by different people will not have much difference, but different people may have some differences in the sound of the earphones due to the difference in wearing and ear canal. This makes the standardization of headphones more difficult.