What You Mean When You Say It Sounds Good

For me, the words Quality and Sound evoke an image of a vinyl LP purist extolling the virtues of vacuum tubes. This is someone who has gone out of their way in the pursuit of what the sound-engineering world calls good. Fortunately for most of us, digital technology has blown the doors open to sound quality and has made it way more accessible to the rest of us.

From VoIP Services in the office to Apple AirPods, sound quality is simply something you have come to expect. Most of us would not be able to explain what quality sound is or why it’s good. We just seem to know intuitively. Let’s pick it apart.

When we visualize sound we see zigzagging lines representing frequencies. When we listen to a reproduced sound, we hear the frequency response. That is, how perfectly the speaker reproduces the original recording. Got it? Good! Now let’s carve up frequency response.

Audiophiles define quality as how good a frequency sounds. They may talk about the feeling of that sound. This is called tone quality. It’s the elements of that tone quality, that define what you’re hearing. These tones are often referred to as the lows, highs, and mids.

Low Tones – An average listener might think of bass as a single type of sound tucked away in a corner in a directionless subwoofer. But when you hear quality low tones you know it. A good low has an indescribable dimension, almost an echo, and a brightness like when you hear a rumbling explosion or a thunderclap from an approaching storm.

High Tones – Highs are understood by pointing out what they aren’t. A straight high frequency is what you hear in a bad car stereo or that tinny sound from a portable transistor radio. On the flipside, quality highs are one of the best examples of tonal quality at work.

Mid Tones –  Where 70 to 80% of the audio lives. Often we focus on the low and high-end but the mid-range is really what ties tonal quality together. Mids determine how enjoyable your listening experience is.

There is one more thing to consider. If you put two music lovers in a room and ask them to share the greatest album ever on their personal choice of headphones – you know where this is going, don’t you? You won’t get the same answer, from either of them, even if they’re talking about the same album. Why? Because even when you break down the components of sound into frequency response and tonal quality, as we have here, we just hear things differently.

Do you remember The Dress that broke the internet a few years ago? No one could agree whether it was black and blue, or white and gold. With sound, it’s the same. Fortunately most of the time, those differences don’t vary wildly and sound designers can create experiences appreciated by large groups. Teams can experience crystal clear VoIP Services and crowds can experience the powerful feeling of sound at the movie theater.