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Difference between Warm, Bright, Clinical, Neutral Sound

Wharfedale Evo 4.2

gurujee

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I was reading more about Hifi world lately. What confused me is the actual definition and difference between the sound signatures. It felt the terms mean different to different people for which I am getting confused.

Can someone explain in detail what these terms mean actually? And what their perception of the sound signature produced by major brands like Yamaha Denon Pioneer Marantz Onkyo etc

Thank you.
 

Vinod.R

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These words have as much meaning as they sound. Because it is easier to use words without correct technical data under proper test conditions.

I have a lovely video which lays bare to all these words. All magazines usually hifi world or hifi vision and the lot use the same words to sell more products because they need the sponsorship of these companies!

Once I get the video I will post it here. Got it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zvireu2SGZM
 
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hifiramr

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"Warm, Bright, Clinical, Neutral Sound" This is simply a marketing words in world of Hifi.If you mach particular amplifier with particular speaker and source we will get some small variations in sound according to the speck this is the think people say and use above words.
nothing special even you can also describe sound in your own words.

If you want to select a good stereo setup just demo some and fix a good one which is more enjoyable by your taste that's it dont go behind this stupid definitions that is invaluable.
 

hydrovac

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Only if you believe the urban legends of audio world :D

No explanation as such I on the other hand dismiss it as they don't show up on the FR specs.;)
Just audition your choice and get the one that sounds closest to accurate to your ears, remember, it is you who have to live with your choice, so make sure to do it right.

Careful audition is a must, what may sound good with one may not with others, take a varied collection and thoroughly audition the gear for couple of hours, once you find one that appeals to you, day in/day out, get that.
 

regeHA

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@Vinod.R, @hifiramr, @Hydrovac...

I'm surprised. Being dismissive of the terms as marketing phrases I'm fine with.

But listening fatigue (seen in bright speakers) is surely an occurrence. Very common with brands like Klipsch, KEF, etc.

The opposite i.e. warm speakers lack the detail that's very easily seen in so called bright speakers.

Neutral or flat would be perfect, but most of them lack PRAT and entertainment.

While I agree these are marketing terms, the characteristics in sonics are certainly true and being aware of them will only help one make a better decision.
 

jls001

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Agree with regeHA. You'll never find these terms in marketing materials:)

They're more of audio rag terminologies. Though our understandings of these terms may vary here and there, I do believe they convey the general impression of a gear, and so are useful terms.
 

square_wave

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Agree with others that these terminologies represent the general impression of a gear. But bear in mind that if you hear these words in a review or from a fellow audiophile, you need to know the rest of the systems context and listeners preferences for you to make sense of anything.

For example, a loudspeaker which uses a very high end tweeter design can sound rolled off if used with an amplifier which cannot resolve details well at high frequencies or even sound bright showing the deficiencies of the amplifier or upstream gear. So people could call it warm or bright depending upon the context. Pair it with the right gear and it will just sound right .

With mainstream ( mass market ) hifi gear, enough handicaps are built in to accommodate decent synergy with most gear to make them sound exciting. So these words may mean something else in this context.
 

afj

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gurujee - whatever you have asked about is very real. it exists in system setups, and different setups with showcase different characteristics. generally clinical / neutral is exactly how it is recorded. bright is when there is extra emphasis on the detail, sound separation etc. warmth is when the edge is toned down a bit. what im going to say is not very accurate, but just for you to get an idea - if you increase the treble on your amp, the music will start to sound brighter and vice versa

again all this will not make sense just by reading. you listen to different setups / different recordings etc and you will start to understand by yourself
 

soundbuff

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I would second the above. In my experience there are set ups which may be called aggressive and bright, which is different from detailed and transparent. Similarly I know a woody sound from a metallic one. Again there is authority in presentation and so on. These descriptive and subjective terms can be dismissed as fictive but they make sense to me having experienced and lived with different kinds of set ups over the years. Poetic license perhaps but delusional no.:)
 

gurujee

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gurujee - whatever you have asked about is very real. it exists in system setups, and different setups with showcase different characteristics. generally clinical / neutral is exactly how it is recorded. bright is when there is extra emphasis on the detail, sound separation etc. warmth is when the edge is toned down a bit. what im going to say is not very accurate, but just for you to get an idea - if you increase the treble on your amp, the music will start to sound brighter and vice versa

again all this will not make sense just by reading. you listen to different setups / different recordings etc and you will start to understand by yourself

Wow. Thank You. It gave me a much needed impression of sound. I kind of guessed 'bright' right but your definition of other enlightened me.

Thank you regeHA, Vinod.R, Hydrovac, square_wave, jls001, hifiramr
 

Shivam

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Depending on who you talk to and where the person hails from, each of those words has a different meaning.

A warm sound may mean any of these and more: rolled off treble, mid-bass overhang, low order distortion, quick mid frequency response, muddled mid frequency response.

Even the audiophile dictionaries available online disagree among themselves. Most of ones that do agree are actually copies of what stereophile had once published. An example - Wharfedale speakers in general are considered laid back in India, fast in England, clinical in US and mellow in CIS countries.

The music brings so much happiness to people like us that we are at a loss of words to describe the experience and so the confusion. If you want to evaluate the speaker, stick to specs but if you want to buy a system, go out, hear them, experience them and then decide.
 

rohitmusic

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IMHO below is the analogy I can draw...

I go and buy sugar
Then buy some milk
Buy some tea powder
Buy a utensil to make tea
Buy a cup to sip the tea
Mix all ingredients together
Heat it up in a hope it will suite my taste buds...

But it doesn't quite taste how I had imagined it to... :(
Or what I was craving for... :(

Something is not right!

Maybe the tea powder....
I go and buy another brand hoping it will be better..

Ah ah.. Still no luck..

Might be the sugar!

Maybe the milk!

Ok what's the harm in trying distilled water...!
We never know!???

Yeah I "believe" now it tastes "better". Well not exactly better but I " feel" the water made a difference...

I wish I had a better utensil to make the tea! :(
Let me save for it! (Bright idea!)

Yippie!

Oops I almost forgot I actually wanted to simply enjoy a cup of tea!
 

soundbuff

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Hi Rohit music,
I don't need to spell out that drinking tea can become a very highly sophisticated cultural practice. Everything can be critical, the length and strength of the tea-leaves, the quality of the water, even the temperature of the cups! In the same way I suppose, for most people a boom box with buttons is quite enough to satisfy their 'audiophile needs", others might have the desire to indulge their 'taste buds'.

Although it is tempting to poke fun at the extremes of audiophile indulgence, I don't now see it in a framework of rational versus irrational, but as an elaborate set of cultural practices with complex procedures, routines and systems of signalling which largely can make sense only to those who belong to that culture. There is a point at which the Audiophile obsession turns into a culture of appreciating varied flavours and tastes, and ceases to be an evaluation of better or worse.

Hope I am making some sense.
 

rohitmusic

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@soundbuff: I'm part of that evolved audiophile "culture" :D been there done that :)

(Above post is more in hind sight of the crazy journey I've had so far.)

There has been a point when I almost lost listening to good music and started listening to my "various" system combinations..

There were days I used to spend just permutating and combining system components. Sometimes swapping amplifiers..
Sometimes the speakers..
Sometimes speaker drivers..
Sometimes speaker cones!! (Yes you heard right! :) )

And other times swapping opamps from the phono stage or resistors on another fine day .. :)

Enjoying most of the process. But music took a back seat.
There will be a tipping point.

Also the greater moral to be drawn is simply putting ingredients together (even if the are very good quality) will not give a "good tea" :)
Like with fine tea a fine system is more of an evolved art!
So after a point nomenclature becomes irrelevant and other terms take priority. Most of which are more on the emotional and personal side than technical. Also we tend to follow a philosophy or belief system as a natural progression.

You get where I'm coming from :D :D :D

Please read as notes to myself on my journey in my diary :)
 
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rohitmusic

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I would like to add my 2 cents especially for someone starting out.

Instead of focusing on sound signature please focus on the "emotion" you plan to evoke..

If you want very involving sound you should definitely consider a few components which will almost never be on your buying list otherwise.
Example: I used to earlier dismiss tubes saying they color or distort the sound. But one of the most involving and melodic setups I've ever heard is all tubes and high efficiency vintage drivers. (Would anyone even consider these otherwise?) I did not and took me a good couple years to figure out :|

If want a nice clean and crisp sound and like new age music there are components that favor that too. They sound absolutely brilliant with those genres.

If you like specific kinds of music particular components are more suitable.

Example: if one like old music (<70s) then few media do better justice.

And so on..

So please try to focus on the emotion you plan to achieve.

+ most of this sense unfortunately comes only after you have spent time, money, efforts :|

I guess that is what is called experience. But in audiophile land experience has a very high price tag :D

Long live music!
Cheers!
 

soundbuff

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Hello Rohit,
Didn't mean to imply that your comments were based on inexperience. Sorry if it came across like that. Really.:eek:

What I was trying to say was, that while it is true that many of us reach a point when we have become so lost in kit, that we are no longer enjoying the music which brought us here in the first place, I feel that there is too much self-depreciation among audio equipment lovers. Other than possibly the inordinate amounts of money involved, there is perhaps no need for being defensive. In my view it is probably one of the more sophisticated and refined hobbies available to us, and there is no need to be apologetic about it; that is what I (perhaps mistakenly) thought the comparison with tea implied.

Best
 

arj

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IMHO below is the analogy I can draw...

I go and buy sugar
Then buy some milk
Buy some tea powder
Buy a utensil to make tea
Buy a cup to sip the tea
Mix all ingredients together
Heat it up in a hope it will suite my taste buds...

But it doesn't quite taste how I had imagined it to... :(
Or what I was craving for... :(

Something is not right!

Maybe the tea powder....
I go and buy another brand hoping it will be better..

Ah ah.. Still no luck..

Might be the sugar!

Maybe the milk!

Ok what's the harm in trying distilled water...!
We never know!???

Yeah I "believe" now it tastes "better". Well not exactly better but I " feel" the water made a difference...

I wish I had a better utensil to make the tea! :(
Let me save for it! (Bright idea!)

Yippie!

Oops I almost forgot I actually wanted to simply enjoy a cup of tea!

Nice Analogy. I had an experience talking to one of those fanatic Coffee lovers who make their own blend and roast their own beans ( as nothing else is good enough) and who also know about the weather of the plantation . the process , including the kind of press/machine and milk theyof making tea or coffee to get that perfect blend gives them about as much or more satisfaction than drinking it ;)
And this is something you will find in Wine, photography and almost any other hobby where the subjective and emotion is evolved
 

rohitmusic

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I was also caught up with photography for a while and got a Canon DSLR and sooner than I knew started craving for the white colored L series lenses of canon! (Which I never even cared about) :)
But any pro will tell you more than the equipment ultimately it is the vision of the photographer that matters. This basic fact gets lost somewhere. I like to call it the "soul".

Its human nature. Recently I got into fine art painting and there too there are different makes of acrylic colors and paint brushes that go for thousands! But my master tellsme it is not the paint or the brush it is the stroke you make that makes a painting!
I often find myself in art stores shopping different canvases, colors, brushes and so on. Its basic human nature :)

So all these hobbies teach me something. Never loose the soul.

Having said this if you really "need" a tool to take your hobby to next level (there is difference between need and want :) ) then there is no option but to upgrade. And one should but only once basics are very strong and a genuine need to unblock you.

Although this may sound completely unrelated to the topic but it is very very relevant at a more fundamental level. Especially while starting out all the "Moha Maya" is right there to get you!

Proceed with caution :D

Kindest and humble regards!
 

Vinod.R

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My analogy about audio is that what ever satisfies your palate is important.

Our economic situation (how much moolah we have!), convenience of our setting our system up (wife, kids relatives etc), independent room availability, musical tastes etc also play a big part in deciding the kind of sound we like. Cultural influences too play their part. Add individual uniqueness to the mix and then we have an explosive and unique taste which is just one (for each one of us!).

Now imagine trying to balance all this to select equipment. What a mess!!!!! :) :) :)
 
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