Are smooth and warm the same thing

MartinC

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 29, 2005
8,793
4,984
158
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Warm or smooth are words to describe the particular music bring played surely?
It can be but tendencies shared across multiple recordings would point to system differences I'd say?

 

steve 57

Wammer Plus
Wammer Plus
Dec 7, 2008
1,039
541
178
east yorks, , UK
AKA
steve
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
It can be but tendencies shared across multiple recordings would point to system differences I'd say?
Yes you could look it like that, but warm or smooth seem to be used to describe often good aspects or preferences in a system

Whilst my experence is that those descriptions  are actually faults in the way the system represents the source 

 
  • Upvote
Reactions: JANDL100

Camverton

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 20, 2009
4,517
1,835
158
Herefordshire
AKA
Malcolm
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Has anyone mentioned 2nd harmonic distortion yet? This, for me can make the sound of a system appear “warmer”, and in the absence of the real instruments in front of me more lifelike in my room.

Did anyone see the last Proms season? Some numpty bathed the orchestral players in blueish, cold light and the conductor in slightly yellowish, warm light. It made the orchestral instruments, which are normally the most beautifully coloured things look insipid and dull. A natural colour temperature would have been best, but a slight warming up of the colour temperature of the lighting would have helped emphasise the rich woods and brass of the instruments. 

The same with sound. A cold sound can detract whilst a warmer sound can help give an illusion of having the instruments in front of one. The only snag is that too much of that distortion can roughen (unsmooth) up the sound so a delicate balance has to be found, and that balance will be different for us all.

A quick cheat might be to use some sort of tone control to alter the frequency response but this is not the same as having a warm sounding amp and a cold sounding amp which, when measured at the listening position, have identical frequency responses but sound warmer or colder.

When all’s said and done it’s all relative and one man’s cold is another man’s neutral is another man’s warm; as with colour temperature, as with weather, as with sound, which might be why no one seems to have a clue as to what anyone is talking about. What we need is a jolly nice measurement than we can all disagree on what measurement correlates to warm, neutral or cold. 

Such fun, anyone fancy listening to some music, but not as lit by that imbecilic Proms lighting designer!

 

CnoEvil

Legend Wammer
Wammer
Aug 7, 2018
8,998
8,093
148
Northern Ireland
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
One way to think about it, might be to imagine 2 rotary dials - one labelled Smoothness and one labelled Warmth. So as a description, would go from "Too much" -> "Just right" ->  "Not enough". This is helpful in system matching.

The Smoothness Dial would go from Soporific/Dead -> Natural sweetness -> Edgy.

The Warmth Dial would go from Overly Rich (uncontrolled bloom) -> Natural Tonal Body (Organic) -> Lean.

 
  • Upvote
Reactions: newlash09

Camverton

Wammer
Wammer
Jul 20, 2009
4,517
1,835
158
Herefordshire
AKA
Malcolm
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Oh, and while I’m in waffle mode, I tend to associate smooth with poor reproduction of transients which makes for a softer easy to listen to but rather boring sound.

When the hammer strikes the string on a piano I want to hear that it is a string being struck rather than caressed. In my view only the best speakers can get close to this with many lesser speakers compensating by roughening the texture in the same way you might turn up the definition on a tv to compensate for a soft picture, or turning up the sharpness too far in photoshop for a digital photograph. It doesn’t work in that two wrongs don’t make things better.

 

newlash09

newlash09
Wammer
Aug 10, 2018
2,856
2,399
148
India
AKA
Y.Manohar
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
One way to think about it, might be to imagine 2 rotary dials - one labelled Smoothness and one labelled Warmth. So as a description, would go from "Too much" -> "Just right" ->  "Not enough". This is helpful in system matching.

The Smoothness Dial would go from Soporific/Dead -> Natural sweetness -> Edgy.

The Warmth Dial would go from Overly Rich (uncontrolled bloom) -> Natural Tonal Body (Organic) -> Lean.
Very well put across sir :)

 

tuga

. . .
Wammer
Aug 17, 2007
12,577
5,085
173
Oxfordshire, UK
AKA
Ric
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I just wish we all had a reference point, a speaker we all are familiar with and how it sounds and then when reviewing or describing another speaker we can the relate the descriptive terms used if someone says.

For example if they said, "the top end was more detailed than the reference but were a tad more forward in balance.  The mids were detailed but colder than the reference and the bass was less defined and there seemed to be less of it"    If we are familiar with the reference and our view is that it is a cold sounding speaker with a forward top end - then from what the review tells us the speakers being reviewed are likely to be colder and more forward.
I agree, the reference should be "neutral" – not too much or too little of any frequency band and low colouration/distortion. And "neutrality" or "accuracy" needs to be determined by measurements and complemented with listening. We can't just agree that a speaker is tonally neutral to our ears if the frequency response indicates that it is not.

If all reports are made with "neutrality" as reference, and all adjectives have the same meaning to everyone (like a language), then we can understand each other. But if I prefer a "dark" and "forgiving" presentation and use that as my "neutral" then what I say is misleading to others.

 
  • Like
Reactions: uzzy and newlash09

bencat

Amplifier Destroyer
Wammer Plus
Feb 6, 2010
7,885
4,835
193
Liverpool
AKA
Andrew
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Sorry I am feeling very picky today as my leg pain is on hyper alert and this is making my tinnitus louder no idead why the connection but it is still there . @savvypaulyou say you know how the bass on that recording should sound and all I would ask is how do you know ? Where you there when they recorded it and when the final album mix was played ? If so then okay that seems fair , I know others will say aural memory is very short and can fool us but I would accept that if you heard that you would a very good chance of knowing how it was changed. If not then there is no way that anyone unless they heard the track through your system before hearing another system would have any comparison in their head they could make.

I would agree with you that I find it much easier to say that using this system i can hear the vocals more clearly , I can feel and hear the spread of the musicians , I can feel more inclined to dance or sing along (only on my own no one wants to hear me sing) . And all those things tell me of this system is working well or not . Sadly I have to accept and know that what I hear is not often what anyone else does and this is the reason you need to hear as much equipment as you can when you can because only you can say if something suits you and this should be your only buying criteria .

 
  • Upvote
Reactions: tuga

savvypaul

NVA Hi-Fi
HiFi Trade
Jan 11, 2017
5,607
6,357
148
Durham Uk
nvahifi.co.uk
AKA
Paul
HiFi Trade?
  1. Yes
Sorry I am feeling very picky today as my leg pain is on hyper alert and this is making my tinnitus louder no idead why the connection but it is still there . @savvypaulyou say you know how the bass on that recording should sound and all I would ask is how do you know ? Where you there when they recorded it and when the final album mix was played ? If so then okay that seems fair...
If you take it to that extreme, then how does anyone know what any record should sound like? I've heard that record on a great system, a very good system, an average system, and a poor system. Simonon is a better bass player on the first system than the second, he's better on the second system than the third, etc. He keeps perfect time with Topper on the first 2 systems, he sounds a bit lacklustre on the 3rd system, he sounds hopelessly stoned on the 4th. I've got a basic idea and aural memory of how a bass string sounds. I know that separately plucked strings should not sound like one mass. 

 

bencat

Amplifier Destroyer
Wammer Plus
Feb 6, 2010
7,885
4,835
193
Liverpool
AKA
Andrew
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
If you take it to that extreme, then how does anyone know what any record should sound like? I've heard that record on a great system, a very good system, an average system, and a poor system. Simonon is a better bass player on the first system than the second, he's better on the second system than the third, etc. He keeps perfect time with Topper on the first 2 systems, he sounds a bit lacklustre on the 3rd system, he sounds hopelessly stoned on the 4th. I've got a basic idea and aural memory of how a bass string sounds. I know that separately plucked strings should not sound like one mass. 
Sadly that is my point there is no way of knowing what any original recording was unless you were there or have access to the master tape of the final mix . You know what you hear and which you prefer which is great . But what if the intention was to make his bass sound as if he was playing it stoned ? In that case the so called bad system was really playing the correct sound . I know this is being a bit difficult and I know you know what things should sound like and your preference is probably the best one but I think rather than specific things your idea about describing the musical sound is good and most know what a bass drum sounds like , an acoustic upright bass resonates like . These are easier to match as we can play them on our own systems and compare what you said they sound like to what we hear .

I will give an example of this that others can try out themselves and see if there is any crossover of opinion . The opening bars of this song are by Danny Thompson on Upright Bass the sound should be deep and resonant and have just wonderful feeling in his playing , you should be able to hear if not feel the rattle of has instrument on the deepest notes . Then the singing is emotive and powerful . If you can hear this and play using either the original CD or a good quality stream . This should sound like real people creating a very real music if not then I would suggest your system or your heart is missing something .

None of the above is fair or sensible but it is how I emotionally react to this and I suspect that only if someone else feels it too would be be able to identify what the other is talking about . So I do agree with @savvypaulit is only the music but it is just as difficult to find common ground here as it is with terms like smooth or warm .

 
Last edited by a moderator:

savvypaul

NVA Hi-Fi
HiFi Trade
Jan 11, 2017
5,607
6,357
148
Durham Uk
nvahifi.co.uk
AKA
Paul
HiFi Trade?
  1. Yes
Sadly that is my point there is no way of knowing what any original recording was unless you were there or have access to the master tape of the final mix . You know what you hear and which you prefer which is great . But what if the intention was to make his bass sound as if he was playing it stoned ? In that case the so called bad system was really playing the correct sound . I know this is being a bit difficult and I know you know what things should sound like and your preference is probably the best one but I think rather than specific things your idea about describing the musical sound is good and most know what a bass drum sounds like , an acoustic upright bass resonates like . These are easier to match as we can play them on our own systems and compare what you said they sound like to what we hear .
You think that the better system could improve his bass playing without it being so, on the record?

 

Jules_S

Are we there yet?
Wammer Plus
Jun 7, 2019
2,005
2,244
183
Southampton
AKA
Jules
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I'd say "improve the listener's perspective on his bass playing". Clearly what was recorded is the absolute reference but only the musicians and technicians present (and any lucky guests) will ever know how that bass sounded, at that moment, and how he played the instrument. That's one reason why I am not hung-up on this notion of absolute, non-negotiable adherence to perfect sound reproduction where the system makes no intrusion on the recording. The vast majority of us just don't know exactly what that's meant to be. 

A lucky few may have had that insight on a particular recording if they were fortunate enough to have been present (this is mainly those of us who have studios and do this sort of thing for a living). Even then those people only have knowledge of the recordings they were present for, which means they can only use those as a reference point. All other recordings are still guesswork, although having that reference is a good start point, assuming you can rely on your aural memory and your hearing hasn't changed in the meantime (illness, ageing, etc)

And of course none of that takes into consideration personal preference as opposed to slavish adherence to total neutrality...

P.S. I find this whole topic of the perception of sound to be fascinating. Hearing other's insight into how they hear sound and what is pleasant / acceptable to them expands the mind

 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • Like
Reactions: savvypaul

uzzy

Grumpy Old Git
Wammer
Apr 16, 2006
8,046
3,842
158
NN38TA Northampton
AKA
David
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I agree, the reference should be "neutral"
You missed my point .. If we all are familiar with and know the sound of say a bookshelf, a large bookshelf or stand mount and a floor stander. if we think the reference is lacking bass and top end pronounced with what we feel is an accurate middle - If a reviewer was to compare the speaker to what he was reviewing in each of those areas we would have an "idea" of what the speaker being reviewed sounds like as follows
If the Review says they were a little bass heavy compared to the reference (and we think that the reference is bass light) then it is more likely the bass would actually sound better to our ears
If the reviewer said the top end compared to the reference was slightly recessed and dull (which to some might mean smooth) if we feel the reference is top end heavy and too forward then we will have an idea that the speakers being reviewed may be more our cup of tea in the treble department and so on.

The whole point is having a speaker we are all familiar with,  and if the reviewer was to compare a speaker to it when doing a review of a new speaker, then we would get an idea from the comparisons how the reviewed new speaker actually would sound to our ears.   It is all about one man's smooth is another man's dull and recessed and one man's tizzy bright top end is another man's detailed and neutral etc. 

As to someone else's comment as to knowing how a record should sound (how do we know) well for me the answer to that is does it matter .. at the end of the day if it sounds great to our ears on a system it is great and so we will use it as a reference to evaluate and compare in order to find what our ears like. 

In the recording process the mixing engineer and/or producer will determine how a record should sound to their ears .. and depending on the speakers used for the mixing process that will have an impact.  Then with LPs another factor comes into account, namely the skill of the engineer cutting the acetate that will go on to make the master stampers to press the LPs. 

As to how the record should sound, the closest we would get to finding that out would be to play the master tapes through the same amp and speakers used by the engineers/producers at the time.    However, the amusing thing is that put 100 people in to have a listen and there would be many views on how the recording sounds to them and probably how much better it would sound with this or that amp and this or those speakers etc etc ..

as I keep on saying .. the art of this game is pleasing your ears (not someone else's) .

 
  • Upvote
Reactions: tuga