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Your Ears are Lying About Your Guitar Tone


phil_m
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Igor Stolarsky (the guy who‘s written a lot of the code for the Helix at Line 6) put this video upon his YouTube channel last night... It’s full of useful information, not just about guitar tones, but making music in general.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, DunedinDragon said:

This is one of the key reasons I use both my ears and a signal meter to make sure I don't fool myself.  It's very easy to do if you're level setting by ear only.

 

I know it's all been discussed to death a million times, but this is exactly why I don't bother with dB meters, lol..

 

If a meter tells me that two tones are both 'X' dB, yet perceptually one is clearly "louder" thanks to our faulty brains, then what good is the number to me? I'm still gonna hafta boost or cut one relative to the other if I want things to sound level.

 

It's more of a rhetorical/philosophical musing than anything else... not trying to pick a fight, lol. Whatever works for you, me, and the bum hanging on the lamppost, is what works...

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2 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

I know it's all been discussed to death a million times, but this is exactly why I don't bother with dB meters, lol..

 

If a meter tells me that two tones are both 'X' dB, yet perceptually one is clearly "louder" thanks to our faulty brains, then what good is the number to me? I'm still gonna hafta boost or cut one relative to the other if I want things to sound level.

 

It's more of a rhetorical/philosophical musing than anything else... not trying to pick a fight, lol. Whatever works for you, me, and the bum hanging on the lamppost, is what works...

Basically the signal meter is only telling me if I'm in the same ballpark with different presets.  My ears still need to make the final decision by comparing the them.

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On 1/14/2021 at 8:37 PM, cruisinon2 said:

 

If a meter tells me that two tones are both 'X' dB, yet perceptually one is clearly "louder" thanks to our faulty brains, then what good is the number to me? I'm still gonna hafta boost or cut one relative to the other if I want things to sound level.

That is really interesting. Maybe you use the wrong meters? If you are comparing loudness you shoud use the loudness meter.
 

On 1/14/2021 at 8:37 PM, cruisinon2 said:

It's more of a rhetorical/philosophical musing than anything else.

Yes. This is epistemological question. If the epistemology is "Whatever works is what works" and YMMV then Igor Stolarsky, showing a waveform to prove Ola is cheating, is wrong.
So YMMV approach is basically "I do not care what is true".


I proposed the experiment the other day of leveling three factory presets to equal loudness.
If our ears are the best tool we shoud repetiedly be able to make it and our results should be the same, shouldn't they?
Spoiler - they are not. Only loudness metering readings are consistent. 

BTW: I asked Igor a question. If this is the case Helix stock cabs are quieter than any normalised IR, why?
He did not answer.

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On 1/16/2021 at 8:42 AM, zolko60 said:

That is really interesting. Maybe you use the wrong meters?

 

Maybe you can't read. I said I don't use meters at all... and before you go out of your way to correct me yet again and tell me how foolish that is, do us both a favor and don't bother. I submit. You're the smart one and you win. 

 

 

Quote


I proposed the experiment the other day of leveling three factory presets to equal loudness.
If our ears are the best tool we shoud repetiedly be able to make it and our results should be the same, shouldn't they?
Spoiler - they are not. Only loudness metering readings are consistent.

 

Use your meters to your heart's content. Make your graphs and pie charts and "prove" whatever you like, I don't care. I play music... you can keep your lab reports.

 

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The main problem with meters, especially anaolog ones, is they have a frequency response curve like speakers, mics other electronic gear, so they won't react the same way for different frequencies. So if the frequency response favors, let's say 1K. That will mean if one of the peak frequencies is not that, it will read differently than if the peak frequency was 1K. Meter's are good for getting in the ballpark mostly but ya gotta use your ears as well.

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Thanks for posting @Phil_m, interesting video.  Thought this one was very useful as well; particularly for anyone suffering from noise generated by a guitar with shielding problems(like for example many a single coil pickup guitar).  The Horizon Gate can apparently provide a simple digital solution to this issue. Ultimately you probably want to shield your guitar properly but what an awesome workaround until then.

 

 

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On 1/14/2021 at 10:16 AM, cruisinon2 said:

Lmao...that's fantastic. The "golden ear" crowd won't like it much, but screw 'em...;)

The truly "golden ear"ed crowd already knows this stuff and checks levels to the db always when ABX testing.

 

Most of the world's top recording/mixing engineers are generally considered to have golden ears.

 

Unless you mean the analog/tubes-are-better-for-hifi/LP-is-superior-to-digital crowd, in which case, yea, those people will never get it.  :-)

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On 1/14/2021 at 11:37 AM, cruisinon2 said:

 

I know it's all been discussed to death a million times, but this is exactly why I don't bother with dB meters, lol..

 

If a meter tells me that two tones are both 'X' dB, yet perceptually one is clearly "louder" thanks to our faulty brains, then what good is the number to me? I'm still gonna hafta boost or cut one relative to the other if I want things to sound level.

 

It's more of a rhetorical/philosophical musing than anything else... not trying to pick a fight, lol. Whatever works for you, me, and the bum hanging on the lamppost, is what works...

Just an interesting little sidetrack here, if you don't mind, while I explain why you can experience the phenomenon you explained here.  Not fighting, just explaining from an audio measurement point of view that respect the math of signal levels in db, without bothering with any actual math and crap which is all over the internet explained better than I could here.

 

If a meter says the two sounds (one EQed differently than the other) are exactly the same level, then that is the total average weighted level across a wide frequency spectrum, summed.  That's how level meters work, and why the are the cornerstone of recording studios around the world.  They are not biased to certain frequencies in any random way - they have very specific, exactly known, weighting, which results in very specific frequency response sensitivity.  db measurements are based on human hearing response, and that is why a certain db level, measured using a properly calibrated level meter, at any normal audible frequency, will sound about the same loudness (approximately) at all source frequencies.

 

If you hear two identical sounds at identical volumes, literally the same thing played twice, and believe one is different from the other, then you are normal.  Even the best recording studio mixing engineers can get tricked by that, even though they are much better at hearing those things than most of us are.

 

So, now, taking that information to your point about one tone perceptually sounding clearly louder... let's say one signal is EQed differently.... and you prefer one to the other.  Either you happen to prefer bassier tone, or more midrange in your tone, or a brighter tone (... and as noted in the video, we tend to immediately adjust to brighter sounds as attractive, and get used to them fast, making less bright sounds seem dull by comparison very quickly).  But the levels saying they are identical volume?  They are correct.  The sum of all frequencies measured by that meter is the same between the two versions.

 

So there is nothing faulty with hearing one as being louder than the other - it's just some frequencies are louder, and some are quieter (hence the total output level is the same as per the properly calibrated and properly used signal level meter).  The frequencies that are louder, to you, in your opinion,  in the one you think sounds overall louder must be frequencies that you find to dominate the sound in some way.   On the other hand, if two different sounds SOUNDED the SAME level with in an AB comparison, but MEASURED as DIFFERENT levels (the meters show one as quieter than the other), then clearly the sound of the quieter one showcases frequencies that you, personally, find more jarring, or are more sensitive to.

 

Trust the meters, set levels identically, and THEN decide which sounds better.

 

In a mixing situation in a recording studio, you WANT identical levels when ABing sounds... otherwise you will be biased towards louder.  Engineers know that.  So you learn to hear the differences in tone/eq/compression(attack sustain etc).  That is what really counts, not volume, since volume will change every time you play it back on your stereo (volume won't ever be set exactly the same).

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8 hours ago, donkelley said:

Just an interesting little sidetrack here, if you don't mind, while I explain why you can experience the phenomenon you explained here.

 

I get it... I've been at this for decades. Nothing I said was motivated by confusion, nor was I seeking an explanation for anything. And the only thing I don't "understand" for lack of a better term, is why anyone obsesses over charting the numbers that some meter spits out when trying to level volume from patch to patch, and considers the job "done" because everything reads "X" dB... perceived loudness is what matters, and if the that's all over the map, then I could care less that some meter is telling me that everything is the same. But that's just me, and if it makes me "wrong", then so be it... but in 30+years, it hasn't failed me yet. I've yet to be told that my levels are all over the place, even by the crankiest/pickiest guys I've played with over the years, who could hear a mouse fart at 50 yards. But as always, ymmv... what do I know? 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, donkelley said:

Either you happen to prefer bassier tone, or more midrange in your tone, or a brighter tone (... and as noted in the video, we tend to immediately adjust to brighter sounds as attractive, and get used to them fast, making less bright sounds seem dull by comparison very quickly).  But the levels saying they are identical volume?  They are correct.  The sum of all frequencies measured by that meter is the same between the two versions.

 

Ola is the metal guitarist. He likes low frequency resonances.
I don't really understand Igor's position: either Ola is cheating or his IRs just do his job of palm muting bass resonances correctly, but showing those resonances are present on the waveform and pops out proves nothing.
If your position is correct - comparing two normalised IRs we should pick brighter as better which is not true.
 

 

7 hours ago, donkelley said:

Trust the meters, set levels identically, and THEN decide which sounds better.


No. You can set a level identically only using one type of meter. In case of volume you have three types: Peak, VU (that corresponds to RMS) and Loudness (heavilly windowed and frequency weighted).
In case of the Loudness Meter giving the best "perceived reference" you also may notice there are two readings: momentary and integrated, so this is possible you can not get consistent results when comparing eg. different gained amps with each reading. The results variation will be affected by a dynamic range of a given samples.
I would trust integrated value if a given samples to compare are similar. In case of that video the goal is different. Ola likes LF thump, Igor likes balanced. In the mix each set of tracks could make different issues with the rest of the instruments and also can be mixed differentlly - thrashy or djenty ;)
So your conclusion is almost right. ;)

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4 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

 

I get it... I've been at this for decades. Nothing I said was motivated by confusion, nor was I seeking an explanation for anything. And the only thing I don't "understand" for lack of a better term, is why anyone obsesses over charting the numbers that some meter spits out when trying to level volume from patch to patch, and considers the job "done" because everything reads "X" dB... perceived loudness is what matters, and if the that's all over the map, then I could care less that some meter is telling me that everything is the same. But that's just me, and if it makes me "wrong", then so be it... but in 30+years, it hasn't failed me yet. I've yet to be told that my levels are all over the place, even by the crankiest/pickiest guys I've played with over the years, who could hear a mouse fart at 50 yards. But as always, ymmv... what do I know? 

 

 

 

yea, totally.  I get it.  It's just that the numbers, measuring tools etc, are trustworthy ways to help us silly humans to avoid the pitfalls described, that you too described.

 

Cuz it really is super frustrating to find out that you were duped, most often by your own mistake.  I don't want to admit how many times I've ABed changes I was making in a mix for hours, only to find out that I was listening to the same source each time due to an error in routing LoL

 

Cheers - and the info was not just for you in case it was helpful, but for anyone who may have been confused by the video.  Or, maybe the video was clear and I confused things!  LoL

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3 hours ago, zolko60 said:

 

Ola is the metal guitarist. He likes low frequency resonances.
I don't really understand Igor's position: either Ola is cheating or his IRs just do his job of palm muting bass resonances correctly, but showing those resonances are present on the waveform and pops out proves nothing.
If your position is correct - comparing two normalised IRs we should pick brighter as better which is not true.
 

 


No. You can set a level identically only using one type of meter. In case of volume you have three types: Peak, VU (that corresponds to RMS) and Loudness (heavilly windowed and frequency weighted).
In case of the Loudness Meter giving the best "perceived reference" you also may notice there are two readings: momentary and integrated, so this is possible you can not get consistent results when comparing eg. different gained amps with each reading. The results variation will be affected by a dynamic range of a given samples.
I would trust integrated value if a given samples to compare are similar. In case of that video the goal is different. Ola likes LF thump, Igor likes balanced. In the mix each set of tracks could make different issues with the rest of the instruments and also can be mixed differentlly - thrashy or djenty ;)
So your conclusion is almost right. ;)

No?  Yes, you mean.  Your information about meters goes into far more detail than mine does.  Good resource to add.

 

But the ENTIRE point of how AB comparisons works is by ensuring the levels are the same.  I am obviously, for the sake of this discussion and for the sake of the relevance to the OP's video, summarizing level meters into an overall term.  I specifically said I was not getting into the details of how it works, and how to do it, since there are resources all over google that are great for that.

 

I don't see how my summary of what level checking with meters is done for, and the high level summary of how to use them, is incorrect when the alternative, for this simplistic discussion, is to disregard meters and only use your ears.  So I hope you now understand what I was trying, in a very simplistic high level way, to get across.  The point being, don't ignore meters - they are critical to audio work, and the only way to ensure that the brain is not being fooled.

 

Cheers

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