What Is the Harman Curve? The Headphone Sound Quality Improvement

What Is the Harman Curve

The Harman curve is a term in the headphone industry that refers to the quality of sound and frequency response as it changes with volume.

What Is the Harman Curve?

The Harman curve is a scientifically-backed target used to determine headphones' sound quality. It was created by the audio equipment maker Harman. According to Tyll Hertsens, who published a detailed article on the subject, the curve represents the "good" sound in headphones. The curve also represents a balance between personalization and mass appeal.

The curve was established through studies involving two hundred eighty-three participants in 11 different test locations. The sample consisted of people from different demographics, gender, and listening experiences. The majority of participants were Harman employees. The study concluded that combining headphones and speakers made for better audio quality.

The Harman curve represents the optimal frequency response for headphones in terms of sound quality. This goal is based on research conducted by the Harman Global laboratory, which Samsung now owns. The research team, led by Dr. Sean Olive, could find a good balance between the clinical size and belief in sound quality.

While the curve is not the "gold standard" for sound quality, it is a good indicator of the overall sound quality of headphones. However, the experience of listening to music is highly subjective, so what's suitable for one person may not be ideal for another. That's why it's essential to try headphones before making a decision.

Harman Target

The Harman Target Curve is a standard for evaluating sound quality in headphones. The target was developed by audio engineer Sean Olive of the Harman Corporation. This company makes several brands, including AKG, AMX, Becker, Crown, DigiTech, and Mark Levinson.

In terms of a sound signature, the Harman target is arguably the most common since it's one-size-fits-all, and it's guaranteed to be popular with listeners of any type. It's also the safest reference point, so you can buy headphones based on its parameters and have confidence that they'll sound great.

The Harman Target Curve is constantly evolving, though. It was first developed in 2013 to represent the sound produced by a loudspeaker in a typical domestic listening room. It was revised in 2015 and again in 2017. Since then, various versions of the curve have allowed audio buyers to make informed decisions.

The first theory behind the target curve is based on previous psychoacoustic research. This theory holds that we respond to sound most naturally if speakers are flat, with smooth dispersion of all frequencies. This way, the Harman target curve describes how we hear sound and the best loudspeakers for our particular environment.

Which Headphone Sound the Best?

Before making your choice, you should know a bit about the different features offered by different headphones. Some headphones offer physical buttons on the ear cups to control playback, while others rely on touch-sensitive surfaces. Touch-sensitive surfaces allow you to change the volume by swiping up or down or moving from back to front.

Headphones have several components, but the most important is the driver. It is this component that converts an electrical signal into pressure and sound. The driver consists of a set of voice coils, magnets, and a diaphragm that vibrates to create sound waves. The diameter of the diaphragm is measured in millimeters. The larger the diameter of the driver, the better the sound produced. The driver size is essential for over-ear headphones.

If you're looking for an over-ear headphone, you'll want one that provides a seamless sound experience. They should also be able to reduce external noise and be comfortable for hours. Suppose you're interested in getting the best sound quality. In that case, you might want to invest in a pair of studio-quality headphones. This type of headphone offers a good compromise between quality sound and portability.

Harman Curve IEM

The Harman curve has been a famous measuring audio quality for many years. Still, it lacks a critical feature crucial to hearing the music correctly: interaural cues. This means that it cannot give listeners a truly spatially accurate representation of the music. Furthermore, it cannot account for other binaural cues like crossfeed. In addition, this method cannot also correct crosstalk cancellation, making it difficult to ensure precise fidelity to spatial hearing.

The curve for headphones and IEMs is different because of the anatomical structure of the human ear. The head-related transfer function (HRTF) modifies sound frequency before it reaches the eardrum. This is why the Harman curve is not a flat line.

The Harman Curve is a measurement method that helps listeners determine the frequency response best suited for their needs. It is also used to gauge a product's sound quality. A study conducted in 2012 involved more than two hundred people from four different countries listening to various headphones. The listeners' responses were averaged, and the resulting results were equalized. The result is a rough guide to the quality of the headphones.

Harman Curve for Gaming

The Harman curve for gaming headsets can help measure how well your headset captures the most common sounds. The curve does not address crosstalk or other binaural cues. It also doesn't catch or generate interaural cues. The lack of such compensations means that precise spatial hearing is unlikely.

The Harman curve was developed by combining psychoacoustics and consumer research to create a general target for sound quality. This curve was designed to be an approximation of a human hearing profile and to provide enough leeway to make adjustments to individual preferences. The curve was derived from a series of seminal papers on loudspeaker preference. It shows that the human ear prefers speakers that disperse the sound evenly across frequencies.

The Harman curve is not universally pleasing to everyone. Different types of listeners have other preferences for bass and treble. For this reason, there is no single headphone that can please everyone. However, many headphones have similar frequency responses to the Harman curve. In one study, 64% of listeners preferred the sound produced by headphones with the Harman curve. The other 15% liked a boosted bass response of up to 6dB below 300Hz.

Harman Curve EQ

The Harman curve is an audio equalizer model that captures key features common to both ears. It requires little to no adjustment and is one of the most preferred models today. However, it does have a few limitations, making it unlikely to provide precise spatial fidelity. Some rules include not compensating for other binaural cues, crossfeed cancellation, and other factors.

The Harman curve was established through a series of blind tests conducted in 11 locations. The participants included various age groups, genders, and listening experiences. Its most renowned proponents were Harman employees. The study was a success, as it was the first to show that headphones with high fidelity would improve the quality of music.

While the Harman curve is not a perfect gold standard for sound quality, it is a valuable reference when comparing headphones. It is a step in the right direction from the haphazard way that headphone manufacturers used to tune headphones decades ago.

Does Harman Curve Tuning Really Sound Better?

The Harman curve is a method that seeks to approximate the sound quality of each ear. However, it fails to provide accurate measurements for crosstalk, interaural cues, or other variables. As a result, the method is not particularly effective for reproducing spatial fidelity.

While the Harman curve was never meant to be the gold standard for sound quality, it does provide a scientific starting point for tuning headphones. This represents a significant advancement over the haphazard way headphones were tuned decades ago. Though some users have reported that the curve does not accurately portray the sound of studio recordings, it remains an essential reference for headphone enthusiasts.

The original idea behind the Harman curve was an exercise in psychoacoustics and consumer research. The aim was to provide a starting point representing average recording conditions but still allowing some leeway to tune headphones to personal taste. The method works as long as the amplitudes and frequencies are close to the average.

The acoustics of a room is essential for the sound quality. Excessive distortion or intense resonance at a specific frequency will compromise the sound quality. Another factor is the size of the headphones. While some headphones track the Harman curve closely, others will have a noticeable peak or stray sound. Moreover, there is no universal headphone sound that can please all listeners. However, the study results show that 64% of listeners preferred the sound of headphones with the Harman curve. The other 15% liked to hear headphones with higher bass.

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