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Updated , Sam Vafaei

Mid Frequency Response on Headphones

What it is: Frequency Response from 250Hz-2KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on mid-range frequencies. This is the case for the majority of audio content.
Score components:

 

'Mids' describes the mid-range spectrum of frequency response and ranges from 250Hz up to 2.5KHZ.  

Most musical instruments and vocals have their fundamental tones and lower harmonics in the mid-range. Therefore, the bulk of audio you hear in music lies within this spectrum - think warm notes, spoken words, string instruments and vocals.

For mid-range performance, we measure the low-mid, mid, and high-mid frequency response, then use these values to test for the standard error of the mid-range reproduction.

Test results

When it matters

The mid-range is important for most music genres. It covers the bulk of frequencies heard, including a wide array of instruments, vocals, and spoken words. This makes mids not only important in music but in movies and audiobooks too. Headphones with great mid-range performance reproduce the mid-range spectrum of audio as it was arranged.

An over-hyped mid-range profile will cause the vocals and instruments in some tracks to overpower the bass and highs. This works for spoken word and audiobooks but may cause music to sound nasally and a little unexciting. Inversely, an under-hyped mid-range profile will cause audio to sound muddy, with a decrease in clarity of instruments and vocals, which are present in almost all genres.

However, personal taste and listening habits are important in your selection, as different mid-range profiles suit different listeners.

Our tests

Mid Std. Err.

What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in mid frequency response (250Hz-2.5KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) mid performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

Standard Error for the Mid-Range shows the amount of deviation of the measured mid-range response from the target response. It is calculated using a formula similar to the STDEV.P in Microsoft Excel. 

Unlike Bass and Treble Std. Err., no perceptual weighting filter is applied to the Mid Std. Err. at the moment. Also, of the 3 frequency regions, the Mid-Range is the least affected by fit/seal and head/ear shape variances. Therefore, most headphones tend to perform quite consistently in the Mid Range.

Low-Mid

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 250Hz-500Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments have their fundamentals or low harmonics in this range. Over-emphasis in this range sounds muddy and cluttered. Under-emphasis, thins out the vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

The low-mid value is calculated by averaging the amplitudes of each frequency within the low-mid region. The final value is then reported relative to our target amplitude of 90dB.

A low-mid value of +3dB means that the average low-mid amplitude of the headphone under test was 93dB. This value can be considered as a metric for the "amount" of low-mid produced by the headphones, rather than the "accuracy" of the reproduction, which is determined by Mid Std. Err.

Since the low-mid region is where most instruments have their fundamental frequency or lower harmonics, a headphone with a negative low-mid value would make most instruments, especially vocals and leads, to sound thin. Conversely, a headphone with a positive low-mid value would make the mix sound muddy and cluttered.

Low-Mid: -5.76dB

Low-Mid: -2.63dB

Low-Mid: 0.03dB

Low-Mid: 5.68dB

Similar to high-bass, excess low-mid is a common issue with certain types and brands of headphones. In most cases, the bump in low-mid is actually the continuation of the bump in high-bass that shows up in the low-mid region. Most closed-back in-ears show overemphasis in the low-mid region, which makes their sound muddy and cluttered. Also, some open-back over-ears, especially the ones made by Sennheiser, have a distinct bump in the low-mid (and high-bass) region, giving them a warm and slightly muddy character.

Sennheiser HD518 (Open-back Over-ear)
Low-Mid: 4.01dB

Sennheiser HD599 (Open-back Over-ear)
Low-Mid: 3.00dB

Anker SoundBuds Sport (Closed-back In-ear)
Low-Mid: 6.91dB

Beats Powerbeats 2 (Closed-back In-ear)
Low-Mid: 7.22dB

 

Mid

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 500Hz-1KHz.
When it matters: This range is occupied mostly by upper harmonics. Over-emphasis sounds forward and boxy. Under-emphasis pushes instruments to the back of the mix.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

The mid value, similar to low-mid, is calculated by averaging the amplitudes of each frequency within the mid-region. The final value is then reported relative to our target amplitude of 90dB.

A mid value of +3dB means that the average mid-amplitude of the headphone under test was 93dB. This value can be considered as a metric for the "amount" of mid produced by the headphones, rather than the "accuracy" of the reproduction which is determined by Mid Std. Err.

Since the mid region is where most instruments have their upper harmonics, a headphone with a negative low-mid value would push most instruments, especially vocals and leads, to the back of the mix. Conversely, a headphone with a positive mid value would make the mix sound forward and boxy.

mid: 6.27dB

mid: 3.61dB

mid: 0.00dB

bass: -15.34dB

 

High-Mid

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 1KHz-2KHz.
When it matters: Most instruments, especially vocals, get their intensity and clarity from this range. Over-emphasis sounds honky and harsh, under-emphasis sounds weak and distant.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

The high-mid value, just like low-mid and mid, is calculated by averaging the amplitudes of each frequency within the high-mid region. The final value is then reported relative to our target amplitude of 90dB.

A high-mid value of +3dB means that the average high-mid amplitude of the headphone under test was 93dB. This value can be considered as a metric for the "amount" of high-mid produced by the headphones, rather than the "accuracy" of the reproduction which is determined by Mid Std. Err.

Since the high-mid region is where most instruments, especially vocals and leads, get their intensity and clarity from, a headphone with a negative high-mid value would make vocals and leads sound weak and distant. Conversely, a headphone with a positive high-mid value may be perceived as sounding honky and harsh.

high-mid: 9.32dB

high-mid: 4.46dB

high-mid: 0.04dB

high-mid: -8.73dB
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