Total harmonic distortion is a flaw in audio reproduction which deteriorates the music you listen to by generating frequencies that were not intended. This colors the expected sound and makes audio tracks sound impure and muddy.
There is more distortion produced at higher volumes but even then, it is still generally inaudible, except to very sensitive ears.
We tested for distortion at 90 dB SPL and at 100 dB SPL for the following headphones and ranked them by their overall distortion levels.
When it matters
At high levels of harmonic distortion, the audio you hear will have unintended frequencies, making it sound muddy and colored. Distortion is increased and more noticeable if you typically listen to music at higher volumes, or if the purity of audio reproduction is very important you.
However, it’s not a significant issue for most people and is rarely audible, except if distortion performance is very low or the listener has very sensitive ears.
Distortion @ 90
Distortion @ 100
Questions & Answers
Thanks for your message. We are familiar with Olive-Welti's paper, and have even discussed improving our measurements with them. As part of our new test bench, which will be rolled-out slowly over the next few months, we have an improved THD weight curve and have also added IMD measurements. But measuring non-coherent musical distortion may be a bit more difficult for us to implement at the moment.
The GedLee metric seems quite interesting! We've been thinking of something along the same line for a while, and are definitely open to incorporating it into our reviews, but it won't be a high priority at the moment. We have just finalized our new test bench, and based on the papers out there, we should first make sure we're getting our Frequency Response, Soundstage and Imaging right, before worrying about distortion! ;-)
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