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Updated , Sam Vafaei

Treble Frequency Response on Headphones

What it is: Frequency Response from 2KHz-20KHz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on high-range frequencies, such as voice, cymbals, and any other material where brightness, brilliance and airiness is desired.
Score components:

Treble describes the high-range spectrum of frequency response, which spans from 2.5KHz up to 20KHZ.  

The high tones are the sharper sounds you can hear in music. Hi-hats, cymbals, sibilance and the higher harmonics of other instruments all lie within this spectrum and add brightness to the audio.

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

Test results

When it matters

Treble matters for vocals and higher harmonics of instruments such as cymbals and hi-hats, which add brilliance to music. Headphones with great treble performance reproduce the high-range spectrum of a track as it was arranged.

An over-hyped treble profile will make audio tracks sound too sharp for most ears, especially if bass and mids are lacking in comparison to the treble. Inversely, an under-hyped treble profile will cause some tracks to sound dull and heavy. Also, frequencies within the 15KHz up to 20KHz range are age dependent and are therefore not audible to everyone.

Treble sensitivity thresholds vary from user to user, some high frequencies causing more discomfort to certain listeners than others. Listening habits are also important as different treble profiles may be more noticeable with music than movies or audiobooks.

Our tests


Treble Std. Err.

What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in treble frequency response (2.5KHz-20KHz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) treble performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

However, a perceptual weighting filter is applied prior to the Std. Err. calculation since humans are less sensitive to sounds in the high-treble region. Our weighting filter starts at 12KHz and progressively reduces the weight of the error down to 20KHz, where it reaches 1/10th of the baseline weight.

Since high frequencies have very short wave-lengths, they are highly sensitive to positioning preference and head/ear shape. Therefore, most headphones show inconsistencies in their Treble response across multiple re-seats on the same head, and also between different heads.


Low-Treble

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 2KHz-5KHz.
When it matters: Almost all instruments rely on this range for their presence, detail, and articulation. Over-emphasis can sound harsh and painful. Under-emphasis hurts the comprehensibility of vocals and lead instruments.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

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

Since the low-treble region is where instruments get their clarity, detail and articulation, a headphone with a negative low-treble value would be perceived as lacking clarity and detail, especially on vocals and leads. Conversely, a headphone with a positive low-treble value could sound harsh and forward and even painful at times.

Low-treble: -7.28dB

Low-treble: -4.09dB

Low-treble: 0.84dB

Low-treble: 4.25dB


Treble

What it is: The average amount of over/under emphasis in frequency response from 5KHz-10KHz.
When it matters: This is the sibilance range. Cymbals, vocals, and lead instruments rely on this range for brightness and presence. Over-emphasis sounds piercing and painful, under-emphasis sounds dull and lispy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

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

The treble region is where presence, brightness and sibilance (S and T sounds) come from. Therefore a headphone with a negative treble value would tend to sound dark and lispy (lacking S and T). Conversely, a headphone with a positive treble value could sound overly bright, piercing and even painful at times.

treble: -8.49dB

treble: 0.21dB

treble: 3.49dB

treble: 5.66dB

High-Treble

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 10KHz-20KHz.
When it matters: This range gives brilliance and airiness to the sound. Over-emphasis sounds hissy, under-emphasis sounds closed-up and lifeless.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

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

High-treble, similar to low-bass, is mostly felt than heard. However, in high-treble, this is due to the very high frequencies that occupy the high-treble region, whereas in low-bass it is the opposite. Humans tend to lose sensitivity to very high frequencies with age, so some of the errors and deviations in this region may not be audible to some.

This is the region where airiness and brilliance come from. Therefore, a headphone with a negative high-treble value would be perceived as lifeless and closed-up. Conversely, a headphone with a positive high-treble value may be perceived as sounding hissy and excessively airy. It should be emphasized that measurement results in high-treble are highly sensitive to placement and head/ear shape.

high-treble: -16.85dB

high-treble: -7.35dB

high-treble: 0.09dB

high-treble: 4.84dB

 

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