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Bass Frequency Response On Headphones

What it is: Frequency Response from 20Hz-250Hz
When it matters: When the material is heavy on bass frequencies, such as those of kick drums and bass guitar.
Score components:
Score distribution

Bass describes the low-end spectrum of frequency response and ranges from 20Hz to 250Hz.  

It is the deep and heavy tones in your music, like low rumbles, kick drums, and bass instruments. Depending on your listening taste, well-balanced bass is essential for optimal audio reproduction.

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

Test results

When it matters

Some music genres, such as EDM, hip-hop, rock, dubstep, etc., are arranged to be bass-heavy. Headphones with great bass performance reproduce the bass spectrum of a track as it was arranged.

An over-hyped bass profile will cause the bass in some tracks to overpower the mids and highs, which might not suit everyone's listening taste. Inversely, an under-hyped bass profile will cause bass in some tracks to sound hollow and feel lacking, especially if the tracks didn't have much bass to begin with.

However, personal taste is important when making a selection, as different bass profiles suit different listeners. Also, the importance of bass depends on listening activity. Movies, for example, require more bass than podcasts or audiobooks.

Our tests

Low-Frequency Extension

What it is: The lowest frequency at which the frequency response reaches -3dB of the target response.
When it matters: Shows how extended the bass is.
Good value: <40Hz
Noticeable difference: 5Hz
Score distribution

Low-frequency extension (LFE) is calculated as the lowest frequency where the headphone's average frequency response reaches -3dB of our target. It can be considered as a metric for how extended and deep the Bass of a headphone is.

LFE values of 40Hz and lower should be considered good since most recordings don't have any musically-relevant information below 20Hz. However, in our research, we have noticed that a few electronic genres may have relevant information down to 10Hz. It should be noted that frequencies below 40Hz are mostly felt than heard.

Since frequencies below 40Hz are very difficult to produce for small drivers, such as the ones used in most headphones, making an air-tight seal helps a great deal in lowering the LFE of headphones. That's why most closed-back headphones (especially in-ears) usually have a much better LFE than open-back headphones, given a proper fit and seal.

Beats BeatsX (Closed-back In-Ear)
LFE: 10Hz

JBL Everest Elite 700 (Closed-back Over-Ear)
LFE: 10Hz

Sennheiser HD 600 (Open-back On-Ear)
LFE: 56Hz

Apple AirPods (Open-back Earbuds)
LFE: 64Hz

Bass Std. Err.

What it is: The amount of deviation (weighted standard error) in bass frequency response (20Hz-250Hz) as compared to a target response that would sound perfectly balanced to most people.
When it matters: When a balanced and neutral (reference) bass performance is desired.
Good value: <4dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB
Score distribution

Standard Error for the Bass Range shows the amount of deviation of the measured bass response from the target bass 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 accuracy in the sub-bass region. They are more sensitive to the extension of sub-bass, which is determined by LFE (low-frequency extension).

Our weighting filter starts at 60Hz and progressively reduces the weight of the error down to 20Hz, where it reaches 1/3 of the baseline weight.

Low-Bass

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 20Hz-60Hz.
When it matters: Kick drums and low frequency effects get their 'thump' from this range. Mostly felt than heard.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

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

Since the low-bass region is where the most thump and rumble in sound come from, a headphone with a negative low-bass value would be perceived as lacking in low-end thump and rumble, and conversely, a headphone with a positive low-bass value may be perceived as having too much low-end and thump. It should be noted that some users may prefer a bit of an elevated low-bass since it could increase the visceral feel of the headphones on certain tracks.

Low-bass: -10.88dB | LFE: 44Hz

Low-bass: 0.26dB | LFE: 11Hz

Low-bass: 2.84dB | LFE: 22Hz

Low-bass: 3.35dB | LFE: 10Hz

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 60Hz-120Hz.
When it matters: Melodic bass instruments have most of their fundamental frequencies in this range. This is where the 'body' and 'punch' of the bass sits.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

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

Since the bass region is where kick drums and melodic bass instruments sit, a headphone with a negative low-bass value would be perceived as lacking kick and bass guitar/synth, and conversely, a headphone with a positive bass value may be perceived as having too much kick and bass guitar/synth.

bass: 8.08dB

bass: 7.36dB

bass: 0.56dB

High-Bass

What it is: The average amount of over/under-emphasis in frequency response from 120Hz-250Hz.
When it matters: Most instruments get their warmth and full-ness from this range. When over-emphasized, mixes tend to get muddy and boomy.
Good value: +/-3dB
Noticeable difference: 0.1dB

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

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

Since the high-bass region is where warmth and fullness in sound come from, a headphone with a negative high-bass value would be perceived as thin and lacking warmth, and conversely, a headphone with a positive low-bass value may be perceived as sounding boomy. Out of the 3 bass regions, high-bass is the most sensitive to overemphasis and a little bit of excess high-bass easily muddies up the sound.

high-bass: 7.43dB

high-bass: 3.77dB

high-bass: 0.58dB

high-bass: -4.61dB

Excess high-bass is a very common issue with certain types and brands of headphones. Most closed-back in-ears show overemphasis in the high-bass (and low-mid) region, which makes their sound quite muddy. Also, some open-back over-ears, especially the ones made by Sennheiser, have a distinct bump in the high-bass (and low-mid) region, giving them a warm and slightly muddy character.

Sennheiser HD599 (Open-back Over-ear)
high-bass: 3.92dB

Sennheiser HD650 (Open-back Over-ear)
high-bass: 2.69dB

Anker SoundBuds Sport (Closed-back In-ear)
high-bass: 9.49dB

Beats Powerbeats 2 (Closed-back In-ear)
high-bass: 9.41dB

 

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