Audiophiles: HELP!

@ gogogophers
As **yearofglad **and others have noted, you need to give more info.

Also, do you (or do you intend to) play the music out of headphones or big stereo speakers or a small bluetooth speaker?

There are many possible solutions for equalizers to boost specific frequency ranges.

I’m in the Apple world and iOS on iphones and iPads have equalizers built in to their Music app:
Settings >Music> EQ> then select what works best for you.
Similarly, the Music app in Mac Catalina OS lets you change global setting for all songs or individual songs to what works best. Music>Windows menu (at the top)>Equalizer

If you stream from those devices into a big home stereo, it will hold your setting and stream that way.

Alternatively, if you are streaming to your home stereo another option is to just buy an equalizer for it.

If you listen on a portable blue tooth, and can’t adjust it in your native app (i.e. not in Apple), some devices have enhanced bass (I have a Bose that is very “bassy”)

Yet another option is many headphones come with apps that allow you to adjust frequencies for that device. I have Tarah Pro Wireless that come with a free app that does that. I listen to podcasts when I exercise, so I use the “vocal boost” setting. Huge difference.

Finally, like bluetooth speakers, some headphones also have different frequency responses built in. For example Beats brand are very bass-enhanced. Test listen to different types at somewhere like Best Buy and see if that’s all you need.

As others have mentioned, we really need to know which devices you use.

First, is this just a range you picked at random, or is this where you think your hearing loss actually is? If so, how do you know? How did you measure it?

I ask because, in my experience as an audio engineer in my misspent youth, there isn’t a whole lot of musically significant sound above 15 kHz, and very few speaker systems are capable of reproducing those frequencies. If your loss is there, I’d say (as a fellow 65-year-old) just get used to it. From everything I’ve heard about this subject, loss in the higher frequencies as one ages is inevitable and practically universal.

The last few times I’ve been to an audiologist to have my hearing checked (most recently about 7 years ago, I think), I asked whether they could check the upper frequencies, and at two different clinics, the upper limit of their testing gear was 8 kHz. So it may not be easy to get a scientifically reliable measure of hearing loss at frequencies higher than that. (I have a tone generating app on my phone, and I can’t hear tones it generates above about 12K. But, unlike the audiologist’s setup, it’s not a calibrated system, so I have no way of knowing the SPL output, or any other characteristic. So I know that I can hear 12K at some level, but as far as freqs above that, I don’t know if the problem is my ears or my phone, or something else.)

If 15-17 kHz is not the actual range of your loss, and you just picked those numbers out of a hat, but you’re perceiving some sort of general hearing loss, I’d suggest visiting an audiologist to make sure you don’t have some problem other than ordinary HF rolloff.

As RioRico points out, there has been a lot of improvement in hearing aids in the last decade, so they may be the best solution. Although the best and most sophisticated devices are pricey, insurance may cover them, and they’ll enhance all the sounds in your life, not just your music.

If you’re going to continue to look for a hardware solution for your music systems, I agree with GMANCANADA’s post above. We need more information about those systems. As I mentioned above, many, if not most, consumer speakers, certainly including Bluetooth speakers, Amazon Echoes and the like, are not capable of reproducing sounds in the 15+ range. Some headphones or earbuds probably can. And some large, ultra-expensive, audiophile speakers can.

But here’s an important point no one has mentioned: regardless of what kind of speakers you’re using, if you use an equalizer to boost the high end too much, you risk damaging them. (Trust me on this: I learned it the hard way!) If it’s a $20 pair of wired earbuds, no biggie. But blowing the tweeter diaphragms on a $20,000 set of high-end speakers is a different matter.

Another reason hearing aids really may be your best option.

Isn’t commercial music already mastered by running it through various equalizers and multiband compression and what not?

It does seem like an important psychoacoustical question whether one can design a filter that simply counteracts measured hearing loss, but I wonder if the perceived effect would not also depend to some extent on how the music mix has been pre-processed (and all you have access to is the final mix, of course).

Again, I see no problem in using an equalizer.

OTOH, you will have an MP3 that can be played with comparable equalization on your home system, in your car, on your cell phone, on a portable MP3 player, and so forth. The OP asked about the options and this is certainly one option.

As far as being difficult to set equalization on a program like Audacity, it’s my opinion that it is no more difficult than setting an equalizer. Equalization is shown graphically in Audacity in a manner very comparable to an actual, physical, external equalizer.

Audio devices: mostly junk… an ancient iPod Shuffle and a couple other generic mini MP3 players, all with earbuds. Most of my music however, is listened to with my desktop (PC running 10) through a generic amp and sub-par speakers. I do have a pretty decent set of Audio Technica headphones utilized most of the time. Once in awhile, I transmit the output in FM so I can listen elsewhere in the vicinity
on a radio.:eek: By today’s standard, fairly low tech and definitely low budget.

Yes, the Hz I mentioned was just a random guesstimate. My loss is in the high range, but as you pointed out, it was certainly in error as to the specifics. I have been to an audiologist in the past year, but I don’t offhand remember the exact hi-freq “dead zones”.

Perhaps it should also be mentioned, I’ve been collecting MP3s for over 21 years, and my library is immense. Certainly the dynamics & options over time for editing/remixing have changed? There has always been (even today) a huge discrepancy in variables of MP3s available online of the same track. The simple volume level is a prime example.

What I seek is to “normalize” my library (albeit to MY tastes) as efficiently as possible.

Okay, let’s try again.

When you play MP3s on your computer, you use a computer program to play them.

Most computer programs to play MP3s have an equalizer feature. The equalizer you need is not a physical device, it’s a feature of your MP3 player program.

You should be able to set the equalizer to suit your needs, and then play any MP3 with that setting. You don’t need to modify the MP3s themselves. You adjust the program that plays them.

Is that the same loudness throughout? I would assume so, but I can hope. . . my hearing drops off to almost nothing after about 9KHz. Another day, another disappointment. At least I can stop lusting after nice audio equipment.

Right, so as a couple of people have mentioned, it makes a lot more sense to adjust your sound systems than it does to try to re-record your immense library. The only practical way to do the latter is automated batch processing, but by your own admission, you don’t even know which frequencies to boost. Even if you did, here are the cons:

  1. Applying the same curve to every song, without regard to each one’s specific characteristics, is unlikely to yield optimal results.

  2. It will double the amount of storage space you need for your immense library.

  3. As someone mentioned above, you may not be able to do it to all tracks because of DRM.

  4. It messes up the tracks for anyone else listening with you, or anyone who might want to listen to them separately.

  5. If your hearing changes in a few years, you’ll have to do it all over again.

  6. Given your admittedly mediocre sound systems, the changes might sound good on some but not others, or may not even be perceivable!

And the only pro I can think of is that, in theory, you would have the benefit of the changes on all your devices. But IMHO, it’s unlikely it would work that way. Your ear buds, computer speakers, and headphones all have different inherent characteristics, and a curve that sounds good on one may not sound as good on another.

The pros to using a software equalizer, as many of us have been suggesting, are:

  1. You can try it out on your computer, almost immediately,

  2. for free,

  3. without needing to do any work,

  4. without using up any additional hard disk space, and

  5. you can customize the settings to every individual song, if necessary, and

  6. you can customize separate settings for the computer speakers and the AT headphones.

The cons are that you won’t be able to do the same thing on your portable devices as easily (if at all). You could test any wired earbuds through the computer’s headphone jack to see if the EQ settings that work for the speakers or the AT headphones are applicable to the earbuds.

Finally, back to the option of hearing aids. Did you discuss them with your audiologist? A lot of older people are in denial about hearing loss. You don’t seem to have that problem, but is there any reason you can’t or won’t consider hearing aids? I think some people resist them because they’re in denial, or because they think wearing them would make them look old, or because the idea makes them feel old.

Not good reasons not to be able to hear everything you want to hear, IMHO. And if they work, none of this mucking about with sound systems or MP3s will be necessary.

I snagged a Peavey EQ-12 at a church yard-sale. For $2.

Best purchase I’ve ever made.

Yes. Two fucking dollars.

I am a little older than the OP and formerly a live sound engineer. My hearing now cuts out at 11.3kHz, which makes my ears younger than my chronological age, which is pretty good after years of doing front of house sound.

What you have to keep in mind, in seeking to equalise the frequencies that you can’t hear, is that it is impossible. You cannot hear them. No matter how much I pump up the frequencies above 11.3kHz I will not hear them. At all. It is simply a product of ageing and my ears are not physically able to detect the sounds.

I now mostly listen to music using headphones, and because I live alone I can use them for watching movies/TV. I generally find that listening at lower volumes is more comfortable, and all that is necessary since I can no longer hear the top end harmonics that require lots of gain.

There is a fascinating chapter about hearing loss and music in Musicophilia by Dr Oliver Sacks. (Highly recommended!)

Apparently, in some cases the brain can learn to compensate for hearing losses in certain frequencies, to some extent. Oliver Sacks gives anecdotes and examples.

You might think this was impossible. If the hair cells on the cochlea that respond to sound are physically damaged or missing, how can those frequencies be perceived?

I had a case of ear barotrauma* that had me running to the ER which after not going away (but getting better) had me going to an audiologist and then an ENT APN to interpret the results for me. After that session I fired up winamp, launched the eq, and boosted my highs.

Oh, if you’re at risk of blowing your tweeters on a $20,000 by turning your highs up, why not try lowering the volume on your bass and mids instead?

  • Make damn sure you hit the answer button on your ringing smart phone before you hold it to your ear. Trust me on this.

I was going to say, that’s a really weird frequency range to mention. There’s not a hell of a whole lot going on there.

That said, there is something called an audiometric notch that affects frequencies around 4k that occurs to people exposed to a lot of noise.

Teen ager repellent That, and the high end of cymbals. Fortunately, even though you can’t hear the high note, aliasing still works on old ears. You’ll hear phase shifted guitar just fine, just so long as the mp3 hasn’t been butchered with 128kbps sampling rate. At the usual CD sampling speed of 44.1 KHz, your 15KHz band will be reduced 3 samples per wave anyway. That makes for a nice triangle wave, even if your ears are perfect. I’m sure there are people who claim they can tell the difference between a 15KHz sine wave and a 15KHz sawtooth. I simply don’t believe them.

I dug out my audiogram analysis report. It shows that in the range of between 6KHz and 8KHz it takes 55dB for me to detect sound left and right. They (OSHA) characterize this as moderate hearing loss @ those frequencies. All else is OK for my age.

What’s the level for other frequencies?

<40 dB @ all other frequencies. Why do you ask?

Because the effect of that will be to lower the overall volume level. To achieve a certain perceived volume, you’d still have to raise the HF volume to potentially damaging levels.

To see how much you would have to boost your weak freqs to flatten the curve.

I’m not familiar enough with software EQs to know if they can handle >15 dB boosts, although I presume that’s well within the operating range of most.

However, as I’ve said, I’d still be concerned about possibly damaging your speakers, headphones, etc., by pushing the drivers so hard in a select range. Not so much as if you were pushing 15K, but 6-8K is a pretty high range. You might be able to melt some tweeter diaphragms at +15 dB over normal.

Start with your cheapest earbuds or speakers first. See how it works, move up to more expensive gear slowly. You might even contact Audio Technica to see if they have any recommendations or concerns about that application before putting your expensive headphones at risk.

Hey, thanks to you all for the input.
If I find the magic bullet, I’ll keep ya’ll informed.