I listen to headphones because they are the most cost-effective way to have quality audio reproduction. I can bring that experience with me wherever I go and this is very appealing to me. They deliver music at a personal level with good bass, less noise, and directly to your heart through the ear canal.  When buying such an important device, one should know more about acoustics (pitch & Loudness), type of headphones. Just don’t go for style looks of headphones, flashy colors, and other cosmetic designs. This should be the last factor in deciding a headphone. I will elaborate on what main variables you should check before investing hundreds of dollars on a headphone. Headphones are made in a range of different audio reproduction capabilities depending upon the purpose. Headphones let us enjoy quietly into our own imaginary worlds. Let us check what is pitch and loudness, the components of sound, delivered by headphones, to your ears.

Sound and how is it produced

What happens when we pluck the strings of a guitar? The continuously moving strings of a guitar shift the air particles in their respective directions. So, the vibrations of guitar strings set the surrounding air particles into vibrations, and this produces sound. As the vibrations of the guitar strings come to a stop, the surrounding air particles also stop vibrating and we cannot hear any more sound being produced. Similarly, you will notice that blowing a whistle produces a high sound (volume), while a drum produces a low sound. The high sound produced by whistle is called high pitch and the low sound produced by the drum is low pitch sound.

Audible Range of humans

The human hearing range is called the audible range. Pitches and loudness levels, which we hear before feeling discomfort is the human hearing range.  The absolute borders of the human hearing range are 20 to 20,000Hz. Our hearing is most sensitive in the 2000 – 5000 Hz frequency range. The most important sounds we hear every day are in the 250 to 6,000 Hz range. Sounds with frequencies below 20 hertz are called infrasound more preciously low-frequency noise. Infrasound is too low-pitched for humans to hear. The sound produced by earthquakes, thunder, volcanoes is in the Infrasonic range. Human Ear can’t hear this sound but elephants and whales can hear this. Middle-frequency sounds are sounds that are between the 500 and 2000 Hz range, which is where you can intelligently determine human speech. Sounds in this range often have a tinny or horn-like quality. Sounds of alarms and sirens fall in this category. At this frequency range, we are unable to determine which direction sound is coming. This property is used for stereo sounds. Sounds with frequencies above 20,000 hertz are called ultrasound and humans can not hear it. However, animals, such as dogs, bats, and dolphins, can hear these very high-pitched sounds. The measurement of cycles per second of sound is expressed in Hertz (Hz).

Low Pitch (Bass)

Low-pitched sounds come from things that vibrate more slowly. Humans can hear sounds of different pitches. If an object moves back and forth slowly, it will cause a low pitch sound, such as that of a drum. A “rumble,” thunder, or a man’s deep voice, human heartbeat are all examples of low-frequency sounds (Low Pitch). When you turn up the bass on your stereo, you are creating more low-frequency sound. These are “rumbly” sounds that you feel as much as hear.

So when selecting headphones, please check its bass is good as bass makes you to “feel” the music more along with hearing it. The lowest note on musical instruments like organs, tubas, pianos, and cellos are all in the 5-70 Hz frequency range. when you turn up the bass, you’re filtering out the high-frequency sound and getting more low-frequency sound, If you love deep bass, your headphones should have a low-pass filter to cut out the higher frequencies of the bass notes. If you listen to a lot of bass-heavy genres like dubstep, EDM, or hip-hop, you likely want a pair of headphones that can add a solid amount of punch and thump to your music. You need to check the bass profile of the headphones if you love drums and bass guitars. Your headphone should be able to deliver 5 Hz - 30 kHz for the best bass.

High Pitch (Treble)

High-frequency sounds can start at above 2000 Hz, although there’s a very wide range of audible sound in this region. At 2000 Hz, we say the sound gives “presence” to speech, speech sounds more real and authentic. It’s the easiest range of sound for the brain to localize in relation to space as compared to mid-range sound. By 10,000 Hz, you’re hearing sounds like crashing cymbals and chirping birds. shrill whistle, mosquito sound. When you turn up the treble you’re getting more of the high frequencies. Treble describes the highest sounds in the music, like the upper range of voices, instruments, Treble needs to be fast and accurate to sound good. Too much treble makes a headphone fatiguing to listen to overtime. Too little treble makes a headphone sound muffled and boring

Volume (Loudness)

You will notice that whispering makes a soft sound but shouting in a playground makes a loud sound.  A sound is loud or soft is identified by its volume. This is different from the pitch and is another property of sound. Loud sound has a high volume while soft sound has a low volume. Banging of a hammer, lawnmower, rock concert, fire Alarms, and a car’s horn are examples of loud sounds. Playing piano, Clock ticking, a person whispering and leaf rustling, and the sound of blowing wind are examples of soft sounds. Soft sound has low dB and loud sound has high dB. Sound volume is measured in units called decibels (dB).

Humans love high volume

Humans by nature, love to switch up the volume. It makes their music sounds more “fun” and immersive. All headphones with a v-shaped signature are characterized by high volume. It is recommended to keep sound levels somewhere between 60 and 85 decibels for the best volume level without hurting your ears. Your headphones should not be too loud. If you have ear ringing muffled voices and struggling to hear people in the conversation than your headphones are too loud. Always use 60% of the highest volume of your headphones. Restrict your usage to 15 minutes if you are listening to music at around 100dB, Jet take-off, power lawnmower, garbage truck, and auto horn produce noise level above 100dB. listening to any music is better with headphones/earphones if the volume is very low and the same music sounds flattered when played at a far higher volume. 

In the next post, we will discuss the impedance and sensitivity of audio headphones