Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

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MarkOne
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by MarkOne »

Are you listening louder to one or the other...

We perceive pitch differently at different volumes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitch_(music) particular at lower frequencies.

Its a fascinating subject, the ear-brain system isn't just a measurement device and pitch and frequency are not necessarily the same thing.
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by Split »

Lots of singers will sing sharp when using headphones, to counter this it's fairly normal to use just one or hold them away from the ear a bit.
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by Paul Woodlock »

Yup I regularly noticed the pitch change when changing from cans to monitors. I think it's a transient thing.
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

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Steve Fogal wrote:I have come to notice that I'm hearing, or just THINK I'm hearing a difference in pitch (sounds slightly sharp or flat) between my nearfield monitors and my headphones. Is this a common phenomenon like some kind of doppler affect being the headphone sound source is closer to my ears than the speakers, or could it be my imagination, or because of the differences in the frequency/tone, my headphones have less bass or lows than my nearfields, or should I say my nearfields are less clear sounding, possibly the untreated room sound affecting them, though I sit with my nearfields less than 3 feet away from my head and have them at a fairly low volume to reduce the rooms affect.

This, and also I think I may also be perceiving things differently at different times, or days.
I think it wouldn't be a Doppler effect - as far as I know, the Doppler effect is the shift in frequency when the source is moving towards or away from you. So unless you're mixing from a rocking chair or ceiling-mounted trapeze contraption, must be some other effect!
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by HowlingUlf »

It's a known phenomenon where the soundwaves travles throught the bone (bone conduction)of your skull rather than through the front door i.e. your ear (air conduction).

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-bone-conduction.htm
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

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Steve Fogal wrote:While I'm mostly used to using my headphones, I'm trying to use my nearfields more these days. But for tracking, and I mean anything I prefer phones. But in doing a lot of comparing and editing lately, and in going back and forth between my monitors and phones - which can be within the same day or not - what I thought were flat or sharp before, may not be upon listening again, either with a different sound source (speakers or phones) or just different sessions I may be interpreting things differently...OR...a combination of both or other factors.

OH and regarding my doppler effect comment, sure a doppler effect is associated with a sound source passing by at different distances and speeds, but doesn't/wouldn't this percieved sound pitch sound different at different distances, even though may be stationary or even at different times. Say a siren is a 1/4 mile distance north of you one day, and then a 1/2 mile south of you the next day...if you were able to compare the two say with two identical sirens at intervals of seconds, one after the other and back and forth, wouldn't the have different percieved pitches still? Therefore my "kinda like a doppler' effect.


That inner ear and bone article was interesting btw :) But how does this relate to the differences of speakers vs headphones? I mean, which affect the bones vs the inner ear? I would think headphones vibrate these bones more no?
Hi - Any pure distance effect (i.e., without motion of the source) on frequency perception wouldn't be a Doppler - that' s strictly a motion-requiring phenomenon. I guess a Leslie speaker would be an example of a Doppler phenomenon in music - moving sound source, making the sound warble a bit.

Stepping outside of my comfort zone for this next sentence, though: The distant sound may likely have a different pitch than an identical source not so remote, as I think higher frequencies don't travel as well, so there is a natural "distance-based HF roll off" effect; all that being the theory behind moving things "back" on the perceived sound stage - a source can be made to sound farther off by rolling the highs off. If I'm off base on this one, someone please set me straight!

But off the top of my head, I'd question whether the 3 feet distance between headphones and near fields would be enough to "lose" some high frequencies based on distance to be noticeable. I'd guess other factors, like destructive interference when the low frequencies hit the wall behind the nearfields and bounce back towards us, would be more prominent in causing a pitch change.

I'd guess another, much simpler, explanation for pitch differences between near fields and headphones might be ... the frequency responses are different between the two systems, so they would be expected to reproduce a sound and its harmonics differently.

All in all, I guess it would be surprising if in all but the best studios and with the most idealized headphones the two did sound the same!
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by Strophoid »

losing high frequencies over distance means you don't hear them as loud, that's not the same as a different pitch though. Change in amplitude is different from change in frequency.

I'm not entirely sure but I think frequencies can change when the soundwave travels through a different medium which would explain the skull thing mentioned earlier.
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by alexis »

Strophoid wrote:losing high frequencies over distance means you don't hear them as loud, that's not the same as a different pitch though. Change in amplitude is different from change in frequency.

I'm not entirely sure but I think frequencies can change when the soundwave travels through a different medium which would explain the skull thing mentioned earlier.
Not being an acoustician, I have to ask - isn't turning down the loudness of a sound's high frequency like what we do with our EQs, which changes the perceived pitch of the music?

Oh, I see now ... sorry. So the OP wasn't referring to music, but rather a single pure tone?

I was kind of thinking of all the harmonics of a complex sound...
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by Split »

The trouble may come from the fact that frequency is objective and pitch is purely subjective!

Frequency is a measured value whereas pitch can be ambiguous and is entirly up to the listener to determine and will be affected by all sorts of things, not least the amount of overtones in a complex sound. Not all people are born equal and it is up to your brain to determine just what pitch it thinks it's hearing!

For example it's a lot easier to tell a pitch when compared to another, but could you tell a single note is in tune with no other reference tone? (A=440)

For what it's worth I would never try to determine pitch via headphones, I would always use speakers, just seems to be the more natural way of listening.
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by Strophoid »

alexis wrote:
Strophoid wrote:losing high frequencies over distance means you don't hear them as loud, that's not the same as a different pitch though. Change in amplitude is different from change in frequency.

I'm not entirely sure but I think frequencies can change when the soundwave travels through a different medium which would explain the skull thing mentioned earlier.
Not being an acoustician, I have to ask - isn't turning down the loudness of a sound's high frequency like what we do with our EQs, which changes the perceived pitch of the music?

Oh, I see now ... sorry. So the OP wasn't referring to music, but rather a single pure tone?

I was kind of thinking of all the harmonics of a complex sound...
You are right, I'm no accoustician either and all my knowledge on this matter comes from me being a mechanical engineer. I'm slowly starting to see that everything I know about signals and frequency response of mechanical systems doesn't quite carry over to accoustics. :?

Split's above post makes sense though, you can give a frequency (or combination of frequencies) a name (pitch) but that doesn't say anything about how different people perceive it. I wouldn't be surprised if pitch is not only a function of your brain, but also of your own 'biological accoustics' and maybe even waveform.

@Bredo: I thought I read somewhere that ideally you should monitor at as high levels as possible because then your ear's frequency response would be as flat as possible. Never did that anyway because I'd rather enjoy listening for a while longer :roll:
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by alexis »

Steve Fogal wrote:Well, I'll be a monkey's erectus ... :)

Regarding pitch being subjective, this is interesting because I've noticed that on particular notes/words I THOUGHT I was hearing say, sharp or flat...BUT this I found to be affected by the notes pitch 'just before' or 'just after' ...just when I think I've identified the affending pitchy note & replace it with an on pitch note, the on pitch note that was good then seems off pitch :? Doh!

I guess there's also the factor of a natural progression of things...can be with voice, guitar or any other solo instrument.... when stringing/comping together bits that weren't actually done together in a single performance, there are slight variations that compound the problem of perception as a whole, including pitch...while if say, sung in a single take, it's going to be somewhat natural to be sharp, flat or on pitch depending on where you are in a note, word, or phrase leading up to, down to or being at any particular note being held.


This has also been a chore with comping several takes...even though I may have a BEST OF , they don't neccessarily go the best comp'd together. But until I can sing or even play guitar with perfect pitch on every note, either led up to or bent with a string, or just well enough relative to eachother....
:| I've also been listening more closely to commercial songs and can also hear these pitchy issues. It's like I'm cursed now by the pitch monster :shock:
My feeling (FWIW) is that is very insightful. I've spent what seems like lifetimes micro-comping the "best of the best" (not that any are all that good!), only to find out it sounds ... maybe not much better than any given complete take, if at all.

Thinking about what you wrote, I wonder if "micro-comping" only works well for those that are professional singers that are pretty much on pitch (with good phrasing) all the time - only minute adjustments needed - so that stringing together parts from different takes doesn't sound so unnatural.

For what are probably similar reasons as what you are talking about, I decided not too long ago that I would NOT comp till the cows came home - the search for perfection ("normalized" of course to my limited vocal skills) was taking me forever, the results weren't all that impressive, and it kept me from moving on with my projects.

I'm now at the stage where I've accepted my voice is more Tom Petty/Bob Dylan than Paul McCartney. So my phrases will be off-pitch somewhat, but "real". Sure, I'll do some comping, but my goal will be to try to use complete phrases/verses, even if they are not as technically perfect as they could be.

Thanks for sharing that, Steve Fogal - got me thinking!
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by alexis »

Steve Fogal wrote:I'm a greenhorn but yeah, with my limited vocal range and capabilties I HAVE to comp for a BEST OF to get a performance that I feel is 'not horrible' ...this includes even being a little obsessive. While I would think it's generally best to do entire phrases when comping for the reasons above, I wouldn't think that's entirely in stone per say...I think it just requires a little more effort in properly identifying how well edited words in a phrases work comp'd together. Often when I do several vocal takes, say 11 takes on the same pass, some parts aren't very different at all, just better and therefore work very well...though sometimes I choose piece that I find give me issues...mainly in situations where I did several chokes on a take and only have 1 or 2 usable one's. In this case I may have minor transitional pitch issues creeping up on me...among others.

And back closer to topic, again...working on all this, going between my nearfields and headphones I'm finding my perception of pitch whacked...and so thought it was make for an interesting topic.
Consistent change in pitch between the two, or any which way on any given comparison?

How much of a pitch change? Could you play some sine wave pitches out, and use a guitar tuner to see how much?

Very interesting - nice pickup!
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Re: Perceived pitch differences between Headphones and nearfield

Post by Split »

alexis wrote: Could you play some sine wave pitches out, and use a guitar tuner to see how much?
I would hazard a guess that the pitch would be the same.
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