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Human voice frequencies are never above 6.5k, so what's happening above that?


Izen Ears
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I went to an audiologist for a hearing test and we started talking.  He said the highest frequency that can come from a human vocal structure is 6.5k, which is a young female child hissing through their front teeth.  I was stunned.  What about all those other freqs?!!!  Given this information, why would our lav mics ever want to go above 6.5k?

 

Then I had a conversation with a pal who does lots of music recording.  He said the kick drum always gets a 2k, 4k, and between 10k - 12k boosts.  But the kick drum can't possibly be putting out 12k?  He said when he boosts the 10k - 12k it opens up the drum.  Could the same be said for dialog?  And what exactly is being boosted at those freqs?  All we could come up with is, air.  The air "sound" opens everything up.  But how?  By adding ambience or something?  Harmonics from room reflections?
 

I was more confused at the end of the conversation than before haha!  And now I'm really curious.

 

It all began when I started to think about what causes a mic to sound buried.  Thick clothing kills the high freqs but allows the bass freqs to pass through.  Do reflections act the same way?  If a loud noise that has a full freq range slaps off a wall, is it only the upper freqs that are reflected because the bass freqs went right through?  Can post later just dig up those missing high freqs and "unbury" dialog?  I guess if the high freqs are not passing through the clothing, they won't reach the mic and can't be recorded.

 

This led to thoughts about what makes dialog sound open, and how that could be achieved by allowing freqs far above what a voice can produce?!!

 

Any thoughts will be appreciated.

 

Dan Izen

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The human voice has harmonics!  Duh! That doctor didn't know what he was talking about! 
 

 

1 hour ago, Dalton Patterson said:

Psychoacoustics and harmonics. 

I don't get this comment about psychoacoustics though, would you care to elaborate?  My understanding is pretty small, and only relates to that Fletcher-Munson curve stuff.  I LOVE learning about that stuff though.  I'd love to go back to school for audiology or acoustician pursuits.

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16 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

The human voice has harmonics!  Duh! That doctor didn't know what he was talking about! 
 

 

I don't get this comment about psychoacoustics though, would you care to elaborate?  My understanding is pretty small, and only relates to that Fletcher-Munson curve stuff.  I LOVE learning about that stuff though.  I'd love to go back to school for audiology or acoustician pursuits.

Theres something about audiologists, they have this pounded in their brain in School. They refuse to test over 8k

No use going to audiology school. Their primary job is to test, and determine if hearing loss is medical, in which the refer to ENT MD, or noise induced, old age, in which they sell you a hearing aid.

I know, I paid for my daughters audiology education!!

 

21 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

 

It all began when I started to think about what causes a mic to sound buried.  Thick clothing kills the high freqs but allows the bass freqs to pass through.  Do reflections act the same way?  If a loud noise that has a full freq range slaps off a wall, is it only the upper freqs that are reflected because the bass freqs went right through?  Can post later just dig up those missing high freqs and "unbury" dialog?  I guess if the high freqs are not passing through the clothing, they won't reach the mic and can't be recorded.

 

All frequencies reflect off a wall, they come back at different times; the distance determines if the reflected sound gets cancelled to doubled in the mic. 

 

We can not dig up "missing high frequencies" we can dig out a little if they are there.

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All the audiologists usually care about (and get paid by insurance for) is measuring freqs in what we would call the "voice range".  In other words, can you understand what is being said to you.  They could generally care less about your perception and enjoyment of music and non-speech audio.  A few have been willing to discuss this with me over the years, but their equipment and approved procedures are locked into the speech band, period.   For several years I had an (elderly) ENT doc whose very analog (hand drawn) charts gave me useful info outside the speech range, but he warned me not to take the accuracy of that info too seriously, re: their test procedures and gear (pretty lo-fi headphones...).  The younger docs are all digital.

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When we think about the spectrum of a signal we tend to consider the almost steady “sustain” part. I’m talking about the “classic” envelope phases: Attach, decay, sustain, release, which describes lots of sound pretty well.

 

But the attack phase of a sound can have a lot of relatively high frequency components. They will only be present very briefly but without them the attack will be dramatically different. 

 

A prominent expert on violin construction told me many years ago (when I was very interested on synthesis) that attack is the most important part of a musical sound and what really imprints a “character”. 

 

Also, I guess an audiologist is only concerned about intelligibility. 

 

Capture some sounds like a kick drum (for example) and have a close look at a sonogram. The attack will show a brief surge of high frequencies. Or try to record a double bass using a microphone with a very poor high frequency response and the sound will be completely lifeless.

 

 

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On 9/10/2022 at 10:46 AM, Philip Perkins said:

All the audiologists usually care about (and get paid by insurance for) is measuring freqs in what we would call the "voice range".  In other words, can you understand what is being said to you.  They could generally care less about your perception and enjoyment of music and non-speech audio.  A few have been willing to discuss this with me over the years, but their equipment and approved procedures are locked into the speech band, period.   For several years I had an (elderly) ENT doc whose very analog (hand drawn) charts gave me useful info outside the speech range, but he warned me not to take the accuracy of that info too seriously, re: their test procedures and gear (pretty lo-fi headphones...).  The younger docs are all digital.

 

I found couple out in the LA area that do understand, and will do an audiogram from 20 to 20k. 

Not cheap.

But one made me -20 earplugs custom molded past the ear canal curve. Creating a true flat response. Same as IEMs

Not cheap either.

 

 

 

 

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I'm guessing that audiologist was referring to the highest possible "root note" of the human voice.  As has been mentioned, there are quite a lot of harmonics well above that.  Sibilance can have a lot of energy above 6.5k.

 

The last time I went to an audiologist I got into a debate when they told me no one can ever hear above 20K ever.  They couldn't fathom the idea that 20Hz - 20Khz is a rounded average of the human hearing spectrum and not some magical physical hard cut off.  When I was a teenager I tested my hearing with precise equipment and was able to discern frequencies just over 23K.  Doubt I can do that anymore :)

I would also argue that we probably can't really "hear" 20Hz, although we can experience it.  I know I can't discern a "tone" that low.

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3 hours ago, Wandering Ear said:

I tested my hearing with precise equipment and was able to discern frequencies just over 23K.  Doubt I can do that anymore :)

HOLY SHIT dude!  23k?!!!  Insane.  How old were you?  And I guess you never listened to loud music?!!  DAMN.

 

I was just listening to a podcast that mentioned how rats auditory systems just can't hear the human voice!  And we can only hear their distress cries, and none of the other cool sounds they make like playing and parenting.

 

Thanks for the awesome discussion!  What great info about audiologists, and it makes total sense.  They are there as a medical resource to help modern humans survive, which means being able to hear voices.  Which is a real shame because they SHOULD be focused on restoring all freqs.  My heart and soul goes out to deaf people, in my opinion they got screwed by life so hard, much harder than blind folks.  It's never once been a question - I would 100% rather be blind than deaf.

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Not a doc, but I always see 8k-10k S’s on a vocal mic when I run my RTA on a live rig. And if I low pass and sweep down, I 100% notice a change well before I get to 6k. And this would be on a standard sm58 dynamic mic. That plastic capsule isn’t exactly known for its 20k reproduction. Hahaha

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12 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

HOLY SHIT dude!  23k?!!!  Insane.  How old were you?  And I guess you never listened to loud music?!!  DAMN.

 

I was just listening to a podcast that mentioned how rats auditory systems just can't hear the human voice!  And we can only hear their distress cries, and none of the other cool sounds they make like playing and parenting.

 

Thanks for the awesome discussion!  What great info about audiologists, and it makes total sense.  They are there as a medical resource to help modern humans survive, which means being able to hear voices.  Which is a real shame because they SHOULD be focused on restoring all freqs.  My heart and soul goes out to deaf people, in my opinion they got screwed by life so hard, much harder than blind folks.  It's never once been a question - I would 100% rather be blind than deaf.

I was 13 or 14 and kind of an audio nerd.  At that time it was building custom speakers and I was obsessed with seeing how much bass I could get out of everything.  Ironically I've always been very sensitive to loud noise, but also love the energy from loud music.  Excessive bass was the way I could get both and not destroy my hearing, or give myself headaches which I get when it's too loud for too long. 

My dad was a piano tuner, so he also made a living with his ears.  He taught me how to take care of them at a pretty early age, and I'm really glad he did.  Funny enough, he accidentally taught me how to critically listen too.  I couldn't sit still during one of my brothers orchestra performances, and in an effort to get me to shut up and sit still he told me to listen for only what my brother was playing on the Basoon, and not say anything until I could only hear my brother.  It took me the rest of the concert to find the basoon in an 80 piece orchestra.  Not only did it get me to sit still, it taught me the most fundamental skill of my career today.  That story really isn't relevant to this discussion, guess I'm just rambling as I wind down after wrapping the first week of a new show.

 

Crazy about the rats.  Now I want to get some rat recordings and pitch them down into the human hearing range just to see what it sounds like!!

I too would rather be blind than deaf.

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On 9/16/2022 at 10:19 AM, Wandering Ear said:

 

 

The last time I went to an audiologist I got into a debate when they told me no one can ever hear above 20K ever.  They couldn't fathom the idea that 20Hz - 20Khz is a rounded average of the human hearing spectrum and not some magical physical hard cut off.  When I was a teenager I tested my hearing with precise equipment and was able to discern frequencies just over 23K.  Doubt I can do that anymore :)

I would also argue that we probably can't really "hear" 20Hz, although we can experience it.  I know I can't discern a "tone" that low.

I get into heated debates with my audiologist too!!

Unfortunately, it's my daughter.

I think they brainwash them in Med School.

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On 9/17/2022 at 4:08 AM, Wandering Ear said:

I was 13 or 14

Ah ha!  That's incredible.  I believe I was 13 when I saw Bon Jovi at the Blaisdell Arena, no earplugs, ears rang for days.  Yes it was not worth it.

 

On 9/17/2022 at 4:08 AM, Wandering Ear said:

guess I'm just rambling

Oh dude that is an amazing story!  Thanks for sharing it.  I bet you have pretty good pitch too?  What a great dad!  My dad played bluegrass banjo so being quiet was never in the cards at my house.  He also played slack key so I guess that was much quieter.

 

On 9/17/2022 at 4:08 AM, Wandering Ear said:

Crazy about the rats.  Now I want to get some rat recordings and pitch them down into the human hearing range just to see what it sounds like!!

Brian House did this and made some cool sounds!  That's how the podcast began.  Here's his site.  The sounds are wild!

 

https://brianhouse.net/works/urban_intonation/

 

When I lived in Jersey I worked on a short called Underground, and it was a narrative about the "moles" that lived in the subways.  So we spent a lot of time down there and I saw some MONSTER rats, easily bigger than little dogs.  I was into it!  I'm also a water rat (May 1972) so I guess I have rats on the soul.  The same night I saw that huge rat, we were suddenly surrounded by a squad of vice cops!  They just wanted to know what we were doing, but they came out of nowhere.  One of the other crew people was this woman whose father had worked for the NYC transit, and he used to just take her in the tunnels between stations as a regular means of travel!  How zany is that?!!  
 

I love that we both went way off topic!

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22 hours ago, Izen Ears said:

Ah ha!  That's incredible.  I believe I was 13 when I saw Bon Jovi at the Blaisdell Arena, no earplugs, ears rang for days.  Yes it was not worth it.

 

Oh dude that is an amazing story!  Thanks for sharing it.  I bet you have pretty good pitch too?  What a great dad!  My dad played bluegrass banjo so being quiet was never in the cards at my house.  He also played slack key so I guess that was much quieter.

 

Brian House did this and made some cool sounds!  That's how the podcast began.  Here's his site.  The sounds are wild!

 

https://brianhouse.net/works/urban_intonation/

 

When I lived in Jersey I worked on a short called Underground, and it was a narrative about the "moles" that lived in the subways.  So we spent a lot of time down there and I saw some MONSTER rats, easily bigger than little dogs.  I was into it!  I'm also a water rat (May 1972) so I guess I have rats on the soul.  The same night I saw that huge rat, we were suddenly surrounded by a squad of vice cops!  They just wanted to know what we were doing, but they came out of nowhere.  One of the other crew people was this woman whose father had worked for the NYC transit, and he used to just take her in the tunnels between stations as a regular means of travel!  How zany is that?!!  
 

I love that we both went way off topic!

That must’ve been an incredible shoot!!  How funny to all of a sudden be surrounded by Vice.   I did a feature shot  in an abandoned nuclear missle silo.  I imagine it felt pretty similar, although we had no rats. 
How was it shooting down there?  Was the train noise constant?  Are there ventilation fans?  Or was it pretty quiet?

 

 Thanks for sharing the podcast. I’m going to start listening to that on my drive to and from set. 

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1 hour ago, Wandering Ear said:

That must’ve been an incredible shoot!!  How funny to all of a sudden be surrounded by Vice.   I did a feature shot  in an abandoned nuclear missle silo.  I imagine it felt pretty similar, although we had no rats. 
How was it shooting down there?  Was the train noise constant?  Are there ventilation fans?  Or was it pretty quiet?

 

 Thanks for sharing the podcast. I’m going to start listening to that on my drive to and from set. 

Here is the link to the podcast that I heard Brian House on.  Awesome

stuff!!!  I mean it made me rethink a bunch of things I've taken for granted.  The podcast is called Phantom Power, that was episode 3 or 4.  The link I posted above is to Brian House's site.

 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/phantom-power/id1303643150?i=1000408519997

 

The subway went from completely quiet to super loud, but

mostly it was quiet.  We were way uptown, in the 180s or somewhere.  There were hardly any people and it was late at night.  I *LOVE* the sounds of subways, especially the loud shrieks and squeals.  I find those sounds so narrative; I can easily visualize the straight wheels turning on a curved track.  I picture some wheels being much louder than others, and then feeling superior because it made the loudest noise.

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