Good sound is a human right

Sound is often the transport link between sender and receiver. Although both parties do their best, it is often the sound quality that makes the difference in whether the experience is satisfactory. This applies to both live experiences in conversations, music concerts, plays, art installations, museum exhibitions, etc. as well as to asynchronous sound experiences where we reproduce a recording of a previous event.

Once you have sharpened your listening skills, you discover the importance of good sound. In fact, it can become such a big realization that the right to good sound becomes a constant search for improvement.

How do we sharpen our listening skills?

Hearing is one of our most important senses and at the same time difficult for us to describe. Do we have the same critical sense of hearing as with the sense of taste? Comparing good food and good sound gives an insight into the ways we assess quality and enjoyment within two different sensory areas:

  • Subjective experiences: Both food and music are subjective experiences that vary from person to person. Preferences for certain music genres or tastes can be very personal, just as different people have different preferences.
  • Quality: Just as good food can be made from first-class ingredients and taste exquisite, good sound can be characterized by clarity, balance and high quality reproduction. The quality in both cases can significantly improve the experience.
  • Aesthetics and Balance: Good food often has a balanced flavor profile with different flavor nuances such as sweet, salty, sour and bitter, which create a harmonious taste experience. Similarly, good sound can have a balance between different frequency ranges, such as bass, midrange and treble, to provide a coherent and pleasant listening experience.
  • Emotional connection: Both good food and music can trigger strong emotional reactions. A memorable taste experience or a beautiful musical composition can touch the emotions and bring joy.
  • Exploration and variety: Many people love to explore different types of food and music to discover new tastes and sounds. This journey of discovery can be a source of joy in either case.
  • Context: Both food and music can depend on the context in which they are enjoyed. For example, eating gourmet food in a fine restaurant can be a different experience compared to eating the same meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Similarly, music can be associated with certain moments or places.

Another good awareness about sound is the concept of "Soundscape" - the sound of a place. Just as you look at a landscape with your eyes, you can also listen to a landscape with your ears. Often you can recognize places just by listening to them.

As the examples show, we need to get better at understanding and describing what good sound is and to use the sense of listening to understand the world around us.

 

Have we forgotten what good sound is?

As consumers, we have unfortunately witnessed many "accidents" in technological development:

  • The mobile phone. With the introduction of the first digital mobile phones (GSM/2G) in the 1980s, a standard was introduced for voice coding with a sound quality that corresponded to the experience with the old landline phones with 100 years of history. A standard that is still used, despite significantly better transmission capacity in today's mobile systems (4G/5G).
  • Video meetings. During the Covid-19 crisis, we started using video meetings in earnest and luckily a lot happened with both image and sound quality, although the sound quality is still very fluctuating. But are we aware that the sound quality is so poor that the messages during the meetings often disappear?
  • Flat screens. At the end of the previous millennium, we made flat screens the property of every man, and at the same time, this led to significantly worse working conditions for speaker design. Quite simply because there is no room for resonance. Perhaps you are old enough to remember the good sound quality of the old tube TVs?
  • PC and Bluetooth speakers / DAC. Consumer electronics are a large part of our everyday life and we are constantly getting more speaker units per person. But the quality has been reduced on both the speaker unit itself and the digital/analog converter in order to be competitive in terms of price in a market with a lot of competition. As consumers, we have quietly accepted "canned noise".
  • MP3 encoding. When introducing streaming services in the slipstream of the Internet's development, storage and transmission capacity were scarce resources, which is why we compressed sound and music, e.g. for MP3 encoding. This makes streaming faster but reduces sound quality. Today, the transmission capacity has multiplied and we stream without saving – so why coding?
  • Recording technique / “Loudness War”. Since the mid-1980s (around the same time as the introduction of the Compact Disc), audio producers have turned up the actual volume on recordings based on the competitive principle "loud is good". Unfortunately, this approach entails a potential reduction in dynamics, as there is an upper physical limit to the transmission of sound. Analog recordings from before the 80s are usually significantly better than later productions.
What are we gonna do about that?

This unfortunate development is fortunately compensated through a strong historical understanding of acoustics and good sound in Denmark, where industry and research work together to create new and better sound experiences within the possible physical framework. Examples of this:

  • Better microphones and speakers due to improved material selection and digital simulations before physical production.
  • Better testing facilities and simulation tools in connection with the development and production of new products.
  • New understanding of the physiological perception of sound and thus new principles for the development of audiological products.
  • Increased transmission speeds allow for better (even unencoded) sound in connection with telephone conversations and video meetings.
  • Better algorithms with a combination of digital signal processing, artificial intelligence and optimized chip design.
  • 3D / "Immersive Sound" techniques that allow for more precise positioning and movement of sound in 3D and thus contribute to creating an immersive sound experience in e.g. films, computer games and “augmented reality”.
  • Several units in the same physical space that can ensure better experiences, e.g. in the car, home or cinema.
  • Speech synthesis according to national language models and dialects, e.g. danish
  • New musical instruments and sound design tools to create new sound experiences in music and other art forms.
Events on the theme:
Network facilitated by Danish Sound Cluster:
Projects and publications under the auspices of the Danish Sound Cluster:
Members working with the theme:
Interested in entering into an innovation collaboration within the area?

Do not hesitate to contact Jens Nedergaard, jn@danishsoundcluster.dk – tel. 31621315

Danish Sound Cluster

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