In the gaming industry there are different videos that are used to calibrate the colors of the monitor and know the limits of the hardware. Something similar happens with headphones, but instead of software, a song with enough frequency amplitude is used to achieve a complete measurement.
The song in question is Fast Car, which was recorded by the American Tracy Chapman on the self-titled album of 1988 and according to Sean Olive, an audio researcher at Harman, JBL's parent company, is the right one to test the quality of these devices.
The firm specializing in audio has been studying sound for some time in order to, in some way, offer products with a large acoustic spectrum to satisfy the most demanding palates even the least trained.
Through a recent post on LinkedIn, Olive paid a small tribute to this composition that gave her so much satisfaction:
"Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car' was one of the original songs we used to test the speakers at the National Research Council of Canada in 1988, and we still use it today at Harman. Why? Because it's one of the most sensitive test signals for detecting problems in speakers and headphones," he said.
Being a song with an optimal balance, JBL began to use it to test their speakers and in all their research, producing "consistent results".
The theme song Fast Car was written by Tracy Chapman. AFP
"When the album was released in 1988, on CD we found that it was well recorded compared to many other albums and that it seemed to harmonize with all audio frequencies, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. It had music that ranged from the lowest bass to the highest overtones, and when we put it on the speakers we were testing, you could clearly hear the differences between them," Olive explains.
Sean Olive testing the quality of the speakers. Harman
Within the specialized world of audio, 20 Hz-20 kHz is the audible range of a young, healthy ear. When talking about bass, we use 20-250 Hz. In the mid-range it is between 250 Hz to 2 kHz and the treble, from 2-20 kHz.
On the other hand, infrasound is below 20 Hz and ultrasound is above 20 kHz. Neither is audible to the human ear.
"Through this trick, the audience was able to perceive the difference between various speaker models and could hear any flaws, if it had too much bass, if it didn't have enough bass, and it always produced the most consistent ratings," Olive explains.
According to the researcher's own explanation, the first thing to look for is the bass within the song. Fast Car has an electric bass and a kick drum, that's the first test. And later the cymbals. Do these sound crisp or are they shrill?
"If the baffle has problems with saturation to reproduce the bass, it will basically maximize the exposure of the woofer and then start modulating its voice," he says.
One of the typical problems is that many speakers and headphones have too much power in the bass and that can mask the voice. That's why we shouldn't confuse power with fidelity.
"The first thing will be to pay attention to these details and then just listen to the overall balance between the vocals, the bass, and the drums and the guitars. Is the voice at the same level as the instruments or below?" he asks.