Posted on

Bass and Treble Tone Controls

Bass and Treble Tone Controls

tone controlsHave you got a bad opinion of bass and treble tone controls? Sometimes these are on the front of a receiver or amplifier as knobs. Today these are absent on aftermarket car receivers (aka head units, decks) but why? As a person who is deeply interested in good sound you should know that tone controls are your friend.

Our hearing is very sensitive to small broad spectrum tilts, up or down. What is a broad spectrum tilt?

I want you thinking in terms of a tilt, like how a see-saw kid’s toy will pivot on a fulcrum. One side goes up as you push up with your legs and then the other side goes down.


Four Divisions of Sound We Hear, Color Shaded

What you see in the see-saw image could represent a broad spectrum tilt to take the bass down and bring the treble up. This isn’t a deep concept and I’ll get to the point shortly.

A bass tone control setting for your sound system could be one of your most frequently used tools. Music sometimes gets produced with too much or too little bass. You can read the blog  post Myth Busting: Music is Pristine for an example of this. If you have a bass tone control setting at hand what would you do? You’d give that knob a turn while playing the offensive music and stop when it sounds right! 

We Want Both a Powerful Equalizer AND Tone Controls

When we work to make the system perform with smooth frequency response, for better sound quality, the equalizer is one of our powerful tools. The upper midrange peak illustrated below could be addressed with an equalizer.

Example of a frequency response graph

If we were correcting the response of a bass-limited speaker, and careful use of the equalizer brought the frequency response down to the black curve what would we get? In the car it’s possible you would think the treble is too bright. People with normal hearing are likely to want a downward tilt to the treble, starting at roughly the middle of the spectrum(visually speaking). The bass is also a problem, but a subwoofer is needed to fix that issue.

What To Do

If you will follow me through to the conclusion of this series of articles, and get into the forthcoming training, you will understand the following:

  1. How a skilled listener of music thinks and responds to changing music quality.
  2. What is an equalizer and how to best use it.
  3. Music currently CANNOT be produced consistently and
  4. We should have simple and broadly acting bass and treble controls ready at hand.

If you have a radio with tone controls it’s OK if you feel like you need to change these as you change music. You’re compensating to what you’ve got so you enjoy it more. 

Barry Schanz

Posted on

Science to Serve Art

Science to Serve Art

We might not know exactly why good sound is important to us, as a species or to you as an individual. Neuroscience research, as of a few years ago, had no distinct answer to “Why music makes us feel good”. [1]

To get some quick feedback on the question “Why do you enjoy music?” I asked online. Do you feel these comments are out of ordinary?

Responses to the question, "Why do you enjoy music?"
Responses to the question, “Why do you enjoy music?”

Latisha Moening music comment

Have you ever been in love? Maybe you’ve been asked, “Why do you love me?”

How did that go? We struggle to form sentences to logically explain what we like[2], and this brings up a topic that’s not simple. I fumble through this as I’m not a psychologist or research scientist. What you might enjoy reading is “The Complex Psychology of Why People Like Things – How do you account for taste?”

Two worlds collide – Art and Science

Reproducing sound well brings science together with art. Without the desire to hear a performance again and again, the art that is the music, we wouldn’t need good sound systems. There are lots of ways to say why we value music. Relating with the artist. Expression. Relief. 

Whatever it all means, there’s a sense of duty to do it exceptionally well. Respect the art. Respect yourself as the listener to get sound right. Getting sound right doesn’t come from guessing or luck. 

Science in the service of art is our business.

Good sound is our product.

Follow along as there will be instructional content coming in the near future. One topic in the queue is Acoustic Measurements, along with tips on what to do with acoustic measurement data. 

Barry Schanz


[1] Will we ever… understand why music makes us feel good?

[2] The Complex Psychology of Why People Like Things – How do you account for taste?

Posted on

Don’t Make This Costly Mistake

Are you struggling to understand what people say to you? Has it become less enjoyable to listen to music, watch TV, or go out in crowded places? Perhaps for you this happens because the music you often hear is not by your selection, because it’s so hard to find something good on TV, or because you’re an introvert. For a huge number of people it’s not about choice or personality, it’s because their hearing is damaged.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical health condition in the U.S.,” said Col. Phillip Goff, the associate chief for Bioenvironmental Engineering in the Air Force Medical Support Agency. “However, many people do not know what level of noise presents a risk to their hearing.” [1]

In the workplace you might be guided by a government agency’s guidelines for addressing the question of “How much noise is too much?” and “What must we do to protect the hearing of our people?”. That agency is OSHA. 

Excerpt from OSHA Standard 1910.95 Occupational noise exposure.
Excerpt from OSHA Standard 1910.95 Occupational noise exposure.

A shocking fact I learned is that despite all the knowledge, planning, the awareness of risks to our hearing, the training and education I have seen as an employee, the Personal Protection Equipment to prevent damage…

Despite the good intentions, and despite wearing the recommended hearing protection, if you do everything as required while working in a sufficiently loud environment the OSHA 1910.95 standard for Occupational Noise Exposure is not set up so hearing damage will not occur!

They want you to be able to carry on a conversation within a bubble of space ending roughly 6 feet away from you. Damage from noise, defined here [OSHA Standard 1910.95 Occupational noise exposure.], is not to be eliminated but reduced. 

It’s Ok If You Didn’t Know The Risks. It’s Not Ok to Ignore the Risks.

If your hearing gets damaged it’s never going to be the same, even as hearing aids get more advanced. That loud music you enjoy? It’s still fun while wearing hearing protection. You’re only going to use the saw for a few minutes on that home improvement project? It’s not worth the risk, get ear plugs and USE THEM. 

A ear plugs B man wearing hearing aid
Option A or B?

Barry Schanz


[1] Moody noise study to promote hearing health
[2] OSHA Standard 1910.95 Occupational noise exposure.

Posted on

Myth Busting: Music is Pristine

Myth Busting Music is Pristine Photo by Simon Shim on Unsplash

It’s time for some myth busting! Let us not put our music collections on a pedestal. Let us also not discard a song or album because it doesn’t sound “good enough”. There’s a belief held by some audio enthusiasts that the music must pass from media to the ears with as few alterations as possible. 

We know music quality isn’t consistent. In later articles this concept will be explored in depth.

I don’t want you to pass up a good time just because some music needs some help to sound better.

Scenario A

Car Audio DSPs and Tablet Tuners

Joshua shared in the Facebook group ‘Car Audio DSPs and Tablet Tuners’ the following question.

So can anyone help me narrow down frequencies that are too strong in songs? Right now, its so powerful my ears actually hurt. only certain songs ( i love tbh )

Scenario B

Strictly Sound Quality

A fun new album recommendation was shared with the community of FB group ‘Strictly Sound Quality’, a discerning audience, even though the mix isn’t great.

Album recommendation Ghost BC Prequelle

The mix could have been better for sound quality. Does it mean the music is the problem? A comment from the discussion:

Yacdiel Ruiz Pretty good a bit bass heavy

What You Should Do

Do I hit Delete and throw out the album because the bass is too forward? No. It’s not a problem in all situations. In my vehicle I address this by turning down the bass tone control.

There’s more information to guide you in your ways of adjusting the sound system to account for music production variations.

Never Use Bass Boost! Misguided Advice and What to Do

More myth busting articles to come. More technical articles to come. Leave a comment to let me know what you want to see. 

Do you like this type of content? Does it suck? I want your input! 

Barry Schanz
Schedule a Meeting Now

Posted on

DIY Component Speaker Sets – Responding to Tip of the Day

DIY Component Speaker Sets
Off the cuff, here are some tips about putting together DIY component speaker sets:
1) What fits? Maybe you’re in the tiny minority that is willing to cut and rebuild the door, for example, to fit just about any speakers. Most people want to keep new mid-woofers and such hidden or relatively modest in exposure to onlookers.
Consider available mounting depth. We want the windows to roll all the way down.


Speaker Mounting Depth Illustration
Speaker Mounting Depth Illustration
Consider space needed in front of the speaker up to the door panel. It’s not good for anyone if the speaker rubs against the plastics and gets ruined.
If you use a speaker fit guide the clearance in front of and behind the speaker will be taken into consideration for you. It might be assumed that the installation will be completed using an adapter bracket.
Pioneer Fit Guide
Pioneer Fit Guide
Consider tweeter placement and fitment. Does it need to fit in a new spot? Is there an existing tweeter location which you want to re-use?
 Factory Tweeter Locations
A lot of aftermarket tweeters do not have any mounting solution except to flush mount, meaning it drops into a hole. When you get into “DIY” component speakers the tweeter mounting can leave people stumped. What if you don’t have a hole, or the hole is too small or too big? These are important questions.
Consider the intended application, sound-wise. Woofers(midbass, midrange) normally are not well-behaved on the top end even if they can play relatively high frequencies. This is why as you get into more complicated passive crossovers there are large parts dedicated to rolling off the top end of the woofers. (Low Pass Filter)
It can make for better sound.
Consider the crossovers. I often see people sharing links to generic passive crossovers, asking “Is this good for X mids and Y tweeters?” The short answer is the one people hate, HATE, to get but it’s true:
IT DEPENDS on what you want from your sound system.
Power handling:
This deserves its own discussion as it’s really misunderstood. How much power do I need to play good and loud? How much power is too much? What do I do when these tweeters I have saved in my shopping cart say they are rated for only 10W each? What the heck?
Tweeter Power Handling Example
Tweeter Power Handling Example
Matching tweeters to woofers:
It’s not this simple, but one shortcut to better sound is to try to have the sensitivity ratings close. If the tweeter is rated at 93 dB 1W1M sensitivity and the woofer is rated at 88 dB 1W1M sensitivity something needs to happen to make it sound good. For those still reading, my question for further discussion is:
What might need to be done to make this woofer and tweeter pair sound good together?
Matthew Allen Clark administrator of Real Car Audio Help on Facebook
Visit Real Car Audio Help on Facebook


Barry Schanz
Posted on

A Surprising Fact About Evaluation of a Music Performance

USAF photo by Roland Balik. Dover AFB's AMC Icon finals were held at The Landings on Wednesday, August 13, 2008. Photo taken for the Airlifter. Base Multimedia Center, DSN 445-6569 or 302-677-6569.

Do you do things as part of your job or hobby a certain way, a way that just seems right and comfortable? Have you ever studied your craft and found something that seemed wrong, darn wrong in fact, yet the evidence suggests otherwise? Evaluation of a music performance might be far from what you were thinking, and I want to tie this new concept into your development of a person who has a deep understanding of great sound.

Definition of evaluation:

the act or result of evaluating – a situation that requires careful evaluation : determination of the value, nature, character, or quality of something or someone
What’s your evaluation of her writing ability?
a patient undergoing psychiatric evaluation [1]

We make our own evaluations every day, quickly, at the speed of electricity. As a person who has a very high value of music in your life, you evaluate whether a new song deserves to make your playlist. When you have decided it’s time to do something about your sound system you have evaluated the current state of things and decided “Enough is enough, it’s time to fix this!”. 

What Makes a Great Sounding Car Audio System?

“So what is Sound Quality? SQ … encompasses all of the performance factors which give the system the ability to reproduce an accurate and life-like rendition of the original recording as perfectly as possible. It includes factors such as tonality, ambiance, subtle nuance, system gain structure, dynamics, transient response, and the list goes on and on…

When a system is said to have perfect SQ, it generates the most accurate sound possible, with a sense of musical realism that gives the listener the impression that they “hear” a live performance right in front of them, as if the listener was in the audience watching the actual performers on an actual stage.” [2](emphasis added – BS

As you think about “SQ” as described by the staff writer for Team Audio Nutz, focus on “a live performance right in front of them“.

You Must See Music Performances Up Close and Personal

How can you imagine a recreation of a live performance, in front of you in a car, if you haven’t seen any live performances? You’ll miss out on a DOMINATING factor to judging a great music performance! It’s not the sound!

When you get in front of music performers, unless your vision is impaired, you’re going to get bombarded with interesting eye-catching things. Costumes. The light show. The audience around you. The venue. The stage. 

What Can Be More Important Than Sound? SIGHT

This was very surprising to learn while reading a paper about a series of experiments conducted to “examine the impact of visual information on expert judgment and its predictive validity for performance outcomes.” [3] To summarize, even if you expect the sound to be the most important factor in judging music performances, the visual part of the brain does a much better job in predicting excellence

I want to know what you think. I want to know what questions this might have raised for you.


  • You need to get out there and see live musicians! It’s not hard to find them.
  • Whatever happens, enjoy the experience and take in the sights.
  • In the car audio realm, yes it does matter if the speakers and other equipment are visible. We can’t help but judge the experience with our eyes as much or even more than our hearing.

Barry Schanz


[1] Evaluation: Definition Merriam-Webster dictionary

[2] What is Sound Quality and How is it Judged?

[3] Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance  Tsay

Posted on

Response to Tip of the Day: Subwoofer Positioning

Subwoofer Positioning

Matthew Allen Clark administrator of Real Car Audio Help on FacebookMatthew Allen Clark shared a Tip of the Day regarding subwoofer positioning in his wonderful group,

Real Car Audio Help

Since my perspective on bass is coming from sound quality, both my own experiences and what research has shown, I want to add an important note:
Bass is said to make 30% of the total product of what anyone will consider to be good sound quality for music reproduction. Thirty percent. This is not a small factor.
In a car one of the biggest enemies to sound quality, once we get the basics of good quality audio parts and the installation handled, the biggest enemy is going to be vibrations, rattles and resonances.
We’re adding energy and pressure to a closet-sized space built of sheet metal and thin molded plastics layered on top of each other. It wants to “talk” back. If you learn to appreciate great sounding bass, which anyone with normal hearing can do(and maybe even the hearing impaired) you will need to discover where the offensive noise sources are in your own vehicle. Some of this only happens by testing. Sometimes you can learn from the experiences of others who own the same vehicle.
Positioning the subwoofer, if you have the freedom of several choices, must also take into consideration how the vehicle will talk back as the music is played loudly.
I found that placing the subwoofer enclosure to face the rear of my sedan would cause no end to the rattles. I documented much of my acoustic treatment experiments in the series of articles starting with this one: 

How to Improve Your Vehicle’s Bass – Sound Damping Part 1

What I have yet to show in detail is what I did that made the biggest improvement to “clean up” the bass, BY FAR.
Sorry to leave you with that teaser. Watch for more tips soon.
Barry Schanz
Posted on

Music Quality: Recognizing Good Production

Music Quality - Recognizing Good Production
golden ear
“Golden Ear”

Have you heard the term “Golden Ear”? No, not the ears of a Golden Retriever, I mean someone who claims to have exceptionally acute hearing. Someone who identifies as a Golden Ear wants to stand out as a person who hears subtle details of sound, of music quality and to recognize good production. Sometimes this distinction results in influence and persuasion. People looking to find great sounding music, the best speakers, the best amplifiers, even the best cables, sometimes will trust the word of a Golden Ear reviewer.

But I don’t have Golden Ears. Is there anything I can do?

I want you to take a test and get your score, then I’ll suggest some realistic, deliberate actions you can take to be a better music listener, and share something profound for you about recognizing good sounding music.

How Well Can You Hear Music Quality? TAKE THE TEST!

Illustration by Claire O’Neill/NPR

How To Appreciate Good Music Production

  1. Decide “I want to learn how to tell what music sounds good.” Nothing is going to work for you if you don’t decide this matters to you. You could join the ranks of people just like yourself who have reached out to ask “Where can I find high quality music?“. “Who has the best sounding albums?
  2. Build your personal reference of music. You might have already done this for years! In my life I’ve spent years up close and personal with musical instruments, acoustic(not amplified) and amplified singers, and comparing different quality recordings of the same music.
  3. Build upon this with practice. A fast way to compare music of different production quality is to turn on the radio to a Top 40 Hits station. Pick one common thing to listen to, such as the bass, that most good music will have. Listen on the same sound system, or the same head phones or ear buds. Then find some recognized music with good production, or superior fidelity, and again focus on the bass. Try this list: 

47 essential albums for audiophiles

Audiophile albums by Stuff
Audiophile albums by Stuff

You Don’t Need “Golden Ears” to Recognize Good Production

…although tastes in music are demonstrably highly personal…we discover that recognizing the most common deficiencies in reproduced sounds is a surprisingly universal skill when listeners are given a chance to reveal their unbiased opinions. More good news is that most people can do it, even those who think they have “tin ears”. Inexperience listeners take more time, make more mistakes along the way, but in the end, their opinions generally agree with those of the experts. -Floyd Toole, Introduction to the Third Edition of ‘Sound Reproduction’

Barry Schanz

Posted on

Music is Art

Music is Art

Music is art, following a creative process. The concept I want to share with you is that a process of creation can result in something far more beneficial to you or society at large than a mere collection of ideas and inspirational spurts from which the music resulted. 

There is nothing to ideas and inspiration if we do not act on them in a constructive manner.

Definition of music

1a the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity

b vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony 

  • choral music
  • piano music
  • recorded music



AUDIO reproduces MUSIC


AUDIO brings ART to YOU

“Audio is entertainment, but doing it well may require some homework.”

– Floyd E. Toole, retired research scientist for Harman International, author of ‘Sound Reproduction: Third Edition, The Acoustics and Psychoacoustics of Loudspeakers and Rooms’

design process drawing on paper with pen

There’s a saying that you could fill a room with apes banging on keyboards and eventually you’ll get a work of brilliance, such as a Shakespearean sonnet. They also say the value of art is up to the eye of the beholder. If I’m going to say that music and sound reproduction, in my realm of specialty that is CAR AUDIO, I believe we should NOT bang away at this until we randomly arrive at an excellent sound system.

Said another way, there is a process of design to create an excellent car audio system capable of revealing the true beauty of music. 

What I intend to do is refine and share my creative design process for taking your car audio system, starting at any level of quality or status or stage of construction, all the way to “Press ‘Play, Enjoy”. Finished. 

The Art of Music Will Not Be Shrouded By a Bad Sound System Any Longer!

Barry Schanz

Posted on

Audio is Entertainment

Audio is Entertainment

Do you find yourself forgetting about fun, about novelty or passion or excitement? Maybe that’s a silly question for you. I want you to reflect right now about how audio is a source of entertainment. How does it affect you? Where might we get different sources of audio?

If you’re a reader who shares the interest of audio systems in vehicles, aka Car Audio, these last two questions might have instantly reminded you of listening to music the last time you drove or rode in a car. 

nodding heads to song in car

Definition of audio

1of or relating to acoustic, mechanical, or electrical frequencies corresponding to normally audible sound waves which are of frequencies approximately from 15 to 20,000 hertz
2a of or relating to sound or its reproduction and especially high-fidelity reproduction
b relating to or used in the transmission or reception of sound — compare video
c of, relating to, or utilizing recorded sound

Singing in the shower. The bathroom can be an excellent place to fill with the sound of your own voice.

The kids’ concerts for choir and band at school. Year after year they grow in ability and the program material gets more elaborate and melodic.

The birds calling and chirping in the trees outside. You know about the outdoors, right? Take a break and get outside today.

A waterfall rushing over rocks and cascading into a pool. Even the largest boulder will eventually lose the battle against the stream.

Audio is Entertainment

If we refer back to the definition 2a of ‘Audio’ we are looking now at this with the focus on reproducing sound. Man has invented and refined ways of recording sounds and the mechanisms and machines to allow us to hit Play and listen to a performance again and again. 

Getting this part of audio right takes knowledge and proper application of that knowledge, as well as many skills. What you can expect to see on this blog in the near future is a deep exploration of audio as we perceive it, some of the best practices, myths and truths, and more. I invite you to comment with your criticisms and feedback, subscribe and follow Rubyserv on social media, and join this community!

Barry Schanz