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Playback Listening
Topic: The *serious* audiophiles bow their heads forward.

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Posted by Romy the Cat on 12-02-2010

People who read my site regularly know that I like pull of my ass new ideas and grand to them my own abbreviated names. Why not, they are mine own idea and I feel full inventor rights to do with them whatever I want.   The new notion that I would like to grand another mingles abbreviation is VoES. VoES come from Vertically-offset Ear Syndrome , the words “Syndrome” used  a bit obnoxiously, the word tendency would be more suitable. However, the use of word Syndrome makes me to feel smarter and this is all what this all about.

VoES is a next, deepen state of my little private battle with time-alignment. The VoES is not exactly is about time-alignment, it might has nothing to do with time-alignment but I discovered it while was digging in the fine aspects of Macondo time-alignment.  The things in audio work strangely. Normal people would not understand that it takes years to get some things in audio. I started to practice audio 9 years old and not I am mid 40s. Only now I have discovered the VoES as one of the very basic listening patterns- isn’t it amassing how slow we go in our understanding of ourselves?

Anyhow, I think it is a time to explain what VoES, or the Vertically-offset Ear Syndrome means.

I detected that what when my head is strictly vertical, or at least in a position how my head is hold when I stay straight then I hear sound as it is. I hear the very same sound with no change if I bend my head forward. However, what I behind to bend my head back and the angle go over 10-15 degrees then I begin to experience very severs deformities of sound. Here I will try to itemize the problems I hear as a head bow back. In the end I put a percentage the severity of negative impact:

1)      Tones becomes flatter, juts from purely musical perspective – any tone moved flat (20%)
2)      Imaging become flatter from 3D perspective. A complete collapse of distance perception (50%)
3)      Sound get distortions remarkably similar to a playback that use two time-misaligned drivers crossed at 5kHz -6kHz (80%)
4)      Lots of extreme HF (5%)
5)      Edge of each MF event got surrounded with very sever cloud of 5kHz -6kHz noise. (70%)

Now, what it is all means? It means that listening playback with head located vertically or heard tilted down we hear one sound but listening in your comfortable chairs that makes us a bit lie back and to have out heard tilted back we do listed very different sound. The important pars that this “different sound” is not the sound of playback but just the sound of distortion that happens in our ears when the head is tilted down.

I warn you that I have many methodologically proper experiments to confirm that  the sound change I observe was due to the  vertically-offset of head and ears but not the due to the moving of head closer and further from loudspeakers in case the head changes tilt.

Another aspect that you need to consider is that the VoES might be my due to my personal medical condition or due to my personal geometry of outer ears. It might be even due to some kind of illness that I might have with ears or with brain.  After all I can’t hear with somebody else ears. However, I do not think that this is only my problems and the experiments that I made with others do indicate that the VoES has more like a universal pattern. All that people might need to do is to be more attention and more paying attention to own listening sensations…. I would presume that the strength of the VoES is different for everyone but the VoES as a phenomenon is available for everyone.

Thinking about the VoES reason it is not difficult to see that the external ear is not a perfect reflective devise but it has irregularly shapes reflectors make from concha and external meatus and masked out by tragus and anti- tragus.  I am sure that when a person stays straight and ears are in vertical position (OK, it is not strictly vertical but rather default-vertical) then the irregular shape of external auditory meatus (mouth of the canal of the temporal bone that carries sounds to the eardrum) is optimized for proper sound perception. What I mean by “optimized” is that over million years of human evolution the human brain leans how to perceive sound via the reflections from that specific reflector made of meatus.  Furthermore whatever we, the humans, understand as “cultured sound” mostly likely comes to use from the same meatus-reflector. Our understanding harmony, the theory of orchestration and music generally – all of it derives from what we hear as biological type and out brain get accustom to the heard and then built up upon it.


Now we have different scenario – we lay in out stupid inclined listening chair or sofa and now our head is at let say 20 degree tilted back. Now ears are vertically-offset. The meatus-reflector however is not perfectly spherical and shifting the ear 20 degree makes a different part of the irregular meatus-reflector to do the reflections from the same source.  Now we have “different sound”. How different would it be? I do not know, I presume it would depend from the spherical irregularity of the person’s meatus surface. Theis is where everyone on their own….

A thinking reader, no matter how few of them around, would ask: if we tilt back heads on 20 degree and then raise the source of the sound in orders the tilted ears to use the same meatus surface for reflection, then would the VoES manifest itself? Excellent question! The answer is NO. I did try it and there is no negative auditable VoES effect with tilted back head and identically risen source.

The practical implication of the VoES is huge. The amplitude of the VoES impact is enormous and much higher then difference between amplifiers or speakers.  I am looking now the new VoES-compliant listening chair but the most important is that I got the understanding of the phenomena that bothered me for a while and made me to blame the things that are were not guilty sometimes. I hope the listeners out there would corroborate on the VoES impact and the most important would devise some kind of mechanisms or practice to mitigate the VoES negative impact.

Romy the Cat

Posted by AOK_Farmer on 12-02-2010
Have you seen it? As if the methodology of discriminating listening required this *Rodin's the Thinker* posture.
If the deep intellectual thinking naturally leads to the forward head tilt perhaps we shouldn't think too hard when we listen :-)

Posted by Romy the Cat on 12-03-2010
Yes, Steve,

Ironically I find the tilting head back vs. down is VERY impactful, at least with my head and with my ears.

It is very smile to test. Sit up straight in your chair, sofa or whoever you use. Do not lean to anything and keep you back straight. The point is that you need to position you hear in the similes state as when you walk. They play some music what has a lot of strings, violas and cellos playing together. Close you yeas and tilt your hear back and then forward. As soon you tilt your hear back you might feel the symptoms I described above. What you tilt you head forward, like the The Thinker does then all symptoms described above will evaporate. It is not minor impact, at least my head and with my ears. Your mileage might wary but feel free to experiment.

The Cat

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