What is Equalizer and SRS? Can they be found in portable music players?
Feb 16th 2010 Rami Rouhana Miscellaneous

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I know that most of music loving people keep an mp3 player with them in all places… If not at least the cell phone packed with music and earphones in the pocket…

But have you ever wondered how can you get the best sound of what you have or does it even provide enough quality to the emitted music ?

Have you ever wondered if your Ipod is giving you the ultimate music quality ? Or can an mp3 player with less memory provide you with better sound ?

Have you ever asked your self why is there preset equalizers for music like “Rock” , “Jazz” and others and not always custom equalizer ?

I have personally tried many music players, read about most enhancement features and explored and tested all possible music playback settings. I will now tell you some of the things I know and I think you should know too. Some of what I will be explaining in the few lines to come is scientific some is purely related to people’s taste and other things are pure facts.

I will explain some facts and somethings to look for when you want to buy a music player.

First there are three types of common music players today :

1) Shuffle player with no display and generally no or limited equalizer settings. Shuffle did not gain much popularity for the simple reason that it is impossible to listen to the track you want to.Its all random. Shuffle usually have small memory 1 – 2 gb.

2) Player with display screen and standard equalizer settings or WOW /SRS technology. ( which I will explain in few moments depends on your reading speed). For me this type of players is the best choice for any fan of music and anyone that wants the best quality of sound. Memory is usually 1- 8 gb.

3) Ipod Nano / Touch… Ipod provides the best in terms of storage , functionality and style. Memory is 4- 1000 gb.

P.S. : Mp4s are not considered music players for the simple reason that the sound they produce is not decent enough to talk about especially what is found in the Lebanese market.

Before talking about the portable music players , let me briefly explain what is an Equalizer, how does it work and what is SRS WOW ?

Equalizer is already available in windows media player as in any other music player and most of portable music players.

SRS WOW is although available in windows media player but not in all portable music players.

You can explore it on the software for a better understanding of the changes it makes. I advise you to plug in earphones or headphones while listening to music (choice of earphones and headphones will be discussed in another article for it alone is a broad topic).

Equalizer

Sound is a physical phenomenon that occurs when a pressure impulse is created in a medium like air (also in liquids, solids, other gases and plasma). We all know that sound does not propagate in space because it is a mechanical wave propagation that requires a material medium. Humans are capable of hearing a limited range of frequencies which is considered to be between 20 hz ( as 20 impulse per second ) to 20 000 hz. It is although currently known and proven that with age our hearing capability diminishes and frequency limit tends to 15 khz.

To relate in a simple way music to sound frequencies we can state that low frequencies are what we call bass and high frequencies are what we call treble (that is not totally exact as music is not simple frequencies there are allot of different factors that give an instrument vibrating at the same frequency a different “Sound”)

The equalizer you see below is available in windows media player. You can see frequency values at the bottom of the picture. Increasing the level of a chosen frequency will increase the “volume ” of that frequency alone (and some of the neighboring frequencies). The frequency volume control is what we call gain.

In most sound systems and simple music players you will have the option to increase bass in general thus increasing the gain of frequencies between 20 hz and 250 hz and increasing the gain of treble thus adding “volume ” to frequencies between 2000 hz (2 khz) and 20 000 hz.

Over adding a gain to a certain frequency will induce noise in the sound and making the music listening experience unpleasant (Some expensive sound cards maintain clean sound on maximum gain ).That is the reason why presets are there for the listener to choose from, custom equalizer is not easy to use for an inexperienced listener (well it wont make a difference for him as for sure he will not notice any noise).

Most portable music players do not include custom equalizer and if they do most of them result in noise in case of custom equalizer.

equalizer-wmp

SRS

SRS WOW is although available in windows media player but not in all portable music players. SRS does not stand for sex reassignment surgery! It stands for sound retrieval system. SRS is a relatively new technology developed to enhance music and add an environment effect and a spacial effect to music. SRS is mainly used to mimic 5.1 surround by using 2 speakers ( which are for the portable music player the earphones ). Stereo sound initially developed for two speaker sound systems was a trial to make sound systems more realistic with different sounds emitted from left or right. After extensive research it was found that to mimic a 3D sound ( like in a live concert ) with all reverb effect a minimum of three speakers in the front were needed and two in the back which was then called 5.1 surround.

Unable to use 5.1 earphones ! πŸ˜› SRS was developed resulting in a great sound experience.

Although SRS is available in windows media player , it does not have the same quality as SRS hardware. Windows media player can only give you a hint of what SRS is.

Some modern music media player have SRS included in their hardware and software. Some of these player are few Samsung “YEP” series, some iRiver portable players and Korean MobiBlu.

wow-srs

Apple has recently realised the importance of SRS effect in portable music players and cooperated with SRS labs to produce the new i-WOW hardware plug in that can be attached to I-pods. i-WOW currently costs 59.99$ and if successful it is estimated to rise in price.

While MobiBlu mp3 player costs 120$ with SRS built in but with a limited memory of 2gb.

iwow

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  • nice & simple article
    in the 2nd line in ‘equalizer’, u have something missing in the ‘although’ statement :p

    i just want to add that increasing the ‘volume’ in an equalizer too much will cause noise(distortion), consider sound as a flow of water and it is being output (sent to your ears) through a pipe…when you increase the volume (gain) too much in an equalizer, that is the equivalent of sending too much water to the pipe and alot of the water starts going outside the pipe, this is what causes the noise (distortion)
    more advanced equalizers have gain setting for every frequency and 1 gain setting for all of the equalizer, this way u can increase frequencies as much as u want, then u lower the total gain…thus getting rid of that distortion

    ALL digital devices are prone to this issue, some handle it better than others
    on the other hand, analog devices (specially those that have tubes) actually sound better and nicer when they are over-driven (given too much gain), that’s why tube-guitar amplifiers are known to sound better

    and a small correction, ALL sound is frequency and there are no actual other factors in what you hear…thing is, no instrument gives out pure tone (single pure frequency – check sine waves for that),
    2 instruments playing the same note will have a dominant frequency (for example 880 Hertz for an A note) and ALOT of other frequencies as well…the other frequencies make the difference and are caused by different factors such as the wood or types of strings used
    (i’m just stating this because what’s said in the article somehow means that when an ‘instrument vibrates at a certain frequency’ , it only vibrates at the frequency )

    nice article,
    keep it up πŸ˜€

  • SerJ Panossian

    Sweet article ^^ IPOD tejj rass !

  • Rami Rouhana

    Hahah … yes Roy something missing πŸ˜›

    By diffrent sound at same frequency i mean the propagation form of the wave and the wave form … ( I didnt want to go in detail you know … )

    Thx for the clarifications

  • roy naufal

    hehe , yea 100% πŸ˜›
    w serj, jeemy tejj rass, shou hayda ipod?

  • Nizar Hawat

    Hey roy, gd reply it shows that ur an experienced pers who really knows what he is talking about πŸ˜›

    I do second the motion on some points that should have been more pinpointed like the dominant Frequencies and so on, yet being simple.

    Sir Albert Einstein once said that if your a good teacher you should be able to explain anything to a 12year smart child easly (and he understand it clearly), otherwise you won’t be explaining it well.

    Briefly i want to say that noise (the big term) distortion (narrower)points to a phenomen that could happen to the final signal being heard (outputed) due to mainly 2things mechanical distortion (comes from the menbrane of the speaker or headphones) and electronic distortion (which contains 2parts). distortion due to physical characteristic of the transistor or tube on the other hand added distortion by intensionally modifying the signal by applying various signal processing techniques.

    All of the above mentioned reasons are still being used in a way of another.

    Distortion could come not only come from the physical characteristics of the electronic hardware the signal is going through (nowadays this is not allowed in most updated devices-the system you briefly mentioned is a gd example not the only one though), distortion due to physical characteristic was an intentional (and still) feature added to the signal by operating the transistorized amplifier (old time class A class AB at an input gain level that maximize the fade away between 2consecutives ideally sinusoidal signal peaks.

    And when it comes to signal processing techniques that add distortion in general and to keep it simple is done by turning the transistor off or keeping it at a low input gain a certain number of times in one second – now how that is being done is a matter of long debate every mamufacturer has its own way of doing it.

    If it comes to me i do prefer using the distortion (i used that in the WAH-pedal i made few years ago and it showed promising prototype results :P) that comes from the physical characteristics of the device used. Mechanical distortion is a very low tech. old technique of distorting the signal and signal processing technique. are high tech relatively expensive.

    Have a gd day everyone πŸ™‚

  • Nizar Hawat

    Great article topic rami forgot to mention that :P.
    yet again its not possible to talk about all the aspect of it in one article especially this one. If so you will need to introduce LEBmetal-pedia on the website πŸ˜›

  • Charbs

    nice one rami (y)

  • roy naufal

    nizar,
    that was easy for a 12 yr old to understand ?:P

  • nizar hawat

    haha πŸ™‚ !

    ohhh got me 12 year old roy πŸ˜›

    i aimed for that 12yr old in the 1st paragraph then got carreied away. :S

  • nizar hawat

    haha lollll lek malla carried away jaydeh πŸ™‚

  • fadi bk

    I wana say something about the scientific meaning of sound and distortion (raddan 3ala rami w roy) As I’m a physicist that is a part of my studies.

    First sound is a acoustic wave or waves ,music is a combination of many range of acoustic waves ,when the sound is good this means that we have a good combination known as harmony in the language of science and music in the other lang (I will explain what is sound in a article later on) but in general this is the definition of sound

    As for the distortion thing, distortion is not a noise provided by the(for ex: flow of water and it is being output through a pipe) by saying that u are saying that the hi-amplitude of sound give the distortion and this is not true ,(coz we can have a distortion in low volume of sound), distortion is a physical phenomenon itself , in a simple way the distortion appears when u overload a (transistor or ampliop) but the coz of it is the β€œunequal level between the positive amplitude and the negative amplitude of the wave what give us a distortion

  • firas

    astaze.nice one rami.keep it up bro

  • nizar hawat

    lolll fifff πŸ™‚ ya malek.

  • nizar hawat

    what you mentioned fady i guess is called clipping distortion which i forgot to mention in my reply. πŸ™‚

    anw. nice english salsa man πŸ˜›

  • AnthonyHamawi

    A sipmplest definition of sound(Roy,RRami,Fady w nizar t3allamo),sound is:
    -when u fart.
    -When u hear someones fart
    -When u hear the voice of ur victim while killing it:D.
    -When u sing (Yaba yaba lah)under the rain

    at last,u must learn the Anthony-Stokes
    theorem of sound flowing between ass-cheeks,which is:”

    Put the end of a pipe in ur left ear,
    and the other end in ur farting hole,then press start.
    Game Over….

    Btw gr8 review Rami:D..mwihhh

    2uw2?\’.’/..