One of the fun tasks of having a website like this is reading all the recording magazines to see what they have to say. Of course, Audio Masterclass only bases its opinion on actual use, reports from professional users or audio evidence from home users. So what the magazines say doesn't usually make a difference. However sometimes, they might shed light on an interesting line of enquiry.
In this case I was reading a mag that shall remain nameless, but it isn't one of my favorites as it seems happy to encourage its readers to stay in their bedroom studios, endlessly consuming equipment, rather than getting out into the real world and doing stuff, which is what music is all about really.
In their review of the Digidesign Mbox 2 audio interface, which comes with the excellent Pro Tools LE software, the review commented that the sound lacked 'bass punch'.
This aroused my interest. I like to think of myself a having a combination of musical and technical abilities, so my first thoughts were these...
Let's take the second question first... can the quality of bass punch be measured?
It might seem to have something to do with frequency response. Digidesign's spec says +/-0.5 dB, 20 Hz – 20 kHz. Practically the whole of the audio world regards 20 Hz to 20 kHz as being sufficient, so I can't see any problem with this. Try and find a loudspeaker that goes down to 20 Hz anyway.
So could it be a question of distortion perhaps? Digidesign's spec on this is 0.003% at 1 kHz. Having worked with many, many students on analog tape recorders displaying distortions of around the 1% mark, even when things are going well, I can say with certainty that very few people can perceive distortion below 0.1%. If you can, then please sign your name up for 'golden ear' tests now.
Other parameters that are of common interest in specifications are noise, crosstalk, and slew rate limit. In fact, audio engineers don't see much else that can affect the sound. So if all of these are as perfect as we could realistically expect, how could this account for lack of bass punch?
Now I am not denying that the subjective phenomenon of bass punch exists. It is often desirable, but hard to achieve. And when you do achieve it, you certainly know it's there. It would be nice to put some parameters to it, and whoever one day invents a 'bass punch' control that works will be a true audio hero..
But back to the Mbox 2, perhaps the final test is in subjective listening. Let's have a go...
Now, was that lacking in bass punch? That was a Pearl kick drum played into an AKG D112 microphone into the mic preamp of an Mbox 2.
The Mbox 2 lacking in bass punch? You decide!
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