Frequency Range of Headphones Explained

Frequency Range of Headphones Explained

  • 22 Nov 0

Headphones FrequencyThe usual frequency range of headphones, at least as it is declared on the packaging of headphones, includes frequencies from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which is what an average human can hear. Some headphone manufacturers claim their headphones have an even larger range, like from 5 Hz to 30,000 Hz, even though the lowest and the highest frequencies might not be audible.

Frequency range, or frequency response, is one the characteristics that are sometimes used to determine the quality of headphones and the sound they produce, even though it’s a very misleading characteristic. To understand exactly why, it is needed to take a closer look at the audible frequency range and its division.

Frequency range is crudely divided into the bass, mid-range, and high frequencies. In this division, bass covers the lowest audible frequencies, from 20 Hz to 250 Hz. Mid-range covers all the frequencies from 250 Hz to 6 kHz, and everything above 6 kHz is a high frequency. There is a difference in our ability to perceive each section of the frequency, and there are also challenges specific to producing each section from headphones. Also, each of the sections of the audible range of frequency has several subdivisions.

The lowest bass range is called the sub-bass, and it covers frequencies from 16 Hz to 30 Hz. Because the average human has trouble hearing anything beneath 20 Hz, a part of this range is not even audible, but it can be felt. The sub-bass range is a section of the low bass range, which stretches from below 20 Hz to 60 Hz. Apart from being hard to hear, this section of the audible range is also the hardest for headphones to produce because of the small size of diaphragms used in headphones. Ideally, this range should be produced accurately, and should be only produced when it’s needed, which means with minimal decay. From 60 Hz to 250 Hz spreads the mid-bass range, which is where instruments like bass guitar and kick drums can be heard.

Because the human ear is most sensitive to the midrange frequencies, it is also possible to discern the slightest details and nuances occurring in this range. This is why it’s important for headphones to produce a natural and accurate sound in this range. It is divided into low midrange, which covers frequencies from 250 Hz and 500 Hz, and is the most important range for accurate production of vocals. Vocals can also go into the upper midrange, which includes frequencies between 2 kHz and 6 kHz.

Beyond the midrange lie the high frequencies, which are where the high range of guitar tones can be heard, as can flutes and triangles. The main problem headphones have with the high range is that producing it accurately is not easy to achieve, and it can often sound harsh if it is followed by distortion. The extreme high range, from 10 kHz and above, is very hard to hear and it doesn’t appear that much in music.


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