Warm Sound – What’s the Recipe? Is it EQ? A bit more 200, a bit less 10k?

Bob Katz Leave a Comment

From: Jason Wallace
After reading your article “Back to Analog” (along with the rest of your site), I am inclined to include a few analog devices into my setup. However, I’ve only been on this planet long enough to see digital equipment do the proverbial seek-and-destroy to almost every piece of analog equipment in existence, so I am a little fuzzy about the term “warm” that you like to use when describing the superior-sounding analog.

Because I don’t have the funds to include the high-end analog equipment that you recommend, I put forth a simple effort to recreate that warm feeling using digital. I have listened to and studied a few vinyl counterparts to some CDs in my personal collection — ranging from pop, to >electronic, and to orchestral. I have come to the (albeit limited and feeble) conclusion that “warm” means “soft bass boost between 150 and 600Hz >with a slight ramp from 12kHz to 20kHz.” After adjusting my equalizer to those settings, my digital music has taken on a more-analog sound. Granted, a switchover to pure analog would kick the ever-loving daylights out of a few simple EQ adjustments, but what you you recommend for those of us with a limited budget and a limitation to the digital realm?

PS: Your site is amazing! Thank you for keeping it so interesting and detailed!

Dear Jason:

Many thanks for your comments. “Warm” does not come from just EQ. EQ can be a bandaid or a cure, sometimes both, and in the wrong hands, it can be a disease instead of a cure! “Warm” usually comes from very high resolution calculations, minimalist electronics and signal path (either digital or analog), wide bandwidth analog electronics, and high-headroom analog electronics with low RF susceptibility. But that’s not all: You also have to have analog electronics with harmonic integrity (this includes A/D and D/A converters), low jitter, purity of tone (which usually means discrete rather than chip-based opamps), natural delays and natural room simulation. Analog tape also saturates at high frequencies and that reduces the sense of “harshness” at high levels which can happen with certain analog electronics and which digital recording mercilessly reveals. That can give you a warm sound because the harshness is reduced.

Mixing techniques affect warmth, such as use of reverberation. And what about the musicians’ playing themselves? Two different pianists can produce entirely different tones. There is no “EQ recipe” that takes care of that.

And finally, there is an X-factor that I would define as “warmth is the indefinable magic that only comes from experience over time”.

Good luck and enjoy,


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