But, are your ears working well?

A long time ago, a guy invented a strange law called the Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem that states that a sampling rate of more than twice the maximum frequency of the signal to be recorded is needed for a realistic reproduction of recorded music, Since human hearing range is roughly 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, the sampling rate had to be greater than 40 kHz. 

Let’s pretend it’s true, and that our ear is able to manage frequencies from 20 to 20,000 Hz, but is it really like that?

Above all those who produce music are obsessed with the “beautiful sound”, the one that always sounds good with any speaker or headphone, on the phone or in the car. 

I can assure you that there are real feuds between factions supporting this compressor or this other at fetishistic level or fighting in the name of the Holy Grail of High Fidelity wars with all sorts of strategies to support one’s opinion. Like many other human activities, many times these discussions are meaningless, because we always forget a fundamental factor: our own ears

With age and hearing abuse (at what volume do you usually listen to your mixes?) the analytical capabilities of the ears decrease, sometimes even noticeably, and the limits of our own hardware equipment used for listening (not all equipment performs the same, which is why they cost very differently, from a toe to two legs and a kidney) is very important (always you can find on boxes or depliant of an audio hardware a declaration of the expected frequency response).

If you plan to make the ultimate mix, the one that will break all competition, perhaps it would be preferable to check the frequency response of your ears.

Unfortunately here too there are deceptions: for example, many rely on certain videos on YouTube that claim to contain an audio sample from 20 to 20,000 Hz to check if you can hear all the frequencies. I’d like to know how, since the MP3 format used to compress audio cuts any frequency above 16,000Hz. It’s not that you don’t hear, it’s that this frequencies aren’t there physically.

So, how to do?

There are plenty of hearing test tone generators available online, but in my opinion, one effective, controlled, and free way is to use Audacity‘s Tone Generator: simply select Generate > Tone, input a reference frequency and click Preview to hear the frequency that you selected for test. You can also choose a Waveform different than the Sine default if you like to experiment.

To hear a test tone, click the Preview button on dialog window Tone, accessible via the Generate menu.

I am almost sure that many can’t hear frequencies over 15.000 Hz. 

It doesn’t mean that you have become deaf, it could be a limitation of the equipment you use to listen. However, above that frequency you hear… nothing. Trusting is good, not trusting is better, at least in this case.

The world of sounds and frequencies is fascinating, if you want to have some fun adding your sight, you can use the Google Music Lab oscilloscope. In SL they are available in the SLEA MusicLAB School, but if you do a hearing contest with your friends, don’t cheat.

There are also oscilloscopes, spectrum analyzers and other useful tools available as freebies, I personally use those from Melda Production, but with a simple web search you’ll find many more.

This world is difficult and liquid, but with a little patience we can save ourselves.

This audio file in .wav format contains a sound source which sweeps in frequency, with constant amplitude, from 20.48KHz to 20Hz at the rate of one octave per 5 seconds. Lower the volume before playing, please. Refer to timing to know what you are hearing or not. Intervals are:
Time —-Freq
0 ——20K
5 ——10K
20 —-1.25K
25 —-640
30 —-320
35 —-160
40 —-80
45 —-40
50 —-20

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