What is Midrange to you? (and other parts of the FR)

As I am further digging my hole deeper into my understanding of audio I thought I’d bring up this discussion in hopes from hearing (ok reading) from the experts here.

Growing up for me bass and treble were always so simple to understand. Bass goes boom…treble goes screech. haha ok maybe not that simplistic, but you get the idea.
Midrange was something I didn’t typically mess with on my EQ setting in my car stereo or even at home. To me it always represented a drum snare or something along those lines.

Fast forward to today and you can find many articles out there explaning this one. Some go into crazy detail that just gets you all the more lost when trying to figure it out.

Also, being a gamer, we are many times referred to as V-Shaped listeners, which is to say carved out mids. Personally, yes it sometimes can sound good but I don’t prefer that now that I’ve experienced more hifi and just better sounding gear.

Anyway, I’d love to hear what anyone has to say on this topic. What do you personally go listen for when listening to midrange quality/quantity?
Bass is much more simple as I stated and Treble honestly is too for the most part. Hell at my age a higher part of that treble is mute to me anyway as I’m finding I don’t respond to dog whistles any longer.

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Hi, this is an important topic and no, I am not an ‘expert’ ! Because most of the music is in the midrange, it stands to reason that a realistic midrange is essential for a satisfactory listening experience. Personally, I prefer a balanced, objective presentation, true to the source. As we know, the objective domain is the stage in the concert hall where musicians are to perform, the subjective domain is the audience seated in front of the stage. This is, in my view, the origin of this whole matter. For home audio, electronics enter the picture, for better or worse. I am always puzzled by reviews saying for example that headphone ‘x’ has a recessed midrange or elevated treble. It makes little sense to me and clearly shows how artificial this hobby can be.


First of all, great question. Tied with “first of all”, I am looking forward to authoritative answers to this as I also have a hard time nailing down a definition for “mids”. Bass = boom, got that. Treble = ping or tinkle or sparkle or something like that. Both are clearly recognizable and I want as much as possible until it becomes either artificial (too distorted) or (too) painful. For me, I think, mids are about the vocals. E.g., listening to Diana Krall singing “A Case of You”. Yes there is some piano and other stuff there, but mostly it is about her voice. That is mids to me. But this is my feeling, not a definition. I yield the floor to someone who knows better :slight_smile:


I like your question. Vocals and much traditional acoustic music lives or dies based on midrange. The lowly Koss Porta-Pro has respect from audiophiles because it gets midrange right.

In the speaker world Harbeth, my EgglestonWorks, and other monitor style speakers live because of accurate and lifelike mids.

I know I’m not answering your question but am emphasizing the importance of midrange, the frequencies to which we are most sensitive.

If sound were light, midrange would be green.

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Alright, good deal, so it’s not just me :slight_smile:
I know when I listened to the Harman How to Listen test software I definitely noticed music being “hallowed out” when midrange was dipped down. This then makes sense to say the midrange is where music lives.
However, I have listened to some headphones (wish I had an example right this second but I don’t) that were said to be weak in the mids only to be confused because I felt they still sounded musical. So again, I would love to hear more descriptors about this.

Vocal’s seem easy enough to me to understand. Unless something is just null and void of mids though I still typically find Adele to sound like Adele on whatever I listen on. Sure maybe not as weighty or possibly as clear, and that is just one singular example.

Also I know that mid-forward type headphones would then be more present of vocals I would think. The Clear MG reminded me of this as I remember those being very in my ear for vocals.

Really my goal is to build some playlists that demonstrate each section of the FR in order to truly evaluate gear the best way I can. Still, midrange is most difficult and the reason I started this topic.

I need some time to think about a good response; not something I can do from my phone before sleep. But there’s a lot more than frequency going on in good midrange.

While vocals, male and female, can be obvious things to listen for, try to get exposure to small acoustic music. Live classical, flamenco, or folk guitar. Duets to sextets ( just had to use that word). Listen to overtones, attack and decay. This is where the realism lives. And the sound of the space. Size, echo.

One of the worst listening experiences I had was a classical guitar recorded in a stone church in Spain. I was auditioning the Audeze LCD-2 closed back, which measures fine in midrange. But the closed back cup space clashed horribly with the recording room acoustic space.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll figure out where I’m going with this and will try to consider a midrange recording list.

This article has the best info I’ve found, in both words and a chart that shows the frequency ranges and how music will sound when a frequency is out of balance.

Frequency Info and chart


As you already said, there a thousands of explanations and sites out there that explain things in as much (or little) detail as you want.

However, a picture is worth a thousand words and I am fond of this one (the site is also worth checking out)…


As you can see, there is nothing that is not mostly in the midrange, this is where the life resides.


This is exactly what I was going to post haha. Here’s another one, although @SenyorC’s is the more widely used picture :

80% of what we hear is in the midrange (typically around 200-300Hz all the way up to 3000-4000 Hz), so it’s the most important aspect of a transducer in my opinion.

Regarding some headphones that are said to have “weak” or “recessed” mids sounding just fine to some, you have to take your individual HRTF into consideration. But, that’s a whole different topic. :slight_smile:


Thanks to @NickZ and @SenyorC and @Nuance for posting (or reposting) the frequency charts.

Midrange quantity is easy for me - at least at work where I have a Lokius. Turn a few knobs and the quantity changes. Adding or decreasing the midrange QUANTITY can make vocals or instruments in this range move forward or backward in the soundstage especially on modest quality systems. I find this less so as I move up the line and the source (If digital) is coming off a resolving DAC like my Bifrost2, and similarly in my analog chains. Note also with headphones the soundstage may seem more like separation rather than forward or backward,

One of the historic uses of just using midrange was to reduce noise or static in radio transmissions, so you could hear the voice content (non musical) better.

Side note: If you listen to Apple Music’s Dolby ATMOS remixes, AKA “Spatial Audio” you - or I - hear mixes that have cut midrange compared to the original. It’s worth comparing, especially when listening to mixes that are older. I feel that most of the time this is NOT GOOD, but some cuts like “Under the Boardwalk” or groups like Jackson 5 that were always very present may benefit. I do not hear the same issues with contemporary artists, example - Lizzo, where the mix was designed for ATMOS to begin with (caveat - I don’t know for sure if recordings that have ATMOS are always the ones distributed - for example, does a Qobuz track actually have ATMOS or is it a separate mix/process from the Apple Music one)

QUALITY of midrange is something else entirely. For me the question becomes - if I close my eyes, how close to “there” am I? My wife’s iPhone is all midrange, but it never makes me think I’m there.

I can’t stress enough the importance of listening to live music. I’d recommend that newbies spend at least half their budget on live events. Not just big concerts, but local music, from barbershop quartets, polka bands, chamber music, classical artists. Friends who play - provide beer or wine and cheese to entice them. Learning the sound of the live instrument is critical.

I will try to put together a list of some tracks. I know you wanted that.


Yeah! First of all electronic amplification, 64 channel mixing boards, each part of a drum kit with its own mic - you are listening to what the producer, mastering engineer, mix down engineer, etc. think it should sound like.

You want midrange? Start with live performances in a good setting, with no electronics. Guitar in the bedroom, three piece at the corner in a city, string quartets, symphonies, Some technical recordings strive for this. Almost anything Doug Sax and crew(s) put out. Shaded dog RCA’s from the 50’s - mid 60’s on vinyl with a very high quality cartridge/arm/table/isolation or transferred to 24/192 (or better digital) or 3 mic recordings in an acoustic setting.

For technically enhanced recordings that I find to be worth listening too (artist primarily, but sound next) I like Krall, Norah, Joni, Prokofiev, and hundreds more - I try to hear them live. I know Joni’s voice - which is why the raspy renditions you get on K-horns are notably bad, or solo violins with K-horns are 24’ wide. Or as impressive as Duettas were/are - there is something unnatural about them - even with amps that can support them.

My experience with live music young, and my fathers Quad ESL-57’s are not similar to almost all people under 50 these days. They are used to boom boxes, stereos, HT, walkmans, electronica, DAP’s, etc. This environment is very influential to these folks - like mine was to me.

I hear some equipment - and the easiest thing to call out is overdone treble - lots of German cans (not the HD-600/650), Theil speakers of the 80-90’s, and a pile more. Or bass, the preference for more bass has really taken hold of the artists, recording companies, fans, and even folks that adjust EQ in the bass up to match average (read crappy) rooms, and peoples preference.

I have preferences - I like things neutral/accurate timbre, like tight bass (tube amp alert), like transparent treble with a good sense of harmonic richness (not sssh, ringing, elevated). I like ribbon/soft dome/AMT tweeters. Don’t like metal dome, piezo, horns. estats and planars OK up to about 14k, sort of drop after that. Like better/high end caps in the xover of the ribbons I’ve been replacing OG tweets since the early 90’s. Like nice cans such as the HE-6SE, Susvara, Final D8000, LCD-4, Voce.

I don’t know if this POV can help anyone that listens to metal, industrial, etc.) I guess live and good equipment will get you to the neighborhood.


I know vocals encompass range that is more than just mid-range. Still, the easiest way for me to identify mid-range tuning is in the vocals. When mid is too weak, the vocals can sound thin, distant, or recessed. On the other hand, when mid is strong, vocals sound front and center and in my face (or in my head).

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I appreciate you posting this, but is there a higher resolution version somewhere? Also what site is this from?

Thanks in advance

Here’s a somewhat bigger version, don’t remember where I got it from:

As I recall, the red bars are the fundamental tones, the yellow are overtones.

To my mind, the best way to internalize the bass/mids/treble distinction is to use the ultra-useful Online Tone Generator app.

Notice the frequency numbers along the top and bottom of the graphic:

Sub-bass: 20-60, bass: 60-250, low-mids: 250-500, mids: 500-2k, upper-mids: 2-4k, presence: 4-6k, brilliance: 6-22k.

In the Online Tone Generator, simply toggle the sine wave tone on and off with the space bar, dragging the frequency slider left and right to actually hear what lowest to highest bass, lowest to highest mids, etc. sounds like. You can also use the note name selector on the right to associate frequency range sounds with note names like middle C (C4).

BTW1: to a recording engineer the following are potential trouble spots:
boom: 80-160 hz; mud: 100-400 hz, honk: 500-1k, grit: 1-2.5k; fatigue: 2.5-5k; sibilance: 5-8k. hiss: 10-20k.

BTW2: to my knowledge the bizarre designation of the frequency range of 2 to 4 kilohertz as upper mids is found nowhere in music outside the recording studio and the audio enthusiast microcosm. Only in our world would the highest notes of a piccolo be considered part of the mid range, lol.


Excellent. I’ll just keep my music below 80 hz and between 401-499 hz, and I can avoid all of the potential trouble :bangbang:

@pennstac 's two part invention for the subcontrabass tuba and monotone voice :notes:


Want to make sure I get my thanks in for this one so…

@pennstac @Dudley_Doody @bagwell359 @Nuance @SenyorC @nickz and all others that have commented on this - thank you!

I’m looking into everything that has been posted and said here. I think the short version of it all is during evaluation I need to give myself a great mix (which I do anyway) of tracks. I don’t typically listen to a lot of orchestral or jazz music, however, I do see the benefits of listening to hear the differences in the instruments as they pertain to FR. I completely understand the vocal aspect of it all now and have used that mostly when determining things on the midrange up to this point.

I just listened through one of the Dr. Chesky albums and it has been a very useful and educational tool!
Things like that are fascinating to me and just make me enjoy this hobby a hell of a lot more.

I wish all of this was easier to apply to our modern music…or I suppose the better word would be digitally recorded music but it is what it is. I think a better understanding of this all first will eventually lead to easier understanding when listening to other things.

I think the last thing I am still struggling with is the whole soundstage height. Depth/width makes sense to me and I truly can hear it. Height is just more difficult and makes me wonder if we all truly hear that in something like a headphone or if it is perceived height. No offense to anyone here who says they can, just my own curiosity of it all. There were instances during one of the Chesky album tracks that I could place siting below an instrument…but not always so easy to do. That is where gaming comes in I suppose in imaging/stage can not only be heard but seen for affirmation.

For gaming some people use their music headphones with a small attachable mic made for this purpose - ModMic is one brand.

You usually wind up with better audio than a gaming headset when going this route.

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To help with soundstage, try two things. First try a binaural set of tracks or albums. If you search the forum you’ll find a link to Amazónica or something spelled close to that. Good to stream. Second, listen to something in Dolby Atmos. If you go to the Dolby site, they have some Atmos demos. Designed for movies, but they give you an exaggerated sense of soundstage in all dimensions.

To familiarize yourself with the sound of acoustic instruments, I always recommend listening to “The Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra” often accompanied by Peter and the Wolf.

More later.

And yes, the Chesky stuff is good. You’re right that you may not hear height or space in the same way with a headphone as you do in real life. May not? won’t. There are no muppets commenting in the balcony.

But in a good recording, with a resolving DAC and headphone, you can hear some depth. Listen to “Mercy Mercy Mercy” in Cannonball Adderly’s “Live at the Club” album. This is not actually a live album, but a marvel of engineering. You should be able to hear bits of conversation and glasses clinking at very precise locations. I count 4 tables in front of me at the “club”.


Off topic, I just want to give you guys a trip down memory lane. To your very first pair of headphones and I’m not talking about anything high res.

Remember how nice it was just to play your favorite songs without all of these factors

I always love to write paragraphs but I just wanted to keep this short and sweet.

And thought I would also mention I love healthy conversations and discussion, just in case this post is confusing : )

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haha! Two words: Rabbit Hole.