What does distortion sound like? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 11-05-2013, 01:11 PM - Thread Starter
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I recently connected my laptop to my stereo system to listen to music. I set the volume at exactly 50%. I'm not sure how to describe it but the sound doesn't have any balance or punch to it. The bass overpowers all the other instruments in my music and it lacks depth - it sounds really hollow and boomy. Is this what distortion sounds like? What might be causing this? When I connect my mp3 player everything sounds fine so I know it can't be the stereo...
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post #2 of 15 Old 11-05-2013, 01:28 PM
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"I don't know what distortion sounds like, but I know what it smells like"


The sound card inside most lap top's are terrible.

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post #3 of 15 Old 11-05-2013, 01:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Espo77 View Post

"I don't know what distortion sounds like, but I know what it smells like"


The sound card inside most lap top's are terrible.

Thanks for replying. Is it common for them to be worse than the sound card in an mp3 player/phone though?
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post #4 of 15 Old 11-09-2013, 11:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallel01 View Post

Is it common for them to be worse than the sound card in an mp3 player/phone though?

No they shouldn't be that much worse. Try checking your laptops sound card default settings.

My son had a laptop that sounded awful when connected to a computer speaker/sub system. (Real boomy and not much channel separation)
Turned out some Dolby headphone application had been turned on by default. Once we turned it off the self powered speaker system actually sounded pretty good.
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post #5 of 15 Old 11-10-2013, 08:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallel01 View Post

The bass overpowers all the other instruments in my music and it lacks depth - it sounds really hollow and boomy. Is this what distortion sounds like? What might be causing this?

This sounds more like a misadjusted audio setting. They have so many for different applications it can be easy to get something out of whack.

When people say distortion, they're mostly talking about a static, crackling sound, hum, or feedback of various types. Hollow sounding is usually tone or balance levels that aren't optimized, or something with the room acoustics. Technically a distortion, but of a different cause.

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post #6 of 15 Old 11-14-2013, 01:49 PM
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It sounds like you're problem may be more than just this but if you're running on AC power try disconnecting the power cord and running it off battery and see if that helps. I've had some laptops that sounded absolutely horrible running off AC through the headphone out.

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post #7 of 15 Old 11-14-2013, 04:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Parallel01 View Post

I recently connected my laptop to my stereo system to listen to music. I set the volume at exactly 50%. I'm not sure how to describe it but the sound doesn't have any balance or punch to it. The bass overpowers all the other instruments in my music and it lacks depth - it sounds really hollow and boomy. Is this what distortion sounds like?

Sounds more like uneven, unbalanced frequency response.
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What might be causing this?

I had a cheap audio interface that sounded like this and I found that it had some EFX settings that responsible. Eventually I found out how to bypass all of the EFX and the sound was good.

On laptops, one option is to add an good but inexpensive USB audio interface such as the Behringer UCA 202 - about $30 on the web.
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When I connect my mp3 player everything sounds fine so I know it can't be the stereo...

Good test, useful results.
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post #8 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 02:40 AM
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What does distortion sound like? Well it is certainly easy to identify in its most severe form. Many years ago a blues player with an electric guitar and a small amplifier cranked up his volume in order to reach listeners in a venue larger than normal for him. He cranked up so high that the amp went into serious clipping. That might cook a modern solid state amp that doesn't have a thermal shutdown feature. It was an old tube amp and the sound simply became fuzzy and sounded like 50 guitars all playing very slightly off tune. An engineer would say it sounded something like a square wave. Strangely it caught on and, to this day, blues and rock players use the same sound although generated in a different way. That's the sound of distortion.
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post #9 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FMW View Post

What does distortion sound like? Well it is certainly easy to identify in its most severe form. Many years ago a blues player with an electric guitar and a small amplifier cranked up his volume in order to reach listeners in a venue larger than normal for him. He cranked up so high that the amp went into serious clipping. That might cook a modern solid state amp that doesn't have a thermal shutdown feature. It was an old tube amp and the sound simply became fuzzy and sounded like 50 guitars all playing very slightly off tune. An engineer would say it sounded something like a square wave. Strangely it caught on and, to this day, blues and rock players use the same sound although generated in a different way. That's the sound of distortion.

.. ..
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post #10 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 11:10 AM
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I think that mythical blues player preceded Mr Berry and Mr Hendrix by a decade or so.
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post #11 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 01:32 PM
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Ha, before my time.....I'm a 70's high school product, early 80's college.
Whom are you referring to?


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post #12 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 01:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

Ha, before my time.....I'm a 70's high school product, early 80's college.
Whom are you referring to?


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Whoever it was that first drove an instrument amp into clipping. I have no idea who it was. I was describing a mythical musician.
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post #13 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 01:42 PM
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well on a computer its wiki to the rescue......
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distortion_%28music%29
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The first amplifiers built for electric guitar were relatively low-fidelity, and would often produce distortion when their volume (gain) was increased beyond their design limit or if they sustained minor damage.[10] One of the earliest recorded examples of distortion in rock music is the 1951 Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm song "Rocket 88", on which guitarist Willie Kizart used an amplifier that had been slightly damaged in transport.[11] This was predated by Goree Carter's "Rock Awhile" (1949), which featured an over-driven electric guitar style similar to that of Chuck Berry several years later,[12] as well as Joe Hill Louis' "Boogie in the Park" (1950).[13][14]

In the early 1950s, pioneering rock guitarist Willie Johnson of Howlin' Wolf′s band began deliberately increasing gain beyond its intended levels to produce "warm" distorted sounds.[10] Guitar Slim also experimented with distorted overtones, which can be heard in his hit electric blues song "The Things That I Used to Do" (1953).[15] Chuck Berry's 1955 classic "Maybellene" features a guitar solo with warm overtones created by his small valve amplifier.[16]
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post #14 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 02:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtbdudex View Post

well on a computer its wiki to the rescue......
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distortion_%28music%29

Thanks. I rather thought it dated back to the late 40's.
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post #15 of 15 Old 11-15-2013, 05:11 PM
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@OP

that sound you're hearing isn't distortion. Rather what you're hearing is a lack of body. When feeding audio, you generally want to keep your source at 75-80%.

In a sound board, this would generally mean you're outputting 0 on a vu meter. Put your media player and laptop volume at 75-80% and you'll hear a marked improvement.
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