Glare

June 8, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

When our eyes are assaulted with a bright flash of glare we put our hands up to shield ourselves.

It’s not a whole lot different with audio. A biting dose of glare makes me cringe and reach for the volume control.

Glare is that overly bright sound that rides atop the music. It has any number of causes.

Glare can be found in electronics, especially in lower-end consumer goods. It can be caused by an overly aggressive tweeter or the bite of an overloaded midrange dome.

Whatever its cause, glare is perhaps one of the most undesirable traits our systems can sometimes be plagued with.

We can tolerate all sorts of imperfections: wooly bass, deficient depth, recessed midrange, even a bright or aggressive top end.

But add a bit of glare and we’re running for the hills.

If your system bites with a helping of glare, it’s not that hard to narrow down where it’s coming from.

If it changes with level it’s likely coming from the speakers or power amplifier. To narrow down between the two it’s often not that difficult to borrow another amp and see if the problem persists.

You can switch sources to see if it’s specific to one type of media.

Cables too can have an impact, but more often than not we’re mistakenly using cables to ameliorate the problem in the first place.

It’s worth your time and effort to narrow down the cause (or causes) of this debilitating sonic no-no.

Time spent well if you can eliminate it.

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27 comments on “Glare”

  1. Some of us are more sensitive to glare than others. As we age, hardened lenses, cataracts or changes in our retinas can contribute to visual glare. I suppose our ears and brain can also change over time to make us more sensitive to audio glare, or even create the perceived glare. Different audio cables, tubes, capacitors and other components can act analogously like polarizing sun glasses to reduce glare. What some consider annoying glare might be enjoyable, envigorating brilliance to others. We all accommodate and adapt differently.

  2. Not sure how anyone even half serious about higher end audio could end up with ‘glare’. Especially if one listened 1st. Although as things have moved to online sales I suppose it wouldn’t be as improbable. I’d give up listening in a home system environment before I’d ever accept glare.

    1. +1 to that.

      Curiously, the glare in the photo is because the incoming signal (light) exceeds the dynamic range of the sensor, so the image was a good try, but a fail as an analogy.

      Some manufacturers like Harbeth design glare out by rolling off the response, something I’ve been doing in my photography recently (heavy vignetting with a lens that can lose over 2 stops of dynamic range at its widest aperture). The easiest thing to do is live to a ripe old age by which point you won’t be able to hear it.

  3. My deceased pal, Murray Zeligman, who designed my speakers based on the SEAS Froy 3(which he designed) showed me that a common source of glare was a poor transfer function to the tweeter where the roll off at the crossover point was sudden and not smooth causing significant ringing there which causes glare.

  4. Be careful about out of the box new speakers. My experience only apples to dynamic speakers. On a couple of occasions I have auditioned speakers at the dealers showroom, liked the how the sounded, bought the speakers and taken home or had delivered brand new out of the box speakers. On two occasions speakers from very reputable brands sounded terrible when I first hooked them up. In one case there was extreme glare. Ten hours later all was well.

    Many brands ( even very good brands ) do a continuity check when the speaker is assembled and then hook it up to a signal generator and do a quick frequency sweep to be sure it works. This takes about sixty seconds. They do not do any kind of extended run-in or break-in.

    If the speakers sound terrible when first hooked up, let music play for a couple of hours or over night ( if possible ), leave the room, close the door and check back after five to ten hours of run-in. If they still sound terrible somethings wrong, if they sound the way you expected sit back and enjoy.

      1. FR, I understand what JV is saying, that is for complete break-in, best possible sound. I am talking about an initial run-in to get the elastomers to loosen up and get the alignment to seat-in properly. Most factories do not want to invest the 5 to 0 hours that this usually takes.

        1. Apparently ‘DeVore Fidelity’ have a ‘break-in’ room where many drivers
          (drivers only; not fully built loudspeakers) are kept ‘in action’ (driven)
          for a few days, before they are installed into their cabinets.

  5. A couple months ago, I picked up Steve Winwood’s “About Time”.

    Excellent work overall and listening to each instrument as well as voices, it’s well balanced.
    But when Steve kicks in his Leslie, that glares- enough to turn the volume down or insert a little treble attenuation.

    Perhaps a little artist issue, but maybe the mic,ing is too close or overdriven.
    His background fill is there, but not edging out his vocals.

    Several tracks don’t glare, and no other recordings I have are like this.

    Clearly a mixing issue, IMO.

    Billy Cobham’s “Warning” is highly aggressive on the synth, but is an excellent drum class.

  6. Glare can also happen in a concert hall that needs an acoustical adjustment. I occasionally hear it in Verizon Hall when the Philadelphia Orchestra is playing full-throated with high-end instruments or chorus rising above, such as the recent Beethoven Ninth Symphony. (An extraordinary experience that will put $40k audio systems to shame.) When the SPL goes down, no glare.

    As others have noted, it can also be caused by speakers and amps. I occasionally heard musical glare at my synagogue. When they changed speakers and got rid of the Crown amps during a renovation, the occasional musical glare went away. -JAS, Phila.

  7. I have glare issues streaming Qobuz but do not have it with playing files from Foobar2000 and do not have it with vinyl – if anyone out there would be willing to help me I would be very happy…..

    1. Hi Bob,
      Do you have the ability to stream Tidal or one of the other streaming services
      through your streamer?
      This would be ‘step one’ to see whether your streamer or Qobuz is the problem.
      Step two would be to try different interconnects to hopefully tame the glare.

  8. Fat Rat’s comment about break in highlights another little problem we potentially face. So shops are fast disappearing (better take a photograph quick) but that’s okay because we can buy online, even get a thirty day trial period. Unfortunately when you receive your speaker, amp, cable, whatever, it doesn’t sound quite as good as you hoped. Ah well sir, that’s because it needs to burn in. All well and good but if that recommended break in is longer than 720 hours, and that would mean playing twenty four hours a day for the full thirty days, what’s a man to do?

    1. I feel I should point out that my comment above was in no way a swipe at PS Audio, just a general comment. In fact it’s worth mentioning how grateful I am to PS Audio in providing this facility and allowing us all to comment so freely in a place where we can all hopefully learn something.

    2. …send it all back 😀

      But seriously Rich, 450hrs is generally enough time to break-in 95% of home-audio gear.
      As a passionate high-end home-audio component manufacturer & music lover,
      Paul McGowan should be able to advise customers how long a pair of aspen
      FR30’s & other PS Audio components will take to break/burn-in properly.

  9. I have an issue with say 500hz,especially if its a voice and piano. But i think it’s me and the room. If i can get a couple volunteers to listen too,then it may narrow it down.

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