Or maybe you are just ready for a break, for something different. But if you are like so many of us, driving to the park or going to the movies is not in the cards at this time. What to do? Take your sound system to the “test track” and let ‘er rip—let’s see what this puppy can do!
The MATT Test: Art Noxon’s Greatest Hit
We at ASC may not be known for writing music or making sounds. Our motto is: we make it sound better!
But the one track created in these hallowed chambers is possibly the greatest tool ever invented for determining the musicality of an audio playback system. Never before was a test system able to beat the time/frequency uncertainty principle while providing frequency response, resonance response, dynamic response, and stereo imaging response. Drum roll…The Musical Articulation Test Tones (MATT)!
Our gift to you during the stay-at-home orders gripping much of the nation: free download of this great tool for you to play with!
What is it again?
The MATT is a gated sine wave that opens and closes 8 times per second, delivering about 62 ms ‘ON’ and 62 ms ‘OFF’. The frequency sweeps from 28 hz up to 780 hz and back down again over 78 seconds. The full dynamic range is about 40 dB. This equates to an RT60 of about 90 milliseconds.
What does it do for me?
When you improve the musical articulation (similar to C50) of your system, the dynamics and accuracy improve along with the response! Simply put: your music sounds better, with more accurate sound staging and instrumental separation.
How to Have Fun with MATT
(and make your room sound better in the process!)
The first thing you need to do is download the test and put it into a format for playing through your system. You can burn a CD, plug in a thumb drive, hook up your laptop’s external DAC, or stream via bluetooth. Be creative, and take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new.
Audition Over Headphones
Before testing your Big system, try out the track in a controlled environment (your headphones) to get a simulation of what to expect. The bursts should be distinct, with the phantom image centered perfectly between your ears.
Play Through System: Listen for Clarity
The odds are somewhere near 100% that the signal will sound remarkably different now. Listen for particularly “blurry” spots and big shifts in overall sound level. You are hearing the running reverberant noise floor as it masks the decay of the bursts. Now try it over headphones again to see what your room is doing to the sound. Move some stuff, and try it again through the speakers. Have fun!
Put TubeTraps in your corners to really hear some improvement!
Play Through System: Listen for Stereo Imaging
Remember last week when we discussed the effects of various system elements on the stereo image? Now you can hear them in full effect, even in the bass range. Close your eyes and “watch” the center image grow, shrink, and dance around as various image-smearing reflections are stimulated throughout the test signal range. Go ahead, play it again and try moving your head a little bit to see how big that “sweet spot” really is!
All of These Objects Blur Imaging
Sound Absorbers Placed Like This Can Neutralize the Effect
How to Get the Numbers
Record the MATT playback in your room through your system using an omni mic at the listening position with gain control disabled. Here is another opportunity to learn a new skill!
After you have made some initial changes to improve the subjective tests described above, take the next step in room design and send your tracks to ASC. For a small processing fee, we’ll let you know how you scored and provide PDFs for you to keep as you fix your room.
Who knows, you may enter the MATT Hall of Fame! As always, if you need help with any of this stuff, give us call at 1-800-ASC-Tube. Our crack staff of technical advisors is (as of this writing!) ready to answer your questions.
In the meantime, everyone stay safe and healthy, and remember the importance of music in our lives. Love and thanks from everyone at ASC!