Colouration and why we all like it

Right, I have been thinking (and reading) a lot and have come to a conclusion that some or all of you might contest: we like colouration from our HiFi gear. If you like the Naim ‘house sound’? That’s colouration. If you think one set of speakers sounds ‘warmer’ than another, that is colouration. If you claim that speaker cable X is ‘more forward in the midbass’ than cable ‘Y’, that’s colouration.

Everything should be transparent - the DAC, the amplification of that signal, the rendering of that signal into soundwaves. But that is not and those are the differences we pick up on and like.

There. I said it.

Said what?


I’ve got a colour tv.
I’ve heard there are three types to how they like it to look - whilst fiddling with display settings…

  1. Happy to spend ages getting it to look “natural” and “real” as possible.
  2. Happy to spend ages getting it to look to their liking.
  3. Happy with it straight out of the box.

I guess my argument is that loads of us audiophile folks pretend we’re doing 1 when in fact we’re doing 2.

1 Like

I want to be 1., in practice too lazy so end up with 3. I guess partially because I don’t watch a lot of TV.

The problem is contrary to say doing something with audio is that those settings are often in a menu, so you don’t see any result of any changes without exiting it, going back in, adjust some more, etc. all very cumbersome.

With audio I’m more happy to play with things to get it right.

I hate colouration.

I think you are misunderstanding the whole thing.

(I also hate fiddling with nonsensical “hifi” tweaks incidentally.)


I feel I am more towards a little bit coloured sound than strictly neutral.
But is strictly neutral really natural ? I don’t think so.
Heard a lot of systems which a strictly neutral and transparent sound reputation, like Soulution, CH Precision or Esoteric, and found them boring and lifeless.

1 Like

We might only in reality be listening in black and white - with shades of grey.
Whilst other sensory inputs are adding confirmation bias.

1 Like

It depends on whether you want to hear the sound as captured in the recording as released by the artist, or a version of that modified in some way. And in turn of course that may depend on whether you like the sound the artist released, or prefer it modified - whether that is using tone controls or choice of speaker, or ‘lively’ room, or non-neutral amp to enhance something, reduce something, or add other ‘colouration’ effects.

I for one don’t seek colouration of recorded music, though I know it is exceedingly hard to avoid with speakers, and sometimes with poor recordings I am tempted to think that a bit of DSP could work wonders.


Interesting challenge.

Colouration is about the tonal balance or preferences for emphasis of certain frequencies, i.e. deep & rich or thin & clear of “midband forward”, whatever that term means.

This is fine as far as it goes but you are considering only one axis of evaluation: the frequency balance.

Others are equally or more important:

  1. Timing, speed or PRaT. How important to you is it that a NAP135 or NAP500DR is as fast as lightning in comparison with say a NAP250.2
  2. Resolution. Naim’s top end streamers are lovely but even the ND555 lacks the resolution of a DCS streamer or Chord DAVE dac.
  3. Micro-timing. This is the aspect that is often described as imaging ability. Some systems and components enable it, others don’t.

So I suspect that we all aim for our own personal optimum of all 4 (plus any others that I may have missed!) of these complementary aspects of musical reproduction, rather than simply the colouration that we like.

I’ll duck for cover at this point…

Best regards, BF


It’s when you start thinking about that music becomes secondary. Just stop the fighting and enjoy music. It really doesn’t matter as long as you want to listen again and again and again.

1 Like

Yes. The chord DAC’s are for more advanced than Naim when it comes to colouration. They even provide user colouration selection.

Neutral (button illuminates white),

Incisive Neutral HF roll-off (green),

Warm (orange),

Warm HF roll-off (red).

Colouration is identifiable by colour. How cool is that. :cowboy_hat_face:


I can assure you that it can and does, you should give into your “temptation”, what’s holding you back?


The lack of a reachable control to readily adjust when I start playing something that would benefit, like the tone controls of yesteryear.

1 Like

I was recently at a local pub when a young girl came in and set up to play an acoustic performance for a birthday. This is not a normal pub, it is a small local brewer that operates out of an industrial unit with a really nice backdrop that looks out on to cane fields. The setting allows for 3/4 big roller doors opened up and is just awesome on a nice sunny day. Turns out this location is great for sound.

Anyway the point is… the sound produced by this performer was amazing! It was warm, wholesome, engaging, fast, and detailed. It sounded like a giant Naim system to be honest and if it came out of a hifi it would definitely have been considered warm!

It made me appreciate my Atom. I feel this is the closest my system has ever been to the live event. It gives me warmth when warmth is there and none when it isn’t.

I think my point is that just because something is warm doesn’t mean it is colouration. That might just be how it sounded in real life.


This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.