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Audio Spectrum Explained With Diagrams & Examples

Here’s are the 8 audio spectrum frequency ranges:

  • Mud 0-20Hz
  • Sub Bass 20-60Hz
  • Bass 60-250Hz
  • Low Mids 250-500Hz
  • Midrange 500Hz-2kHz
  • High Mids 2kHz-4kHz
  • Presence 4kHZ-6kHz
  • Air 6kHz – 20kHz

What Is The Audio Spectrum?

audio spectrum instrument frequency chart

The Audio Spectrum is the range of frequencies which humans can hear. This ranges from 20Hz to 20,000 Hz. This spectrum can be separated into 8 frequency bands. Each frequency band has a different impact and role in the way you perceive music.

Music lacking presence will sound muffled, while tracks, that lack low mids will sound thin. Understanding, which frequencies correspond to what sounds, is key, to improving your production skills.

So to not mince any more words, let’s get into some specifics.

Frequency Spectrum Bands

So to understand the entire audio spectrum, we’ll look into each band separately. Starting off with the Low Mud frequency band.

Low Mud 0-20Hz

low mud frequency range

From 0 to 20 Hz, is the frequency range, which is usually not welcome in our mixes. Human Hearing struggles to perceive audio below 20Hz and the same goes for audio systems.

If you look at the frequency response of your headphones, speakers or any other sound reproduction device, we’re willing to bet it doesn’t go below 20Hz. This limit is entirely physical, which means that if your headphones are getting signal below 20Hz, they will try and fail, to reproduce these frequencies.

While the circuits in your headphones will try to reproduce them, physical limits won’t allow it. This in turn means, that if your music has frequency information below 20Hz, all you’ll get is low-end distortion and an overall “muddy” sound.

Brickwalling this frequency band can be a good way to get a cleaner mix. Don’t do this on your master bus however, rather, try to keep all individual elements out of the mud from the get-go.

Sub Bass 20-60Hz

sub bass frequency range

The Sub-Bass range, is where the absolute lowest elements of spectrum will reside. Your subs, and bottom end live primarily here.

That being said, frequencies in this range are more often felt, than heard. In other words we experience sub-bass as a powerful sound wave, rather than as a musical note. Sub-Bass is the range, you’ll be working in, to fill out the spectrum of your song. You shouldn’t have any of the main elements be this low however, since the sub bass range translates more to energy, than melodic content.

Layering your bass with a sub in the 20-60Hz range is a great way to thicken your bass up and give it a round bottom end. Alternatively, you can create space for your bottom end to breathe, by pulling back this frequency band, on other low-end elements.

Usually, you shouldn’t do much boosting in the equalization stage here. Too much of a boost in the sub bass range will serve to overpower the rest of the mix, and make it sound weak and thin.

Bass 60-250Hz

bass frequency range

The Bass frequency range is arguably one of the most important parts of your audio spectrum. The range of 60-250Hz, is where the fundamental rhythms of your music lie. The fundamentals of your main bass track, as well as kicks, and other rhythmic elements, can be found in the Bass range.

Your main bassline should usually stick to this frequency range. Most bass sounds work the best at the second octave. a G2 pitch vibrates at 98Hz, for example. Writing your basslines with this in mind can help you create more compelling bass sections. We usually tend to stick from a D2 to A2 for our main bass notes.

The Bass range is what usually determines the “fatness” of a sound. Frequencies around 60-150Hz are what centers your bass elements, while 150-250Hz adds warmth.

Be careful when EQ’ing this frequency range, boost too much here, and you’ll end up with a boomy mix. Cut too much, and your mixes will start sounding thin, and lose definition.

Low Mid 250-500Hz

low mid frequency range

The Low-Mids are almost as important to your bass, as the actual bass frequency spectrum. Most bass instruments’ fundamentals reside in the bass range, while the main body of the sound usually sits at 250-500Hz.

The low mid frequency range contains most of the low-order harmonics of your instruments, and can be seen as the presence range for your bass elements. Which means that this is a great range to use a multiband compression unit on.

Boosting signals in this range can add clarity to your low-end instruments, while too little will result in a “hollow” sound. Too much gain here, and you’ll start to suffocate your high-end instruments, so striking a nice balance here can make the difference.

Compressing this range a bit more than the rest of the bass with a multiband compression plugin, can bring nice definition to your bass elements.

TIP: For a rough and distorted sound, adding side-chained noise at this frequency range can add a lot of dynamic power to your beats.

Midrange 500Hz – 2kHz

midrange frequencies

Midrange, sometimes called prominence, is the frequency band which determines how prominent an instrument is in the mix.

To picture better, what this range is, imagine a trumpet, or a horn section. These instruments usually reside in this range. This essentially means our focus point of the song, the mid-point, is here. Humans are more sensitive to this frequency range, because the pitch of the human voice also lives in the midrange.

Boosts at around 1kHz can bring focus to any instrument and make the notes feel more resonant. Too much of a boost can start to overtake the rest of your mix and can start becoming tiring to the ears.

A lot of modern metal has historically done larger cuts in this frequency range, which leads to a “scooped” sound, which can be great for some genres. In general however, a balanced mix will tend to sound more full and defined, than a scooped one.

High Mid 2kHz – 4kHz

high mid frequencies

The High Mid range, sometimes referred to as the Telephone frequency band, is the range of frequencies, that Humans are the most sensitive to above all others in the audio spectrum. Most phone calls sound the way they do, because they’re centered around this band. We are more sensitive to this, because a baby cries at these frequencies, which triggers our hearing bias.

All this means that, the h0igh mid range is responsible for a lot of harsher sounds in the audio spectrum. The attack of most percussive instruments lies here, as well as a prominent part of the vocals. Boosts here can add great presence and texture to your music.

Too much at this range can easily start to cause listening fatigue and introduce harshness and unwanted texture in your music.

In general, you should be careful when using equalization in this frequency band. Drastic adjustments can start to change the timbre and pitch qualities of your audio.

Presence 4kHz-6kHz

presence frequencies audio spectrum

The Presence range, is the representation of the clarity of your sounds. Definition in your rhythms and attacks come from this range. In fact, most stereo equipment puts their treble crossover around this point, so you’re probably already familiar with the sound of this frequency band.

Boosts here can increase the overall clarity and definition of your audio, while cutting here, can make sounds appear more distant and washed out. Boost too much here, and you’ll introduce harshness and an irritating sharpness to your audio, which can start to cause hearing fatigue.

We personally enjoy inserting slick boosts here on our high frequency instruments and percussion. A good trick to try is boosting a larger amount here, and then turning it down with a multiband, which can introduce some nice squashed top-end dynamics here

Air 6kHz-20kHz

audio spectrum air

Air, or sometimes referred to as Brilliance, is what accounts for the shine and sparkle of your instrument or mix. Just like Sub-Bass frequencies, these are usually felt more than they are heard.

The frequency range around 10kHz is the point, which usually affects the clarity of your sound. Boosts here can give your tracks added sparkle and detail.

Additionally, when talking about “colorful” EQ’s, the sparkle that comes with some units, is usually in this frequency range.

Since frequencies this high up tend to be densely harmonic and noisy, excessive boosts here can start to introduce some unwanted hiss and noise. Too little and we can start losing a lot of “excitement” out of the sound.

One of our favorite tricks to do with the Air band is using a dynamic EQ with a high-shelf curve, to dynamically lift the entire range above 6k, by a couple dB. Doing this increases the high-end energy in your music, while not sacrificing clarity, or introducing any unwanted artefacts.

Finishing Up

To recap, here are the 8 audio spectrum frequency ranges:

  • Mud 0-20Hz
  • Sub Bass 20-60Hz
  • Bass 60-250Hz
  • Low Mids 250-500Hz
  • Midrange 500Hz-2kHz
  • High Mids 2kHz-4kHz
  • Presence 4kHZ-6kHz
  • Air 6kHz – 20kHz

You should now be a little more comfortable with the audio spectrum, than you were before. Even if you haven’t ever touched a microphone or record equipment in your life, knowing these frequency bands is important for any producer.

Knowing what sounds are where, in the audio spectrum, lets you hear and react to any wanted or unwanted frequencies, with more precision. If you know where to look, you’re more likely to find what you’re looking for.

This doesn’t end here however. Being able to hear, where a sound is in the audio spectrum, is the next step. While we can do a lot with software, nothing beats the human ear, you just need to learn how to utilize it.

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