What is "warmth" anyway?

VST, AU, AAX, etc. plug-in Virtual Instruments discussion
229 posts since 20 Jul, 2002 from Massachusetts

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:16 pm

I'm just wondering what that quality called "warmth" is that we ascribe to analog stuff. I mean what exactly are we talking about here? Has there been any research - formal or informal - on what is considered "warm"? Point me towards any references if you know of some.

I suppose things like this might be mentioned:
  • saturation
    harmonic complexity (which could result from saturation)
    A little bit of noise
    randomness in frequency content
    randomness in tuning
    Lack of aliasing
I suppose the easy answer might be "all of the above," and might include a few more things. And there is some overlap and interplay among the things I listed. I'm curious whether if anyone has been able to pinpoint "analog warmth" a little more precisely - I'm sure the pro plugin makers have done some research on this. I guess I'm just posting here to ask for references...it's just interesting to me.

I suppose I should go Google...but I expect to find all kinds of stuff that isn't what I'm looking for!

4845 posts since 1 Aug, 2003

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:17 pm

warmth is oscillation.

501 posts since 16 Sep, 2002 from Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:28 pm

warmth is oscillation.
May i call this warm?
Last edited by e-phonic on Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Skunk Mod
20464 posts since 10 Jun, 2004 from Pony Pasture

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:28 pm

"All of the above and then some" would be my guess. To pin this down would be way over my head... but I can maybe help you to narrow down web searches.

If you specify "psychoacoustics" along with "warmth" and whatever else you are searching for, that ought to eliminate a lot of irrelevant content. :-D

Good luck,


[edit] ... or maybe not. I just tried it, and though it helped, there's still a lot of bogus/unscientifically supportable audiophile talk and the like. =>_<= Ah well.

1819 posts since 5 Oct, 2003

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:30 pm

e-phonic wrote:May i call this warm?
Yes, you may. :D
"Time makes fools of us all. Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us." Eric Temple Bell


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Stupid American Pig
7052 posts since 25 Nov, 2002 from not sure

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:33 pm

It usually just means that the high end is tapered off and there are alot of 2nd harmionics as opposed to 3rd.

6496 posts since 26 Nov, 2004 from Frederick, MD

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:41 pm

That's kind of like asking what the qualities "dark" and "intense" mean when referring to a wine. It's a way of describing a sensual quality that cannot be quantified or mathematically calculated.

I suspect what most people mean by comes from two of your first three selections: saturation and noise.

It's far easier to demonstrate warmth than it is to define it. Listen to a vinyl recording of any song you like, then a CD of the same song (preferably one that wasn't remastered).

Vinyl = warm, CD = digital.

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4557 posts since 9 Jan, 2003 from Saint Louis MO

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:43 pm

Topic: What is "warmth" anyway?
"warmth" is what you feel "down there" when it sounds good. :D

4845 posts since 1 Aug, 2003

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:47 pm

e-phonic wrote:
warmth is oscillation.
May i call this warm?
You should! Very exciting news, even for a filters-spoilt sod like me :)

21 posts since 10 Apr, 2003 from Los Angeles, CA USA

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 12:59 pm

An analogous reference would be Digital Characters in movies (Jar Jar Binks, Polar Express) vs. Living Ones. Living organisms are made up of millions of living cells and are sort of in constant flux. We perceive real sounds the same way, as ever changing. Analog curcuits behave in a way that give a feeling of life as they are also in that same changing flow. Warmth is simply a aural feeling of life as if one were hugged by a loved one vs. a robot.

I fear in 20-30 years no one will feel Warmth from their Music, Loved Ones, Media or the Sun.
Electronic Mayhem: http://www.rewiremusic.com

12245 posts since 18 Aug, 2003

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:03 pm

It is what can be precisely referred to as inspecific gobbledygook. Often employed as a misleading marketing term, used to say this digital sounds like that analog. Check against phat/fat, tube-like...

Its origin probably lies in the resistence to the transition towards digital equipment in the late 70s early 80s. Part of it comes out of a lot of nonsense, like an irrational objection to microcircuitry in favour of tape, etc. Part of it also a reflection of the overbearing high-register frequencies - or brightness - in early digital equipment. There are of course differences between the two, but note that analog was always cuddly warm, digital always prickly cold.

That said, SAP gave you as good an answer as any.

4845 posts since 1 Aug, 2003

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:05 pm

REwire wrote:I fear in 20-30 years no one will feel Warmth from their Music, Loved Ones, Media or the Sun.
That's entirely up to us.

Left Headphone
947 posts since 30 Mar, 2004

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:06 pm

"warmth" is over-rated :violin:

Lunch Money
12977 posts since 29 Sep, 2003 from Ottawa, Canada

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:22 pm

Vinyl is warm? Screw that. Vinyl is very cold, indeed. And no, I'm not making a joke, I'm actually referring to the sonic characteristic of vinyl records.

Vinyl is meant to be very pristine and hi-fi, and it IS. The only time it gets 'warm' is when it gets dirty and crackly or old and warped. <grin>

Warmth, in my experience, SHOULD be introduction of subtle harmonic information in a non-linear fashion. An aural exciter is more likely to cause what *I* think of as "warmth" than a tube distortion.

On the other hand, what my experience of "warmth" according to OTHER people has been mostly an attenuation of frequencies. Give it a try. Roll off the high frequencies, and play it as an A/B to your friends. Ask them which sounds warmer. I wager they'll pick the one with the high frequencies removed. ;)


Rusty Shackleford
308 posts since 24 Feb, 2004

Post Thu Mar 24, 2005 1:53 pm

Vinyl is warm because you DO get that harmonic distortion that colors the sound. You hear it immediately- punchier bottom end, and rolled off higher frequencies. If I mix a record at a club and then mix the same track on CD they won't sound the same at all.

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