Typical Vehicle & Combat Sounds
Weapon noises are very complex. In addition to the initial concussion, there are also air and flight noises, along with potential reflections. There is no such thing as the weapons sound, as every make and model sounds different.
Shotgun, Single Shot
The sound is broadband and voluminous, and it requires the entire frequency spectrum for good reproduction. In addition to the total noise pattern, this sound also has very characteristic peaks for individual frequencies.
The sound of exploding C4 is entirely different, and closer to fading pink noise after its high initial level.
Tank Gun, Single Shot
The sound produced by the main gun of an approaching tank is relatively close to the sound of a C4 explosion. Spatial location is difficult to ascertain, as the stereo spectrum clearly shows.
But whereas the brighter sound of an explosion occupies a range of up to 20 kHz, the tank gun, with its spectral range up to 12 kHz, sounds more dull and voluminous.
Sniper Rifle, Single Shot
This noise is based on two acoustic events: the broadband muzzle blast with a peak at about 500 Hz, and flight/air noises with a peak at about 2.5 kHz. If this sound is played on equipment lacking ample response in the 400-600 Hz range, or if it cuts out around 3 kHz, the muzzle blast is drowned out and the result comes out closer to the sound of a handgun.
Handgun (9mm), Single Shot
This brighter-sounding handgun has a wide spectrum that almost looks like white noise. Any sound design would noticeably alter the weapon's character. Even minor modifications through an equalizer could degrade the gun to sound like a smaller-caliber weapon (treble boost), or make it sound like a big, fat .45 (exaggerated upper bass and lower mid-range).
Automatic Weapons, (Long Volleys In A Confined Space)
As our next graphic shows, a longer volley of fire ~20° to the left creates an issue for spatial recognition, since the staccato-like muzzle blasts completely overlap the reflections that would have otherwise helped to identify the source. Instead, we get a single mess of loud noise.
Games that allow you to easily locate the source of such a volley, even in small, enclosed spaces, are unrealistic. They're almost assuredly the product of manipulated sound.
Automatic Weapons, (Three Short Bursts Outdoors)
What happens outdoors when reflections are taken away? The concussion of a machine gun volley occupies the whole spectrum fairly evenly. Up to ~6 kHz, even the noises after the initial explosion are still linear. Except for the first muzzle blast, not much happens below ~350 Hz. Too-high of a bass boost up to the upper-bass range could turn these volleys into heavy cannon shots, so again, manipulating the sound isn't advised.
Whether you're talking about firearms or explosives, nothing is more broadband than a bang! Sound manipulation does little more than distort the perception of these events, making it harder to identify the type of weapon being fired. And it definitely doesn't help with spatial orientation. Exaggerated bass furthermore destroys every link to reality, leaving a messy, dull impression. Too much weight on high frequencies has the opposite effect, making the battlefield sound cluttered with small-caliber weapons.
Engine and tire noises make for a relatively broadband composition with an emphasis on bass. Higher frequencies are important as well, though. They contain the tires' rolling noise. Without them, every road surface quickly turns into an arid sand dune.
Passing Tracked Vehicle (Tank)
In contrast to the rather dull-sounding truck, this makes for a more interesting profile. In addition to the engine noise, the tank's tracks challenge playback hardware with a complex noise pattern. In this scenario, different frequency ranges are used intensively. Good reproduction of all details is thus highly important.
Passing Jet Airplane
It's easy to imagine the Doppler effect in play while looking at this recording of a jet fly-by. Engine and air noises blend together, creating an interesting range of frequencies.
Stationary Hovering Helicopter
The most dominant sounds we hear with a helicopter hovering overhead are broadband and high-frequency rotor/air noises. The engine adds bass-heavy background noise.
Complex Situation: Battlefield With Machine Gun Fire, Detonations & Tracked Vehicles
Looks like a mess of noise, right? But when this source material is fed to low- and high-quality headsets separately, the difference is an eye-opener, particularly if you're accustomed to inexpensive hardware and the muddy sounds those cheaper products generate.
Only the best speakers (with good level stability) are able to cope well with such a complex accumulation of acoustic events. Good identification and location of individual sound sources are the crown of headphone playback, and this depends solely on driver quality. Without the right substructure, all of Dolby's technology means very little.
Complex Situation: Battlefield With Passing Squadron Of Planes
In this scenario, characterized by several jets flying by, only the best headphones are good enough for our tastes.
Complex acoustic environments require perfect resolution, detailed reproduction of the frequency spectrum, and high-level stability. Any headset attempting to modify the individual frequency ranges makes it more difficult to properly locate these rather broadband sound sources.
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