432 Hz vs. 440 Hz key of A? I’m intrigued. What do YOU think?

Saw this wild online article today about a digital music server - supporting Roon - that resets the key of A from the internationally adopted 440 Hz standard to a historically endorsed frequency of 432 Hz. My mind boggles.

IMO there could be something to it. Or it could be hokum. Hmm…

I could have put this thread in the Audio Gear Talk forum, but I’m not really interested in what people think about the server that pulls this off. I’m more interested in what people think about the value of resetting the key of A from 440 Hz to 432. Please read the benefits described in the linked article before sharing your thoughts.

So what do YOU think? Is there value there? And could Roon’s DSP engine (with modifications) pull this off without the need for a dedicated server?

Thoughts?

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Musicians choosing to tune A to 432Hz to perform and record is just fine. Meddling with recordings after the fact and against what the performers did - no.

There’s a lot of bunkum online about shakras and numerology and goodness knows what to do with this that really is quite laughable.

Check this out for a musician’s perspective: Testing 432 Hz Frequencies (and temperaments) - YouTube

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Agree with that. Many historically informed performances tune A to a frequency <440 Hz. But I always want to hear what the musicians had in mind when performing and recording, and not use DSP to process the reference frequency of A…

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Well, the frequency of a specific note is not that important. What matters is the ratio of the frequencies of the 12 semitones in the musical scale - in other words, the temperament. Mapping one frequency to another is not going to change the temperament, so arguments in favor of 432Hz that mention any temperament that is not the equal temperament (used almost exclusively since the 18th century or so) are bogus. Then, if numerology says that number 432 is better than number 440 for some reason, keep in mind that those numbers represent cycles per second, and the second is a totally arbitrary unit of time we invented. So, instead of changing the tuning, maybe we should just shorten the second by a factor of 440/432.

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I followed a link from one of the comments. It seem to provide a slightly more sceptical take on the issue that I’m inclined to agree with.

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Interesting article. As mentioned elsewhere, if you read into all the numerology/chakras/new-agey stuff, it’s all about the relationships between the notes. Detuning A to 432Hz alone isn’t doing anything other than making the music sound slightly flat by comparison (until you acclimate).

Couple of other interesting things (for me at least) - Adam Neely’s video comprehensively shows how the other tempraments suggested just don’t work musically. In one of the other videos the controls for the EVO432 show the starting and target frequencies for the conversion. So if you set it to 440Hz/432Hz, everything will be shifted down by that ratio - whether it started at 440Hz or not. Strawberry Fields Forever anyone? You’d have to know or somehow be able to measure the value of A for each recording to reliably tune it to 432Hz.

You would need to detune every note by the same amount to “stay in tune.” Whether this make any difference to anyone, IDK. I guess anything is possible.

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Yes, it seems it’s a blind scaling of frequencies. If you’re listening to a piece that was tuned to 432Hz, it would get scaled to 424Hz. I wouldn’t want to override the artists’ decision on this. It’s just a gimmick, designed to get some audiophiles to fret about.

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Exactly of course 12 semitones (7 tones) are used in Heptatonic scales, Pentatonic scales have 5 tones as common in blues and Japanese music
But as you say it’s all about ratio of frequencies to tones, such as in Heptatonic scales the minor scale or major scale, or Pentatonic minor or major other scales.

To me the one of the only benefit of tuning to an instrument to an old standard would be if it was designed and made with that standard in mind (and as commented elsewhere there were historically many local ‘standards’), ie an antique or antique replica instrument… where perhaps there are attractive resonances from the instrument that are excited by the old tuning,… or you are playing along with an instrument with absolute tuning.

Or of course you look into the Zen like mysticism of alternate tuning…not knocking it … but I think it’s fair say for many cultures around the world more is extracted from music by hearing and sensing the relationship of the tones within its various scales, rather than the absolute tuning of the tones.

Retuning existing recorded music from 440 to 432 is not going to change anything beyond making it momentarily sound flat when played after hearing 440 tuned music as all harmonic relationships will remain unchanged.

Retuning an acoustic instrument with a fixed resonant body will however make a difference as now the strings will be resonating at a slightly lower frequency relative to the natural resonance of the instruments body and the result may well work better for some tracks and less so for others. Some note will sound thicker while other maybe a little thinner depending their excitation of the instruments body.

In my DAW, I can load up a track and change its speed and pitch independently, so if I want to, I can already do this. IU have an application called melodyne that I have used for a along time for retuning samples, vocals and even re-keying chords in samples.

While modern pitch change algorithms (that preserve tempo) have got very good, they still tend tend to leave unpleasant artifacts which some of us used to working with these algorithms most definitely notice and usually when such are pointed out to others, they tend to notice them as well.

Part of the problem also is the difference between exited frequencies (ie notes) and formant frequencies.(ie the fixed resonances of a body). Pitch changer really struggle with differentiating these outside the context of vocal pitch correction (which still often leave highly audible artifacts).

Whether preserving the body (formant) of an instrument is the right thing to do, I do not know because really I do not know if a modern viola/violin/cello/guitar etc body is different to that from a couple of centuries ago.

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Check out Schiit Audio working on it.

"It is based on an assumption that A = 432 Hz (and C = 256 Hz with Pythagorean Temperament) sounds more natural than the standard A = 440 Hz pitch used by most orchestras (some US and European orchestras tune A up to 444 Hz), but there is really no evidence for that.

A gadget that allows to change pitch is interesting but some performers already tune for different pitches (e.g. baroque and early music performers tune for A = 415 Hz) and it is almost impossible to know what was the concert pitch at the time and in the town the music was composed. Just something to play with."

…and presumably the fixed shift will mean you would get a re-tuned even/equal temperament, not Pythagorean temperament. It would be a remarkable device indeed that could dynamically re-tune to a different temperament.