Eq 101 What Is An Equalizer And How Can It Improve Sound Quality

Not everyone has an sound engineering background, just thankfully, you don’t need 1 to reap the benefits of an equalizer (or EQ). An EQ is a tool for recording and mastering music, merely anyone tin can utilize one to conform the sound signature of their headphones or speakers via an app or physical controls. To get the best results from an EQ, though, y’all first demand to empathise how it works.


Understanding the Terms: Frequency and Response

Let’southward first with ane of the about important terms when dealing with EQ settings:
Frequency. Frequency represents the number of cycles (or sonic vibrations) per 2nd, and is measured in
Hertz (Hz). Thus, a frequency of 1Hz is the equivalent of ane vibration per second, and a frequency of 1kHz is equal to one chiliad vibrations per 2d.

The range of homo hearing spans roughly from 20Hz to 20kHz. Seriously low frequencies produce deep rumble, while the highest frequencies produce uncomfortably shrill sounds. That range is a general guideline, however, and the upper limit of audible frequencies typically declines as you age; infants can hear at frequencies slightly higher than 20kHz, while adults might exist unable to hear anything above about 15kHz. Additionally, some of the very low frequencies might not be audible at all, just yous might physically feel them if they’re loud enough.

Headphones and speakers are typically congenital around this range, with about able to output between 20Hz and 20kHz. They don’t treat all the frequencies in that range the same, though; a speaker or a pair of headphones might be able to output audio across the full frequency range, just the amount of power they put behind each frequency varies. The particular handling of frequencies is known equally
frequency response, and is typically represented as a graph that plots frequency (in Hz) against gain (power) in decibels (dB).

Taking a step back, we often use the phrase
flat response
in our reviews of audio products.
If you lot’re not familiar with the term, information technology probably sounds like a negative descriptor—who wants to sound flat? But we’re neither discussing a vocalist whose pitch is off, nor someone whose joke fails to evangelize. In this context, a flat response is a frequency response that is equally shut to the unaltered truth equally possible. Audio engineers and some audiophiles prefer this type of response from headphones and speakers, because it denotes a sound signature that is precise, transparent, authentic, and free of coloration.

Simply, contrary to the name, frequency response graphs for fifty-fifty and then-called apartment response headphones aren’t usually flat at all, and typically accept distinct curves and peaks. That’s hardly a bad thing though—if headphones and speakers didn’t account for the quirks of the human ear, a truly flat-lined frequency response would sound baroque to most of u.s.. There is no one pair of speakers or headphones that the globe agrees is truly flat, merely many engineers at least concord that sure studio monitors come relatively close.

So, think of a flat response as a technical ideal, but not necessarily something that nearly of us can obtain. It also isn’t a desirable quality for many people. Depending on your tastes and the quirks of your hearing, you might prefer additional bass depth or more crispness in the high-mids. The representation of sound gets even more complex once you introduce systems with bass and treble knobs or multi-band EQs. In these cases, you can alter the audio signature of these output devices quite significantly to taste.


What Is EQ?

Building on the above, an EQ is a tool to arrange the proceeds of various frequency ranges in the complete frequency range of a given output device. Earlier we get to consumer applications of EQ, we must establish a few more technical terms, even if you’re less likely to run across full-scale versions of them.

A
parametric EQ
is a common studio tool that’s typically available either in a plug-in or on a panel with knobs. These knobs by and large allow y’all to select whatsoever frequency you wish and and then boost or cut information technology as you come across fit. You can also adjust the bandwidth (often displayed every bit Q on EQ knobs) of the range you’re boosting or cutting; a narrow bandwidth refers to a very precise frequency range, while a wider bandwidth includes a slowly tapered off range of frequencies around the selected one. In other words, parametric EQs enable y’all to get very granular; you can pinpoint problematic frequencies in a mix, or highlight frequencies that might benefit from a trivial boosting.

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A
shelving EQ
(or shelf EQ) is another variation. It adjusts everything either above or beneath a frequency you select, depending on whether you utilize a high or low shelf. You tin can typically control both the cutoff (the frequency where the attenuation begins) and the amount of proceeds reduction that happens to the attenuated frequencies. Naturally, low-shelf EQs focus on lower frequencies, and loftier-shelf EQs bargain with the highs.

You lot may not be enlightened, merely y’all might have used both of these types of EQs—many consumer audio devices include vaguely worded bass and treble knobs that, depending on the implementation, function similar parametric and shelving EQs. For instance, turning the bass knob might heave or cut everything below a certain frequency, with a gradual roll-off and so the adjustment doesn’t audio strange. Or the change might affect a medium-to-wide bandwidth selection like with a parametric EQ. The aforementioned is true for a treble knob, though changes there impact the higher frequencies, of course.

Bose app EQ


Bose offers an app-based EQ for a number of its headphones and earphones

But the about common blazon of consumer EQ is known equally a
graphic EQ. These types of EQs typically brandish sliders that correspond to dissimilar frequency bands. When we talk about a multi-ring graphic EQ, each band (usually) represents a fixed frequency that you tin raise or lower with a fader; the lowest frequency bands sit on the left and the highest ones are on the right. When you boost a slider or fader, you heighten the gain. And when you dip it below zero, you cut information technology. To help you along, many apps with EQs offer built-in presets that provide unlike settings for each frequency to emphasize a specific genre of music or type of sound content. Rarely, you may even see a graph-similar display in which the vertical axis represents gain (dB) and the horizontal axis represents frequency (Hz).

One note: The bandwidth feature described in the parametric EQ section is usually in play with a graphic EQ—you are about probable adjusting a range of frequencies with a graphic EQ hither, non just a specific one. If the latter was the instance, boosting or cutting information technology would result in a strange audio signature. Near graphic EQs don’t allow you to adapt the bandwidth of your choice or fifty-fifty see the bandwidth value, all the same. If yours does, you can play with this office to feel what we describe to a higher place—a wider bandwidth affects more than frequencies around the selected one, and a tighter bandwidth has a more specific outcome.

And so, if y’all fix all the EQ faders to nil, does that hateful y’all can achieve a flat response sound signature? Likely non. Although it’due south common to refer to this setting as flat or neutral, the simply thing that is neutral here is the EQ. In other words, the frequency response of your earphones, even at a neutral EQ setting, is most likely not flat. If the drivers deliver thumping bass or really brilliant highs (or both) at these neutral EQ settings, we depict them every bit having a sculpted sound signature. Again though, plenty of listeners prefer this type of sound, and that’southward why and so many speakers and headphones either don’t strive for accuracy or otherwise ship with EQ settings that boost the depression or high ranges.


How Can You lot Utilise an EQ Effectively?

So, now that you understand how EQ works, what are your plans for information technology? Become crazy and dial up the bass to 11? Probably not.

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It’s important to call up that, in the recording studio, an EQ is starting time and foremost a tool for dealing with problematic frequencies that stand out in a recording. Secondly, it is a artistic tool—in that location might not be a problem to set, simply adding some gain to the high-mids on a singer might give their vox a more gravelly delivery, while calculation some highs to a guitar might give information technology a little more shimmer or airiness, for case. Finally, you can utilize it to create distinct effects. Scooping out all of the depression frequencies, dialing up the high-mids, and cutting out the highs on a vocal recording is one starting bespeak for creating a depression-fi radio or walkie-talkie-style sound. And DJs use EQ filters all the time in alive settings—the slow sweep of a low-pass filter over a drumbeat or a synth loop is a common move in electronic music.

Technics app with EQ


You can often discover the EQ in the companion app of your headphones or speakers aslope other adaptable settings

For non-professionals, y’all’re most probable to encounter an EQ in the companion app for your headphones or speaker. Not all headphones and speakers ship work with customizable in-app EQs, and some simply aren’t very useful (we evaluate this in each of our product reviews). If this is the example, y’all can download tertiary-political party EQ apps for both Android and iOS. There are besides plenty of EQ programs for macOS and Windows if yous listen to your music primarily via a laptop or desktop.

It’s best to call up of an EQ as a way to subtly tweak the sound signature of your speakers or headphones. But note that yous won’t likely accept equally much flexibility to boost or cut frequencies (with the option to cut problematic frequencies out altogether) as audio engineers do in the studio.

Boosting or cutting is but a matter of raising or lowering a fader (gradually) to taste. Just finding a problematic frequency is a bit more difficult. Offset past boosting a band and listening for changes. If the offending frequency range sounds louder and even more annoying, that’due south the 1 to work with. Otherwise, return that ring to aught and try another until you locate the ring or bands closest to the culprit frequencies. Just make sure to slowly increase the gain instead of maxing it out at the start to avert overloading your drivers.

Once you detect the frequency you want, you can cut it back by (subtly) pulling its levels below zero. One upshot you lot might encounter, even so, is that, dissimilar a audio engineer, you can’t dial back specific instruments—instead, your but option is to punch back every part of the mix that exists in that frequency range. In other words, toning down some harsh vocals in the high-mids might besides result in drums or guitar strums losing a scrap of definition. If your EQ has bandwidth settings—which isn’t mutual with arranged apps—you tin can more precisely pinpoint the frequencies you wish to adjust.

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Shure app EQ


Shure offers the best in-app EQ we’ve tested

Regardless, subtle adjustments are usually the answer to getting the most out of EQ. If you experience like y’all demand to make dramatic adjustments to the sound signature, yous should likely just get headphones or speakers with a default audio signature more to your liking.

To aid y’all use an EQ effectively and pinpoint which bands to piece of work with, below is a description of each frequency range within the normal output range of headphones and speakers:

Sub-Bass and Bass: Rumble and Nail

On the depression end, sub-bass (the deep rumble you lot are every bit likely to feel as hear) is any frequency betwixt 20Hz and 60Hz, while bass (the booming element of music to a higher place the sub-bass) runs from 60Hz to 250Hz.

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If you desire to hear a fiddling more bass depth, beginning by boosting the various depression-frequency bands to meet what each one does. The band farthest to the left might be low enough to tweak subwoofer-range frequencies; add a picayune bit more than heft and torso with a pocket-sized crash-land, or opt for a thunderous response with a dramatic shift. Lows and depression-mids accept more than of an impact on the richness of an electric bass or a baritone vocalist. Boosting these a chip results in a richer audio signature, while going wild with them makes elements of the mix audio dingy and undefined.

Midrange: Filling the Range

Midrange runs from around 250Hz to 4kHz. This is where the majority of sound sits, which is why it’s split into three sub-bands: low midrange (250Hz to 500Hz), midrange (500Hz to 2kHz), and loftier midrange (2kHz to 4kHz). The low-mids give brass, strings, and woodwinds a sense of resonance and fullness. The mids are where most instruments hitting their higher notes, and if you boost them too much, they tin can sound overly horn-like. The high-mids cover a lot of vocals and are where the attack of percussion instruments sit. They can brand tracks seem to bound out, simply besides much boosting in that range can pb to a harsh graphic symbol.

Manufacturers rarely boost the mids and instead normally emphasize the lows and highs. This leads to what nosotros phone call a scooped sound signature, in which at that place’due south lots of bass and treble, simply nothing in the middle to connect them and make the transition sound natural. If your headphones audio thin or nasally, try boosting the midrange.

The loftier-mid bands start to add subtle crispness to vocals, but can also increase sibilance and create a harsh-sounding response if you lot heave them too much. A slight extra emphasis on the highs mostly adds a little scrap of clarity, definition, and airiness, but past that indicate, yous probably won’t get a pleasant sound. As mentioned, nevertheless, many manufacturers do just that, in combination with heavy boosting in the lows. In this scenario, the highs and lows residuum each other out, leaving the defining aspect of the sound signature to exist what extent the headphones or speakers emphasize the mids.

Highs: Crispness and Clarity

High frequencies run from around 4kHz to 20kHz, but a large chunk of that range isn’t aural past anyone older than a teenager. This range is known every bit presence at the lower end (4kHz to 6kHz), and brilliance at the higher end (6kHz to 20kHz). Presence adds clarity and crispness, and it is generally the range that a treble knob affects. Luminescence can make sound sparkle, and lends a sense of airiness. But boosting these frequencies too much can add together hiss or sibilance to a track, and but make the highs uncomfortable to your ear.


Illustration of Bluetooth audio waveform graphic


(Prototype: Shutterstock / SergeyBitos)

Loftier-Res Sound and You

Afterward you craft the sound signature of your headphones or speakers to your liking, it’south time to think about audio quality. We have everything yous need to know well-nigh streaming high-res sound, as well as an in-depth guide to Bluetooth audio codecs.

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Eq 101 What Is An Equalizer And How Can It Improve Sound Quality

Source: https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/eq-101-what-is-an-equalizer-and-how-can-it-improve-sound-quality#:~:text=An%20equalizer%20lets%20you%20boost,tune%20your%20audio%20to%20taste.&text=Not%20everyone%20has%20an%20audio,an%20equalizer%20(or%20EQ).