Originally Posted by shotgunshane
The quality of sound from a hardware based boost and amplification is cleaner than a software EQ. I've used eQu ad Equalizer and I can tell you for on the go and for changing it song by song, the zo is better.
Also I couldn't care less how the audio engineer wants me to hear the music. They compress it to death, rob the dynamic range, then pump up the loudness. Wow, that's just great. As novice musician and having friends who are professional musicians, I'll trust my own ears anyday.
You're assuming that everybody's musical library consists of only music that was mastered in the last ten to fifteen years, and contains only the most mainstream hip-hop/pop/rock genres catering to the lowest common denominator. There are plenty of excellent mastering that was done before the loudness war, and plenty still today by mastering engineers and artists who do not participate in the loudness war. To say that all mastering engineers are exactly the same would be like saying all singers and musicians are exactly the same. This is especially true that in the last ten years, the anti-loudness war movement in the pro audio community has been gaining momentum, and plenty of people have refused to take part in that war.
And as for hardware vs. software EQ, there's no clear better or worse between them. There are plenty of excellent software EQ's and there are plenty of bad hardware ones. The fact that zo has next to no customization controls (apart from degree of severity of its curve) makes it a helluva lot less useful to anyone that cares about any semblance of accurate, neutral, and balanced sonic signature. Now, if you're talking about boutique and vintage hardware EQ used in pro audio that costs well over a thousand dollars, then yes, some of them are damn good, but they are still EQ's with actual controls, unlike zo. Spend the same $100 you'd spend on zo on a high quality software pro audio EQ instead (there are plenty of them out there), and you'd get far, far more than you would ever get from zo. But the problem is currently, pro audio EQ plugins are all in pro audio formats like VST, RTAS, TDM, AU...etc, and AFAIK, there are no portable players that can host them, so you can only run them on the computer. But, there's also the truth behind all normal EQ's, and that is they are all identical, and they can all be nulled with each other once you match their curves. The only exceptions are EQ's that were designed to have coloration on purpose, such as tube, vintage, or whatever voodoo done to have extra "spice" like harmonic excitement and so on. In other words, unless someone is completely inept at coding a typical vanilla EQ, you pretty much don't have to worry about your EQ. And I'm willing to bet you that if you allowed me to take whatever headphone it is that you're using and then use something like the Equalizer app on the iPhone (which costs only a few dollars) and customize a curve that's surgically tweaked to transform that headphone into an amazing sounding set of cans, the result will sound better and more balanced than whatever zo can give you.
I think it's important for people to realize that companies like this who make products like zo are counting on a particular segment of the market--people who don't know much about the inner workings of audio or how to surgically tweak parametric EQ's to absolute perfection (subjective to each person's ideal sonic signature, of course), or people who just don't want to bother with having to learn all the pro audio knowledge and apply them to what is merely a hobby. So, $100 seems like good solution because it doesn't require any learning and experimenting--it's a simple and quick fix, even if it's a flawed one. And they're right of course, because to most people, listening to music is just a hobby--it's not like they are passionate composers/musicians who live and breath and die by their music, and have dedicated all their time and energy and their entire lives to the art of sound. That is how consumer electronics work--that's what the market is all about--simple and easy and without too much thinking/learning. But what I don't like when companies make claims about things that can't possibly happen because it's against the laws of physics. Some headphones and speakers just aren't capable of sounding like there's a subwoofer strapped to the head due to their driver's limitations, and fixed presets are just way too colored since they can't possibly know which model of headphone you'd be using it on. So let's say you have a pair of headphones that's got a prominent hump in the 125Hz region, but it also starts rolling off at around 70Hz in a sharp slope. As soon as you engage zo's preset EQ curve, you're going to push that 125Hz region waaaaay up and you'll get this ridiculously colored and unbalanced sound. A far better alternative would be to use a parametric EQ and do a low shelf boost that matches the sub-bass roll-off slope of that headphone, and also do a dip right around 125Hz to counter that bass hump so it actually sounds balanced and accurate. FIXED EQ PRESETS CANNOT POSSIBLY CATER TO YOUR SPECIFIC HEADPHONE'S FAULTS, and that is the most glaring issue with products like these. It's like prescribing the same medication to everyone, regardless of how different their illnesses are. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to people who have some understanding of audio and wants accurate and balanced sound.