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Equalise to get a flat frequency (WHY NOT?)

post #1 of 119
Thread Starter 

Hi!

I would just like to ask why people complain so much about a headphone or a speaker lacking in bass, mids, treble and/or not a flat frequency curve, when all this problem can be solved by equalising? (at least from what I know)

 

So what is the problem with equalising and getting a flat frequency curve?

post #2 of 119

Some people think using an eq (hardware or software) is *cheating* or somehow affecting the purity of the sound. In my mind, they are akin to photographers who eschew even the littlest bit of retouching. Self defining purity and holding it as a standard regardless of the quality of the end product. 

 

Done right, I reject this notion. EQ is fine. Just don't go overboard - and watch that you do not introduce clipping and distortions through over modulation... 

post #3 of 119

Imo, EQing doesn't produce a "natural" or "original" sound. I tried EQing and the music became.. artificial.

post #4 of 119
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikp View Post

Imo, EQing doesn't produce a "natural" or "original" sound. I tried EQing and the music became.. artificial.


OVERBOARD or BAD EQUALIZER!

 

post #5 of 119
Thread Starter 

Why do people then spend a lot of money buying 'the perfect' headphone/earphone, when all their problems can be solved with some equalising?

post #6 of 119

I think there is a balance. If it takes a LOT of eq, to get the sound you want, you do risk affecting sound quality. 

 

So get it close with your headphone first, then eq to fill in the gaps (no headphone is perfect). 

 

Also - some mobile usages do not lend themselves to eq - likewise, some listening if not using a computer as your source, you need to get a hardware eq and not everyone wants to deal with that. 

post #7 of 119
Thread Starter 

How can I risk effecting sound quality?

 

Also do you know where (if possible) to get the sound (frequency/amplitude) curves for headphones? (frustrating that the manufacturer doesn't show you them)

post #8 of 119

You can get some graphs here http://www.headphone.com/learning-center/build-a-graph.php - these are normalized graphs - there is a way to get a raw graph in this tool, but I do not recall how. A search of this site might bring it up. Tyl at InnerFidelity provides some graphs too: http://www.innerfidelity.com/

 

Too much modulation (up or down) can introduce distortion - sometimes quite significant. Small changes are best. EQ is not magic, you cannot turn a bad headphone into a good one with eq - but you can make improvements, and corrections. 

 

 

edit: if you have a graph from headphone.com like this:

http://graphs.headphone.com/graphCompare.php?graphType=&graphID%5B%5D=283

 

change the last number (283) back by 2, (281) to get the raw frequency response. Some people find this helpful for eq.

http://graphs.headphone.com/graphCompare.php?graphType=&graphID%5B%5D=281

 

 

-

 

Also - a truly flat curve may not always be desirable. Experiment a bit, but in my experience, a flat curve can sound a bit, well... boring.


Edited by liamstrain - 12/8/11 at 9:46am
post #9 of 119

The problem is

1. it is hard to get a flat sound in hardware (equalizers can address this)

2. it is nigh impossible to measure the response *at the eardrum* (without measurements, you are equalizing blind; the best measurements you may see are those made inside of a dummy head costing thousands of dollars, that try to mimick the acoustics of the innards of a human ear)

3. you DON'T want a flat frequency response *at the eardrum*, because music is by and large recorded for and mixed for playback on loudspeakers, so headphones need to simulate the frequency response of loudspeakers.  While loudspeakers sound near their best when equalized flat (even this has its caveats), sound at different frequencies are attenuated to different degrees on their way from a typically positioned loudspeaker to the eardrum.  This is called the "Head-Related Transfer Function" and is different for everybody.

add to that the fact that

4. people's preferences for musical signatures are all over the place; even though pros mix on standardised equipment and theoretically music should sound best when your equipment produces similar sounds to their pro equipment, people's actual preferences are all over the map; people can and do want all their music coloured the way they want it.

 

--and you have a situation where the ideal of flat frequency response for everybody is simply FUBAR'ed.  Manufacturers are kind of stuck throwing phones with different sound characteristics all over the place and see what sticks.  No matter how off the beaten track of "ideal" (for the average ear) a pair of headphones' FR may be,

i) some people will find the coloration to their liking

ii) there will almost surely be someone out there whose head / ear / ear canal is shaped so strangely that his / her HRTF matches the whacked-out FR of the headphone and it will almost actually be "ideal" for him / her.

 

There remains other aspects of sound for which there are more objective ideals (but are harder to measure), such as transient response and freedom from harmonic distortion and resonances.  High budget earphones will usually be better in these regards and should sound better than low-budget earphones once the FR has been tweaked to your liking using EQ (which I see you have no qualms about).

 

In conclusion, yes equalizers can be helpful, but getting them to actually help you is much more complicated than finding some non-existent frequency response chart off the net and cancelling it out on your equalizer.

 

A scheme that might work is here

http://www.head-fi.org/t/413900/how-to-equalize-your-headphones-a-tutorial

and my addendum to it

http://www.head-fi.org/t/413900/how-to-equalize-your-headphones-a-tutorial/645#post_7905590

But it doesn't really work on your beloved Mac tongue.gif

post #10 of 119
Quote:
Originally Posted by iXpertMan View Post

Why do people then spend a lot of money buying 'the perfect' headphone/earphone, when all their problems can be solved with some equalising?


All of their problems you say.... What about transient/impulse response? What about mechanical resonances in the headphone "parts" (frame, driver housing, etc)?

 

EQ doesn't do anything to fix transient response or mechanical resonances. The only way to improve these 2 things is to buy headphones that work better because of better design and construction.

 

I guess the sound you are looking for is the sound you are looking for, but once I had a headphone with good fast transient response and low mechanical resonances I found it very easy to EQ them to get a realllllly nice sound. 

 

PS: This is why I own the HD800. I EQ them based on the thread that Joe linked to. EQ'ing based on a measurement microphone sucks.


Edited by nikongod - 12/9/11 at 8:38am
post #11 of 119
Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Bloggs View Post

But it doesn't really work on your beloved Mac tongue.gif



Once you develop a parametric eq, you can use Play, and the Apple Para EQ output to use it. So all is not lost. :) Or Audio Hijack Pro, and grab the iTunes output and run it through a VST or AU para.  

post #12 of 119

Why NOT? Laziness, "purity", and other BS reasons. I do agree with your viewpoint that people really do waste money on far too many components trying to accomplish what could be done in ten minutes with a parametric EQ. After playing with equalization and experimenting long enough with some "mid-fi" vs. low-fi equipment, I whole heartedly believe that you can get a source/amp combo for less than $200 (maybe even less than 100?) that will be acoustically transparent. Finding headphones that aren't peaky as @#$%, to YOUR ears, is the battle. Many headphones to me have an enormous dip at 8-10 kHz. It's like the sine wave just fades away to nothing. This includes high end equipment like the LCD-2. It's not my source—my monitors sound fine on the same equipment... it's just the way headphones interact with my ears.

 

Yes, of course it has some problems. Get yourself a flat response then come back to it in a week. It might not be flat anymore. So many factors around/on/in your ears change over time that will change the sound. The position of the headphones might even make a big enough difference. It depends on YOU! This hobby is incredibly self-reliant but we rely on reviews and opinions from others so heavily. It sucks.


Edited by Vkamicht - 12/9/11 at 11:21am
post #13 of 119
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vkamicht View Post

I do agree with your viewpoint that people really do waste money on far too many components trying to accomplish what could be done in ten minutes with a parametric EQ.

 

 

Finding headphones that aren't peaky as @#$%, to YOUR ears, is the battle. 

 


You just contradicted yourself. 

 

In one line you state that one can EQ out all of the problems one hears in cheap gear and in another line you state that one should try to find a headphone that doesn't have undesired peaks in the frequency response. 

 

Which one? 

 

Edited:

This is my 8000'th post.


Edited by nikongod - 12/9/11 at 1:14pm
post #14 of 119
Quote:
Originally Posted by nikongod View Post


You just contradicted yourself. 

 

In one line you state that one can EQ out all of the problems one hears in cheap gear and in another line you state that one should try to find a headphone that doesn't have undesired peaks in the frequency response. 

 

Which one? 

 

Edited:

This is my 8000'th post.

 

Sorry if I wasn't clear. My "many components" referred to everything other than headphones—amps, DACs, interconnects (vomit)... I did not say all components. Also, I didn't say "one can EQ all the problems they hear in cheap gear." I said they can spend a lot of money TRYING to fix problems... that probably won't go away because they are intrinsic to their headphones and/or ears. Lots of cheap gear is measurably "near perfect" and that was my point. My 0404 PCI is a $100 sound card that has awesome RMAA specs, to the point where anything that scores better doesn't really matter when everything you hear is colored by +/- 5dB peaks

 


Edited by Vkamicht - 12/9/11 at 2:36pm
post #15 of 119

I'm not a sound science guy so don't tear me apart.

 

The truth probably lies somewhere in between. It's like when objectivists try to say all DACs some the same (or even all properly implemented DACs sound the same). If someone can sit down with two properly implemented DACs in the same system and get 10/10 on a blind ABX test, some objectivists would still say there's no difference because there's numbers to prove it. At that point, no matter what the numbers say, it seems that at least the TESTEE can hear the difference.
 

The same can be applied to EQing, I'm personally don't EQ because I'm lazy, I don't know without messing up the sound, I think it colors the sound, blah blah all that BS excuse. Is that the same as saying I would never enjoy an equalized sound? No. Put me in a sterile system (which I have now) and a few hip-hop songs and I'd be begging for some EQing...

 

But there's a limit to it, a common-sensicle (not a real word, but a cool word non the less) limit. You can put up all the numbers you want but shove a SR60i driver into a HD800 shell and compare it with a real HD800. EQ your behind off and I'd bet $1000 that half a dead and blindfolded rabbit can tell the difference.

 

Another thing is, lack of bass/mids/highs are not the only problems that exist in the headphone would, there sound stage to consider, comfort, reasonance in closed cans, all kinds of things that can affect the sound of a headphone or speakers.

 

EQ does get you places, it'll save a lot of people a TON of money, but it is not the be all and end all of all your problems and even if someone can throw the numbers at you and yet you can HEAR the difference (not see, hear) - forget the damn numbers.

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