Equalizer App Reviews - 4 EQs in Review
Hey everyone! This idea has been floating in my head for a while, and it's about time that I would be sharing it with you. As the title suggests, I'm going to be reviewing equalizer apps for iOS and Android.
Before I begin, however, I would like to clarify that I am not an expert in equalizers of any sort. I'm just a regular consumer-type Head-Fi'er, just like many of you out here.
If you've read the earlier reviews, note that they won't be found here anymore. Maintaining them and updating them constantly to cater to anything new isn't of much help to me, so the review will be simply a pro/con list with details under each one. A green plus sign (+) will signify a pro, a red minus sign (–) will indicate a con, and a yellow equal sign (=) will be considered a neutral. Neutral ratings could be a pro or a con depending on you, the user. Also, there are a few If/Then scenarios to help guide you to what the app is good for.
Though there are currently 4 reviews, I'm still in the progress of revamping all of them to fit with the new format.
A few notes before I begin:
- All of the songs for testing (listed on another bullet list below) will be used with my Beats (Pros).
- Since the subjects in review are equalizer apps, all of them are bound come with a preset EQ setting. I'll review them along with a custom EQ setting of my own. Note that I will be comparing a similar EQ setting for each of the apps (my personal favorite - heavy sub and low bass, with sharp highs and mids). All of the EQs have a limit, and my preferential sound signature should be able to see that limit and check for distortions.
- Speed tests may vary based on the remaining resources on my device (iPod Touch 4G). I will base my score on the average speeds.
For the sound quality tests, I'll be using a variety of music. They are all listed below:
- Daft Punk - Random Access Memories (Electronic) [Apple Lossless]
- Michael Jackson - Greatest Hits (Pop) [Apple Lossless]
- Bruno Mars - Unorthodox Jukebox (Pop) [Apple Lossless]
- Aiza Seguerra - Open Arms (Acoustic Pop) [MP3 128 kbps]
- Brownman Revival - Ayos Din & Steady Lang (Reggae) [MP3 128 kbps]
- Yiruma - Reminiscent 10th Anniversary (Piano) [Apple Lossless]
So, let's get started!
Aphex is a leading industry standard in professional audio, as it has been offering beneficial audio enhancements to artists, musicians, producers, and performers. Sadly, I have no idea what it really is aside from its app. It takes Aphex’s ‘award-winning sound’ that has been developed and improved for ‘over 30 years’ and crams it all into the Audio Xciter app. Does it deliver? Find out below.Review: (Click to show)
+ Extremely fast response, similar (if not equal to) the stock Music app.
At times it may not be as fast, but expect response times from near-instant to about 1 second. It is quite fast overall.
+ Interface adopts iOS 6 style, but with a touch of fresh color.
I might want to rate this as a neutral, but I dig the iOS 6’s music player look, which is nonexistent in my iOS 5 device. Now, now, don’t urge me to upgrade – it’s jailbroken.
+ Silver version is discounted (at the time of writing), priced at $0.99.
The Silver version is the first step up from the Free version, which removes the time limit placed upon the Free version (see Con #2). The original price used to be $2.99.
= Custom EQ may be too soft on the treble.
Like what I mentioned above, the soft treble is based upon forcing the limits of the EQ. Pushing the app even further becomes detrimental to the sound (see Con #1).
= Studio version may be a little overpriced based on what it offers.
The Studio version is priced at $4.99. While this is on par with the prices of many other equalizer apps, it fails to deliver a good price-to-performance ratio as it only offers a custom, yet very restrictive, EQ slot. More on this below.
– EQ distorts the ‘s’ sound.
Unlike what I’ve encountered before, I have done more critical listening tests and found distortion even while using the presets. It dawned upon me that distortion is prevalent no matter what you do. The distortion is most prominent when vocals pronounce the letter S.
– Free version contains a time limit.
Xciter’s Free version, unlike others, is unique in that it offers a 5-minute time limit with the EQ turned on. Not only is this annoying, it also forces you to pay for the Silver version if you happen to like the preset (but it is currently discounted at $0.99 from $2.99).
Audio Xciter is far from what I had expected. Unlike my previous review, I wasn’t paying too much attention and I seemed to have overlooked the distortion prevalent in all of its settings, no matter how you tweak it. Though it does provide a quality enhancement with a natural sound signature, the distortion is too much to bear, as I could hear it in all kinds of songs. One thing is for sure though – the Silver version is pretty cheap, and at that price point it’s a worthy competitor. If your ears could tolerate the distortion, you should get it.
If you like a fast player app, this is for you.
If you like blue and green, this is for you.
If you don’t mind some distortion (or are a casual listener), this is for you.
As most of you may already know, Denon has long been a respected brand with their classic series being one of the top competitors in a wide range of price marks. However, this time they decided to change it up and fit in with the contemporary age – so they released 4 new lines, Music Maniac, Urban Raver, Globe Cruiser, and Exercise Freak. Though they may have gone far out of their norm, they still are regarded as a great brand. With each of those four lines comes a companion app which is said to work best with each of their headphones. Let’s test them.Review: (Click to show)
+ EQ is capable of altering over 1000 bands.
The interface is basically a curve which you could edit; you could alter one of the thousands of bands from 32 Hz to 13 KHz. However, this is not the first to employ this type of EQ – EQu was the one who came first. I’ll write a review on this later.
+ All variants are free.
This is probably the biggest selling point of the apps. There is neither a trial version nor upgrade; all of the apps are just free.
+ There’s one for everyone – with each app having its own features.
As there are four variants – namely, Audio, Club, Travel, and Sport – I’ll write each of their respective features down below.
Audio is the bare-bones player in red. It really doesn’t have much to offer other than Internet radio (courtesy of TuneIn) and the equalizer, both of which are present in all of the other apps.
Club offers lyric access to the Lyric Wiki, while changing all of the red lights to yellow. I’ve tested the lyrics feature, but it constantly fails to recognize the lyrics to the song I’m listening to, which makes it useless in all respects.
Travel, as the name implies, is designed for travel. Incorporating the features of the original Audio app, it throws in travel app compatibility for easy access while you jam to your tunes. I haven’t tested it much as I’m not a frequent traveler, but it should prove handy to those who do.
Sport is probably the only app with secondary features that are both practical and functional features. It is compatible with all sorts of sensors (heart rate, calories burned, etc.) to monitor your activity right from the get-go. It’s good because it actually works well.
+ Jukebox-style queue feature
Another very enticing selling point, all of the Denon apps (as well as a particular other) feature a jukebox-like queue feature, which allows you to pick the songs that com up next right while a song is playing. It’s great when you’re still warming up in the gym or while you’re waiting for the boarding call. Best of all, you get to save those playlists, too.
= Sound can distort – most (if not all) cases are due to user error.
This distortion is quite unlike Xciter in that it only happens when you crank the 13 KHz or 32 Hz setting too high, which can and will damage the drivers on your headphones. This is basically a warning, in all respects.
= TuneIn Internet radio access
As it is neutral, it’s up to you whether it’s good or not. I don’t think it’s useful, but it’s a handy feature.
= Features may be useless or annoying
This kinda depends on what you’re choosing to download. But as all of them are free, you could just get all of them, test them, and leave out the one you like. Simple as that.
– Slight learning curve when navigating through the interface
It’s all part of the experience. This curve involves getting used to the jukebox-like queuing feature, as some users haven’t gotten around to playing whole playlists at first.
Denon released promising companion apps to their latest headphone lines at the lowest price imaginable – free. Its features are useful for a wide variety of applications like the headphones, and it should appeal to users of all sorts. However, their common features are also shared with EQu – another equalizer app which I’ll be reviewing soon. Nevertheless, it’s free – and a paid app like EQu can’t compete with free.
If you like free EQ apps with complete functionality, this is for you.
If you like making custom EQ curves, this is for you.
If you like making playlists on-the-fly, this is for you.
If you have travel apps or workout sensors, this is for you.
Golden Ears is a Korean group of audio experts who have taken measures to achieve what could be considered “true flat” sound. Of course, even they acknowledge that it is impossible – but at least they’re trying to come close to it. Accudio is the brainchild of their efforts and is the only app with access to a database of extremely precise measurements that are sure to put a smile on any audio technician’s face (in my opinion). Obviously, this app means business, right? Let’s get right down to that.Review: (Click to show)
+ Over 300 presets (and counting!) designed to flatten the sound of a particular headphone model.
This is the reason why Accudio has a following of people who praised Accudio and Golden Ears – they even have a forum thread about it right here on Head-Fi. (It’s called Accudio – a headphone revolution or something along those lines.)
As stated above, Golden Ears is serious about what it does, and each of these presets are designed to flatten the sound of a headphone that you use with it.
+ Powerful results are powerful.
The moment you activate the EQ, the sound comes at you with a bang. It really is noticeable, but in my headphones’ case, it sounds strangely lifeless. More on this later.
Custom mode, however, is a different story. It is a 10-band equalizer which is rather annoying to get used to, but can improve your sound drastically. I’m rather lazy to create one, though, so I stick to Reference Mode (or the one you set first).
+ “Cheating” the app can substantially improve sound.
This is where the sound really gets wild. As you are initially “required” to choose your pair from their presets, it normally comes to you as just that. If you happen to not like the sound, you could tweak it with a 5-bar equalizer or with Simulation Mode, where the app tweaks it even further to simulate the sound signature of one of a pair of mid-to-high-end headphones.
If you still don’t like it (like me), you could always create a new EQ setting. Then, simply choose a pair of headphones that isn’t yours. It seems like cheating, but I guess that’s why I called it that. There, the sound quality goes from zero to 100. It’s that powerful. Sooner or later you should be able to find a combination that will appeal to your ears.
+ The multitude of presets means you may not need to create a custom EQ.
This is especially useful for the ones who are simply too lazy to play around with the buttons of their custom EQ interface (like me). It is confusing to work with, so I simply pick Reference Mode.
+ The free version is a great demo.
A stark contrast to the free version of Audio Xciter, Accudio places no limit on the listening time, but on the EQ settings. You are limited to only one Reference mode EQ and one from Custom mode. You could always just look for the best one and be done with it; but if you want more EQ slots (like me), you could purchase the Pro version for $4.99.
= Tweaks made by the developers may be beneficial or detrimental to the SQ.
This is why I ‘cheat’ the app. I have heard reports of the sound quality deteriorating on particular pairs, while others are improved. I happen to be one of the former. The bass is lifeless and flat (as Golden Ears have aimed to do), and it’s a big improvement, but all in all, it’s unenjoyable.
= Interface is rather drab and boring.
Well, that depends on your preference, but I quite like Xciter’s theme as well as Denon’s. Though Accudio does allow a little bit of customization, it isn’t really worth it. Like I said, it’s based on your preferences.
– App is horrendously slow when buffering songs.
Load times can take as long as 6 seconds when using Apple Lossless files. Expect load times of about 3 seconds tops for MP3 files.
– You’ll have to wait for an Android version to come out. Devs say it will come out soon enough.
As the heading states, there is no Android version unlike other EQ apps, so Android users will have to wait.
Easily my personal favorite EQ app out there, Accudio Pro is totally appealing aurally – making compromises visually – with its powerful equalizer presets that just keep coming. It is an astounding app with a sound quality that cannot fail to please.
If you’re a lazy bum (like me) when it comes to custom EQs, this app is for you.
If you want to flatten your headphone’s sound, this is for you.
If you want your music to sound better – and nothing more – then this is for you.
If you use an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch, this is for you.
If you have five dollars to spare, then this is for you.
Awarded for: Astonishing Audio
SonicMax has always been a notable name in the audio enhancement industry, and while selling their enhancement software and equipment, they decided to take it to smartphones with this powerfully red app. Honestly, I have no idea who BBE is, but nevertheless this app looks promising. Is it?Review: (Click to show)
+ In-your-face interface is both stylish and convenient.
The first thing you notice with this app is that it’s red – really red. It’s also accented by a brushed-metal silver which really completes the look. That steel bar will be what I call the “Superstar Bar.” Why? It’s always “on top” – literally. It also grants easy access to the Now Playing screen, as well as Pause/Play and Forward/Backward track controls. It’s really useful.
It doesn’t end there. The EQ interface looks quite like a guitar amp, with knobs, lights, and an EQ on/off switch. You could alter the sound using either the knobs or by tapping on a knob and sliding the bar up and down. The aesthetic looks are not only appealing, but also quite useful.
+ EQ is powerful and extensive, and doesn’t introduce distortion.
Expanding on the EQ interface, the settings are very, very powerful, and they improve quality in the highs and mids unlike any custom EQ I’ve ever seen. Bass extension could also be altered and improved, and there’s even a soundstage booster. This soundstage boost could be better or worse for the sound, so you should try to find a sweet spot for balance, or just disable it altogether. Nevertheless, I haven’t found a custom EQ as powerful as this (not even Accudio, because its power lies in the presets).
+ So. Many. Slots. So. Many. Presets.
It’s not infinite, but it’s far more that what I had anticipated. It contains presets catered to so many speakers. This is a contrast to Accudio’s diverse headphone preset collection because they have labeled slots with presets designed for full-fledged speakers, sound bars, speaker docks, and even alarm clock radios. It even has three extra for any other devices you may have. It’s strange because few people own half or more than half of the devices shown in there (minus the custom ones). And the best part? They’re all customizable!
+ So. Damn. Cheap.
Priced at $2.99, the app’s price point makes it a steal.
= Presets aren’t to my liking.
This is entirely based on your opinion, but the presets are rather bassy in my opinion. I guess that’s because I love bright treble. Nevertheless, a quick tweak fixes it right up.
– Inline remote and SBSettings controls malfunction at times. Delay is also noticeable.
This only happens when the device is locked while the app is in the EQ setting screen. I’ve only seen it happen with iOS devices, so an Android test has yet to be tried out. It also has a slight delay with its response times going from 1 to 3 seconds.
Though it comes with some slight issues with the inline remote controls, SonicMax Pro nevertheless stands out as my top picks. Second only to Accudio, SonicMax Pro provides rolls in a powerful EQ, slick styling, and a convenient interface with a bargain price tag.
If you like the color red, this is for you.
If you like a convenient interface, this is for you.
If you like knobs and buttons that do away with the curved visuals of other apps, then this is for you.
If you want the most bang for your buck, this is for you.
Awarded for: Great B4B (bang for buck)
Radsone is an up-and-coming (at least, it seems to be) company that specializes in digital sound processing, founded in 2010. Their crew consists of a few members, with the president being Korean (similar to Golden Ears). Let’s take a look at their offering that is about to go head-to-head with Accudio and SonicMax Pro.
Review: (Click to show)
+ User interface looks really good.
It reminds me of SonicMax somewhat, as the theme uses a brushed-metal design which is prominent in basically everywhere. Lights are in a flashy green, which is quite pleasing to the eyes.
+ Equalizer is extensive and powerful.
To sum it up, it’s simply amazing. There’s a 10-band EQ that uses sliders as opposed to BBE’s knobs and Accudio’s buttons. You could also tweak it more accurately by tapping upon a band and sliding on an area at the bottom. Presets sound quite good too, and it isn’t distorting so far.
+ Soundstage booster trumps every other EQ app on the market (so far, at least).
Probably the biggest gimmick that really draws me in, Radsone features a soundstage booster that really does its job. It improves the depth of the soundstage without feeling artificial in any way. It’s a big win for the folks in Radsone, because this app has got to be the K1000 of equalizer apps.
+ Lots of useful little gimmicks.
Aside from the EQ and its other sliders, you could also see detailed information on your songs, as well as skipping in varying intervals. It also has a sleep timer. Though you might not need it, it’s a nice addition.
+ Speed is exceptional.
Just that. It’s as fast as Xciter based on some more analytical tests, but there is a slight delay when loading songs. Other than that, it’s not much of an issue to trifle with.
= Settings menu is kinda confusing to begin with.
YMMV here as you could either pick up immediately, or take time fumbling with the controls…
– EQ isn’t as extensive or as powerful as others.
However, I would like to note that they sound quite well from the get-go.
Radsone is a really promising EQ app that holds its own quite well. Its soundstage booster is the best I’ve listened to so far, and it offers great speed as well. However, its 10-band equalizer is not as powerful as the others and it falls a little bit short here. Nevertheless, it’s a great app that you could try.
If you like brushed metal, this is for you.
If you want to boost soundstage for your headphones, this is for you.
If you own a closed headphone, this is for you.
Awarded for: Soundstage Superstar
Note: If you have any equalizer apps I haven't reviewed yet, I'll consider wasting a few extra dollars of my allowance to review it for information's sake. Oh yeah, and sorry if it looks like I'm copying your star, bowei006. (It's not copyrighted, right? It even rhymes!)
Edited by thatBeatsguy - 7/20/13 at 1:13am