It doesn't to be either anymore. EQ turned off seems to be more around everything on 7. 12 is too loud, but it is just a nudge louder than 7 when turned off. 7 might be fairly accurate to my ears.
However when the EQ is off there is more bass. For whatever reason the bass goes up to some unknown variable vs having the EQ on with everything set to the same number.
Edit : While I usually have always used previous firmware versions with the EQ on with some custom setting, I seem to be unable to figure out what the default EQ is for the unit when it's turned off. It clearly not straight across. When using the EQ the settings sound the same when set the same as they were on previous firmware, but you can expand above and below 6 to 12. But EQ off no longer appears to sound like 6 straight across like it use to.
Edit #2 : K, so anyone who claims the 'stock' EQ setting sounds different than previous firmware I have to agree. It is not the same. EQ on with everything set to +6 sounds to me like previous firmware versions with the EQ turned off though.
You can use the EQ to turn the bass , mids and treble to higher levels than the all previous firmware versions though. 7 and higher creates for sound signatures not even possible before. I like this improved EQ. Lets me actually give the treble a boost if I so desire. Something not really possible before.
I agree with what you're saying.
With 1.2.5 and 1.2.6 i liked the SQ with EQ off but with 1.2.7 the soundstage is slightly smaller and vocals are set back slightly (which i don't like) and coupled with the increase in the lower frequencies does soften the sound for me
But as you have said,.in 1.2.7, there is more scope for adjustment,it just means more playing with the sliders to get the sound i want.