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Hardware EQ - What do I look for?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, just thought I'd ask the question. 

 

I use plenty of hardware EQ (Mostly Klark-Teknik) for live application.

However, I'm not too sure what the actual scientific or physical difference is, between a "good" or "expensive" EQ, compared to a cheap one.

 

For instance, this Sherwood unit is currently very cheap on ebay:

Processed By eBay with ImageMagick, R1.1.1.M2b

Where as I already have access to this unit, being a cheap unit from the Philippines:



What exactly should I look for, in a "good" standalone hardware EQ (for headphones)? And yes, I do already use a software EQ (made by Xnor, funnily enough) for my music. But I would prefer a hardware EQ, that goes over my ENTIRE collection of source units (Turntable, PC, MD, etc) instead of just one software EQ for one application. 

post #2 of 19

I haven't used Klark-Teknik in years, and didn't realize why until I looked over their current product line.  Looks like they're stuck in the 1980s with their graphic EQs, when the rest of the world has moved on to full parametric and DSP based EQ.  

 

When you're trying to nail EQ for something like headphones, there's nothing like a full-parametric, as many bands of it as you can afford.  The analog version of that will be pricy, as they are pretty complex and have lots of hardware and controls.  You could find a vintage Technics SH-9010...too bad, I sold one a few months back.  Anyway, graphics are compromises, the center frequencies are never exactly where you need them, the filter bandwidths are too wide or not wide enough, and the entire thing is in-circuit if you only want one control.  Pretty much no chance of accurate stereo match because the physical sliders don't track each other worth a darn, and even the band tunings won't be identical.

 

If you don't mind digital, the Behringer DEQ2496 is a great unit at a great price.  There's graphic modules, 10-band parametric, (and a whole lot of other stuff you'll never use) and the channels are stereo linkable so you get identical EQ in each ear...try THAT with analog! The A/D and D/A is 24/96.  Really nice for the price, can't think of a better deal.  Looks like the price to beat is $349, which frankly is flat-out amazing given what this thing does.

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post
 

I haven't used Klark-Teknik in years, and didn't realize why until I looked over their current product line.  Looks like they're stuck in the 1980s with their graphic EQs, when the rest of the world has moved on to full parametric and DSP based EQ.  


Their EQ's are still the industry standard, in live venues Australia wide. 

EDIT: unless you weren't discussing live use, in which case I apologise. 

I will look into the Behringer you recommended, hoping that it was made after the Klark Teknik and Midas merge. 

The rest of your response was beautifully written and incredibly helpful, and is EXACTLY why I came here to ask - THANK you. 


Edited by White Lotus - 9/10/13 at 7:40am
post #4 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by White Lotus View Post
 


Their EQ's are still the industry standard, in live venues Australia wide. 

EDIT: unless you weren't discussing live use, in which case I apologise. 

Yeah, I know.  Its just that after years of system tuning, I would feel like I was blindfolded and had one hand and one foot tied behind my back if I had to tune with a graphic now.  I analyze to 1/24th octave, eq to 1/12, and nail the house curve dead-nuts on.  A 1/3 octave graphic is like trying to do brain surgery with a chain saw.

post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post
 

 trying to do brain surgery with a chain saw.


Haha - personally I love it. When I start to feel the ground rumbling when it shouldn't - without thinking, my hand instinctively flies down to the 125hz fader for some "damage control" before trying to find out what else might have happened.

 

But again, thankyou for the initial response. Is it worth me doing some RMAA tests to confirm JUST how bad the unit I have is?

post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by White Lotus View Post
 


Haha - personally I love it. When I start to feel the ground rumbling when it shouldn't - without thinking, my hand instinctively flies down to the 125hz fader for some "damage control" before trying to find out what else might have happened.

Ha!  Yes, the practical side...good move.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by White Lotus View Post
Is it worth me doing some RMAA tests to confirm JUST how bad the unit I have is?

Knowledge is power.  Turn the power switch on!

post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jaddie View Post

Behringer DEQ2496


...Wow, what a dream-boat. For home use, it looks impressive. 

 

 

post #8 of 19

I second the Behringer.

 

It's quite a thing to learn how to use although there is plenty of info on the web.

 

I use mine between a CD Transport and DAC, so only in digital, but in quite a good set up.

 

It has a width function which I tried with speakers and didn't like but may be interesting on headphones.

 

Apparently it was designed for live musicians.

 

As a pro unit it uses XLR inputs and outputs. The rack mounting bits can be unscrewed.

post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 

And when the EQ is flat, it doesn't colour the sound too much, or raise the noise floor?

post #10 of 19
Unlike analog EQ where if you can't bypass unused sections audio goes through all that electronics anyway, with DSP based EQ, if no modifications are being made, data passes through unaltered. And the entire thing is really one big complex filter.
post #11 of 19
Quote:
And when the EQ is flat, it doesn't colour the sound too much

 

The Behringer can be used in 'Bypass' mode, where all the filters are bypassed so making the sound exactly as you would hear it without EQ (I assume that's what you're asking). It can of course also be used with all the settings in EQ and Parametric EQ unaltered. I've not noticed any colour to the sound as a result.

 

Quote:

or raise the noise floor?

I've not noticed EQ raise the noise floor. I alter the Behringer to be 9dB down to allow for increases I might have made up to a maximum of 6dB. It may be slightly more in some cases because of the Parametric EQ hence the extra 3dB.

 

It may of course have increased the noise floor but the change from non EQ sound to EQ sound is so profound that I may simply not notice. I EQ to make the sound at my ears as flat as possible and this currently seems to give me the best sound in my speaker system.

 

This is whilst using it in digital only, not its ADC and DAC.

 

There is also a method to lower the whole of one side by x amount of dB, effectively a balance control.

 

I don't know how you currently decide what EQ you need but the Behringer can be used to measure that with its Real Time Analyser (RTA) mode. You need a microphone (the Behringer ECM8000 is a reasonable one and what I use), stand and microphone cable for this, costing another £100 or so. If you want to make more sophisticated measurements you could use free software called REW (Room EQ Wizard). It too is very complicated but once mastered is really helpful.

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hipper View Post
 

I don't know how you currently decide what EQ you need but the Behringer can be used to measure that with its Real Time Analyser (RTA) mode. You need a microphone (the Behringer ECM8000 is a reasonable one and what I use), stand and microphone cable for this, costing another £100 or so. If you want to make more sophisticated measurements you could use free software called REW (Room EQ Wizard). It too is very complicated but once mastered is really helpful.

Just a comment on the DEQ2496 RTA, their analysis is flawed, you won't hit the room EQ that way well at all. It's not that the RTA is wrong, its that you can't hit room EQ with a single point RTA. REW can do it, but it needs a brain to run it right.  None of this is helpful for headphone EQ because there's no target curve involved, and no good way to mic the headphone without a pretty serious rig.

post #13 of 19

I'm not saying the Behringer's RTA is spot on accurate - it changes with different runs of measurements. However I assume you get a fair approximation as the results, whatever they are, do improve the sound. I repeated measurements and made alterations by hand in order to get the best results.

 

REW appears more accurate and a bit more consistent but still produces different results even if running a measure one after the other. For best accuracy with practicality I found four sweeps (at 256K) was reasonable. I'm more confident of results with REW but not 100% confident. If I do measurements with the same positionings the next day the results are a bit different again. This tells me that the placement of the microphone needs to be more precise then I can manage.

post #14 of 19
Thread Starter 

Sorry to bring this up again - the 2496 just looks way too overkill for my needs at home. 

 

For the pricing of that unit around my area, I could buy some VERY decent cans.

 

Is there anything a little less expensive that you could recommend? 

 

Lately when I've been reading headphone reviews, a few things have been bugging me. Namely, the fact that SO much of the review is based on tonal balance ("Too much bass") 

 

Couldn't this mostly be adjusted via EQ? Or would that somehow raise distortion levels?

 

For instance, if I have the a headphone with a neutral signature, and I wanted it to have a more prominent low-mid, midbass and subass, could I do so purely via EQ?

 

Or do I need to look for a new headphone that suits my sound signature exactly?

post #15 of 19

Behringer make an analogue EQ, here:

 

http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/FBQ800.aspx

 

It costs around £60. I did in fact use one of these with headphones just to increase the treble area and it worked well, making a frustrating headphone (Sennheisser HD650) sound more enjoyable. Purists will say it will add noise but I never noticed anything bad. This was in a separate headphone set up.

 

Changing just headphone response could involve changing amps, DACs or even cables. Or using EQ. Ideally you should find a combination of headphone, amp and DAC that suits your ears but I see nothing wrong with using EQ.

 

You said in your OP that you  '....would prefer a hardware EQ, that goes over my ENTIRE collection of source units (Turntable, PC, MD, etc) instead of just one software EQ for one application.'

 

If that's still the case, I still think the DEQ2496, which has a number of memory slots for different EQ's, is probably your best bet. It's difficult to imagine something at that price with such flexibility, even if much of it is not required. I've had my Behringer for over seven years using it with pretty high end gear and am still vey happy with it.

 

The next step after the Behringer are things like Tact and the DEQX, both costing in the thousands.

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