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Is 80% of "hi-fi" just EQ?

post #1 of 48
Thread Starter 

My hi-fi journey has evolved in ups and downs, back and forth from believer to skeptic.  Recently since discovering the sound science forum I feel more informed than ever.  But also more skeptical in a lot of ways.  I'm starting to believe a great deal of we call "hi-fi" is just EQ.  Given that you have a reasonable source (and IMO the onboard output from a 2013-made high-end motherboard is certainly reasonable), an amplifier that can deliver enough power (even if it's reaallly cheap), the only thing that matters is the speaker/headphones.  And even in that case, a great deal of differences can be "fixed" with EQ.

 

I did an experiment today.  I borrowed my friend's pair of Grade SR-225's.  I've owned these in the past and absolutely hated them.  I downloaded a plugin graphic equalizer (supposedly better than the built-in one) for Foobar and set up this ridiculous EQ curve according to the SR-225's frequency response graphs.  I then further skewed it for my own taste.  I had the bass at 100hz at +15dB.  

 

Guess what?  The SR-225's sounded AMAZING.  Tight powerful bass.  Not much extension in the really low hz but still, they didn't sound anything like Grado's.  I had expected there to be crazy distortion with using this much EQ but it turns out there is none audible at all (makes sense as all changes are are in negative dBs). 

 

Now, I'm not saying a $50 pair of computer speakers can be EQed to sound like floorstanders or anything like that.

 

Just that within equipment of the same category, you can use EQ to make one setup pretty much sound like another.

 

I believe this especially true for amplifiers and DACs.  I'm starting to believe there is nothing at all to DACs except EQ.  And as long as an amplifier can deliver enough clean power, there is not much difference either.  Aren't tubes basically just another type of EQ?, etc...

 

Just felt like ranting... I still love this hobby but the more I get into it, the I believe "Visual Placebo", "Price Sticker Placebo", "Pretty Tube Glow", and EQ makes up the majority of sound difference between equipment.

post #2 of 48

What other headphone did you compare the eq'd SR225 with?

post #3 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by dizzyorange View Post
 

My hi-fi journey has evolved in ups and downs, back and forth from believer to skeptic.  Recently since discovering the sound science forum I feel more informed than ever.  But also more skeptical in a lot of ways.  I'm starting to believe a great deal of we call "hi-fi" is just EQ.  Given that you have a reasonable source (and IMO the onboard output from a 2013-made high-end motherboard is certainly reasonable), an amplifier that can deliver enough power (even if it's reaallly cheap), the only thing that matters is the speaker/headphones.  And even in that case, a great deal of differences can be "fixed" with EQ.

 

I did an experiment today.  I borrowed my friend's pair of Grade SR-225's.  I've owned these in the past and absolutely hated them.  I downloaded a plugin graphic equalizer (supposedly better than the built-in one) for Foobar and set up this ridiculous EQ curve according to the SR-225's frequency response graphs.  I then further skewed it for my own taste.  I had the bass at 100hz at +15dB.  

 

Guess what?  The SR-225's sounded AMAZING.  Tight powerful bass.  Not much extension in the really low hz but still, they didn't sound anything like Grado's.  I had expected there to be crazy distortion with using this much EQ but it turns out there is none audible at all (makes sense as all changes are are in negative dBs). 

 

Now, I'm not saying a $50 pair of computer speakers can be EQed to sound like floorstanders or anything like that.

 

Just that within equipment of the same category, you can use EQ to make one setup pretty much sound like another.

 

I believe this especially true for amplifiers and DACs.  I'm starting to believe there is nothing at all to DACs except EQ.  And as long as an amplifier can deliver enough clean power, there is not much difference either.  Aren't tubes basically just another type of EQ?, etc...

 

Just felt like ranting... I still love this hobby but the more I get into it, the I believe "Visual Placebo", "Price Sticker Placebo", "Pretty Tube Glow", and EQ makes up the majority of sound difference between equipment.

 

There are a few experiments like this at the other end of the chain. You take your microphone and collect the signal, then run it through software intended to emulate the sound of classic mic's. Welllllll....

 

You *can* change your captured sound, of course. You can shape it to something different than you captured, of course. It will be more like the classic mic than the original un-manipulated file. But it's still not a Neumann U47, nor will it ever be.

 

I'd guess that you can certainly change the sound to your taste with EQ. Especially, you can tune it [partially] to your particular listening space, with EQ--there you're removing distortions that acoustics have introduced way at the end of the playback chain. But EQ is too blunt an instrument to bear the responsibility for most differences between audio equipment (some, or many, sure). If you reduce 5k on the EQ, you reduce it everywhere, for the entire track, by the same amount. That's one reason recording engineers prefer to capture the sound properly in the first place, to avoid having to solve problems later on with a blunt instrument like EQ. Get the room fixed, get the microphone in the right place, control bleed-through, control phase, get the right guitar tone dialed in--these will provide a superior result.

post #4 of 48
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by laon View Post
 

What other headphone did you compare the eq'd SR225 with?

 

Senn 650s are my go to.  I like the bass on them but find the midrange to have this "thin" quality.  I don't hear the Sennheiser veil that people speak of at all.  If anything, I wish the 650s were "thicker" sounding.  

 

Un-EQ'ed Grados sound like a telephone to me.  Like they just stop at about 150hz and there's nothing underneath that! 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by UltMusicSnob View Post
 

If you reduce 5k on the EQ, you reduce it everywhere, for the entire track, by the same amount.

 

That's a good point.  I do not know of any common free EQs that have a 3rd dimension (though they probably exist).

post #5 of 48

Sure, especially with headphones EQ/frequency response makes most of the sound. After all there is no room acoustics that can alter sound considerably with speakers.

 

Distortion can be a problem at the low end, usually if the headphone lacks seal. All Grados *should* distort if you boost bass a lot.

post #6 of 48

Equalization is the single best way to improve any sound system. It can be a hundred grand speaker system and equalization will still improve it significantly. As long as the transducers can handle the correction, you can turn a sow's ear into a silk purse.

 

People who aren't balancing their response properly aren't hearing what their system is really capable of.

post #7 of 48

I know I have an extreme opinion, but I feel that using an eq is to compensate for a bad combination if equipment.If it doesn sound fantastic with a flat eq, then it doesn't sound fantastic.  As I said, I know its extreme, but my opinion none the less.

post #8 of 48

Three points:

 

-- Musicality. A particular genre sometimes sounds better (subjective) with a particular frequency response.

 

-- Neutrality. A more neutral headphone will respond well to a larger range of genres.

 

-- Headphone EQ ability.  Some headphones may respond well to EQ, others may not. Depends on the design.

 

 

You may use EQ to achieve either of the first two objectives, depending on the third.


Edited by proton007 - 9/23/13 at 8:51pm
post #9 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottosan View Post
 

I know I have an extreme opinion, but I feel that using an eq is to compensate for a bad combination if equipment.If it doesn sound fantastic with a flat eq, then it doesn't sound fantastic.  As I said, I know its extreme, but my opinion none the less.

 

Transducers don't have a flat EQ until you equalize them to be flat.


Edited by bigshot - 9/23/13 at 9:26pm
post #10 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by scottosan View Post
 

I know I have an extreme opinion, but I feel that using an eq is to compensate for a bad combination if equipment.If it doesn sound fantastic with a flat eq, then it doesn't sound fantastic.  As I said, I know its extreme, but my opinion none the less.

 

The problem is that there is no perfect headphone. There are limits to electrical and mechanical equalization. Some manufacturers, Beyerdynamic for example, explicitly state that there are limits on their website. So the "sound" of any "passive" headphone is the result of various compromises.

post #11 of 48

I wonder why there is yet no single active headphone made? Like you couldn't squeeze in active correction into some 1000$ headphone system? You could remove peaks and extend bass response etcetc..

 

Now if I recall correctly didn't K1000 use some kind of passive eq in their signal path?

post #12 of 48
Quote:
Originally Posted by Headzone View Post
 

I wonder why there is yet no single active headphone made? Like you couldn't squeeze in active correction into some 1000$ headphone system? You could remove peaks and extend bass response etcetc..

 

Now if I recall correctly didn't K1000 use some kind of passive eq in their signal path?

 

Some of the Bluetooth or other wireless sets (and I think maybe some noise canceling or others too) have active electronics, and these include EQs sometimes.

 

The Stax headphones have that passive electronic filter for moving closer to DF equalization, and ER4P -> ER4S adapter etc. exist too. I guess maybe you could say a crossover system for some of those multidriver (usually IEM) sets is a passive filter too.

 

But no, the point you make is fine. There really isn't a lot being done to that extent.

post #13 of 48

Noise canceling headphones usually have a different frequency response if NC is active.

 

 

I'm quite certain that you could add electronics (EQ, DAC, amp) into dynamic headphones cheaper than $1000 and they'd probably still be lighter than planar magnetics. :p

 

But to be honest, even if it's a perfect combination, which long time members on head-fi would buy such a thing? Buying a headphone and plugging it straight into the USB port on your computer ... isn't that way too easy? No DACs/amps to fiddle around with, no interconnects to match to such components (by magical criteria), ...

post #14 of 48
Quote:
But to be honest, even if it's a perfect combination, which long time members on head-fi would buy such a thing? Buying a headphone and plugging it straight into the USB port on your computer ... isn't that way too easy? No DACs/amps to fiddle around with, no interconnects to match to such components (by magical criteria), ..

I don't know, but since the performance of dynamic drivers is now hard to drastically improve, why not try to enhance with some active technology..? I would like to see an engineers perspective on the reasons why or why not to do this. 

 

If it sounded better, I see no reason why some head-fiers wouldn't be interested of such concept.

post #15 of 48
If you check out InnerFidelity, you'll see that there are many other parameters than frequency response (which can be corrected with EQ 80% of the way, as you said). Frequency response is, when making AB comparisons the most obvious difference.

There is also Impulse speed, harmonic distortion, and resonance, to start. None of those can be corrected with EQ.

Check out Tyll's test sheets at the Linky to see what I mean.

http://www.innerfidelity.com/headphone-data-sheet-downloads
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