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FINALLY, a signal processing app (includes EQ) for your OS's audio output (Windows and Mac)!

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by lunatique, Apr 15, 2013.
  1. Lunatique
    For many years, folks have been searching high and low for an EQ that processes the audio output of your entire operating system, and they searched in vain. It is a sought after thing because without it, any kind of processing you do (such as EQ) can only be used in the app that has an EQ section, such as media players, and if you are listening/watching something on the web, or in a media player that doesn't have an adequate EQ section, or playing a game, then you can't do anything.

    Every time people asked for recommendations, they get irrelevant ones like "Windows Media Player has an EQ," or "If you use Realtek audio drivers you can download an EQ for it from Realtek," and then the trail goes cold. There are even recommendations for buying hardware EQ units and call it the day. It boggled my mind that there was nothing out there that can hijack the audio from your OS and process it.

    Some people had tried to develop apps that hijack the audio from your operating system and then allow you to process it, but they were clunky and sounded terrible. I searched for years and years, and now, finally, I have found something that actually works, and works very well.

    It is called "Hear," by Prosoft.

    While it's got a lot of useless bells and whistles that no serious audiophile would ever use (because they only make your audio sound fake), it does have a very capable EQ section that allows you to arbitrarily set the number of bands you need--up to, get this, 256 bands.

    256 bands!

    That is INSANE.

    It also has a limiter/compressor section too, so you never have to worry about distortion. You probably don't need to use it unless you run into situations where you need to use it. I would recommend you do not use it by default, and only activate it when you must.

    You can save your own settings, and recall them easily, and I have created presets for my speakers and headphones when I'm listening/watching anything that doesn't have an EQ section such as on the web or in video games.

    I can't believe it's taken this long to finally find something like this, and I can't believe how obscure it is--I've never heard of it before seeing it recommended in some obscure forum. Now I'm going to try to spread the word (like I did with the amazing ISONE) and hopefully all the people who's been looking for something like this can finally enjoy having a proper audio processing unit that sits on the OS's audio output.

    EDIT: Now J River's Media Center also offers this capability. You can use its ability to host plugins and then route your audio through it using its audio driver in your OS. I can now watch web videos and movies with perfectly corrected sound using Media Center (I'm using IK Multimedia ARC 2 plugin to correct my speakers/room, and for headphones using Tonebooster's Isone for natural sounding crossfeed/HRTF that sounds like speakers in front of you, as well as headphone correction/EQ). This is the most elegant and best sounding option currently available.
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2018
  2. PleasantSounds
    Thanks for the tip!
    Are you actually using it? How does it compare to other DSP engines, for example Foobar's, in terms of usability, functionality and most importantly - sound quality?
  3. Lunatique
    The sound is fine, but I don't use any of the processing that would destroy the sound. The EQ section is all I use, and I haven't noticed anything weird about it. I wouldn't use it for anything that's mission critical--I only use it for web videos/audio and casual TV shows. For more serious stuff, I would use J River Media Center and more intuitive VST EQ plugins.
    What I don't like about Hear's EQ, is how unintuitive the curves mode for the EQ is--it's nothing like a standard parametric EQ (since it's more like a visual translation of a graphic EQ), and I would much prefer a straightforward parametric EQ with proper controls for all the various parameters like frequency, gain, bandwidth/Q, shelf/peak, unlimited bands, etc.
  4. disastermouse
    It says it doesn't work for USB or FireWire devices - does this mean it won't work for USB DACs?
  5. disastermouse
    Wow...I tried it and couldn't find ANY processing that didn't totally destroy the sound quality.
    Hans-Austria likes this.
  6. Lunatique
    Like I said, I only use it for casual stuff like watching web videos or playing media files outside of J River Media Center. It's basically like a general correction for room mode problems with my speakers, or broad corrections for headphones. It's not going to match the quality of the pro audio plugins I use, but at least it's far better than nothing--I won't have to watch youtube videos with annoying room mode problems anymore.
    For critical listening, I use VST plugins. I use IK Multimedia's ARC System 2 for room/monitor correction, parametric EQ's for headphone correction, and Tonebooster Isone/Redline Monitor for quality crossfeed/HRTF.
  7. RPGWiZaRD
    Wow great find! :xf_eek: Wonder if it would possibly even work when using WASAPI with foobar2000. VST EQs do...
  8. PleasantSounds
    My guess is it wouldn't. The whole point of WASAPI is to bypass the Windows sound processing and this is exactly where Hear hooks in to. If you'd like foobar sound to be affected then switch back to DS.
  9. RPGWiZaRD
    Not getting any sound with this, any ideas?
    The troubleshooting is non-existant for this app.
    Nevermind wrong device selected, ofc it was the digital output selected, doh.
    EDIT: Works with WASAPI, if using "Windows Audio". I don't think it sounds very nice though, at least to my ears there's a degradation in SQ even with everything disabled versus using soundcard output.
  10. Lunatique
    I contacted Jeroen Breebaart, the respected audio engineer behind Tone Booster plugins, to see if he's interested in developing a pro audio quality product like Hear, and unfortunately, he said:
    "Thanks, that seems interesting. But I'm afraid to really do this in a
    robust way, it will be challenging
    (to make it work on all OSses, and all different ways to address sound
    cards).... :frowning2: "
    So I guess Hear is all we'll have for now. 
    For watching web videos and casual listening, it's totally fine. It's far better to use it to correct your room modes and the more severe headphone shortcomings (such as boomy bass, thrill sibilance) and get a more neutral sound, than to not use it and deal with glaring problems. Even if Hear does degrade the sound quality a little (which it actually doesn't), it is still a far better improvement than whatever room mode problems you're dealing with at your listening position (most people with speakers have severe room mode problems--they just don't know it), or if you're using headphones that aren't acceptably neutral/accurate. 
    The reason why it might seem like Hear degrades the sound even without any of its processing activated, is because its internal preamp drops the volume by a dB's, so when you click on and off Hear, it sounds like the music is getting weaker/less dynamic. If you ride the volume knob of your audio interface and set it to a position to match the volume of both on and off, and simply turn the volume knob back and forth as you activate/deactivate Hear, you'll notice that it doesn't change the sound. I checked this with a pink noise (which is the most sensitive audio material you can use to detect changes in the audio frequencies) and Hear does not change the sound when I ride the volume knob--it sounds identical. I also did this test with musical materials and did not notice any changes.
  11. Lunatique
    It does work on USB audio interfaces. I just tried it on my Line 6 Toneport UX2 and it works fine.
  12. StudioSound
    JRiver Media Center can do this as well using its loopback feature.
  13. Lunatique
    What are you referring to exactly? I've been using Media Center for years--it's my main media librarian.
  14. StudioSound
    I haven't tried using it, because it requires you to have multiple sound devices installed on your system, and I only have one. It was added in Media Center 17.

    In MC18 it is activated via File > Open Live, and supports WASAPI or ASIO.

    You need to have at least two sound devices on your system to use it though - audio from whatever you set as the default Windows sound device (e.g. motherboard onboard sound chip) is looped through to your selected output device in Media Center. (e.g. USB DAC)
  15. Lunatique
    Very interesting. Thanks for the heads up.
    Too bad it won't work for people that don't have multiple audio interfaces/soundcards.
    I'm also a little concerned about the latency added if there's processing. For just simple EQ plugin, it probably won't make much difference. 

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