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My meticulously tweaked EQ settings for Shure SE535, Westone 3, Westone 4

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  1. Lunatique
    I just spent the whole night creating the ideal EQ settings for the Westone 3 and Shure SE535. I used all of my best headphones as well as my Klein + Hummel O 300D's as references, and the goal was to make them sound as close to the ideal hybrid of those references as possible, while using the least number of bands (since IEM's are usually used with portable players, and EQ's drain batteries faster, although fewer bands will use less CPU while processing). It's generally it's best to use as few bands as possible, as that's just good mixing/mastering advice, and it's always better to cut than boost. But don't be afraid to boost if that's what it takes--you just have to learn how to do it with surgical precision at exactly the frequency you need, and often a broader bandwidth is better than a steep one--unless you know exactly what you're doing and exactly where the problematic area is.
    Anyway, here are the settings for those of you who are using portable players that have quality parametric EQ (such as EQu or Equalizer for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad) or use your IEM's with the computer and have a setup that allows you to use quality parametric EQ plugins with your chosen media player/librarian (I use J River Media Center 16--it's got the most supreme native VST hosting implementation of all media players/librarians). If you own either one of these IEM's, give them a try and see just how much better these two IEM's can sound. They can get much, much, closer to the expensive high-end headphones with these settings.
    You can download EasyQ from rs-met.com for free. It's one of the best free EQ's out there. If you don't know anything about VST plugins or how to host them, you ought to google and learn a bit about them.
    Shure SE535
    Westone 3
    I would suggest that when you do A/B between the EQ'd and bypassed version, you listen for about 30 seconds and get used to the sonic signature before you switch--don't just go back and forth quickly--that's not how you do A/B comparisons. I'm pretty sure that once you guys have listened to a wide range of musical material with my EQ settings, you'll see just what I mean by how much better these two IEM's can get with careful EQ'ing.
    Personally, I like the EQ'd SE535 a bit more than the EQ'd Westone 3, but before EQ'ing, it's hard to say since both have glaring problems (SE535 is a too bright/fatiguing, and W3's bass is too bloated). After EQ'ing, I find the SE535 a bit more natural and a bit smoother overall, but they are very close since they were EQ'd using the same references and based on my ideal.
    One last note--I didn't try to EQ them so they are pushed too much and try to do what dynamic technology isn't supposed to do, such as trying to match the very articulate treble of the Stax 007mkIi--that just wouldn't be appropriate IMO. I never go beyond 12 dB when I EQ, and when possible, I try to keep within 6 dB, unless that's just not enough. This is simply a matter of good mixing/mastering practice.
    EDIT: I keep getting people messaging me asking how to EQ their headphones. Please follow the instructions in this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/551426/my-eq-curves-for-lcd-2-hd650-m50-and-007mk2
    EDIT: Here's my latest custom EQ curve for Westone 4/4R (they are identical sounding, except for the matched drivers of the 4R).
    This is only for the TRIPLE-FLANGE tip. I do not use other tips because they aren't as ergonomic or don't seal as well, and also because the triple-flange is the only tip that gets rid of most of the ear canal resonance because they fill up more of your ear canal than other tips.
    This EQ curve is carefully tweaked by first referencing Tyll Hertsens' measurements (I've been waiting for him to measure the Westone 4 for years, and he's finally done it), and then meticulously tweaked by referencing pink noise and then referenced against my LCD-2 with custom EQ curve applied. I then double-check by testing with my select playlist of testing tracks I've been using for many years, swapping between the LCD-2 and Westone 4. I then triple-checked by making sure my custom EQ for the LCD-2 is in fact, still as accurate as it should be (using pink noise and test tracks), and then do another round to matching the two, and then one last round of checking the Westone 4 with pink noise tests and test tracks.
    I found that for this particular case, you can't just EQ the Westone 4 based on the measurement graph, and if you do, it'll be too bright and shrill. What you should do instead, is to use the measurement graph to set your EQ points as according to the graph, and then play pink noise and take each node and restrict the movement to only vertical, and start moving it up and down so you can get familiarized with what too much and too little of that frequency range sounds like, and then set it at the spot that sounds the most even with the rest of the frequency spectrum. You do that for every node until you have a very balanced sound across the frequency range. This method is the best way to ensure you get what sounds accurate TO YOUR OWN EARS, because we all have slightly different hearing, and if you set it to sound balanced to your own hearing, then it can't get more accurate than that. 
    Westone 4
    The settings are:
    150 Hz, -3 dB, 2.37 oct
    5,500 Hz, -3 dB, 1.02 oct
    10,000 Hz, -10 dB, 0.6 oct
    20,000 Hz, 10 dB, 1.13 oct
    Please use any of the free online bandwidth to Q translators if your EQ uses Q instead. 
    UPDATE (2016-01-31): 
    I've finally written that comprehensive guide on how to easily/reliably EQ your headphone for the most accurate/neutral sound possible. I have included everything--from what tools to use, the exact steps and approach, what to listen for, and all the test tones you need as well as carefully chosen musical material that's from my own audio gear testing playlist, with descriptions for how to use each track to test for specific problems in your headphones (and of course can be used to test speakers too). Here's the link: http://www.head-fi.org/t/796791/the-most-reliable-easiest-way-to-eq-headphones-properly-to-achieve-the-most-ideal-sound-for-non-professionals
    gugamap and fauxpossum like this.
  2. yuriv
    I've done the same thing, but I used sinegen and hardware PEQ. You have something similar to what Linkwitz had with the ER4S many years ago: http://www.linkwitzlab.com/reference_earphones.htm
    He writes, "The 7.5 kHz peak is due to the acoustic impedance mismatch between transducer, ear canal and ear drum causing a half wavelength resonance in the canal." The frequency of the peak will be slightly different from person to person and will also depend on the insertion depth. Every IEM will have that 7-8 dB peak somewhere unless the designers were conservative and engineered a wide dip in the response there. Like you, I also like to flatten those with EQ. Also, what are you using to power your earphones? The output impedance of the amp will have a substantial contribution to the response if it's high enough.
    I see that you have K+H O 300D + Owens-Corning 703 and 705 rigid fiberglass room treatments + Room Correction software that works also in the time domain. That's excellent! I'd love to see what your perceived response is at your monitoring level (85 dB?) at your listening position--maybe a more accurate version of this: http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/hearing.html . Given that (or regardless of that), how you would EQ the HD650, the ATH-M50, and the LCD-2 to match? I ask because I have the first two and I'm very interested in getting the LCD-2, which has a fantastic set of measurements. If we go by the graph made with the dummy head, it should be a little darker than neutral. I don't know anyone local who can give me a demo.
    Edit: fixed typo, broken link.
  3. Lunatique
    yuriv - That's very interesting that Linkwitz had almost an identical cut near 7KHz. If most IEM's have this problem, then that means no matter what I buy, I'd have to EQ anyway, unless that 7KHz range EQ cut is designed into the IEM, which is probably rare.
    Yes, my optimal listening volume is around 85 dB. 90 dB is about as loud as it gets on sudden peaks (particularly in movies or games), but usually 80~85 dB average.
    After a couple of years of constant tweaking and perfecting, my listening position is like a seat in sonic paradise. None of my headphones can get close to that. If I still lived in the States, I would totally invite any head-fier interested to come to my studio and listen for themselves what audio nirvana sounds like.
    The interesting thing about the HD650 is that even though it isn't the kind of headphone that really makes you cream your pants at how amazing it is, it's also one of the few that has stood the test of time and is quite neutral in general. I actually don't EQ the HD650, and the only reason I would ever EQ it is if it became the only headphone I own--in that case, I'd boost the sub-bass region like this:
    That low shelf boost isn't really a surgical one, but since the drivers of the HD650 doesn't seem to respond to surgical EQ'ing in the bass region too well, I find a more general one with wider bandwidth works better. This boost gives the HD650 more sub-bass authority, since it's missing that quality compared to headphones like the LCD-2, 007mkII, M50, D7000...etc.
    The reason I don't EQ the HD650 is because I mainly use it to check the mids on my mixes. I don't use it for leisurely listening anymore since I prefer the LCD-2 for that. The HD650's mids are some of the most neutral sounding of all my headphones.
    UPDATE January 05, 2014
    Here's the updated and more accurate/detailed ATH-M50 curve:
    20 KHz, 10 dB, 0.35 oct
    8700 Hz, -12 dB, 0.30 oct
    5700 Hz, 12 dB, 0.42 oct
    4036 Hz, -3 dB, 0.25 oct
    3400 Hz, 4 dB, 0.33 oct
    2000 Hz, -2.4 dB, 0.42 oct
    300 Hz, 4 dB, 0.47 oct
    130 Hz, -3.2 dB, 0.35 oct
    95 Hz, 4.8 dB, 0.25 oct
    40 Hz, -5.0 dB, 1.82 oct
    This setting tames the boomy bass of the M50, as well as that etched/metallic treble, while fills a narrow notch in the upper-mids.
    If that sounds a bit bright for some of you, use this one instead (it's a bit more relaxed in the presence region):
    Everything is the same except these two bands:
    8700 Hz, -8 dB, 0.30 oct
    5700, 8 dB, 0.42 oct
    UPDATED LCD-2 EQ curve:
    This EQ curve is based on the measurement that Audez'e includes with my LCD-2, and if you follow the instructions I gave in this thread, you'll be able to create curves for your Audez'e headphones.
    itsvel06 likes this.
  4. kkl10
    Lunatique, could you please answer some questions?
    I recently began using equalization with some of my IEMs and headphones with very rewarding results and I'm thinking if there is something I could do to improve my equalization.
    I'm trying to make them as flat to my ears as possible.
    I using foobar2000 with Electri-Q parametric equalizer VST though a VST wrapper.
    Do you know the Electri-Q software? If so do you find it a good or bad compared to others?
    What other free parametric equalizers VSTs or plugins do you know to be good?
    Won't a EQ software like this degrade the sound quality, had distortion or coloration to the signal? Is there a way to minimize these risks?
    (In my case the benefits of equalization hugely surpass any possible detriment to the sound quality)
  5. Lunatique
    kkl10 - I know Electri-Q, and it's fine, but I don't like its interface that much.
    In general, all EQ's are so close to being identical that unless the designer purposely built in some kind of "creative coloration" (for example, to emulate the sonic signature of some vintage EQ hardware unit where there's interesting colorations like overtones or saturation), all EQ's can pretty much be nulled completely, meaning they are identical. The only real differences between them is the interface and the style (graphic, parametric, linear phase...etc).
    I prefer EazyQ (the one in the screencaps) because its interface is very easy to use. I don't use it in my audio productions though--only for EQ'ing headphones and speaker. For audio production I use commercial pro audio EQ's.
    In general linear phase EQ's (or any plugin) will give you the most transparent sound, as they are designed to be mastering algorithms that don't mess with the phase response, and LP EQ's don't allow really narrow/steep bandwidths, which further prevents possible destructive tweaking. But the truth is, most people really can't tell the difference unless we're talking about some extremely dramatic cuts and boots with severe settings, and that's usually not something you'd end up doing for headphone/speaker correction anyway. I find that my usage of "normal" parametric EQ on my headphones and speakers don't cause any audible issues, and when I check the phase response, my settings don't screw up the phase either. So you probably don't need to worry too much. You should do some reading up on proper EQ'ing techniques that audio professionals use when doing mixing/mastering though. There are tons of articles about this online.
  6. kkl10
    Thank you!
    My purpose is to equalize my headphones so that they become more transparent/accurate in their sound reproduction:
    Right now I'm doing it on my Head Direct RE0 and Soundmagic PL-50 IEMs and my German Maestro GMP 450 Pro full sized headphone.
    All of these have a great emphasys on the midrange (500 - 2000) where I have to cut roughly 8 to 10 dbs. From there I smooth out any peaks I can find...
    I'm using various sinus sweeps and pink noise files...
    I'm trying to make their FRs as flat has possible to my ears - is this the right approach to achieve my purpose?
    Will certainly make some more reading.
    I would apprecciate if you could give me some links.
  7. kkl10
    I won't be doing anything professional yet, it's just to better apprecciate my music...
    In the future I might start producing some amateur stuff...
  8. Lunatique
    -8 to -10 dB cut in the mids sounds really wrong to me. I cannot see how this is necessary. You should post the frequency response graphs of those headphones, and then also a screencap of your EQ setting.

    The best way to immediately find awesome tips and articles on EQ'ing is simply this:
    Start from the first link and work your way down, until you feel like you know what's up (it's best to actually apply what you're reading about as you read about it, for immediate audio feedback).
    It's best to get an idea of what your actual loudness curve is, since you may or may not have hearing anomalies/damages (just to be safe). Use this site to test yourself:
    That site can also be used to test your audio gear's frequency response.
    I use pink noise and log sweeps too, and I also reference against my already tweaked to perfection reference studio monitors. I also check against the headphones I have with sonic signatures I find ideal in specific frequency ranges and try to EQ to match those ranges. This way, I can create my ideal "hybrid" sonic signature by for example, matching the LCD-2's treble, HD650's mids, LCD-2 bass with a bit of 007mkII's punch, and so on. The EQ tweaks I just did on the SE535 and W3 turns them into INCREDIBLE sounding IEM's, and I'm willing to bet that they rival the extremely expensive customs on the market with my EQ settings. With my settings, they sound NOTHING like themselves and are completely transformed in the most unexpected and amazing way. I would have to say that this particular experience of EQ'ing the IEMS into my ideal hybrid sonic signature has become one of those rare memorable landmarks in my audio journey, and I would officially list them as the 6th time in my life I was blown away sonically (I mentioned the other 5 times in the "How did you start" thread). For the first time in my life, I'm finally getting a great sound out of IEM's--one that I feel isn't merely a compromise in order to obtain portability and noise isolation. They actually now sound much closer to my full sized favorite headphones.
  9. kkl10
    I apprecciate your help, Lunatique!
     > -8 to -10 dB cut in the mids sounds really wrong to me. I cannot see how this is necessary. You should post the frequency response graphs of those headphones, and then also a  screencap of your EQ setting.
    I'm still a novice at equalization so if I'm doing something wrong please tell me!
    That cut in the midrange is not alone, it is in some way backed up by the rest of the spectrum...
    I usualy try to detect the least loud sounding frequency to then make all the spectrum match it's volume...
    So it's not really a cut of 8dB on just the midrange, it's more like general gain decrease through the entire spectrum with a slight emphasys on the midrange which generally sounds the loudest to me.(but not always)
    I guess I explained myself wrong...
    It's just that I prefer to cut than to boost frequencies because I'm afraid to degrade the sound quality... but I guess I probably shouldn't boother that...
    Here are the EQ curve and settings for my Head Direct RE0:frowning2:work in progress)
    Freq. - 130HZ
    Gain - -7dB
    Bandwidth - 3.3
    Freq. - 1000Hz
    Gain - -11dB
    Bandwidth - 1.8
    Freq. - 5000Hz
    Gain - -2dB
    Bandwidth - 1.8
    I don't have the Head Direct RE0 FR graph but it is pretty obvious that to my ears it has a very linear and smooth response across the entire range, no nasty sharp peaks nor holes.
    Without equalization the RE0 already sounds very good, but once equalized the improvement is just stupendous!
    The driver resolution really shows off it's capability to my ears this way. It's almost like it has a new and superior transducer, it's amazing really.
    The already clean, detailed and neutral sound of the RE0 takes a major lip forward but bass and spacial resolution improve considerably.
    Here are the EQ settings for my Soundmagic PL-50:frowning2:work in progress)
    Freq. - 150Hz
    Gain - -4.5dB
    Bandwidth - 2.8
    Freq. - 1000Hz
    Gain - -8dB
    Bandwidth - 3
    Freq. - 2400Hz
    Gain - -7.2dB
    Bandwidth - 0.7
    Freq. - 6800Hz
    Gain - -10dB
    Bandwidth - 0.3
    Freq. - 11000Hz
    Gain - -2.5dB
    Bandwidth - 0.5
    The Soundmagic PL-50 is not as flat as the RE0 and has some peaks on the higher frequencies, so it required some more tweaking.
    Without equalization it sounds very bright and basslight to my ears, after applying the EQ settings it naturally improves much more than the RE0.
    The sound signature of both equalized is very similar, very neutral and true to the source, what distinguish them is the much more resolute driver of the RE0.
    Will try my other IEMs...
    Won't post my GMP 450 Pro settings because it still needs a lot of work,
    It has more peaks and holes in the higher frequencies which are more dificult to smooth out.
    The GMP 450 Pro frequency response graph:frowning2:just for the sake of curiosity)
     >It's best to get an idea of what your actual loudness curve is, since you may or may not have hearing anomalies/damages (just to be safe). Use this site to test yourself:
    I already know this site, it's very good indeed.
     >With my settings, they sound NOTHING like themselves and are completely transformed in the most unexpected and amazing way.
    Absolutely agree!
    To me, one particular example of the nature of the improvement is hearing the tone and timbre of instruments, particularly cymbals and drums, it is a revelation.
    Another revelation is with well recorded live recordings: the ambient and spacial sonic cues gain an amazing depth.
  10. Lunatique
    Ahh, ok, now it makes sense. You're basically trying to recreate the typical EQ'ing approach by using only cuts if you could help it, but if we were to raise the gain of the entire EQ plot so the average hovers near 0 dB, then it'll look more like a "normal" EQ plot. I'm not quite sure if what you're doing makes it any better sonically. I'll have to look into it. Let me discuss this with fellow pro audio colleagues and get back to you on that. Direct RE0 still looks a bit strange to me though, since it's very usual for any headphones to have such an exaggerated 1KHz range. Typically, 1KHz is the starting point where it tends to fall on 0 dB, and other frequency ranges are the ones that move up and down. This is mainly because 1KHz test tone is the industry standard in broadcasting. I'm also surprised to see that the Direct RE0 doesn't require any surgical cuts in the upper-mids, since that's where most IEM's have their glaring faults (ear canal resonance peak).
  11. Lunatique
    One problem I found with your approach right off the bat is that you cannot reproduce some shapes with cuts only, since the inherent behavior of the Q shape only allows a certain level of gentleness in the curve, so if you want a sharper shape in your peaked shapes, you cannot get it with cuts only. So let's say a headphone has a pretty obvious and sharp dip right at 2KHz, and you want to fill that hole. If you went with your approach, you will not be able to precisely fill that dip since all the cuts you make will only emulate a relatively gentle peak shape.
    In general, I don't think you should worry about any of this--just cut and boost as you need to. Part of the reason why most say it's better to cut than boost is very simple--if you boost, you're raising the noise level of that frequency. It's really not a problem though, since the noise floor level is so damn low in today's audio devices. I doubt you can "hear" the noise floor being raised unless you boost the f-ck out of the most sensitive range of our hearing while listening to material that's got a lot of noisy in the first place. But that's never going to happen because your ears can't take that kind of reckless boosting anyway, so it's not even something to worry about.
  12. yuriv
    It's harder to notice the peaks on some IEMs when listening only to recorded music. But they usually turn up when you use sine wave sweeps or even pink noise. Sinegen works well. Sometimes I use a synth with a pure sine wave patch; I play a chromatic scale and use the pitch bend wheel to zero in on the peaks. On the SE530 (and I guess even more so on the SE535), the levels at the frequencies surrounding the peak is low, so the spike sticks out like a sore thumb. The same thing happens with the old E4; the response rolls off very quickly after the resonance. For both of my ears, it happens around 8500 Hz, which almost matches Headroom's dummy head. Maybe my frequency is higher because I insert these IEMs deep. Like you, I like to flatten these peaks with EQ. Think of it as digital room correction for IEMs, but this time the room is your ear canal.
    I believe it. I used to have severe acoustic problems in my practice room. I noticed that when improvising, I avoided certain notes on the keyboard, like a loud and tubby-sounding B-flat around 117 Hz. Then I installed acoustic treatments, including many OC 703 and 705 panels. I have a few pairs of speakers in the room, including the old Vergence A20 monitors + B20 stereo subwoofers and a few Dynaudios. The treatments made a huge difference, and I'm pleased with their sound. But no matter how I positioned the panels or the speakers, I could never get a measurement flat enough for my liking below 200 Hz.

    Recently I borrowed the receiver from my living room because it has the Audyssey MultiEQ XT digital room correction feature that I hadn't been using. That day I had a bass player friend who was going to sell me his Mackie monitors for a really good price because he wanted to upgrade to the Event Opals, the Barefoot MM27, or the O300D. I wanted to check the goods to make sure they were undamaged, so he came over, we hooked them up and let the receiver's digital room correction do its magic. He couldn't believe the sound he was getting from the Mackies. Needless to say, I missed out on a good deal that day. The result with my own speakers was very interesting. And I thought they sounded good before. Unfortunately, that receiver had to go back.

    I've thought about getting the IK Multimedia ARC plugin, which supposedly has even higher resolution than MultiEQ XT. But I want something more general than a plugin--something that will work with all programs. Right now, hardware-based solutions like DEQX are expensive. I suppose I could buy another receiver with MultiEQ XT.

    Thank you for sharing the personal EQ curves for your headphones. I'm getting somewhat similar results with the HD650 and M50, even though my method is different. Before the receiver went back, I took some measurements and I got flatter responses at several listening positions that I did with the room treatments alone. No surprises there. I also had a chance to determine my personal equal-loudness curves at various monitoring levels. I used these as the starting point for equalizing my headphones. So far, I'm pleased with my results with even inexpensive, disposable IEMs.
  13. Lunatique
    kkl10 - Another thing that you need to consider is that if you are cutting the bulk of the "meat" of the audition frequency range, then very likely when you are listening to music with that setting, you'd turn the volume up to make up for the loss of overall level, and when that happens, you are actually reducing perfectly good audio data over a large area and then raising the noise floor on the entire track, which technically reduces the quality of your audio. The general consensus after discussing the issue with others is that you shouldn't complicate things--boost and cut exactly what you need, and that's it.
    yuriv -  There are less sophisticated room correction hardware units on the market like the KRK and JBL products, but on paper, they are not as complex or encompassing as the ARC System. I did consider them, as well as units like the ones that dbx and Samson makes for doing loudspeaker corrections for live venues. In the end, the ARC System's implementation of the Audyssey technology appears to be the most hassle-free yet the most sophisticated. My main source is always the computer anyway so using a VST plugin doesn't bother me much.
    It would be very interesting to compare a corrected pair of Mackies (HR824?) to the much higher-end monitors like the Opal, MM27, O 300D's...etc. In my own experience, I have discovered that the frequency response is the bulk of what makes up a sonic signature, and if you alter the EQ setting, it will often improve other areas like transient response, distortion, resolution, stereo imaging..etc. I think it's because some of the problems heard in those other areas are caused by the frequency response anomalies (for example, muddy lower range that becomes very articulate and fast once you EQ out the muddy frequencies). Obviously, the physical limitations of the drivers and material used will still be part the equation, but SO MUCH can be altered by simply EQ'ing that it's mind-boggling. It makes me feel even weirder to know that so often we are paying a lot of money for what's essentically an EQ upgrade, when we could get that same sonic upgrade for free just by knowing how to properly EQ a cheaper product (unless it has severe physical limitations in its design in the first place, such as 2.1 speaker systems with tiny satellites and a subwoofer--you just can't do a thing about the crossover problems, or the tubby resonance of a sub that relies too much on it's port for a tuned "fake" low end).
  14. kkl10


    You are right, I have to turn up the volume quite a bit more that way.
    To boost and to cut as I need it will be then.
    Thank you!
    Regarding the Head Direct RE0 I just perceived tonight two small peaks at around 6 and 13KHz... I guess my hearing is more sensitive at night...
    Still it has by far the smoothest  FR of all my head gear.
  15. Lunatique
    EDIT: I've updated the LCD-2 curve, and here's the latest one.
    Here's the Stax 007mk2:
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