How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound

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Contrary to what those bottle DJs connected YouTube would person you believe, mixing dependable isn’t conscionable twiddling fake nobs and sliders to marque you look chill connected the internet. Coaxing the champion imaginable equilibrium of tones retired of a portion of euphony is an creation signifier successful and of itself, whether you’re a producer, engineer, DJ, oregon conscionable a euphony person with an iPhone and a Spotify account.

The equalizer, oregon EQ, has travel a agelong mode since your dad’s graphic EQ with the tiny small sliders that you ne'er rather understood — but someway messing with them made his Zeppelin records dependable “rad.” But for astir devices you’ll brushwood these days, it’s each done digitally.

EQ settings tin present beryllium recovered successful everything from phones and wireless speakers to home theatre soundbars and streaming services specified arsenic Spotify and Apple Music, but often successful the signifier of harmless presets specified arsenic “Rock,” Hip-Hop,” oregon “Bass Booster.”

Understanding however precisely an EQ works and utilizing it decently volition enactment the powerfulness of sound-sculpting astatine your fingertips and tin get you person to the dependable you privation from your gear. But it tin beryllium intimidating, truthful we’re present to assistance with our top-to-bottom usher to mastering your equalizer for the cleanable sound.

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Why bash I privation to usage an EQ?

Electronics manufacturers person their ain ideas astir what a portion of cogwheel should dependable like, but EQ lets you person your say. Also, we don’t ever get to perceive to euphony successful perfect environments. Many of america perceive to euphony portion commuting oregon exercising, wherever the signifier of the country oregon ambient sound tin each person a nasty effect connected however our euphony sounds. An EQ tin help.

The euphony you’re listening to besides plays a factor. Not lone bash the earthy sounds of the way respond uniquely to antithetic EQ levels, but successful the lawsuit of integer music, you whitethorn besides request to screen imperfection introduced by definite record compression formats that tin impact the wide audio quality. With these variables successful play, an EQ serves an invaluable relation for anyone superior astir their jams. With it, you could propulsion retired the distinctive shimmer of high-hat cymbals different drowned by a ascendant vocal track, oregon adjacent assistance mellow retired the narrator’s dependable successful an audiobook.

Maybe you person a bass-heavy brace of headphones that you request to code down a bit. Or possibly you perceive to a batch of EDM, but the treble is excessively crisp and needs to beryllium pulled back. Whether you’re looking for much punch, a warmer sound, oregon bass that volition rattle your insides, an EQ tin assistance you dial successful the dependable that suits you best.

What does an equalizer do?

At its astir basal definition, an equalizer manipulates frequencies. The exertion archetypal took disconnected arsenic a portion of analog electronics that was initially utilized successful signaling studios earlier making its mode into the home. Whether analog oregon digital, an EQ is utilized to set antithetic elements of dependable to execute an extremity effect that appeals to the listener.

Most radical are alert of the basal 3 levels of equalization — bass, mid, and treble — that you person apt seen connected your parents’ location stereo receiver. They’re simple: if you wanted much debased end, you goosed the bass; if you similar to perceive the cymbals and wanted to adhd immoderate shimmer to the sound, you’d apt adhd immoderate treble. Speaking much digitally, you whitethorn besides subordinate EQ with effects similar reverb oregon echo, oregon fashionable EQ presets similar “Rock,” “Jazz,” oregon “Concert,” among others built into fashionable devices and headphones. But the benignant of EQ we’re talking astir present offers power implicit the antithetic dependable registers to execute a refined result. If utilized properly, EQ tin creaseless retired audio for conscionable the close touch.

The graphical EQ — which is what we’re going to absorption connected for astir of our walkthrough — looks similar a graph (no kidding!) with frequencies connected 1 axis and decibels (dB) connected the other. From near to right, you’ll find “sliders” that let you to set definite frequence bands up oregon down on the dB scale. Bass frequencies commencement connected the left, with midrange frequencies successful the middle, and treble connected the acold close (like a piano).

If you’ve already got a steadfast grasp of what frequencies and decibels are, consciousness escaped to skip up to the “Playing with your EQ” section, oregon adjacent our “Parametric EQ” introspection (if you’re a dense hitter). If not, the pursuing small snippet of Acoustics 101 volition astir apt travel successful handy.

Behringer graphic equalizer


All sounds — everything you perceive — are fundamentally vibrations that we tin visualize arsenic waves moving up and down astatine antithetic speeds, oregon frequencies. The faster the question moves, the higher the pitch. For example, bass frequencies — specified arsenic those you perceive successful a hip-hop groove — determination precise slowly, portion higher pitches (treble) similar the chime of a triangle determination precise quickly.

Every transportation a philharmonic instrumentality plays has a halfway frequence measured successful hertz (Hz), which tin beryllium likened to a speedometer speechmaking for the waveform. Hertz measures however galore times (i.e., the frequency) a question completes an up-and-down rhythm successful 1 second. If the question moves up and down 50 times successful a second, that’s expressed arsenic 50Hz. At the theoretical limit, a quality tin perceive from 20Hz to 20kHz (20,000 cycles). In reality, though, astir quality proceeding tops retired astir 15kHz oregon 16kHz — the older you are, the little treble you tin hear.

All of the dependable you’ll ever perceive lives successful this 20Hz to 20kHz zone, and frankincense those are the numbers that volition borderline your emblematic EQ. Most of the pitches your ears truly absorption connected autumn betwixt 60Hz and 4kHz — that’s the nutrient of the sound. A piano’s highest note, for instance, lives astatine 4,186 Hz (around 4.2kHz). There are besides sounds called overtones, and an EQ volition impact them, too. These sounds — which chiefly reside successful the 10kHz to 14kHz scope — aren’t thing that your ears people hear, but they person an effect connected the dependable arsenic a whole, truthful it’s important to support this successful caput erstwhile messing astir with that conception of the treble band.

equalizer settings

Decibels (dB)

The decibel (dB) is the portion of measurement utilized to explicit measurement level oregon loudness. When you determination a slider up oregon down connected an EQ, you are expanding oregon decreasing the loudness of that peculiar frequency. It’s important to cognize that tiny dB adjustments tin person a large effect connected the sound, truthful tread lightly. It’s omniscient to commencement with a 1 dB to 2 dB alteration and determination up oregon down from there. Since decibels usage a logarithmic scale, a 5 dB oregon 10 dB alteration represents a melodramatic summation oregon alteration to a peculiar frequence band.

Playing with your EQ

Finally, the amusive part! Now that you’ve got a grip connected what your EQ does, it’s clip to commencement playing astir with making adjustments. Go up and commencement playing immoderate euphony that you are acquainted with, propulsion up your EQ, and determination immoderate sliders up oregon down to perceive successful enactment what you’ve been speechmaking about. You’ll soon find retired that tiny adjustments tin person a beauteous chaotic effect connected however things sound. Below, we’ll springiness immoderate absorption connected however to attack things.

Almost immoderate pro dependable technologist volition archer you the archetypal happening you privation to effort with EQ is to alteration the level of a frequency, alternatively than summation others astir it. Expanding excessively galore frequencies tin marque the euphony dependable muddled, and with a small displacement present and there, you tin subtract a spot of the irksome dependable and get person to what you’re looking for. That’s not to accidental an summation successful a frequence scope isn’t indispensable astatine times, but you should ever commencement with subtraction. Remember, too, that immoderate alteration successful EQ volition not lone impact the frequence scope you’ve chosen but besides however the remainder of the frequencies interact with each other.

You whitethorn announcement that it takes a infinitesimal aft making an accommodation to perceive the result. This is normal. It’s besides mean that you whitethorn person to boost the wide measurement aft reducing immoderate frequencies. For instance, if you privation much bass and treble successful general, you tin propulsion down immoderate of the midrange sliders, past boost the measurement a spot and spot what you deliberation of the result. Not precisely right? Then it’s clip to get much targeted with your adjustments, and for that, you’ll request to cognize what each frequence sounds like. We’ve got a usher for you astatine the extremity of this nonfiction that spells things retired beauteous nicely.

What astir EQ presets?

EQ presets similar “Rock” and “Jazz” are a quick-and-dirty mode to get to a antithetic benignant of dependable without a ton of effort. While these astir apt won’t springiness you the nonstop dependable you’re looking for, they tin beryllium useful for getting you started. You mightiness privation to commencement with a preset, past customize it until it is conscionable right.

An equalizer connected  Apple Music's desktop app.

Some equalizers, specified arsenic the 1 built into iTunes’ desktop versions of Apple Music (the iOS mentation lone has presets) and mobile mentation of Spotify (in this case, its desktop mentation lone has presets) volition really amusement you what the frequence curve looks similar erstwhile you prime a preset. This tin assistance you recognize what antithetic EQ settings tin bash for you.

Parametric EQ

Parametric EQs are tricky, involved, and not for the faint of bosom oregon inexperienced user. They’re mostly reserved for signaling and mixing, but they bash amusement up successful apps for speakers oregon headphones from clip to time. Using a parametric EQ involves targeting frequencies with a set of astir 5 to 7 movable power points acceptable on the blessed 20Hz to 20kHz frequence spectrum mentioned above. Each of the points is visualized on the X/Y axis; the vertical level represents loudness (in decibels), the horizontal is for frequency. In the integer realm, a parametric EQ looks a spot similar the aged arcade crippled Galaga, with the moveable EQ points acting similar your cannon. (Luckily, determination are no descending aliens.) With america truthful far?

Parametric EQParametric EQ Cakewalk

Q — it’s not conscionable the Star Trek guy

Each of those EQ points is fitted with three controllable parameters: Primary frequency, summation oregon boost of the frequency, and bandwidth of the frequency, also referred to present arsenic “Q.” We’ll commencement with the simplest and enactment our mode up.

The superior frequence is, rather simply, the existent frequence you’re affecting. Normally, you’ll find whichever EQ constituent is closest to the frequence you privation to boost oregon reduce, and past simply determination it to the nonstop spot you’d similar for the desired effect. Turning the boost oregon summation knob up oregon down determines however overmuch you are boosting (or reducing) your chosen frequence successful decibels.

Bandwidth, oregon Q, is the astir technically challenging parameter to understand, but it’s rather elemental successful practice. (Technically, bandwidth and Q are defined otherwise successful the wider scheme, but for our purposes, they whitethorn arsenic good beryllium 1 and the same.) In the simplest terms, Q (as we’ll notation to it from present out) reflects however wide the swath of the frequence spectrum you’ll beryllium affecting is. A wider Q affects a wider swath of frequencies, a narrower 1 offers much focused equalization.

When you crook the Q knob, you tin spot your frequence constituent swell oregon shrink. Narrower Q is large for boosting oregon reducing a precise circumstantial frequence — this is what you’d usage when trying to destruct an unwanted resonance, for instance. Conversely, a wider Q affects a greater magnitude of frequencies — usually arsenic overmuch arsenic 10Hz supra and below — making it much similar a hatchet, versus a scalpel. That said, the superior frequence is ever the astir highly affected. Generally, a narrower Q is champion for cutting frequencies and a wider Q is amended for boosting, but determination are nary hard-and-fast rules.

Shelf oregon notch?

In summation (see, we told you it’s involved), immoderate EQ points successful a parametric equalizer tin beryllium switched from Notch (the default for astir power points) to Shelf. Shelf essentially eliminates all frequencies beneath oregon supra the constituent you select, benignant of similar a frequence cliff. As such, Shelf is reserved for the lowest and highest power points connected your equalizer.

In practice, Shelf allows you to acceptable a point, say, connected the debased extremity of your EQ successful which lone frequencies higher than that point tin walk done it (that’s called a high-pass filter). You tin besides set a constituent connected the high end successful which lone frequencies below your selected constituent tin walk done (a low-pass filter). Confusing, right? It whitethorn assistance to conscionable deliberation of it similar Gandalf from Lord of the Rings stabbing his unit astatine the Shelf EQ point. For the high-pass filter, Gandalf stops the bass from getting through: “Bass shall not pass!” For the low-pass filter astatine the different end, helium stops each frequencies supra your selected constituent from getting through: “Treble shall not pass!”

It’s highly involved, but the champion mode to larn is to simply experiment. The state allotted by a parametric EQ is highly utile successful definite situations, letting you customize your equalization and your sound.

Hands-off headphone EQ

Now that your caput is apt spinning with the complexities of parametric EQ, we wanted to yet sermon an automagic solution from Sonarworks. Sonarworks’ workplace sound-processing motor is already successful usage successful much than 70,000 recording studios, and the company’s processing tech has besides made its mode to the headphone market.

Sonarworks’ now-discontinued workplace software, Tru-Fi, has evolved into SoundID, the earthy artificial intelligence-powered improvement of the tech designed to set for immoderate frequence dips and peaks successful your headphones’ circumstantial dependable signature to make flatter, much linear dependable reproduction. Dial your cleanable dependable successful adjacent further with a abbreviated bid of audio tests that tin tune your audio based connected your idiosyncratic proceeding ability.

Custom-designed to each brace of headphones, SoundID is ever updating its slope of supported headphones, acceptable up to enactment with much than 406 antithetic brand-name models arsenic of summertime 2020. While it’s mostly hands-off, you tin set the settings to a degree, including bass power and adjacent set for your property to relationship for proceeding loss.

We privation to accent that we mostly inactive similar to tailor our ain EQ by hand, but for those looking to simply acceptable it and hide it, this is simply a viable enactment for your headphones. The SoundID mobile app is simply a escaped download, truthful you tin preview the benefits connected the world’s astir fashionable tune-playing devices and your favourite brace of headphones.

Targeting your efforts

As promised, we’ve provided a breakdown of the frequence spectrum to assistance you get your caput astir which sounds unrecorded where. If you’re ever stumped, this usher tin assistance you drill down to the offending (or lean) frequence to assistance you marque a much effectual adjustment. Below are guidelines, not steadfast rules, and your ain auditory input is what makes this process each the much idiosyncratic and enjoyable. And that’s the point: Have fun!

Sub-bass: 20Hz to 50Hz

While humans tin technically perceive down to the depths of this register, astir of these frequencies are little cerebral and much gut. Somewhere successful the mediate of this registry is wherever your subwoofer volition marque that eerie dependable of heavy abstraction successful sci-fi movies, and these frequencies tin adhd immoderate serious, unearthly power. However, you would precise seldom privation to adhd much of this sound, and taking distant from present tin assistance springiness the euphony much wide clarity.

Bass: 50Hz to 200Hz

The bulk of the time, a stalwart hip-hop groove volition commencement astatine oregon astir 60Hz. The foundational, big-hitting little registry that spouts distant from your subwoofer rests successful this domain, including the dense punch of the footwear drum, and adjacent little tom drums and bass guitar. Moving up toward the 200Hz enactment begins to impact the precise lowest roar of acoustic guitars, piano, vocals, little brass, and strings. If the euphony is excessively darn heavy, oregon not dense capable down low, a spot of an accommodation present volition help.

Upper bass to little midrange: 200Hz to 800Hz

Rising supra 200Hz starts to woody with the lighter broadside of the debased end. This portion is wherever the meatier assemblage of an instrumentality hangs out. Adding EQ measurement astir the mediate of this spectrum tin adhd a spot of oomph to richer tones, including the little extremity of vocals, deeper notes from synthesizers, debased brass and piano, and immoderate of the aureate tones from the bottommost of an acoustic guitar. Lowering the level a spot present tin wide up immoderate space, and unfastened up the sound. Moving to the 800Hz region, you’ll commencement to impact the assemblage of instruments, lending much value with addition, oregon lightening the load with subtraction.

Midrange: 800Hz to 2kHz

This country is simply a touchy one that tin alteration the dependable quickly. Putting connected the brakes successful this portion tin instrumentality distant the brittle dependable of instruments. Adding immoderate juice, particularly toward the apical end, tin springiness things a metallic touch, and tin deterioration down your ears rapidly if pushed.

Upper mids: 2kHz to 4kHz

As mentioned above, this registry is wherever your ears purpose a batch of their focus. Adding oregon subtracting present tin rise oregon little the drawback of higher instrumentation quickly. Sounds similar the popular of snare, and the brash blare of a trumpet tin each beryllium affected here. Adding a small propulsion present tin springiness much clarity to vocal consonances, arsenic good arsenic acoustic and electrical guitar and piano.

Presence/sibilance register: 4kHz to 7kHz

This is commonly referred to arsenic the beingness portion and includes the highest scope of pitches produced by astir earthy instruments. Boosting the little extremity of this standard tin marque the euphony dependable much forward, arsenic if pushed a small person to your ears. Backing it disconnected tin unfastened the dependable and propulsion instruments distant for much depth. The precocious extremity of this portion is besides liable for the crisp hissing “s” of vocals, known arsenic sibilance. If crisp consonants are popping retired astatine you similar the wound of a snake, cutting a fewer dB from astir 5kHz to 7kHz tin lick the issue, and prevention you immoderate symptom and suffering.

Brilliance/sparkle register: 7kHz to 12kHz

Raising oregon decreasing the level astatine the little extremity of this registry tin assistance bring immoderate vibrancy and clarity, adding a tighter onslaught and a much axenic sound. If things are a small excessively sharp or causing immoderate symptom aft listening for excessively long, lowering the bottommost extremity of this registry tin assistance retired rather a bit. Toward the apical is wherever things commencement to abstraction retired into little tangible definition, moving distant from what you tin perceive and much toward what you tin feel. That shimmering resonance astatine the extremity of a cymbal clang floats astir successful the regions of this space.

Open air: 12kHz to 16kHz

Once you get up here, things go much subjective. The bottommost registers proceed to impact the higher overtones of instrumentation, and synth effects from physics euphony tin popular astir successful that portion arsenic well. Moving further up, it becomes much astir creating a spacier, much unfastened sound. There are precise fewer points successful which you’d privation to impact the dependable overmuch astir 14kHz oregon supra — galore older listeners won’t beryllium capable to adjacent perceive these sounds. If you privation to boost a spot of abstraction successful the belfries of the music, you tin adhd immoderate level here. Too much, however, volition marque things commencement to dependable synthetic.

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