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Authored by: DrLex on Dec 17, '05 02:17:24PM

As someone who has been playing with sound equipment since he was 12, I must say this article looks like something I would have written when I was 11. There is no such thing a a 'perfect' equalizer setting, as everybody has said before me but it can't just be stated enough.

The only, single, unique purpose of an equalizer should be to compensate for the imperfect response curve of the sound installation. A perfect speaker produces the perfect sound with all sliders of the equalizer set to 0dB. If your actual speaker plays a 125Hz tone 3dB more silent, you should set the 125Hz slider to +3dB, or set all other sliders to -3dB and leave the 125Hz at 0dB. And so on.

The problem is that you need professional equipment to measure the deviations of your actual speakers from the ideal speaker. Plus, many speakers deviate so badly from the ideal speaker that even at the most extreme settings the equalizer can't correct them, or distortion kicks in. Plus, the equalizer is only approximative. A parametric equalizer would be required for a much more accurate correction.
So the only thing you can do with the equalizer, is try to make your music sound as good as possible within all these limitations. If you consistently hear some frequencies louder than others on all songs, try to find that frequency and tune its slider down.

The use for a loudness compensator as found on many amplifiers, is to compensate for the fact that the frequency response curve of the human ear changes with amplitude. Roughly spoken, the sensitivity for bass and trebles decreases with decreasing amplitude. Therefore a loudness control will boost bass & treble at low volumes. Unfortunately this involves is so much approximation and guess-work that the end result is probably not what it should be. To hear the music as it should sound -- assuming you're using perfect speakers -- you should play it at the same volume as was used during the recording, without any loudness compensation. But on most crappy consumer products, turning on loudness will indeed improve the sound quality, if only because the loudness compensation often corresponds pretty well with the deficiencies of the crappy speakers. In general, though, equalization and loudness are completely different things.

For my iBook speakers, after many, many attempts, I found the following setting to improve the sound without distorting it too much. Of course the extreme boost at 125Hz causes distortion with some songs, but I had to do this to avoid losing too much of the already scarce volume. The speakers are crappy anyway, so a little extra distortion is no big deal.

Preamp: -3.5dB (you can decrease this to reduce the distortion, or boost it if you don't mind the distortion).
32Hz: -12dB (those speakers can't reach this frequency anyway)
64Hz: +6dB (idem, but this is just to keep the curve a little smooth)
250Hz: +1dB
500Hz: -5dB
1kHz: -3dB
2kHz: 0dB
4kHz: -1dB
8kHz: +1dB
16kHz: +3dB

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