EQ? Anyone using one?


Sorry, the video was merely meant to reinforce the science of why headphones are different from speakers and how we should approach EQ. There has always been a stigma against EQ in the audio community and for speakers I can understand the sentiment. But headphones represent an entirely different ballgame so I always want for people to understand WHY headphones can’t really have a true “neutral” that is really neutral to every individual.

I think this depends on your goal with EQ. There are 2 options you have to pick from:

  1. Tune your headphones to whatever sound preference you enjoy and what sounds best to you. In this case, I agree with what you said about just starting at a baseline and making free adjustments to whatever sounds good.
  2. Tune your headphones to be as close to “neutral” as possible, trying to match and imitate what flat speakers would sound like. Most sound engineers are using reference monitors to do the mixing and mastering so by tuning headphones in this method, you are aiming to try and hear the music as it was intended by the creators. In this case, your method of free tuning would not work.

For this second method, getting absolute proper individualized EQ settings for each person could be tedious. I’m not recommending all that work with fancy/expensive equipment. While using that stuff would be more accurate, you can actually get pretty good approximated results with much less hassle. The method I recommend is to get a good EQ software that specifically uses parametric equalization. This allows for a smoother and proper tuning curve. I always recommend Equalizer APO and the Peace GUI as both are free and work at the system-level so it doesn’t matter what music software you use. Next, grab a good measurement of your headphones like those from innerfidelity. From there, you can easily see where all the abnormal peaks and dips are that differ from the target curve. Making those adjustments first sort of gets the headphone closer in line to what good speakers would sound like. It is all preference from that point on, but doing it with measurements gives you a much better starting place and confidence in making adjustments. Metal571 made a great tutorial video on doing this process I described and once you learn how to do it, it is quite easy. Because this is software EQ, the tuning adjustments can all be saved. I do this for each of my headphones, it probably doesn’t take more than 10 minutes each to set them up once, and once I have that curve saved I can load it up whenever I use that headphone. I have over a dozen headphones in my collection right now and I switch through them all the time and I can assure you loading up the stored EQ is simple and easy to do.

I completely understand if someone doesn’t like fiddling with EQ. It just won’t be preferred by a lot of people in this hobby and that’s okay. But I just want others out there to know that the idea of EQ on headphones isn’t inherently bad or improper. And scientifically, we can show with math and empirical evidence that EQ is not only okay, but it is required for a given headphone and a given unique individual in order to accurately reproduce music as was intended by the creators.


@Torq - thanks for that detailed reply. Admittedly, i have found some headphones & gear I am now happy with. In the realm of purity of quality. Took some time and buying and selling-on but . . . in a nutshell, there were a handful of headphones from the mid 80’s that are very hard to beat even now 30 or so years later.
One thing also to note. I am finding more and more how important synergy is. You just need to get one thing in your audio chain that is not quite right and Audiovana is lost :wink: (Can still sound very very good though)
You can own headphones for years and think you know how they perform, put on a different set of pads and you can find a gem that was hidden behind slightly inferior pads!
I work with audio every day already so weirdly I don’t listen to that much ‘music’…I tend to listen to and really enjoy the details, soudstage, realism of the audio itself, placement of instruments etc etc.
i LOVE and am fascinated by how profoundly real headphone can [on occasion] make the music sound, actually not so much sound but ‘feel’ . . . emotively speaking. as it does when enjoyed live or even playing oneself
I could go on for ever…better stop talking! :slight_smile:




…and the one arguably most important and very rarely mentioned componant…the mind with which we listen to the music with. The perception and quality of my musical enjoyment is very much effected by my state of mind & body. There is something about 12-3 am time that I found THE most exquisite and sweet for listening to music in - Pain in the arse of course because I need to be sleeping at that time! There certainly seems to be a golden balance of relaxed-nous yet attentive-nous that allows my ears and mind to focus on the music in a deep and settled way. During these rare moments, my headphones / music / equipment sounds beyond sublime. If I listen again at lunchtime the next day it can often be ‘mehh’ ! :smiley:


je n’utilise mon Eq (voxengo + audirvana player) que pour corriger un défaut très évident :wink:


??? :worried:


S/he says they only uses EQ to correct an obvious fault in the sound. And s/he’s using one of the Voxengo plug-ins to do it.


It seems I simply… forgot to use english: my bad… :face_with_hand_over_mouth::face_with_hand_over_mouth:

I useg voxengo plug in with audirvana player to correct obvious defaults — say for example the lack of gain with Kennerton Odin somewhere about 1,5-2,5kHz

I think minimal correction is the better way to use Eq — that’s why I just bought Dekoni pads for the Kennerton Odin: they add some gain in the same range, and it allow to reduce Eq correction

b. r. :wink:


I try not to use my equalizer as it colorizes the sound that the artist wanted me to hear . Alas my ears are not what they used to be so I boost the high end occasioaly.


Since your replay system is unlikely to be anything like what the mixing/mastering engineer was hearing, especially if you’re listening on headphones (we tend to bias towards speakers … and often relatively low-end, bass-incapable stuff at that), the “purist” pursuit turns out not to be very purist at all.

I say that as someone that, a few years ago, had a good quarter-million tied up in Meridian DSP speakers/gear, EQ’d to flat in a seriously treated room … and found that it was an utterly un-involving experience.

Everyone is different, but the moment I let go of “striving for neutral/what the artist intended” and embraced my personal preferences for enjoying music, I wound up listening to a much broader array of material and enjoying all of it a great deal more!

YMMV! :slight_smile:


Oh my! I thought went down a serious rabbit hole at 50K . :scream:


Sonar works Tru-fi is 20% off for the next 24hrs. Not sure if that would be helpful for you. I thought it was cool but still prefer my stock sound signature of my headphones. But it automatically brings specific headphones to what the studios would have been listening to. I’m no expert, @Torq would be better able to explain the nuances of the software and it’s benefits.


I don’t think the artist intended anything but for you to listen to their music with enjoyment. The phrase “as the artist intended” was made up by a marketing team to sell more equipment. Even if you were listening to the music on the same equipment used in the mixing and mastering process, you would still need to compare audiograms with the artist in order to hear it the way the artist heard it. I don’t remember who said it but the artist defined an audiophile as someone that uses the music to listen to their gear.

When I want to listen to my gear, I don’t use EQ. When I want to listen to the music, I EQ until it sounds good.


Great way of putting it with that last paragraph.


I’ve continued to play with EQ quite a bit and have a few tips and tricks to share off the top of my head. This seems like as good a place as any.

  1. When testing your EQ settings, make sure to listen to lots of different music that you know and like. Some settings really complement specific songs and stink with others, whereas some settings work well across the board.
  2. If you have access to measurements for the headphones that you’re EQ’ing and comparable measurements (i.e. same equipment, process and compensation curve) of headphones whose sound you like, you can use those as a starting target for EQ.
  3. If you’re shooting for a “natural” sound and have some speakers that you think achieve it (e.g. some studio monitors), you can play some music on your speakers and simultaneously on your headphones (just pressing play on both sources at the same time is good enough), then alternately turn the volume up/down on each to do a basic A/B comparison. You might not want to target the exact same tonal balance, but it’s easy to mess up timbre with EQ and checking against some studio monitors is a good way to find this out.
  4. If using an app that lets you easily turn EQ off and on, this can be a nice way to A/B test the effect of EQ versus the stock sound. However, you should set pre-gain for both EQ’d and uneq’d to level match so that you’re doing a fair comparison.


Well… Somehow I missed this rather interesting thread. I’m not doing multiple replies, so I’d like to thank @I_want_all_the_tacos for some very engrossing posts, and the rest of you for very intresting discussion.

But that Schiit Loki that @Torq mentions sounds like a very useful bit of kit. In a digital chain, especially with MQA, it’s nice to know that I’m getting the sound that the artist and/or producer intended (probably for speakers, as MQA is smart enough to correct for a particular DAC, but has no way of knowing what is downstream from the DAC). Of course, I don’t always AGREE with the artist/producer about their choices, particularly on my audio chain.

MQA likes to make use of digital software EQ difficult.

And I do have one of those systems that no longer has tone controls for my turntable to speakers. I don’t often want them, but there are times - and specific recordings - where I really would like them. That Loki looks like it might be just the ticket.

Tell me @Torq, are you still happy with it for what it is after months of having it around? Or is it just another metal doorstop?


If you are shopping for an analog EQ, check out the JDS Labs Subjective 3 too. Also, there are a lot of Pro Audio EQs in all price ranges.


The RME ADI-2 Pro/DAC has support for parametric EQ. There are limitations compared to PC software EQ (5 bands, min/max values for Q, limited number of shelves, ease of use, etc.), but it’s flexible enough and you’re not tied to using a PC as a source.

I use an ADI-2 DAC at work with EQ enabled feeding a stock HD800.


It has a permanent place in my stack of the small Schiit components … and I have no complaints about it at all for it’s intended purpose or price. I like having it in that stack, and if I was putting it together again today I would still include the Loki.

More and more it’s hard to find time to listen to these little rigs though. When I’m not using them for comparisons, reviews and so on, and am not listening to other gear for review/audition purposes, I try to use my primary rig as much as possible. EQ in that setup is handled in Roon, so all software.


If you’re using a hardware renderer or decoder is makes it impossible!

However, if you’re only using software replay, for the first-unfold, you can still enjoy software-EQ - with the right setup.

For example, if you playback an MQA file via Roon with a DAC that doesn’t support MQA rendering or decoding (or you tell Roon that it doesn’t), then Roon will do the first unfold before it runs it through it’s DSP engine (where you can apply EQ, crossfeed, etc.). You can look at the replay/signal chain in Roon to see this is specifically what is doing, as well as having your DAC report the higher bit-rate from the first-unfold.

I believe Audirvana+ does things the same way (I’ll have to test it to be sure) if you set it up to do the first-unfold in software.

Now, if you have a DAC that does MQA Rendering, like the iFi Nano or xDSD, then this won’t work at all unless you’re willing to forego that stage of the processing.