Equalizers- love them or hate them and why?


I am new to Agon, but haven't seen many audio equalizers listed in high end audio systems. Why?
bronxer99
People don't usually like them because it is another link in the chain but if they have the transparency they can be very beneficial to lift a dull recording or even help with issues due to room interaction with your equiptment. As I do a lot of recording and CD production it is invaluable as part of my regime before burning. They are also very helpful in toning down anomalies with old recordings. I know some people will poo poo the idea of using them but barely one recording is produced without them nowadays.
Equalizers are worthy of neither love nor hate. They're just tools, an inanimate object.
^^^^^^ exactly... There are better things out there to love or hate.
I’ve been using EQ in one form or another for more than 40 yrs. If your system is not nearly yet to where you’d like it to be, then EQ is...well, if not a "swiss army knife" tool, then at least a very flexible and useful "band-aide" that will ameliorate a very wide range of system/room problems, and often like few other things can, typically. But, although of course, it can’t do everything, it’s amazing to me just how few real-world systems could not benefit from a quality version of it...as in like something approaching zero, I would think.

But, in a high end system, certainly less is more. Definitely the more you can do the right things that will reduce your dependence on EQ, the better off you will be. I wouldn’t realistically expect to ever eliminate that dependence entirely in the real world, no matter how desirable that might seem to be, but minimizing that as much as humanly possible and without otherwise doing harm to the sound and music would be the ideal goal.

My system, at roughly $17k retail, has crossed over into the high end and while I still find the full-range, digital parametric EQ I have indispensable, have managed to successfully reinstate zero deviation from "flat" entirely from the lower mids on up through the midrange to about 7k or so. A lot of bother with correcting the rest of my system and room to be sure, but the purity and coherence of tone and dynamics throughout now speaks for itself. Only the bass and top end now need any correction at all, and thankfully not much at that.

All that has since underscored to me that I’ve been becoming increasingly less enamored with auto correction EQ (an option I’ve had for many years now) as time and experience goes on. And it doesn’t matter to me how "good" the algorithm is or who designed it, or how careful or thorough one is during the measurement phase - EQ auto correction itself really now seems to me to be all but irrelevant to the pursuit of the ideal app of EQ.

The problem with it is that just getting things to measure flat at the lp actually turns out to be a bust for overall sound quality - especially if there’s no conscious regard for how the signal was manipulated in order for it to become flat. And, yes, that’s certainly the essence of EQ auto correction (regardless of algorithm) - mangling the signal until it becomes flat. But, behind all this is the big, perpetuated, industry lie: that if you can get it to measure flat, then it is ideal - the proverbial magic bullet. You see this sometimes in other areas of the industry: speaker designs that measure flat, but at the expense of sounding rather below par in other ways, like with phase response...even with driver, or crossover design.

Flat response is still ideally desirable, but just exactly how you get there ends up being the critical part. The less electronic manipulation the less the overall phase response is mangled and the better, more coherent and intact the overall soundstaging and dynamic envelope will be. But, it is amazing to me how much of audio is sold on this premise of getting things to measure flat, no matter the cost...as if it had no compromising effect on the overall sound quality at all - as if it were the gateway to nirvana. And why really?? All in the name of convenience, nothing more...or simply the lure of the magic bullet. Never mind that after you’re done, that it somehow seems like something is still missing and that it all vaguely seems to sound like crap. And with that, we’re off to the races...determined to redo the measurements countless times, convinced that’s there’s just something that we didn’t get right the last time around... IME, EQ auto correction is in the end just too flawed to be successfully relied on for great sound. And the industry lie that we can separate out frequency flatness from other sound parameters and fix it independently, without regard to phase and timing, is to be shunned, truthfully.

And no, I don’t really consider the EQ auto correction part of even something like the DEQX to be ideal. Yes, you can auto correct phase when you’re done with auto EQ, but, any system/room combo that’s been properly weened as much as possible from EQ dependence will likely sound a bit better than one whose signal has been mangled by auto EQ - even with phase auto correction, I suspect. Would be best if it allowed true manual EQ control (and Then use phase auto correction), but AFAIK that option’s not currently possible with the DEQX.

One other complicating factor with EQ in general that I’ve found is with the high levels of electrical noise that I’ve found that we all in fact have in our homes. Electrical noise it turns out is a limiting factor to system performance, far larger than most audiophiles or most of the industry is aware. You really notice it with EQ (once it’s gone). Ever try to boost the highs or upper mids, with digital or anything else, in order to get a little more presence and detail - only to run into the fact that the more you boost the more hashy, overly bright, grainy or sibilant the sound becomes?? You’d like to boost more, but the effects of noise somehow dictate that you should really be going in the opposite direction in order to try to smooth things out - so you end up stuck with some sort of vague arrival at a ’best compromise’ setting between the effects of the hash and the music. Or say you’re trying to work with the lower mids and nothing seems to be truly working - as soon as you get the EQ warm enough to sound right, you begin to notice an increase in muddiness through the range, too. Maybe you’ve always chalked that up to other various things: the distance of your speakers out into the room, the room itself, cabling or whatever...or maybe you’ve already worked with all those factors and you’re still having the issue.

But, once the electrical noise is gone, I find that the EQ actually performs like gangbusters. Everything finally snaps into place and EQ can be set to simply where the music and sound seems to be asking for without any ill effects due to coloration or hash. Go ahead, ’max out all your sliders’ in the highs and turn up the volume. A little unbalanced in the highs maybe, but that’s about all...does it make your ears bleed?? Are you being driven from the room, covering your ears?? Not Hardly!! What mud?? What coloration??

But, what I’ve noticed with the wholesale noise removal is that a funny thing happens with EQ. With less noise, somehow, the adjustment of frequencies seems to involve less phase and timing disruptions in the process. That was unexpected for me and I can’t really explain it to my own satisfaction, but it seems to be true. Not a total elimination of it, but nicely reduced. But, at this rate EQ here at least is a complete fulfillment of its original promise, with the noise now gone. Certainly one of the key things that has helped ween my system off EQ dependence...despite my shelling out some $10k in noise reduction gear toward that (along with too many other improvements from it to list).

Using room treatments alone to try reduce dependency is at best, I think, a mixed bag and unless you’re exceptionally careful and thorough with it, can do as much harm as good. But, that’s a whole nuther can of worms.

To wrap up, unfortunately frequency response is somewhat inseparable from phase and timing and whenever we are trying to treat it as separate without consideration to what remains, we are likely getting ourselves into trouble.

Be that as it may, I still say that EQ is in fact indispensable, it’s just that for the best possible results it has to be approached the right way and that, so far and for most audiophiles, that’s asking rather a lot both technically and possibly financially.

But, enough regurgitation from me for one day, I think.

Regards,
John
I avoid them in my mains, and use them heavily in my center and subwoofer.

Part of it is my signal chain. I spent $2k for my DAC, $1K for my preamp, plus amps. I really don't want to put in more signal processing in between the two if avoidable. I really like the use of digital only EQ's though, if I really was interested I would go that route.

In my subwoofer however, it is indispensable. It is impossible to get very good integration, and smooth, tight sounding bass with a single sub otherwise in the average room. +- 20dB dips are no joke. The equivalent of 200x the power output in narrow bass bands really makes it impossible to turn the subwoofer up. Not to mention getting the phase/slope right.

Best,

E

Every hardware equalizer I have heard or used sucked.  Most of the software equalizers also suck.

On the other hand, the parametric EQ in Amarra is quite excellent.  You can use it to tweak the room response and speaker response.  Very transparent, like their volume control, at least up to -9dB.

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

From reports of some that have used these here, on their good systems, this seems to be very good. Not much to look at, but has what it takes inside. 
http://www.schiit.com/products/loki

Cheers George
  
I tried them, but realized that crossovers affected my attempts to flatten a signal.  A system with DEQX seems to be a better way around this.
B
A crossover is a type of filter, gdn!

If you don't know what it's doing, best to leave it out of your signal chain. :) 

Best,

E
I tried them, but realized that crossovers affected my attempts to flatten a signal. A system with DEQX seems to be a better way around this.
B
I second this.  Once my room was addressed with room treatment, I added the DEQX.  I’ve found that the time delay and correct xover on the mains to help center the soundstage and integrate the single sub has been the most beneficial thing.  I use ever so slight EQ’ing at 60hz, about 2db and that’s it.
Like anything else, EQ's can be a + or a -....

Apply judiciously....*shrug*S*

Personally...I 'apply' 2; one in the 'puter,the other a 'stand alone' digital.  Either can be applied to primarily 'room correction' while the other can do monitor and measure on my 'DIY pursuits'....

Both are as flexible as I could care to use....been doing 'room eq' for 'bout 20+ years in this or some similar fashion...given the spaces I've had to 'play in', wouldn't think of 'being home without it'....;)
I use a Velodyne SMS - 1 to  apply low pass to my sub and EQ a nasty room mode centered around 40 hz

My amps can take just about any el34 or 6l6 variant so that's how I "EQ"  my speakers....  


My system doesn't have them, but I think most audiophiles around here who are unsatisfied with their sound would be better off with them.  If I ever buy and "end of life" system, it would probably include an Accuphase or Mac integrated with tone controls.  Plus, whenever I recommend an amplifier to a budding audiophile, I always recommend a Marantz or Cambridge with tone controls.  Just makes them happier. 
I have always used one.  Nowadays I use a vintage Kenwood graphic/parametric EQ, but only for recording.  I digitize vinyl and other analog sources.  I am mostly correcting frequency balance issues in the source material, source gear, and recorder (a Marantz pro-sumer CD recorder).  Easy-does-it is my rule.  My needle drops have gotten pretty positive comments when played at my local audio club meetings.