A song will have been mastered to maximize playing across as many devices as possible before it makes it into your playlist. In most cases, audio professionals know how to equalize (EQ), so the music will sound great. While not all playback systems are perfect, with a few easy adjustments, you can make your music shine on your gear provided you know what you’re doing.
Why should you EQ your music if it has already been done by a professional engineer? There are two primary reasons for equalizing your music, and they are not mutually exclusive.
- Preferences dictate whether or not you want to EQ at all, as well as how you want to do it. Because of the physiology of the human ear, everyone hears things differently. This may also include preferences and expectations for loudness. If you know what to do, what sounds nice to most people may sound much better to you. And we all know that you’re the only one who matters, right?
- What constitutes a “ideal” EQ curve is also determined by the playback mechanism. Nothing is perfect, and you may discover that your headphones or speakers have a hardware flaw that causes them to sound off. If it’s not too severe, chances are you’ll be able to account for it when you EQ. It’ll be as though it never happened.
What exactly is an EQ?
It’s probably better to go through what an EQ is before we go into the nitty gritty specifics. Equalization is an acronym for “the process of changing the volume of various frequency bands within an audio signal,” which is defined as “the act of altering the loudness of different frequency bands within an audio signal.” When using an EQ to reproduce realistic audio, you must modify various frequencies so that all of the signals are at the same volume level (or perceived loudness level, anyway).
On a practical level, if you’ve ever worked with audio equipment of any sort, you’ve probably seen an EQ. The bass and treble knobs on the vehicle radio are familiar to most people. Those are the fundamental EQ controls. Once you start dabbling with more sophisticated consumer electronics and recording gear, they get a bit more advanced. You may regulate the output of a particular frequency band by moving these sliders or rotating these knobs, allowing you to fine-tune the sound emanating from your equipment.
What are the most important things to know about EQs?
Now that we know what an EQ is, we can move on to the fun part: learning how to EQ. An equalizer has two parts: a center frequency and a bandwidth. Although the term “center frequency” may seem complicated, it simply refers to the frequency that you wish to change. Bandwidth, often known as Q (for quality), refers to the extent to which the options for the changes you wish to make are limited. As you look at the bass and treble knobs on a vehicle, you’ll see that they typically have a very low (wide) Q, which appears like a little hill when you change it. However, if you wish to target a very particular frequency band, a greater (narrower) Q will allow you to do so. This will have the appearance of a spire rather than a hill.
Is there a way to make a custom equalizer?
When learning how to EQ, there are two methods for adjusting your sound. The first is to increase the level (amplitude) of a particular range to make the target frequency louder. This is referred to as boosting. When you think about it, you’re just increasing the production of something you want to hear more of. On the other hand, if there is anything you don’t want to hear, you may reduce the output of a particular frequency band. This is referred to as cutting.
Cutting is preferable than boosting as a broad rule of thumb (more like a rule). You may add distortion if you increase too much, which contradicts the purpose of what we’re attempting to do here. In summary, it’s preferable to reduce the frequencies you don’t want to hear rather than increase the ones you want. If done properly, you’ll get the same effect while staying within the distortion threshold.
What if the new EQ curve doesn’t sound right?
Trust your ears: sound is a very individual experience. And we don’t only mean physically; we also mean mentally. The moral of the tale is that everyone’s ears are different, so anything you learn about EQ from here on out is simply a guideline to help you figure out what works best for you.
What frequency ranges are critical for EQ creation?
Regardless of whether you want more bass or less cymbals, you need be aware of their frequency ranges. Obviously, the chart does not contain every sound effect or instrument ever created, but it provides a fair overview.
Except for cymbals and hi-hats, which may go a little higher, nearly all of the instruments are below 10kHz. Though it’s difficult to hear, sub-bass is typically between 20 and 60Hz, and if you have a big enough woofer, you’ll be able to literally feel the air being pushed. The kick drum and bass guitar, on the other hand, are typically heard between 60 and 250 Hz.
Guitars and both male and female voices (with noticeable variations) have fundamental frequencies in the range of 80-1,000Hz. The frequency band between 250 and 1,000 Hz is one that you should pay particular attention to. There is a lot going on in that area, as you can see (and we only showed a few examples). If you put too much focus here inadvertently, you may get a “muddy” sound; if you remove too much, you might get a “hollow” sound.
The assault of plucked guitar strings is typically easier to detect when the focus is placed around 2kHz. Overtones and higher harmonics are easier to hear when the 8-16 kHz range is amplified, which our brains interpret as clarity. Because humans can hear anywhere between 20Hz and 20 kHz, we created four that cover the full range (20Hz, 250Hz, 2kHz, 16kHz).
What frequencies should you be aware of if you don’t want to be bothered?
Rather of focusing on the portions of a music that you like and then enhancing them, focus on the parts that irritate your ears. Then you should trim them down. You can usually accomplish this with a high Q (narrow) and sweep through until you discover a noise that is especially harsh or interferes with anything else you want to be more prominent. Then lower the Q and clip off that section.
This removes the undesirable elements of your music without adding noise or distortion, which is a common side effect of heavy-handed boosting. When you’re finished, you may turn up the overall master volume to a comfortable level while maintaining a natural-sounding mix.
Remove the excessive highs (add a low-pass filter)
Some audiophiles may claim that they need headphones that can reproduce sounds over 20kHz, although this is debatable. Humans can only hear up to 20kHz, so unless your audiophile pal is half-dolphin, they won’t be able to hear much beyond that. Do you need proof? Simply download any dog whistle app and check how high you can raise it without losing the tone.
Remove the extreme lows (add a high-pass filter)
It’s difficult to hear anything below a certain point, particularly over speakers if you don’t have a blazing sub-woofer and some bass traps, just as it’s impossible to hear anything beyond 20kHz. Simply reduce your EQ curve at approximately 50Hz, which is known as a high-pass filter.
Is it necessary to use EQ presets?
Some apps/software provide presets, which may be a good place to start when learning how to EQ. EQ presets exist for a purpose, and they’re usually created by experts. Selecting your preferred setting and making small changes from there is a fantastic place to start. It’s less time consuming than starting from scratch, but it still results in a custom sound profile.