How To Use An Equalizer To Optimize Your HiFi Setup.

When it comes to HiFi systems, one thing many forget to think about is what a good equalizer could do for your system. No matter what gear you’re rocking in your setup, there will always be imperfections. Many of these imperfections reside in the listening area. The rest of those imperfections reside in the gear you’re listening to. No matter the quality of your gear, there will always be imperfections. By imperfections, I mean audio peaks and dips that can ruin the frequency response of your system. By using a graphical or parametric equalizer, you can correct these small imperfections giving your system that “icing” it needs on the “cake” to give you the sound you crave. After all, a great HiFi system is the result of trial and error.

Assessing The Difference Between A Graphical and Parametric Equalizer:

As you may already know, there are two main types of equalizers. There is the trusty graphical equalizer that many of you know of. There is also the parametric equalizer that when experienced with, allows you to really cater to your tastes and your system’s imperfections. Whichever one you prefer is really up to you. For starters, a graphical equalizer is far easier to set up. This is due to the fact that a graphical equalizer has set bands for you to work with. The manufacture (for a hardware-based equalizer) or software developer (for a software-based equalizer) choose these bands as the most common used to actuate the frequency curve. A parametric equalizer on the other hand puts you in control of what bands you choose to work with. While taking a little more time and skill to master, a parametric equalizer can provide superior results.

How To Achieve The Best Possible Setting On A Graphical Equalizer:

Graphical Equalizer On JRiver Media Center
Graphical Equalizer On JRiver Media Center

For beginners, getting the best possible setting on an equalizer might take a little time. One thing that I must mention is that there is not a one size fits all setting. Setting your equalizer’s bands is a process that should be done by listening. To make sure that this process goes smoothly, start with a song that you know well. By playing a song that you know, you’ll find getting the right settings very easy.

Now start with a neutral (flat) curve across the board and listen to your system. Listen closely for any peaks or dips in your system’s sound. Try to estimate which band this abnormal peak or dip resides at and correct it by either decreasing or increasing the band. If you’re using a software based equalizer, be sure to decrease the pre-amplifier slider to avoid distortion.

Make adjustments and experiment while also listening to what your changes are doing. Achieving the best possible setting for your equalizer takes time. The results you can get however are well worth the time you spend.

The Parametric Side Of Things:

Parametric Equalizer On JRiver Media Center
Parametric Equalizer On JRiver Media Center

While the process remains very much the same for a parametric equalizer, there is one extra step that you’ll need to master. With a parametric equalizer, you’re the one choosing which bands and how many you’re going to use. You’re also in charge of your pre amp gain and will need to lower it to avoid distortion. Again, as with graphical equalizers, these settings vary from system to system. You are the “system tuner”!

The best way to start with a parametric equalizer is to add commonly used bands. Some good bands to start with include 62Hz, 157Hz, 396Hz, 1kHz. 2.5kHz, 6.3kHz, and 16kHz. This is based off a 7 band graphical equalizer by Sony which I found very good. You can then add and modify bands from here. A parametric equalizer knows no boundaries. You can really get specific with your system’s low end, mid range, and treble regions.

One thing that a parametric equalizer can achieve is impressive low end response. For example, say you have added 62Hz from above, now also add 31Hz. Now you can vary how sharp you want your low end to roll off. Say you’re rocking some nice powered subwoofers or a set of huge floorstanding speakers with 15″ woofers, don’t let their capabilities go to waste. Start by increasing the low end at 31Hz until it is plainly audible. Don’t let it overpower the other frequencies however. Now increase 62Hz to bridge this gap between your mid bass and sub bass. With a little time, you can achieve some amazing low end response that unexpectedly doesn’t roll off. Many songs have bass content well below 60Hz.

The same can be done with the treble. Although human hearing can pick up 20kHz, you more than likely not be able to hear it. You can balance out your systems treble region nicely with a parametric equalizer. You already created a 16kHz band previously above. Now add 24kHz and increase that band significantly until it is audible. Be sure to lower your gain as you increase any band to avoid distortion. You’ll be amazed with what a parametric equalizer is capable of within your system’s treble region.

Taming your system’s mid range with a parametric equalizer is where things really shine. This is largely due to the fact that you can add, remove, and move bands. Say you started off with 62Hz, 157Hz, 396Hz, 1kHz 2.5kHz and there is an odd peak at 3.5kHz, you can specify a new band at 3.5kHz to tame this peak while leaving 6.3kHz and 2.5kHz unaffected. This is just an example of what you can do. As your setup gets more complex (especially your speakers), your bound to run into small issues like these that can really bring your system down. A parametric equalizer is a very powerful type of equalizer that really can work with a large variety of gear.

Tips To Achieving The Best Possible Equalizer Settings:

1. Play a song you’re familiar with.

As I said earlier, play music that you know well. By playing music that you’re familiar with, you’ll be able to understand where you need to correct the frequency response and whether you need to increase or lower a band. You’ll also be able to listen critically to test you settings to ensure that they are the best you can achieve with your setup.

2. Make changes slowly!

Yes, you read that right! When I first started using an equalizer with my setups, I was making changes too fast or sudden. This is something that would lead me into coming up with equalizer settings that actually made my system sound worse! I had to train myself to make changes more slowly. After doing so, I started getting better at making improvements to the frequency response of my setups. Patience is a requirement when it comes using an equalizer within your setup.

3. Practice with terrible sounding speakers!

Yes, now you have a use for the terrible speakers you might have found yourself with. Terrible sounding speakers present you with the challenge of getting them to sound decent. They also are way easier to work with as they already sound bad. Your goal is to make them sound as good as you can. This will make you get better at fixing smaller flaws in your setup as you’ll be hearing some major flaws and using your equalizer to correct these flaws. That way, when you equalize with your already good sounding speakers, you can find some of the most subtle flaws that when corrected, will make your system sound surprisingly better.

An equalizer… The most overlooked component in the HiFi world.

As you can see, one of the most overlooked components within a HiFi setup is an equalizer. One thing that you should always remember is: If you ever find yourself with a relatively good HiFi system that you feel could sound better, an equalizer could be what it takes.

3 Replies to “How To Use An Equalizer To Optimize Your HiFi Setup.”

  1. Oh! Though I have seen this equalizer setting most times but I have never given this a try. Though I am most times contented with just hearing the music from the neutral ground. However, this is really interesting here to see and I will try all best to take note of this little details in getting the HiFi details and settings right. Thank you

  2. Hello Rhett, I feel really relaxed learning how important an equalizer is to an Hifi. My son have been finding it difficult dealing with his HiFi set up and it’s really making him sad because he doesn’t know how to make use of an equalizer and that’s why I am making this search for him. I would share him this link so he can learn more. Cheers

  3. Oh this is a very good post on how to use an equalizer to optimize my hifi setup. I am happy you can explain this mad also give us tips to use when we want to test the sound correctly for proper set up. I guess we will know the sound of our favourite music when we play it so that’s why you picked that and then we can make the changes slowly.

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