this is my first time figuring out that there is music section too in stack exchange. I usually just reading stack overflow. Anyway, I'm not sure if this is the right place to ask but is there any suggestion to set the "perfect" equalizer (good to hear for any genre of music). Mine is like this one,

My current equalizer

However, it just doesn't feel good enough for certain song. Any suggestion to modify my setting? Thank you.

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    There's no one equalizer setting that works for every song. If there were, equalizers wouldn't be adjustable, they would just be fixed on that setting. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '15 at 3:40
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    In other words, if there was a perfect setting, there was no need for equalizers at all. In consequence, the best equalizer setting for any music would be effectively - no equalizer. – friedemann_bach Oct 28 '15 at 11:33

Expanding on Todd's comment a little, you have to remember that different speakers and headphones will represent sound in different ways and they'll all have different ranges and will accentuate/attenuate different frequencies. For example, a pair of earbud headphones won't be able to reproduce the lower frequencies anywhere near as effectively as say a 10" or 12" speaker, because the speaker in the headphones is just that much smaller.

Also don't forget that humans all hear sound differently and we all have certain ranges in our hearing and some of us are more sensitive to certain frequencies than others. Another example is that musicians tend to have the higher frequencies drop off in their hearing because of prolonged exposure to loud sounds.

As Todd said, if there was "best, be-all-and-end-all" setting for EQ's, they wouldn't be adjustable. So in a true answer to your question, we can't give you the "perfect" settings because we don't interpret sound the same way you do and we don't know what you are listening to the music through.

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    Well pointed out! In the end, the purpose of equalizers is to give you an option to adopt the frequencies at any time to your individual circumstances. Even the same song heard from the same hardware could be configured differently, maybe in order to listen to other aspects of the music, or just because it is fitting better on that day. – friedemann_bach Oct 28 '15 at 11:39

Recorded music was already equalized by the engineers/artists in the studio.

The only technically valid reason to use an equalizer on it is to compensate for uneven frequency response in the speaker system and room, to make them as flat as possible.

The equalization curve that you suggest (boosted bass and highs, cut middle) is useful for quiet listening; it compensates for the human ear being more sensitive to the midrange frequencies. This effect is more pronounced at lower volumes: we hear the bass and treble frequencies less well when they the volume is low, so there is a valid psycho-acoustical justification in boosting them.

Other than that, if you have an excellent sound system and room, listening at a decent volume and are still equalizing, then you're having an esthetic disagreement with the recording/mastering engineers. If the material is considered a masterpiece of recording art, then what you're doing is like putting lipstick and eyeshadow on the Mona Lisa.

  • As the listener who paid for the recording (possibly!) surely one has the right to adjust eq. as required from a personal angle. I prefer a heavier bass, and after decades of playing in too-loud bands, my top end hearing is lacking, so I compensate accordingly. And don't forget the moustache..! – Tim Oct 15 '18 at 8:00

Back in the day, Leak amplifiers for hi-fi had no tone controls, on the basis that they 'coloured the sound'. This would have been o.k. for listening to music as it was originally recorded. Trouble was, you weren't sitting in the same room that the recording was made in, so it couldn't have been accurate anyway.

Personal hearing comes into the equation - oldies tend to miss the higher frequencies, etc., and each recording probably wasn't made 'flat' anyway. Speakers, room, furnishings will all make a tremendous difference. As an aside, I can play with my pedalboard and produce a 'perfect' sound. On stage, later, it'll sound nothing like it!

So, no, there isn't a perfect setting for eq. It needs adjusting as and when. Thus all those slidey bits!


Jamie's answer and Todd and Friedemann's comments are correct. But I will take things one step further and provide you with some information you should be able to use for your particular application of your equalizer.

What you pictured is the classic "smile" EQ setting and it is a good place to start in most situations and for most music. I start there and often end up there for the Equalizer on my mixer for my band.

But as you have discovered, it might not be the best for all music. And as other's have noted, it might not be the best for all speakers, all rooms, all instrumentation, all sources. The optimal equalization will vary based on so many factors.

But if you start with the smile setting, you can make minor adjustments as needed depending on the circumstances. If certain frequencies are not coming through, you boost those frequencies. For example perhaps the high hat and cymbals are not coming through, you might need to bump up the highest two sliders a tad until you hear them. If the kick drum or bass guitar lacks that thump - you might raise the bass sliders a tad and/or lower the mids.

If you have a muddy sound, you might try making adjustments to accentuate the highs, tinny sound, bring down the highs and possibly bump up the lows, hollow sound, bring down the mids and/or increase the highs and lows.

I don't know what sound source your equalizer is connected to, but if the only variable is the music you play, you might just need to experiment with different settings and adjustments for the songs that don't sound right, and then make a note of the settings for those songs (or take a picture).

With my band, I always start about where you are, but then I adjust for the room we are playing in (or for outdoors if applicable) and I also adjust according to what instruments are accompanying my band that day and if their instrument is feeding into the PA. If I'm miking the bass cabinet, I will have a different EQ setting than if not. Sometimes I might need to boost the mid highs to get a clearer vocal through my microphone.

As others have noted, the purpose of the equalizer is to compensate for all the potential variables in the source of the sound and the listening environment. Or perhaps as you have observed, for the instrumentation and arrangement of various songs that might sound better to you with an adjustment for that certain song.

Other listeners of course, might have a different opinion. Ideally and theoretically, what you want to hear on a recorded song, is as close to hearing the song as it was intended to sound live - as your music playback system can re-create.

If you are playing live (or recording), you want your instrumentation and vocals to blend well in the overall mix so the listener will hear everything and no instrument will drown out the other. Also, with amplified music, you might (depending on genre) want to use the equalizer to compensate for the artifacts in the sound introduced by the PA or Sound System - such that the end result sounds more like an unamplified rendition would sound (particularly true if amplifying acoustic instruments).

If you are the only listener, the most important thing is your personal enjoyment of your music. Having an Equalizer will allow you to customize the sound just to your liking. Good luck.

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    You might do some research on that smile EQ. It's considered a very bad place to start from. Looking at the image in the question as an example, if one boosts a 30 Hz slider going into a live sound PA system, one robs themselves of power bandwidth in the power amps by driving frequencies that are not effectively reproduced by 98% of subwoofers (if there even are subwoofers in the system). Unless you're in a stadium, drop that 30 Hz all the way down. If you're in a bar with no subs, might as well also lose the 60 Hz and drop 120 halfway. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '15 at 13:24
  • @Todd Wilcox - I always thought that the smile compensated for human hearing, as the mid frequencies are audible to us, but the upper and lower ones progressively drop off, so need upping. Telephone speakers/mics are mid-range, because all they have to do is relay the human voice. – Tim Oct 28 '15 at 15:39
  • @Tim Human hearing isn't that simple. And if it were that simple, then again, all music systems would have a built-in bass and treble boost that is always active, since we would always want it. That would also be assuming that the amplifiers, speakers, rooms, etc. are all perfect for sound reproduction. Telephones are a whole different thing, with many many reasons for why they sound the way they do, most having little to do with how human hearing works. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '15 at 15:48
  • @ToddWilcox - I thought a lot of music systems had tone controls that were flat at the halfway point, and defeated anti-clockwise, but boosted clock-wise. Or just boosted treble/bass. Wrong again?! – Tim Oct 28 '15 at 15:56
  • @Tim I think we're at a point where a new question on equalization is the most appropriate next step. If you decide to post a new question, I think it will be most on-topic for it to be about music performace systems, like PAs, and/or recording systems, and not about home or consumer audio equalization. – Todd Wilcox Oct 28 '15 at 16:51

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