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iTunes EQ and Level controls, part 2; does anybody use them to improve their listening experience?

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I tried broaching this subject a few weeks ago and it seemed that most most of the people that read the post didn't get what I was talking about so I've included a few images this time around so there will be no misundstanding.







Let qualify this post from the start by letting you know that I've been a musician for over 30 years and a part-time audio engineer for live sound and recording almost that long. My main speakers are Paradigm's Reference Active LCR-450's and a pair of their Servo 15 subs. My main listening room (the living room) has about $1,000 worth of Auralex acoustic foam products to tame both reverberation and low bass anomolies. At present, this system requires very little equalization to sound really good.




With that out of the way, on to the subject:


EQ and level controls in iTunes - does anybody use them to improve their listening experience?




I have a pretty varied iTunes library. It runs the gamut from Count Basie to Disturbed. With over 1,700 songs from 50's mono to present day, super-compressed metal, average playback levels can fluctuate over 10 decibels and timbres can swing wildly from super linear fidelity to tinny, bass shy garbage. Given that, I do what I've always done (even when I listened to vinyl) and adjust the level and EQ controls to make up for deficiencies in either the recording or mastering of the music.




In case you, you still don't get what I'm talking about, here's an example.








Above, you see the frequency response for a song from the Rush album, Counterparts. While the response is basically flat (excepting the rolloff above 10khz), This is not a very pleasant sounding album. While flat frequency response is desirable in speakers and electronics, it sounds bass shy due to the nature of human hearing. Each octave going up from the low end has more energy content due to each octave doubling in frequency width with increasing frequency and the nature of higher frequencies naturally having greater power. This is why pink noise (which rolls off at 3db/octave) sounds linear to our ears and white noise seems bright (and it's response is linear).




So, bottom line is that this song sounds tinny. The bass is lacking and the top end sounds dull. Now see what it looks like when the 10 band graphic EQ is engaged.








Note that the rolloff above 10khz is gone, the bass is boosted and the response now has a linear rolloff of 3db per octave which, to human ears, sounds flat. The song now sounds like a Rush song should with some very satisfying bass and kick drum impact and a bit of shimmer on the cymbals.




With the advent of iTunes, I can now apply seperate level and EQ adjustments to each song. Unfortunately, iTunes level and EQ aren't stellar and I'd like these new iTunes companion programs (Amarra, Pure Music, etc.) to offer level and EQ presets that can be assigned to each song.




So, does anyone else do this in iTunes or do you just take every song as it comes regardless of how poorly it's engineered?




jeff henning




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Hey Jeff,


I have nowhere near the experience you have but I've read that the EQ, Sound Enhancer and Sound Check in iTunes can introduce unwanted distortion.


The same used to be said of the volume control but I've seen recently that Apple's fixed that issue in an update. I haven't read the same thing regarding the other options.


Like you my library runs the gamut and I keep within reach of the volume control for that reason but that only addresses one of the issues you've brought up.


The other issue, EQ, I plan to first address, as you have, with room treatment. If it still doesn't sound as good as I'd hoped I plan on bringing in some EQ. I've been looking at the Behringer DEQ-2496 to fill that need.


To answer your question, right now I take every song as it comes regardless of how poorly engineered. Ideally we'd fix the problem there rather than trying to remedy it during playback...




Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Mac Mini->Roon + Tidal->KEF LS50W

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