Whether you’re an audiophile or regular music listener, you understand that all songs and genres of music sound different. What you think sounds catchy or beautiful might be off-putting to someone else. This exact principle applies to getting a perfect EQ.
The world of music recording and listening revolves around thousands of different ways to manipulate sound. How a song is recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered is going to set the foundation for how consumers perceive the art. It’s your job as a listener to sculpt what you want to hear by dreaming up your ideal EQ settings.
What Is EQ?
EQ stands for equalization in music and home audio, which is essentially the concept of pushing, pulling and balancing frequencies in a recording through electrical means. In a basic form, you’ll find EQ settings on car stereos, headphones, televisions and Bluetooth speakers.
Providing a solid EQ doesn’t require superpowers, but it will become easier as you train your ear. Presets on stereos and theater systems are a good reference point for hearing the differences in an EQ setting. However, moving dials yourself will give you the ability to craft the ultimate listening experience.
Frequencies and Decibels
Achieving the perfect EQ setting boils down to frequencies measured in hertz (Hz) and how loud they’re amplified (measured in dB). The most important distinction in setting an EQ is recognizing the need to add in or subtract specific frequencies. Follow the guide below for insight on where instruments sit on the sonic spectrum:
- 20Hz: This point is the absolute lower frequencies of the EQ. Bass instruments and kick drums begin here but can only be heard with a subwoofer.
- 50Hz: A second bass region. More user-friendly with most speakers. Bass and drums still dominating this zone.
- 100Hz: Start to hear more bass in your mix. Drums and lower tone instruments enter.
- 200Hz: This is where your “woofing” sound of bass and drums enters. Lower sounding guitars and pianos are present.
- 500Hz: Midrange frequencies of horns, bass and vocals.
- 1kHz: Guitars, piano and snare drums live in this frequency range.
- 2kHz: Influential in vocal sounds. Timbre sounds less “nasally” when cut.
- 5kHz: Range for electric guitars (distorted and clean).
- 10kHz: Drumming cymbals and the higher ranges of synths and pianos live here.
- 20kHz: Humans can hear just above this frequency, so this region handles extremely high frequency tones.
How to Get Your Perfect Sound With EQ Settings
Getting the perfect EQ settings for any application begins with moving frequencies in and out. In other words, play with the dials to discover which frequencies you enjoy hearing the most.
Setting the EQ is not always about adding more of a frequency in. Some of the best tricks derive from finding the frequencies you don’t like and slowly fading them out. Pushing too many frequencies forward may create a muffled sound that seems like your tracks are clipping and becoming distorted.
If you’re new to EQ, try selecting a preset and moving from there. Eventually, you’ll be able to place all controls in the center and set each level to your exact specifications. Learning where instruments sit in the frequency range will ultimately help you set up your EQ for the best listening experience.
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