• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required. There are daily reviews of audio hardware and expert members to help answer your questions. Click here to have your audio equipment measured for free!

Amp's tone control vs. software equalizer for a headphone?

Incantator

Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2018
Messages
11
Likes
3
Hello everyone, I have this simple yet technical question: is there a fundamental difference between amp's tone control versus a software equalizer? I do not own an amp, but while searching for information I found that some amps have these knobs where you can control base/mid/treble and even more (reverb/gain etc). Then I became curious about the following:
  • The difference between controlling the amp's base/mid/treble and using an EQ.
  • What an amp can control and achieve (maybe reverb/gain) but an EQ cannot, and vice versa.
I wish I could have a technical yet clear understanding on this topic. Any help would be appreciated!
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
15,720
Likes
35,541
Location
The Neitherlands
EQ is usually just a multiband tone control.
In most cases there are only a few fixed frequency bands with a fixed bandwidth that can be set to boost or lower that part of the frequency range.
Often there are worthless 'presets' and occasionally 'user' setting.
Mostly called 'graphic EQ' as the position of the sliders gives a 'graphic' representation of the applied curve.

Then there is the 'better' type of EQ which has a few programmable filters where you can set the center frequency and bandwidth. This is called parametric EQ.

Both EQ's mentioned above need to be set or preset and require arithmetic power of 'smart' devices.
Isn't available for all hardware devices and lowers the overall output (when a boost in some area is needed)

The first mentioned 'multiband tone control' is just that... you can adjust the tonal balance a bit closer to your taste.
However, it is highly unlikely that the frequency bands are exactly there where they need to be and are of the correct bandwidth to really 'correct headphones'.
Just see it as a fancy tone control, nearly impossible to accurately EQ headphones with unless it is 24-band or so.

The parametric EQ can be set so a headphone can be 'corrected' but takes a few considerations.
A: which measurements are used to create the corrections from.
B: You either need to set (and make presets) yourself or use someone else's
C: The overall output level is lowered to accommodate for boosting band(s)

Then there are a bunch of 'software/plugins' that correct headphones.
These all need a smart device that can run these plugins.
Here too the question is:
A: where is the correction based on ?
B: Is 'sharp' correction desirable ?
C: How accurate is the correction given product variances ?

Then you can ask the question... Do I WANT 'flat' and who's idea of ' flat' is it ?
Do you want to deviate from 'flat' with other curves ?

All these devices are digital.

To do this analog you either need multiband (over 11 bands) analog EQ or analog parametric (which is very expensive and bulky). Mostly the cheaper ones are quite noisy. These too require knowledge for proper usage and, again, must be based on some 'correction' which is derived from plots or (very difficult) by ear.
or you need to be handy with a soldering iron or buy an analog headphone EQ device (Ahem) from someone I happen to know (and is not me).

How well any of these solutions sound is depending on lots of factors including personal taste and accuracy of the 'calibration' used.
 
Last edited:
OP
I

Incantator

Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2018
Messages
11
Likes
3
EQ is usually just a multiband tone control.
In most cases there are only a few fixed frequency bands with a fixed bandwidth that can be set to boost or lower that part of the frequency range.
Often there are worthless 'presets' and occasionally 'user' setting.
Mostly called 'graphic EQ' as the position of the sliders gives a 'graphic' representation of the applied curve.

Then there is the 'better' type of EQ which has a few programmable filters where you can set the center frequency and bandwidth. This is called parametric EQ.

Both EQ's mentioned above need to be set or preset and require arithmetic power of 'smart' devices.
Isn't available for all hardware devices and lowers the overall output (when a boost in some area is needed)

The first mentioned 'multiband tone control' is just that... you can adjust the tonal balance a bit closer to your taste.
However, it is highly unlikely that the frequency bands are exactly there where they need to be and are of the correct bandwidth to really 'correct headphones'.
Just see it as a fancy tone control, nearly impossible to accurately EQ headphones with unless it is 24-band or so.

The parametric EQ can be set so a headphone can be 'corrected' but takes a few considerations.
A: which measurements are used to create the corrections from.
B: You either need to set (and make presets) yourself or use someone else's
C: The overall output level is lowered to accommodate for boosting band(s)

Then there are a bunch of 'software/plugins' that correct headphones.
These all need a smart device that can run these plugins.
Here too the question is:
A: where is the correction based on ?
B: Is 'sharp' correction desirable ?
C: How accurate is the correction given product variances ?

Then you can ask the question... Do I WANT 'flat' and who's idea of ' flat' is it ?
Do you want to deviate from 'flat' with other curves ?

All these devices are digital.

To do this analog you either need multiband (over 11 bands) analog EQ or analog parametric (which is very expensive and bulky). Mostly the cheaper ones are quite noisy. These too require knowledge for proper usage and, again, must be based on some 'correction' which is derived from plots or (very difficult) by ear.
or you need to be handy with a soldering iron or buy an analog headphone EQ device (Ahem) from someone I happen to know (and is not me).

How well any of these solutions sound is depending on lots of factors including personal taste and accuracy of the 'calibration' used.

Thanks for your reply! I'm not sure if I understood correctly, but here is the summary of what I did:

  1. Regardless of being hardware or software, there are two classifications of EQ; multiband control and parametric. The former is restrictive compared to the latter. Both lower the overall output (maybe increases when subduing certain area?).
  2. There is no fundamental difference between hardware and software EQ, at least considering the ultimate output.

According to this information, it might suffice to just tinker with the software EQ.
 

Theo

Active Member
Joined
Mar 31, 2018
Messages
288
Likes
180
This of course requires that you play your music from a computer... No vinyls, then:eek:
More seriously, if you want to correct for the headphones response curve, the best IMHO would be to buy a software with calibration curves such as Sonarworks or equivalent.
 

solderdude

Grand Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
15,720
Likes
35,541
Location
The Neitherlands
1. Regardless of being hardware or software, there are two classifications of EQ; multiband control and parametric. The former is restrictive compared to the latter. Both lower the overall output (maybe increases when subduing certain area?)

Yes, graphic and parametric.
Graphic can have anything from 3 bands to over 30 bands.
For tone control 3 to 5 bands is practical. For FR correction of a headphone it is not.
A 30 bands can very well be used for correcting headphones.

The biggest issue is WHERE does one base the correction curve on ? Differences between measurements of several folks can vary several up to many dB which will yield a different sound.

Parametric EQ usually only has just a few filters but they can be set to correct irregularities in headphones more accurately.

Here too the biggest issue is WHERE does one base the correction curve on ? Differences between measurements of several folks can vary several up to many dB which will yield a different sound.

In both cases, when fully digital the overall output is (or has to be) lowered in level when a boost in an area is needed.
When only attenuations are needed (unlikely) then an overall level drop of 1 to 2 dB may still be recommended.


Note that EQ only can address FR related errors. Resonances, break-up, or deep nulls nor very high peaks can not be corrected.
You can't polish a turd.. You can't turn an HD201 in an HD800 and tuning a HD800 to the FR of an HD201 will still give 2 very different 'HD201's

2. There is no fundamental difference between hardware and software EQ, at least considering the ultimate output.

According to this information, it might suffice to just tinker with the software EQ.

There are fundamental and practical differences between software and hardware EQ.
Both have aspects that can be seen as positives and negatives.

Crappy digital EQ programs exist and so do crappy analog EQ's.
Remember... almost all studiorecordings out there have plenty of digital EQ already applied to it.

Personally I prefer it analog, but that's just me.
It does not require dedicated equipment, can use simple but good players or any analog source.
You don't need a PC, tablet, phone or expensive DAP that accepts plug-ins.

Of course there are also plenty of ADC -> digital processing -> DAC solutions around that don't cost much as an alternative.


My recommendation to you is... play around with multiband EQ and see if it get's you where you want it to be.
Or try some parametric EQ plugins.

There is nothing more educational (and frustratiting) than trying to EQ something by ear.
 

Vincent Kars

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Technical Expert
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
760
Likes
1,494
According to this information, it might suffice to just tinker with the software EQ.

You might as well look for a crossfeed as most recordings are stereo. This means that both our ears hears both the L en R channel.
In case of a headphone we only hear L at our left ear and R at our right ear resulting in an excessive spatialisation.
A crossfeed reduces this.
An example: https://mathaudio.com/headphone-eq.htm
 
OP
I

Incantator

Member
Joined
Oct 30, 2018
Messages
11
Likes
3
Yes, graphic and parametric.
Graphic can have anything from 3 bands to over 30 bands.
For tone control 3 to 5 bands is practical. For FR correction of a headphone it is not.
A 30 bands can very well be used for correcting headphones.

The biggest issue is WHERE does one base the correction curve on ? Differences between measurements of several folks can vary several up to many dB which will yield a different sound.

Parametric EQ usually only has just a few filters but they can be set to correct irregularities in headphones more accurately.

Here too the biggest issue is WHERE does one base the correction curve on ? Differences between measurements of several folks can vary several up to many dB which will yield a different sound.

In both cases, when fully digital the overall output is (or has to be) lowered in level when a boost in an area is needed.
When only attenuations are needed (unlikely) then an overall level drop of 1 to 2 dB may still be recommended.


Note that EQ only can address FR related errors. Resonances, break-up, or deep nulls nor very high peaks can not be corrected.
You can't polish a turd.. You can't turn an HD201 in an HD800 and tuning a HD800 to the FR of an HD201 will still give 2 very different 'HD201's



There are fundamental and practical differences between software and hardware EQ.
Both have aspects that can be seen as positives and negatives.

Crappy digital EQ programs exist and so do crappy analog EQ's.
Remember... almost all studiorecordings out there have plenty of digital EQ already applied to it.

Personally I prefer it analog, but that's just me.
It does not require dedicated equipment, can use simple but good players or any analog source.
You don't need a PC, tablet, phone or expensive DAP that accepts plug-ins.

Of course there are also plenty of ADC -> digital processing -> DAC solutions around that don't cost much as an alternative.


My recommendation to you is... play around with multiband EQ and see if it get's you where you want it to be.
Or try some parametric EQ plugins.

There is nothing more educational (and frustratiting) than trying to EQ something by ear.

Thanks, but I'm not trying to do some fancy things, just trying to understand... The most I'll do is just reducing the treble of my headphone... I just tried the EQ in foobar and it works pretty good I think :) I do wish I had an amp with tone control... so many options and it seems like it is just fun to mess around lol

You might as well look for a crossfeed as most recordings are stereo. This means that both our ears hears both the L en R channel.
In case of a headphone we only hear L at our left ear and R at our right ear resulting in an excessive spatialisation.
A crossfeed reduces this.
An example: https://mathaudio.com/headphone-eq.htm

Thank you! I'll keep that in mind and read the article in detail.
 
Top Bottom