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Is EQ'ing headphones worth it?

Is EQ'ing headphones worth it?


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Robbo99999

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#1
I have SoundblasterX G6 -> JDS Atom Amp -> AKG K702 headphones....and I'm happy with the setup but I've been reading about EQ'ing headphones to 'reach the ideal'. I found a website that seems to have the measurements and subsequent recommended EQ curves for over 700 headphones. I've played about using the Fixed Band Equaliser in iTunes to apply the recommended settings, and it certainly hasn't messed up the sound, but I think I prefer the natural sound of my AKG K702 without EQ curves. I suppose I'm striving to get the most accurate sound possible...and when I say accurate, as close to neutral and "as the artist intended" if you like.

The site where I found all the EQ curves, and this is the specific link to the AKG K702 data:
https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/tree/master/results/innerfidelity/sbaf-serious/AKG K702

I'm not an experienced audiophile, I've just been slowing getting into it starting with my initial purchase of these headphones back in 2015. I'm combining good positional gaming sound with hopefully high end audio for music listening, that has been my goal. But anyway, what do you think about that EQ'ing site I listed above and what do you think about EQ'ing headphones....and does the site I listed above strive to EQ out the anomalies to try to get as close to neutral "as the artist intended" as possible?

EDIT 24/2/2020: After the help of people in this thread (thankyou!) I have now sucessfully EQ'd my headphones to the Harman curve and it's quite a revelation and improvement, so I have indeed voted "Yes" in the pole here now. Following is a link to one of my posts where I describe the end result of EQ'ing my headphones and also the process I employed to get there:
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...-headphones-worth-it.11523/page-7#post-334811
 
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pwjazz

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#2
I have SoundblasterX G6 -> JDS Atom Amp -> AKG K702 headphones....and I'm happy with the setup but I've been reading about EQ'ing headphones to 'reach the ideal'. I found a website that seems to have the measurements and subsequent recommended EQ curves for over 700 headphones. I've played about using the Fixed Band Equaliser in iTunes to apply the recommended settings, and it certainly hasn't messed up the sound, but I think I prefer the natural sound of my AKG K702 without EQ curves. I suppose I'm striving to get the most accurate sound possible...and when I say accurate, as close to neutral and "as the artist intended" if you like.

The site where I found all the EQ curves, and this is the specific link to the AKG K702 data:
https://github.com/jaakkopasanen/AutoEq/tree/master/results/innerfidelity/sbaf-serious/AKG K702

I'm not an experienced audiophile, I've just been slowing getting into it starting with my initial purchase of these headphones back in 2015. I'm combining good positional gaming sound with hopefully high end audio for music listening, that has been my goal. But anyway, what do you think about that EQ'ing site I listed above and what do you think about EQ'ing headphones....and does the site I listed above strive to EQ out the anomalies to try to get as close to neutral "as the artist intended" as possible?
I've never been happy with EQ presets based on measurements. I think everyone's ears interact differently with specific headphones, so EQing precisely to measurements can do as much harm as good. Measurements can be useful to point out general problem areas like subbass roll off, recessed upper mids, treble spikes, lack of treble extension, etc, I just wouldn't take them too literally either in exact frequency or in amplitude.

Lately, I've had better results by running frequency sweeps while listening for peaks and dips with my own ears, then applying EQ to compensate for those, keeping in mind not to go overboard.

P.S. I don't put too much stock in "what the artist intended", since I think most commercially minded artists intend for people to enjoy their music on a variety of gear and be moved to pay for it. So if I'm enjoying the music, the artist is happy.
 

Robbo99999

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#4
I've never been happy with EQ presets based on measurements. I think everyone's ears interact differently with specific headphones, so EQing precisely to measurements can do as much harm as good. Measurements can be useful to point out general problem areas like subbass roll off, recessed upper mids, treble spikes, lack of treble extension, etc, I just wouldn't take them too literally either in exact frequency or in amplitude.

Lately, I've had better results by running frequency sweeps while listening for peaks and dips with my own ears, then applying EQ to compensate for those, keeping in mind not to go overboard.

P.S. I don't put too much stock in "what the artist intended", since I think most commercially minded artists intend for people to enjoy their music on a variety of gear and be moved to pay for it. So if I'm enjoying the music, the artist is happy.
Thanks for the response there. Yes, about the "everyone's ears interact differently" I agree with that...and maybe that's similar to the effect of the earpads on the headphones, one thing I thought of recently was that when everyone talks about "burning in headphones" I'm thinking more what actually is happening is that the earpads are changing shape subtely and fitting your head closer (that kind of thing), so yeah I can understand how the physical structure of a person's outer ear is gonna be affecting the sound too.

I don't fully understand the frequency sweeps you talk about, but I think I can visualise it a little based on how you described it, and I can see how that method takes into account your own personal ear structures into the equation rather than relying on measurements that may not be valid to your own ear structure/headphone relationship. I'm not sure I want to go down that level of complexity for tuning with EQ, but I'm a curious fella so I like to understand how things work, which is why I started this thread.

In terms of "as the artist intended", yeah I see your point about just enjoying the music....my scientific side would like to have it as close to neutral as possible though. But then again do we really know what "neutral" is in a headphone...if you look at the frequency response curves of different "reference studio headphones" even within the same company they can have big differences in frequency response accross the spectrum and none of them are flat really....I don't know if that's because it's technically very difficult to create a flat response or if there's something about the nature of headphone listening that you don't want it to be flat in order to be "neutral" and close to absolute reality. Hard to explain, and not sure I know what I'm talking about.
 

Robbo99999

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#5
EQ can be more than just beneficial but you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

Sound quality isn't only FR related (which is what EQ addresses)
Yes, sow's ear, I can see that. AKG K702 isn't a sow's ear though (I think?).

About your second point, if you've got a good audio chain and well recorded music then you've got the other parts of the sound quality sown up right? My setup is OK from that point of view I think?

I can see you're a fan of EQ though from your first point.
 

Robbo99999

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#8
I've been really pleased with headphones and IEMs eq'd to more closely conform to this target response:
https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/harman-tweaks-its-headphone-target-response
Wow, yes, it's not just about a flat curve then. That curve is trying to mimic the "sound of speakers in a room" whilst also applying some user feedback on general preferences...so that's some science mixed with subjectivity in terms of "getting an accurate sound". Yes, I've seen that curve before when I was researching this a couple of days ago, and I tried in a very hamfisted approach to EQ to that curve, but I didn't really know what I was doing and it sounded awful. I found the frequency response curve of K702 and tried to equalise it out to match that Harman curve. It was a disaster, but I didn't know what I was doing really.
 

Robbo99999

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#9

JohnYang1997

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#11
Eq can do wonders if you know what you are doing. It's not a shame to people who doesn't exactly understand a lot. You always gotta learn stuff right? Measurements done with proper standard HATS(head and torso simulators) are mostly accurate from 50hz(lower or higher depending on the type of seal) up to 8khz.
I don't recommend Harman Target but Etymotic target. First you get the data from trusty website like 0db.kr.co(pre hires head), earfi naver, seeko.kr, innerfidelity, clarityfidelity. Then you make the inverse of that to your EQ for example EQ APO. Then you use sine generator like this one https://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/ at 10% volume to pick out uneveness at high frequencies. Then you notch out the peaks and flatten the dip from 8khz and up. (if you find peak around 7khz, eq that out too). Then you apply the etymotic target. After that if you don't particularly like the sound then you can add another 11 band eq to tweak the bass and treble to your liking.
 

Robbo99999

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#13
I generated the correction files with the aid of Room EQ Wizard and this headphone measurement device from MiniDSP:
https://www.minidsp.com/products/acoustic-measurement/ears-headphone-jig
Wow, cool, this sort of thing appeals to me, didn't know it existed...although this is also at the same time appealing to my more dangerous obsessive side...so it feels like the rabbit hole!

Do you think most "Reference Headphones" that are sold on the basis of being 'neutral' are targeted at the Harman curve you showed me earlier? Do you know what most "Reference Headphones" are aimed at in terms of tuning...you know when they're going through the design process at the manufacturers? You'd think they'd all be aiming for roughly the same target if they were striving for so called "neutrality" and "true sound".
 

Robbo99999

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#14
Eq can do wonders if you know what you are doing. It's not a shame to people who doesn't exactly understand a lot. You always gotta learn stuff right? Measurements done with proper standard HATS(head and torso simulators) are mostly accurate from 50hz(lower or higher depending on the type of seal) up to 8khz.
I don't recommend Harman Target but Etymotic target. First you get the data from trusty website like 0db.kr.co(pre hires head), earfi naver, seeko.kr, innerfidelity, clarityfidelity. Then you make the inverse of that to your EQ for example EQ APO. Then you use sine generator like this one https://www.szynalski.com/tone-generator/ at 10% volume to pick out uneveness at high frequencies. Then you notch out the peaks and flatten the dip from 8khz and up. (if you find peak around 7khz, eq that out too). Then you apply the etymotic target. After that if you don't particularly like the sound then you can add another 11 band eq to tweak the bass and treble to your liking.
Thanks, some slightly different opinions being voiced in this thread (expected & totally fine of course) - more to add to my reading, thanks very much. Etymotic target added to reading list along with your links.

EDIT: why can't/don't headphone manufacturers produce headphones to these targets? Too technically difficult unless you're using large amounts of digital processing, or they're produced to different targets? What are most "Reference Headpones" designed to in terms of target, do we know? You'd think they'd all be aiming for roughly the same if it was "True Real Sound" they were after.
 
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JohnYang1997

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#15
Wow, cool, this sort of thing appeals to me, didn't know it existed...although this is also at the same time appealing to my more dangerous obsessive side...so it feels like the rabbit hole!

Do you think most "Reference Headphones" that are sold on the basis of being 'neutral' are targeted at the Harman curve you showed me earlier? Do you know what most "Reference Headphones" are aimed at in terms of tuning...you know when they're going through the design process at the manufacturers? You'd think they'd all be aiming for roughly the same target if they were striving for so called "neutrality" and "true sound".
Majority of manufacturers don't even have a target. They just make whatever. That's why 99% earphones are garbage and more than half of headphones are bad sounding. Etymotic has done something similar to Harman but instead of finding what's subjectively preferred, etymotic found the more accurate speakers in room response. And that's 30 years ago.
 

Robbo99999

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#17
Majority of manufacturers don't even have a target. They just make whatever. That's why 99% earphones are garbage and more than half of headphones are bad sounding. Etymotic has done something similar to Harman but instead of finding what's subjectively preferred, etymotic found the more accurate speakers in room response. And that's 30 years ago.
Are there specific manufacturers that openly say they target certain curves in a bid to reach "true sound"? In my limited audiophile knowledge in headphones you'd think for example the high end AKG "Reference Headphones" would target such things....and I mean the AKG 800 costs loads right and is also marketed as "reference" I think.

EDIT: and in reference to your Harman vs Etymotic curves above I think I can see where the subjectivity could come in on Harman...as "everyone loves bass now"!
 

JohnYang1997

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#18
Are there specific manufacturers that openly say they target certain curves in a bid to reach "true sound"? In my limited audiophile knowledge in headphones you'd think for example the high end AKG "Reference Headphones" would target such things....and I mean the AKG 800 costs loads right and is also marketed as "reference" I think.
Only companies who I think I have real faith for are Etymotic and Moondrop(new ones like Chaconne, S8, Solis). There are some other ones who achieved half way there: Sonicast(Dirac series), Akg(is actually Harman. n5005 in ear, k371 k361 over ear), Tanchjim(really good in ears from Cora to Oxygen). There are many new iems who claim or hyped to be tuned to Harman Target which they don't. They mostly do not understand Harman Target and interpretation for it is simply wrong.
 

pwjazz

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#19
I'm not sure I want to go down that level of complexity for tuning with EQ
As long as you don't go overboard it's not too bad really. The stuff you can hear easily you can correct easily. If you want to go to the next level of listen for more minute unevenness that can get hairy, but I find diminishing returns at that point anyway.
 

pwjazz

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#20
Measurements done with proper standard HATS(head and torso simulators) are mostly accurate from 50hz(lower or higher depending on the type of seal) up to 8khz
While I generally agree, even measurements from someone like oratory1990 on Reddit have some extreme features that are not worth correcting to. For example his EQ profile for the DT1990 has a significant correction for a dip around 4 or 5KHz. While I think there's definitely something going on at that frequency, if I apply the full correction for that dip as measured on his industry standard HATS, it sounds just plain wrong.

One also has to keep in mind unit to unit variation. Audeze is notorious for this, but it's generally true that a measurement of the same model headphones as yours doesn't necessarily match a measurement of your exact headphones.
 
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