Using an equalizer for music listening purposes is something that always brings up endless discussions. There are many arguments on whether it’s a good idea to use an EQ or not. And I even have a dedicated article on that subject which you can check out here.
But what do audiophiles think of equalizers? Do they use equalizers or not? After a few hours of research, here is what I found.
Many audiophiles don’t use equalizers. In fact, most audiophiles are against using equalizers. That’s because they believe equalizers degrade the audio signal and reduce its quality. Also, audiophiles like to listen to an audio as close as possible to the original recording without any alteration. But using an EQ will alter the frequency of the audio. However, some audiophiles use equalizers for room correction.
Audiophiles are a group of individuals who are passionate about high-fidelity sound reproduction. Unlike many of us, audiophiles care so much about sound quality and getting the best audio experience when they are listening to music or any audio for that matter.
They spend thousands of dollars on audio cables, HiFi speakers and headphones, preamps, amps, DACs, and a whole lot more in an effort to get the best audio quality that is as close as possible to the original recording. And they will also do whatever it takes to get rid of any device that will reduce the audio quality. One way they do this is not to use EQ. Let me explain why
Why Do Audiophiles Hate Equalizers?
Let me explain, in detail, the reasons why audiophiles are against the use of equalizers.
1. Equalizers introduces noise into an audio signal
Before an audio signal finally plays through a pair of speakers or headphones, it goes through a lot of processing, or otherwise known as gain stages.
For instance, if you are using a turntable, the audio signal from the turntable will be processed through a preamp to boost the signal. Then the output of the preamp will be plugged into an amplifier. And lastly, from the amplifier, the audio will be sent to speakers or headphones so that you can hear it.
If you are using a digital device like a computer, DVD/CD player, or a smartphone, the audio will first be converted from digital to analog by a Digital to Analog Converter (or DAC). And then, the output of the DAC gets processed by a preamp to boost the audio signal. From the preamp, it goes through the amp, and then finally to the speakers or headphones.
In essence, an audio signal goes through numerous gain stages before it is played by speakers or headphones.
However, at every gain stage, noise is introduced in the audio signal. And that degrades after it is processed through each component or device.
So noise is added to the audio signal when it is processed through the DAC, another noise is added when it’s processed through the preamp, and so on. The more devices or components the audio signal is processed through, the higher the noise floor.
This means when you add an equalizer in the audio signal’s path, there will be an increased noise floor which degrades the signal even further. And that’s the sacrifice audiophiles are not willing to make. That’s because they are obsessed with getting the best high-fidelity audio with very little to no noise.
For this reason, audiophiles try to use fewer components in their audio set up so that they get the best audio quality with low noise. And if that means not using an equalizer, then so be it.
2. Audiophiles don’t like to shape an audio with EQ
Before any song is released, artists or record labels pay professional audio engineers to mix and master their songs. As part of the mixing process, these engineers use audio devices like compressors and equalizers to sound their very best in every audio setup.
These audio engineers usually playback the audio through different sets of crappy and HiFi speakers and headphones and make sure the audio is well mixed to sound good on all these different systems.
And as you may already know, audiophiles are purists. They like to listen to music as intended by the artist and the professional audio engineers that mixed and mastered them. They believe every nuance in a song was meticulously made for a purpose.
So audiophiles refrain from using an equalizer because they don’t want to alter the music in any way because it beats the purpose of High Fidelity. They want an accurate sound reproduction of the songs they listen to. And using an EQ to boost or cut the bass, midrange, or high frequencies will make the final output inaccurate.
3. Audiophiles like to maintain the sound signature of the HiFi setup
Just as I explained in my article on using EQ for headphones, one of the main reasons why music listeners use EQ is to correct their speaker or headphone’s frequency response.
Most speakers and headphones don’t have a flat frequency response. Some speakers or headphones have enhanced bass, while others have boosted mids and highs. This is why every speaker or headphone sounds different. They are all colored. So people usually use equalizers to make their speaker’s frequency response flat or uncolored.
Trying to improve your audio system’s sound with an EQ can either be for the better or worse. You can definitely improve your audio setup with an equalizer if you know what you’re doing. However, most people don’t, and they end up ruining their audio system’s output sound.
This is something audiophiles want to avoid at all costs. Audiophiles usually spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on expensive and well-built HiFi speakers or headphones, audio cables, preamp and amps, room acoustics, and more, all in an effort to have a great sounding HiFi audiophile setup, without the need to use an EQ.
Audiophile setups usually sound excellent and bring out the little details in a musical piece. Although many audiophile speakers and headphones are colored and could use some frequency response corrections, audiophiles get accustomed to their speaker’s frequency response and keep them as such. Also, they don’t want to ruin their setup’s signature sound by using EQ.
Why Some Audiophiles Use Equalizers
Although equalizers are frowned upon in the audiophile community, there are some audiophiles who still use them for room correction purposes. What do I mean?
Well, another important factor that affects how an audiophile system sounds is the room acoustics. The shape, size, and listening position in a room affect the frequency response. Also, if you have an acoustically treated room, you’ll have a much better sound from your audiophile systems than a room without.
However, treating your room acoustics can be quite expensive, and some rooms are not ideal to be treated acoustically. For this reason, some audiophiles rely on room correction EQ software to help compensate for their poorly acoustic treated rooms.
To use room correction EQ software, the software requires you to take audio measurements at different listening points of the room with a microphone. This measurement gets processed by the room correction software, and it comes up with an EQ curve that will help fix all the problems in the room. Check out this article in New York Times to learn more on room correction.
In summary, audiophiles like to stay away from equalizer to keep their audio signal quality. Also, they believe using EQ can actually make their audio setup or the music they are listening to sound bad. So they rather not use an EQ at all.
However, there are a few audiophiles who use room correction equalizations to to compensate for their poorly treated room.