Aug 12, 2018

Are Pre-Out Software Equalizers Underrated?

It sounds like a rhetorical question, and perhaps it is. For as much as you can read about any other piece of gear in a hi-fi stack, you read and hear very little about pre-out software equalizers. I've been using them for a long time and they can improve _any_ stack or headphones I've thrown at it. The degree of the improvement, of course, highly depends on how good your gear is -- or, said another way, it makes great gear even better. Am I not looking at the right forums/websites? Are they perceived as net-negatives by the rest of the community? Or it a matter of lack of awareness?

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There is indeed a purist old school of tought that despise all manipulations of the audio and want the output as close to perfect comparing to what comes at the input. To me this is highly debatable and flawed. Especially for speakers since the room has so much influence on the speakers response, same speakers in different rooms sounds dramatically different (who can afford a perfectly flat room?) For headphone, well you normally could buy headphones that reproduce music the way you like it but none are perfectly neutral, nor no one knows exactly what neutral should be for headphones. They are all limited by the laws of physics in one form or the others. EQs are a good thing. That being said all EQs, analog or digital do influence phase response, so yes, in some ways it degades audio. There are ways to do phase coherent EQs using finite response filters, but so far they need too much processing ressource to be used in real time, except the rare case the EQ hardware processor is designed to do only that, so they are not common. In the end it's the benefit vs the cost and the benefit of being able to manipulate frequency response outweight the small distortion it induce. That's how I view it but it's just me, an argument could be made for the alternative
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