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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
There seems to be a conspicuous absence of high end/nice equalizer discussions around here, so I thought I may start one.


Coming from the pro audio world, EVERYBODY uses, and likes to discuss equalizers. Pultec, Manley, Avalon, Thermoinic Culture...etc. However, it seems that in the consumer hi-fi world, not many guys run outboard EQ's, but rather rely on less than ideal onboard graphic EQ's built in to their receiver, or some combination of zen speakers with zen placement to negate the necessity for one altogether (which is quite nearly impossible IMO).


Is there a reason why the consumer hifi crowd is so averse to spending some good coin on a good EQ? Am I way off base here, and everybody actually does have them but just doesn't discuss it? I'm a bit baffled.:cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Virtually all consumer EQs do far more damage to sound quality than improve it.

So the answer then is to forego equalization altogether? Why not use pro mastering eq's? Many of them are quite lovely.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Virtually all consumer EQs do far more damage to sound quality than improve it.
By the way, I do agree with you in that I haven't heard and onboard AVR EQ that didn't fudge up signal. I use the one in my pioneer elite out of nessecity as its the only one I own, but even then I only adjust a maximum of a couple db on a few bands, mostly cutting. Overall I like the signature of my speakers, but the placement is less than ideal. I have little control of that at the moment.
 

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Does Audyssey do phase?

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Finds answer: MultEQ does

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I don't have an AVR, so if I want to play, I have to add something.

So I added the miniDSP in the digital path, not having any analog sources to worry about.
 

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I looked at Pultec, Manley, Avalon, Thermionic Culture.

Rack mounts with a few knobs and some tubes.

And they seem to be more applicable to the production side - recording or live - rather than playback.

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I have 16 banks of 17 (total 272) sliders with individually selectable gain to .1dB, exact frequency and Q selection, with filter type selections per bank, along with another 272 sliders for phase correction each with exact frequency, Q, and degrees...

Along with a few other goodies.

Calculation of the resulting FIR (Finite Impulse Response) filter is done at the PC, and sent to the miniDSP, which can hold four of them in its memory (or 8, if you are doing a separate filter for each of the stereo channels). The FIR changes the numbers as the digital stream passes through, thereby changing the 'sound'.

As far as I can tell, it is totally noiseless, and no distortion is introduced except for the 'distortion' the filters create.

So that's why I don't have a Pultec, Manley, Avalon, or Thermionic Culture.

It probably has something do with the 'no discussion', too.

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filter types: constant Q, proportional Q, constant shape, constant slope, raised cosine, low and high shelf, and with selection of minimum or linear phase for each filter type selected for the filter bank
 

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Virtually all consumer EQs do far more damage to sound quality than improve it.
It's not the equalizers, it's the users. Too many try to adjust it by ear and use all kinds of weird patterns "because it looks cool". Yes, still.

Also, AVRs don't make it easy to use one.

Ask most people to define 'unity gain' and you're gonna hear crickets. Go further into it and they're lost.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I looked at Pultec, Manley, Avalon, Thermionic Culture.

Rack mounts with a few knobs and some tubes.

And they seem to be more applicable to the production side - recording or live - rather than playback.

--

I have 16 banks of 17 (total 272) sliders with individually selectable gain to .1dB, exact frequency and Q selection, with filter type selections per bank, along with another 272 sliders for phase correction each with exact frequency, Q, and degrees...

Along with a few other goodies.

Calculation of the resulting FIR (Finite Impulse Response) filter is done at the PC, and sent to the miniDSP, which can hold four of them in its memory (or 8, if you are doing a separate filter for each of the stereo channels). The FIR changes the numbers as the digital stream passes through, thereby changing the 'sound'.

As far as I can tell, it is totally noiseless, and no distortion is introduced except for the 'distortion' the filters create.

So that's why I don't have a Pultec, Manley, Avalon, or Thermionic Culture.

It probably has something do with the 'no discussion', too.

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filter types: constant Q, proportional Q, constant shape, constant slope, raised cosine, low and high shelf, and with selection of minimum or linear phase for each filter type selected for the filter bank


They absolutely are more applicable to the production side, where workflow is one of the criteria. Outboard mastering EQ's are usually of simple design using good quality components, and as such they sound great.


Regarding phase correction (I think someone else brought it up), Audessey and MCACC do this largely independently of the EQ settings, and instead use relative position of your speakers to the microphone. I could be wrong, but that's my understanding of it. It's hard to know what all these systems actually do because most of the literature is marketing bulljibe. MCACC does do a full frequency time alignment which is a bit different, but I digress.


My point in broad strokes by bringing this up in the first place is that I have used some VERY nice EQ's in the past, the Manly Massive Passive being my favorite, while mixing tracks. I see no reason why such a unit, even if it is designed for pro use could not be successfully implemented in a playback system. At the very least, it will sound many orders better than a cheap built in graphic EQ.


It's also worth pointing out that these outboard EQ's absolutely do have a sound, as does ANYTHING which processes a signal. The pro guys get this concept, but sometimes I wonder if the consumer guys do, especially with all the talk about amps sounding the same and such. On the consumer side, many users seem to be too wrapped around specs and measurements, and as such they don't use or trust their ears. Some of the most iconic and widely regarded pieces of analog gear are vintage pieces which would spec out like junk, but sound sublime. Again, simple designs with high quality components.


Having said this, I wouldn't want an EQ which pretends to be silent, but rather one that's signature marries well with the rest of my system. There's a reason a lot of those high end EQ's employ tubes, even the modern ones....often times modern rigs benefit from the trashing up/softening of harmonic distortion, which is also why you're more likely to see a tube laden EQ be used across the 2 buss of an otherwise digital system. Compressors do a bit of eqing as well, as anyone who has any time with an 1176 will know, but that's another topic for another day, and even more outside the playback world.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
It seems you have different goals in playback than I do.

I don't want any 'sonic signature' other than what is in the recording.

To each his own.


Indeed.


My goals coincide with my view that a significant majority of music being released today is too bright, and WAY too over compressed for it to sound good on anything other than an outdoor loudspeaker at the carwash (I'm sure the constant din of the carwash dryer fans help that a bit as well).


Since I enjoy all forms of modern music, and since the production on most of it is primarily targeted to fit the lowest common denominator playback system, I prefer to selectively enhance here and there if it can be done musically. If I were going for absolute accuracy with my playback system, my catalogue of music would need to be MUCH smaller to have a relatively enjoyable experience.


By the way, I see that you use Benchmark converters. While I don't have any experience with the brand, I know they are regarded along side Prism and Apogee (which I do have experience with), which is quite good company indeed. How do you like them?
 

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I don't listen to much stuff that 'should' be subject to the extremes of the loudness wars.

I'm 61, there is plenty of material around that does suit me.

I did get caught out by an Al DiMeola on a Telarc disc, of all things - http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/8517

On the other hand, here is a new favorite I recently acquired - http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/84320

(I reported the data for that one)

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I find with relatively accurate reproduction, the musical content stands out, and the production values are what they are. Very seldom (it does happen) will I consider something (within my range of interest) to be unlistenable.

That happened last week, a friend brought over some old orchestral recordings, I can't even remember who was featured now, and it was just awful. He even returned the disc to the used disc store and traded it for something else.

I'm less interested in the absolute production quality of a disc (better is still better, of course) and more interested in the music itself. Composition comes first, else it just doesn't get to me no matter how well it is done, as a general rule. I'm very interested in playback being as good as can be, which is something under my control, within the restraints of my little room, and my personality, and listening levels (generally somewhat low). I tend to prefer smaller groups, acoustic or electrified, electronic is seldom intriguing. There's no 'touch' in it.

I want a dynamic presentation, and that doesn't mean loud, it means a range of loudness. I seem to settle around 75dB spl (slow) with peaks to 100dB. Loud enough to hear eveything well, not so loud as to be annoying. Essentially I put the range of the CD into the air at the same range of levels. Material subject to the 'loudness war' has to be turned down, it's too loud on average, and then the peaks aren't there anymore, and it sounds 'flat'.

Piano sounds right, guitar and banjo sounds right, voices sound right, drums and percussion sound right, to me. Finally. I don't know where the next level of playback lies, it sure seems close to the limits here now.

I suppose the fewer real-time adjustments the brain has to make when listening to something, the better it 'sounds'. Is that a cause of listener fatigue? Brain working overtime to EQ whats in the air into intelligibility?

Selective EQ? Maybe on some amateur recordings, but I let the professional ones speak for themselves. No lipstick for the pigs.

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I would consider the Benchmark to be in the 'highly accurate' category, the supporting electronics bring it right up against the limits of what is possible with the DAC chip inside. Measurements at the limits of what is measurable. Minimal defects. Unaffected by source jitter. A reasonable array of features for home use. Highly focused stereo image, excellent separation of the little sounds deep in the mix from the louder ones in the foreground. Nothing gets 'stepped on'. The sonic image is 'unambiguous'. There are others just as good, I'm sure. I just don't know which ones they are. Doesn't matter to me. I'm set for now.

Here's the manual, it has a lot of measurements.

Here's a review (and more measurements).

I send digits from all sources to it - so everything takes on the same character (or lack of character?) - TV/Roku/Cable Box/CD/HDRadio/PC Streams whatever.

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As for comparing equipment - is this better than that? - I'm a hermit, don't get out much, don't care. I don't have credentials to parade around, I'm not in the 'industry', I don't do 'ABX', just have a reasonably experienced ear from amateur musician/listener/recording/live sound production/experimentation/composing experiences, and try to make an informed choice when buying something, so I can enjoy my little hobby of listening to the data on little silver discs or in those pesky data packets from the cloud.
 

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I am not into high end but I will venture a guess.

The more money you spend, the better your gear, room, and programming tends to be, and the less EQ you need because your pro auto/manual room EQ does a great job fixing the minimal errors that exist.

The less money you spend, the more EQ you need but all you have available is the auto room EQ or (not and) the crummy graphic because you did not spend enough.

I like Ray's approach. A separate programmable box with dedicated processor gives great flexibility and keeps it available even after other components are upgraded. Plus, the minidsp (I am told) can be used to set active crossovers for bi/tri amp, if person is into full custom sound or like me looking into maybe redoing a less than optimal center speaker but maybe not so excited about designing a passive crossover.

Regarding the loudness wars, way back when it all began, FM receivers or outboard gear maybe used to have expanders because when they started compressing FM to grab attention on the dial and boost the sound over the noise floor of automobile, it really annoyed audiophiles.

Maybe there is some equivalent algorithm available today with the capability to at least partially undo the damage? I have looked and looked and looked but not found a single application or device (available to someone like me) that actually expands dynamic range. Everything is all about compression, understandable given the high dynamic ranges available with digital but still disappointing.
 

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It's a sad fact that outboard eq are pretty rare nowadays as most are build in the AVR/pre pro.
Currently, there's trinnov, dirac, dspeaker & minidsp.
If only Audyssey came with sth like MultEQ XT64 external eq, it will be awesome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't listen to much stuff that 'should' be subject to the extremes of the loudness wars.

I'm 61, there is plenty of material around that does suit me.

I did get caught out by an Al DiMeola on a Telarc disc, of all things - http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/8517

On the other hand, here is a new favorite I recently acquired - http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/view/84320

(I reported the data for that one)

--

I find with relatively accurate reproduction, the musical content stands out, and the production values are what they are. Very seldom (it does happen) will I consider something (within my range of interest) to be unlistenable.

That happened last week, a friend brought over some old orchestral recordings, I can't even remember who was featured now, and it was just awful. He even returned the disc to the used disc store and traded it for something else.

I'm less interested in the absolute production quality of a disc (better is still better, of course) and more interested in the music itself. Composition comes first, else it just doesn't get to me no matter how well it is done, as a general rule. I'm very interested in playback being as good as can be, which is something under my control, within the restraints of my little room, and my personality, and listening levels (generally somewhat low). I tend to prefer smaller groups, acoustic or electrified, electronic is seldom intriguing. There's no 'touch' in it.

I want a dynamic presentation, and that doesn't mean loud, it means a range of loudness. I seem to settle around 75dB spl (slow) with peaks to 100dB. Loud enough to hear eveything well, not so loud as to be annoying. Essentially I put the range of the CD into the air at the same range of levels. Material subject to the 'loudness war' has to be turned down, it's too loud on average, and then the peaks aren't there anymore, and it sounds 'flat'.

Piano sounds right, guitar and banjo sounds right, voices sound right, drums and percussion sound right, to me. Finally. I don't know where the next level of playback lies, it sure seems close to the limits here now.

I suppose the fewer real-time adjustments the brain has to make when listening to something, the better it 'sounds'. Is that a cause of listener fatigue? Brain working overtime to EQ whats in the air into intelligibility?

Selective EQ? Maybe on some amateur recordings, but I let the professional ones speak for themselves. No lipstick for the pigs.

--

I would consider the Benchmark to be in the 'highly accurate' category, the supporting electronics bring it right up against the limits of what is possible with the DAC chip inside. Measurements at the limits of what is measurable. Minimal defects. Unaffected by source jitter. A reasonable array of features for home use. Highly focused stereo image, excellent separation of the little sounds deep in the mix from the louder ones in the foreground. Nothing gets 'stepped on'. The sonic image is 'unambiguous'. There are others just as good, I'm sure. I just don't know which ones they are. Doesn't matter to me. I'm set for now.

Here's the manual, it has a lot of measurements.

Here's a review (and more measurements).

I send digits from all sources to it - so everything takes on the same character (or lack of character?) - TV/Roku/Cable Box/CD/HDRadio/PC Streams whatever.

--

As for comparing equipment - is this better than that? - I'm a hermit, don't get out much, don't care. I don't have credentials to parade around, I'm not in the 'industry', I don't do 'ABX', just have a reasonably experienced ear from amateur musician/listener/recording/live sound production/experimentation/composing experiences, and try to make an informed choice when buying something, so I can enjoy my little hobby of listening to the data on little silver discs or in those pesky data packets from the cloud.



What a great post, Ray. I wish we could sticky it.


I'm 36, amateur musician (have been pro in the past...before marriage and children) with plenty of stage and studio experience. I also enjoy examples of just about any style of music I have ever heard, but my collection lives in modern pop and rock.


Alas, the loudness wars are a constant annoyance, as is the brightness of modern recordings. Regarding the latter, a lot of people don't realize how much brighter digital rigs are than the older way of tracking everything to tape. Because tape's characteristic is to gradually roll off frequencies above 10khz or so, microphone manufacturers would design a high frequency rise in the response to counter act this. The end result was a nicely balanced response. Many of these mics, led by the Neumann models like the U-87 as well as the AKG C414, became iconic and as such are still in use today.


However, in came the early to mid 90's and the rise of pro tools. All of a sudden you could bring a multi channel, full featured rig to any gig, anywhere and take up no more room than the front seat of your car to transport it. When I was in college in the late 90's I had a buddy who with a pro tools interface, PC computer, and high quality 2 channel mic preamp could track some pretty good stuff anywhere. For the day it was quite impressive in it's scope for it's relative size.


It wasn't long before the big studios embraced tracking to disk vs tape. Especially in the interest of workflow, the new tools made it 10 times easier to do edits, and the technology seemed to get three times better each year. HOWEVER, without the high frequency roll off of tracking to tape, those same iconic mics now sounded WAY too bright. Of course there were experienced ears who caught this, but this was largely before tape emulation, and the guys who would travel around with the two channel rigs in their car were certainly not going to haul around a tape machine to run their buss through. Plus, "accurate high frequency extension" was all the rage with the new rigs...why not show it off?


The end result is that the industry, and the music consuming public in general found the new sounds to be "clean" rather than bright, really only at the expense of pissing off a few in the minority...mainly musicians I would think.


Regarding the loudness wars, my recollection of the start of it was also tied to these new digital rigs. Now all of a sudden it was easy for any kid with a grand in his pocket to go to guitar center and buy tools which would allow him to make a better recording in his garage than he ever could have before. It was a frantic craze, and small independent record labels and indy college radio stations were popping up all over the place. The FCC regulations at the time, if I recall, for small local radio stations was something like 2 watts broadcast (I could be way off base, but I remember my college was limited to something extremely small), so brick wall limiters were the tool of choice, and still are, to get that extra few miles range from your signal. The loudness wars were an unfortunate byproduct of that I think, but that's just a guess based on my experience at the time.
 

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Virtually all consumer EQs do far more damage to sound quality than improve it.
Every time I read something like this, I have to wonder how the poster's hearing would measure at an audiologist. Like many, I've been losing the high end as I get older. EQ's in AVRs have a goal of measuring flat to a microphone. When they do that, it's not flat to me. So, that light cymbal way in the background is probably something that was meant to be in the foreground. If you used to listen to alot of live acoustic guitar when your ears were younger, it may not sound 'right' now.

I've casually approached some EQ folks about mapping an individuals' hearing into the system, and they say it's not important. that can't be true.
 

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Like it or not your ears are pretty directly hooked into your brain. The wsyayour ear and brain system experience the world is, by definition, reality to you. Like it or not. A big assed 1970s style upper midrange bump will sound as incorrect through your current ear and brain system as it did (or should have) in the 70s even though you, like me, may have a fr deficit in that range today
 
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