Getting a Handle on iTunes’ EQ


Lately I’ve been trying to weed out the over-grown garden that is my account. Going back to some of the original things I posted (from 2004!) I found one in particular that I thought may be of use to some of the readers of The Apple Blog. The link explains the Graphic Equalizer that is included in iTunes.

While I love my music, and like hearing it as crisply as possible, I’m not what you’d call an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination. So something like this that takes the time to explain what each of the EQ settings are and what they mean to me when listening to my music is pretty useful.

There are several presets offered within the EQ that you can choose from, or you can even create your own based on personal tastes in music. The author – Rich Tozzoli, who seems to know his stuff from what I can tell – includes a screen shot of one of his custom settings named ‘Perfect EQ’. Just for kicks I changed away from the ‘Rock’ preset I usually have in effect and made my own ‘Perfect’ setting. On nicer headphones and my JBL Speakers I thought it sounded a little crisper than my ‘Rock’ setting. Of course this could be the same syndrome as getting your oil changed on your car and swearing it drives better afterward just because something was changed…

Anyhow, it’s worth a quick read to see what you may be missing in using (or not using, as the EQ can be turned off) the iTunes Equalizer and the custom settings available.



EQs are designed with the intention for the consumers to hear what the artist, record company, movie director/producer or whoever intended. Google up some expensive equalizing equipment and you’ll see that the size shape and even material your room is made up significantly alters sound waves (a choir singing in an empty church to one full of people we’ll sound remarkably different) not to mention the size and quality of your speakers. You can also see for yourself if with a mic. plugged into your sound system and a program that plays isolated frequencies… all pretty cool stuff not to mention the fact that most of us cant even hear the full range of frequencies being played. Oh, or you can toss the high tech and go with an old school phonograph record player, analog retains better sound quality than digital conversion


Noah, that has got to be the most incorrect statement I’ve ever read on all the internets… Record companies water down their artists music??? Where did you get your information? Julian, I’m sorry, but even my Bose 501 series 2’s and the studio’s Mackie HR 824’s need a little EQ tweaking to make your music sound the way you wanted it to sound. I’ve never in my life as musician, producer, or audiophile, heard the “perfect” set up without having to have some EQ adjustments.


i use the eq thing for ska and reggae. they used to cut the grooves deeper for those types of music but when it was exported the record companies watered it down. i’d like to use my eq setting to hear the music as the artists and producers intended it.

Matt Mensch

The purpose of the EQ isn’t to necessarily change the music (as an artist, you should know this, Julian.) Mastering in and of itself does what you are describing, as does proper mixing, but the purpose of the EQ is to correct problems with the room/speaker combination in the listening environment. If you truly want to “listen to the music as the artist intended” then you’d pink your listening room and adjust the EQ accordingly so that you’d get the closest possible sound to what’s on the recording.

Julian Bennett Holmes

Steve: As an artist, I can tell you that we mix all our songs to sound right mainly on home stereos and computer speakers, not on huge high-end systems that are commonly found in recording studios. To mix for a system that 1% of listeners have would be irresponsible.


If you think it sounds better then, by all means, go ahead and move those sliders to your heart’s content. I usually boost the high-mids a little on my car radio to hear the vocals a little better. Sometimes I boost the bass so I can hear the part better (so I can learn to play it).

What I do on my main system is different though. I use test sweeps to run through the audible frequency range and watch a SPL meter from my listening location. I then use EQ to try and compensate for the variations in the acoustic properties of my room and the equipment I have. If a frequency is a little dead, I can boost it a bit with EQ. If it’s a little strong, I can dial it down a bit. I’m trying to get the sound reproduction to be as neutral as possible.

On my iPod, I don’t bother to use EQ because I’m usually listening through those tiny white earphones while I do something else or on the $28 Jensen iPod clock/radio in the kitchen while I’m doing dishes or cooking. In those environments, the EQ doesn’t matter because I’m not listening that intently.


I never understand the “don’t EQ” people. If you want to hear music exactly the way the artist recorded it, you’ll need to buy the exact system and room that was used for playback in the studio. Since that’s impossible, you’ll have to live with the speakers and room you bought, and since those are different than were in the studio, then you, by all means, should EQ them to sound the way you like it to sound. With most computer speakers – even high end – they lack the low end that a full size system has. And the cheap ones are even worse, introducing all sorts of peaks and dips throughout the spectrum. The “true to the artist” argument is a lie.

So take each band one by one and slide it up and down until things sound better. Repeat when you get through all the bands. Then look to see which band is highest, then slide the Preamp slider *down* by that same amount to offset the increased gain (to reduce distortion).

Julian Bennett Holmes

Personally, I always keep the EQ off. I want to hear my music exactly how the artist / producer / mixer / whoever wanted me to hear it.
As a musician, I hope that others who listen to my music will listen to it how I intended it to be heard.

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