More Audiophile iPad Play! EQ Options
Are Audiophiles really allowed to use EQ?
The use of equalization has received a bad rap among audiophiles. I'm sure there is a host of reasons for that, including the historically poor quality of many EQ implementations---often times portable players have a software EQ that is essentially worthless. Then there's the fact that applying EQ in a useful way is not exactly intuitive on the first try. In fact, the uninformed or inexperienced user is much more likely to mess up the sound than enhance it, leaving them frustrated and unlikely to try that process again.
Yet I'm here to say that EQ is actually a very good thing when used properly. For one, it can help compensate for the differences in hearing between each individual. Sadly, we are all losing our hearing as the years go by. The process is called presbycusis and there is no way to escape it---though things like earplugs at concerts and sensible volume during home listening can go a long way towards slowing it down. Yet the fact remains that an average listener in their 50s is going to have a very different perception of high frequencies compared to an average listener in their 20s. Hifi reviewers frequently list their systems down to each individual interconnect yet we aren't told anything about their age, which is something that could actually make a very real difference.
Though Apple has a bad track record with their standard EQ built in to the iPod series, the good news is that several excellent options exist as low priced apps. EQu and Equalizer are the two very good apps, although there are likely several others that are worth a look. Both are excellent parametric EQ apps which have been around long enough to be very mature by now. EQu is pictured above; to the uninitiated, it may seem daunting. It's actually quite simple though: just start tapping away at different points and you'll catch on quickly. Pick a frequency and drag it up or down for boost or cut. Don't like the result? It's easy to start fresh from "Flat" and try again. The included presets are also helpful in order to see generalizations, though you'll soon come up with your own curves that are better for you.
The best way to start is just to jump right in. Find some music you are familiar with and some headphones you know well, and just start messing around with boosting and cutting different frequencies. Try to find the best way to improve the bass drum impact, or the vocals, or the guitar, without messing up everything else. Here is a handy chart to help nail down exactly where in the spectrum each sound lives. An older but still very informative Head-Fi thread is here. Some posts from a very qualified HeadFier here and here. You can recreate those settings and the results should be very good, though you still may need a few adjustments to account for differences in hearing.
Even if you don't end up using EQ for day to day listening, I still recommend playing around with it for learning purposes. Becoming a more informed listener is always a good thing. It may be somewhat embarrassing when you find that what you've been calling "highs" were actually upper mids, but don't let it get you down. We all start with very little knowledge and work our way up from there.