The HD800 EQ-ing Thread

Discussion in 'Modifications and Tweaks' started by TwoEars, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    The HD800 EQ-ing Thread

    Kind of surprised there isn't a dedicated HD800 EQ'ing thread here already, here goes nothing.

    Whenever the HD800 is discussed there are always a few people who bring up EQ'ing, including myself. So I thought I could type up a small guide for setting up EQ with Foobar2000, my own philosophy on EQ'ing and what EQ I currently use. In the long run I'd like to see people sharing their EQ-settings. My guide here is going to be focused on Windows and Foobar2000 since that's what I use, but if you've got something else feel free to jump in with that too. It would be especially fun to hear from people with a headphone measuring rig, something which I lack.


    1) How to set up Foobar2000 with EQ:

    Step 1: You need foobar2000 (https://www.foobar2000.org/download)

    Step 2: You need something called a vst wrapper to get the EQ plugins working. I recommend this one: https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php/topic,84947.0.html

    Download the file "foo_vst_0903.zip" and place the unpacked file in the Foobar2000 components directory. Restart Foobar and open up the Foobar Preferences window. At the top of the list on the left under Components you should now have something called "VST plug-ins". Done for now.

    Step 3: You need a good EQ'ing software:
    A: Electri-Q (posihfopit) is the best free EQ plugin I've found: http://www.pcjv.de/vst-plugins/eqs-filters/electri-q/
    B: EQuilibrium is the best EQ I've found period: http://dmgaudio.com/products_equilibrium.php

    EQuilibrium is not cheap but there's a 30-day trial period and you can use it and compare to Electri-Q. It's a lot easier to experiment and try different EQ's in EQuilibrium since the interface is a lot bigger and more precise.

    Both EQ-ing plug-ins will install roughly the same, during installation they will place themselves in a directory on your computer. I believe the default is "C:\Program Files (x86)\VstPlugIns". Once that is done go back to Foobar2000 and look under [Preferences --> Components --> VST plug-ins] which we set up before. Click "Add" at the bottom and navigate to where the vst plug-ins were installed. Select the plug-in you want and restart Foobar.

    Once Foobar is restarted you should be able to select either Electri-Q or EQuilibrium in [Preferences --> Playback --> DSP Manager]. Move the plug-in across to the left and click apply to activate. Once you've activated either plug-in close the Preferences window and go to [view --> DSP]. Start the EQ program of your choice.

    Congratulations you're now running Foobar2000 with a nice EQ installed! Play around some and see that it works.

    (If this is your first time using Foobar I highly recommend that you read up on the wasapi plug-in to bypass the windows drivers as well. Once installed you select the correct output device in Foobar2000 and you're in business. https://www.foobar2000.org/components/view/foo_out_wasapi)


    2) My philosophy on EQ-ing

    A) I believe EQ is a good thing and not something to be afraid of. There is an old-school purist approach which say that you must never use EQ, the gear has to sound the "the way it does". There is some truth to this in the sense that EQ messes with the source signal, which generally is an undesirable thing. However - I believe the notion that "EQ is bad" comes largely from the speaker world a long time ago.

    Today we have very good digital EQ-ing programs, and speakers are quite a bit different to headphones anyway. Multi-way speakers have different drivers that take care of different parts of the frequency spectrum and crossover filters that distribute the right signals to the right drivers. Even single driver loudspeakers can have a lot of tuning through their enclosures. In comparison headphones generally only use one driver and there is little possibility to tune the sound compared to speakers. I would say that headphones benefit much more from EQ-ing than speakers.

    If you're still not convinced that EQ-ing is acceptable consider this: what is it studio engineers do during the recording and mastering sessions? What is a high-pass-filter or a low-pass-filter in a speaker? What is a dark sounding tube amp compared with solid state? If you ask me it's all EQ but in different ways. The ultimate goal of any system is to enjoy the music and if you think EQ is needed for you to do that I say go for it.

    Don't get caught up trying to chase some kind of "truth" or "absolute sound", I would make the argument that there is no such thing. My viewpoint is that the science is objective but ultimately audio is subjective, everyone has to find the sound they like themselves.

    B) When EQ-ing I prefer to remove sound rather than add. This comes from practical experimentation and finding that large amounts of positive EQ often result in distortion, while negative EQ will make sounds quieter but without distortion. I suspect this might have something to do with how an EQ is forced to interpolate something which isn't actually there, while if you scale down you essentially take what you have but make it smaller.

    A comparison to DACs might be the Sabre DAC with its internal digital volume control. These chips are able to reduce the volume 100% in the digital domain with excellent results. So good in fact that they rival the absolute best preamps. But you'll never see a DAC chip that tries to add volume.

    C) I prefer not to EQ the bass region under 100 Hz or so if I can. I find that the bass region is extra sensitive to EQ and even small amounts of EQ can create distortion. It might have something to do with the long wave lengths which are present there which make it harder for EQ program to interpolate. If I EQ the bass region I always take away rather than add.

    D) I believe any good EQ setup should be tuned around the vocals. The vocals are what brings the music to life. Get the vocals sounding right then adjust the bass, lower midrange and treble to match.

    E) There is very little music which lives above ~10kHz, do what you want with it. Don't be afraid to EQ it away if it bothers you.


    3) The real problem with the HD800 IMHO

    Whenever people talk about the HD800 the problem always seem to be the 6kHz peak, I'm here to offer a slightly different viewpoint. In my mind this is the real problems with the HD800:

    [​IMG]
    (Image from innerfidelity)

    Previously I said that I believe any good EQ should be tuned around the vocals and this is exactly the problem here if you ask me. When we reach for the volume knob I'm betting what you're doing specifically is adjusting the volume of the singer to the level you want, at least I am. The rest of the audio spectrum just follows along.

    And if I'm not the only one who does this no wonder many find the HD800 fatiguing, when we're happy with the level of the singer kick and snare drums are about 8 dB higher than they should be. And cymbals about 5 dB higher than they should be (part of 6 kHz peak). Maybe this is why people always say the HD800 is so good for classical? There is no singer to make you turn the volume knob too much.

    This is also why I believe the HD800 is the perfect candidate for some radical EQ'ing. On to that.

    4) My HD800 EQ settings

    (I'm running SD + superBAF mod right now so I'm using less eq than below, but look at the principle)

    Now - this is going to look weird and possibly unlike any other HD800 eq settings you've seen before. But if you managed to read the wall of text above (I'm impressed if you did) maybe it won't seem so crazy.

    [​IMG]

    If you look closely it's largely an inverse of the stock HD800 measurements above and that's exactly the point. The frequency range below the red line in Tyll's measurement graph is level zero and then we subtract everything around it. We also leave the lower bass area untouched which gives us a nice little bass boost compared to the level of the stock vocals. 5-6 dB might seem like a lot of EQ-ing but look at the HD800 frequency response and you'll see that this is what's needed.

    I fully understand if this looks weird but don't knock it till you've tried it, give it some time to wrap your head around it. There is a little more going on, a little personal tuning to suit my tastes. Here are the points from EQlibrium in case you want to replicate it:

    [​IMG]

    Take note that the two last ones are "HSh" and not "Peaks". Also take note that activating the EQ will make the overall sound quieter and our brains are wired to think that louder is better. So if you're comparing EQ'ed vs non-EQ'ed you're going to have to keep one hand one the volume knob to make a fair comparison.

    As for listening impressions all I can say is that despite me having a Sabre DAC I don't find this setup fatiguing at all. I just love the details and texture of it and the overall sound is very balanced I think. If I go back to no EQ again vocals again become recessed, I increase the volume, drums hit too hard, cymbals crash and I'm not too happy with it. But with this setup I can listen for hours on end with no fatigue.

    I also think that for my tastes this setup beats any LCD-2/3/X setup I've heard, the soundstage and precision is just on another level. YMMV.

    Wow - this became about twice as long as I thought it would. Hope you liked it!

    EQuilibrium EQ Settings: http://s000.tinyupload.com/?file_id=92206168964011939466

    Added three different flavors for you to try: Light / Medium / Heavy. I myself like the medium or heavy version but YMMV depending on gear and taste etc. You know the drill. And again - don't be fooled by the changes in volume! Listen for a while with different songs before forming an opinion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
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  2. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Thanks for the detailed post.
    Your EQ settings look about right to me, will definitely try this later.
     
  3. Riotvan

    Riotvan Got lost for three weeks at Delft City Hall

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    Good post, we had something back on Changstar about EQ'ing the HD800 but i agree it's strange we don't have something here. Anyways i would just like to add that if you want something system wide Equalizer APO is also quite nice, i can't comment on the performance relative to the ones you posted but i will definitely check out your suggestions. It will be interesting to find some settings that work with the SD resonator and cork mod, which i currently use. I reckon the effects of the SBAF absorber can be achieved with careful EQ'ing. But we'll see about that!
     
  4. Muse Wanderer

    Muse Wanderer Friend

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    Thanks @TwoEars for such a great post on EQ the HD800. The results obtained on my HD800S using your EQ settings on JRiver parametric equaliser is much more natural than boosting the upper mids.

    The statement that HD800 / S is great for classical does not apply to me. I am a classical music fanatic and whenever I listen to opera, chamber or orchestral music the violins are barely heard especially when dominated by the brass instruments.

    I wonder whether I should tweak your settings further to reflect the HD800S inherent FR. Running a tone generator I can hear reduced sound at 3 to 4Khz with peak at 5.5Khz (as expected) and several further peaks at 7KHz and beyond.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
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  5. smithj

    smithj Rando

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    EQuilibrium's a really nice piece of software but I've already found it hard to emulate what I create in it elsewhere (eg. anywhere that isn't my computer) as no other PEQ software I know uses Q values for shelves,
     
  6. philipmorgan

    philipmorgan Member of the month

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    @TwoEars, that's awesome. Any chance you could export your Equilibrium settings to a file and share?
     
  7. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Friend

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    An EQ can't add gain, if you don't want risking digital clipping. Adding digital gain somewhere essentially just makes everything else lower in level. Basically everything drops in level exactly as many dB's as you have in your highest peak.
     
  8. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    Good suggestion, added to the bottom of my post. Someone might come up with some other EQ-settings which I ultimately prefer more. Who knows.

    I think there are a few that does it. vlc media player is a good example, you can easily go beyond 100% volume level there. Even up to 800% with some advanced settings I think. Maybe it's actually real-time normalization and not strictly interpolation, but it usally sounds pretty bad if you do too much of it. Might not be needed for EQuilibrium but removing rather than adding is a habit I've gotten into, personally I prefer that way of thinking about it now. But you're probably right that a good EQ like EQuilibrium won't add bits, only subtract.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
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  9. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Friend

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    It sounds pretty bad because you get clipping on the peaks. You can't tell a DAC to go beyond 0dB, no matter what the EQ says. If you want to do clean peaks in EQ, then you lose overall levels and compensate with analog gain.
     
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  10. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    I've always felt like EQ takes away that last 1% of life from high end stuff.
    Sonarworks was the least intrusive in this regard with obvious gains in tonality.
    If I had to use all solid state again with HD800, I'd use some form of DSP, probably Sonarwoks.

    Two Ears: You can go over 100% if the source material is less than 0 dBFS. Many recordings straight from vinyl are what comes to mind.
     
  11. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    Attached three differerent flavors for you to try instead of just one. Light / Medium / Heavy.
     
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  12. mjock3

    mjock3 Rando

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    Nice write up TwoEars. I just picked up a pair of HD800's so it is very timely. I went and downloaded both Equilibrium and Sonarworks. It seemed to my ears the Equilibrium was quite a bit more transparent. Need more time to compare but I really like what it does.

    Thank you!
     
  13. listen4joy

    listen4joy Rando

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    Thnx two ears , i will be very glad if tyll from innerfidelity can upload his Settings too and even if he can bring Bob katz as well, it will be intresting to see pros preferences and to listen.
     
  14. AudioDroid

    AudioDroid Rando

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    This may be a bit out of context. But I would love to try EQ-ing my HD800 with the Sony ZX2, which means that I will need a good Android PEQ. Does anyone have recommendation?

    I have seen that Tyll has some EQ settings on his HD800S review for the HD800 too. Would it make sense to link them here for reference and is that allowed?

    Love this thread btw, really good idea!
     
  15. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    @listen4joy

    It would indeed be nice if we could get the settings used by @Tyll Hertsens and Bob during their session, if nothing else just for fun. Maybe @sorrodje would like to give it a stab later as well when he's not so busy with the SD mod.

    But applying EQ isn't entirely straight forward, all HD800 pairs measure a bit differently and everyone hears differently too. The headphone and your ear canal actually form a complete system.... so EQ settings which might sound neutral for one person might not work for another etc. At the end of the day it's all very subjective and I'm not sure it's even possible to create a headphone with a "ruler flat" response for everyone.

    But it's a fun exercise nonetheless and you can get pretty close. @Serious did some interesting stuff with a microphone plug in his ear, that was pretty nifty and I'd love to see him create a thread about that at some point.

    @AudioDroid

    Sure - link away. It's a community thread. No recommendation though, sorry.
     
  16. AudioDroid

    AudioDroid Rando

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    Well, here goes:

    A pretty interesting article by Tyll Hertsens on "EQing headphones with the Harman Target Response", pretty advanced stuff which I don't pretend to understand fully:
    http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/big-sound-2015-bob-katz-eqing-headphones-harman-target-response

    And Tyll's EQ curve for the HD800S and the HD800 in the review of the HD800s:
    http://www.innerfidelity.com/conten...tweaked-and-delightfuland-french-diy-response

    Enjoy the read!

    Oh, still looking for Parametric EQ recommendations for Android :)
     
  17. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    I've never owned or heard HD800 but recently bought HD800 S. I'm listening to it from Spotify and using the Equalify plugin for EQ. So far these are the settings I like best with HD800 S:

    [​IMG]

    It looks like I'm doing additive EQ, but there is an negative gain setting in the upper right corner.


    Edited with new version after input from @TwoEars in the next post :).
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
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  18. TwoEars

    TwoEars Friend

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    @Kon Peki

    Are you by any chance a basshead? :D
     
  19. Kon Peki

    Kon Peki Friend

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    I might have overdone it :oops:, but the HD800 S seems very bass light coming from HE-560. I went back and revised it a bit now that I've had some more time to play with it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2016
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  20. murphythecat

    murphythecat Friend

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