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EQ for Dummies: Make Your Music Sound Better

As someone who has been obsessed with all things audio for most of my life, I always find it interesting to hear what people have to say about sound quality. I find it especially fascinating to hear the opinions of people who aren’t in the audio field themselves. A great live sound engineer once said to me, “Most folks know something doesn’t sound right; they may not be able to tell you why, but they know something sounds off the mark.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that statement. Just ask my wife, who’s heard a lot of the songs I’ve worked on since I first started engineering, in my early 20s. I’ve gotten reactions from her that range from, “Something doesn’t sound right” to “Please make it stop.” Then again, maybe she just can’t stand me. Sorry, bad example.

Anyway, there are myriad factors that go into the quality of a sound being reproduced, which may color that sound in some way before it gets to your ears. But, before it’s reproduced by whatever set of speakers you’re listening to, there’s the record itself, which, for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume is a commercial recording that sounds great on its own. Each voice and instrument was likely recorded professionally in a recording studio, and was subsequently mixed and mastered. During the mastering process, the final step of making a record, an engineer works in a perfectly tuned acoustic space that is designed to reproduce the audio as neutrally as possible. In other words, they are hearing the audio as it truly sounds. Mastering engineers look for areas in the frequency spectrum of the audio that are “out of balance,” so to speak. They use tools such as equalizers to correct these issues, with the aim of making the record sound as good as it possibly can on any given system.

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