Friday, August 22, 2014

What Ethan Winer writes about EQ

Ethan Winer sells bass traps, so not surprisingly he is critical of claims made by sellers of automated EQ systems--who sometimes suggest EQ will handle everything.  I think his criticism is somewhat refreshing in an industry that generally refrains from being critical of any excuse for you to spend money.

But he is also somewhat contradictory.  At the top level he makes exaggerated recommendations like "Just say no to Room EQ."  But when you get down into the fine print, he does suggest that the use of EQ is warranted to tame the 1 or 2 most serious modal peaks.  He uses the EQ feature of his SVS sub to do that.

He also recommends Room EQ Wizard to do measurements and filter calculations, and the use of a $150 Behringer Equalizer to do the corrections.  That's excellent cheapskate advice, straight from Home Theater Shack!

Since EQ can only correct response at one location at the expense of others (a claim that Ethan reiterates a lot…but hardly anyone else in hifi does…especially those who accept the idea that there can only really be only one really good listening position), Ethan suggests only using half as much reduction as measurements indicate.  That's the kind of fudging I've been doing since I started with EQ in 2005.

I continue to do a bit more than just tame the two worst modal peaks (as his recommendations do also), though I've only done manual EQ adjustments, doing measurements with Tact and SPL meters.

The downside of acoustic treatments is different.  You can't make much difference without giving up a lot of wall space and a significant chunk of floor space.  You can spend a huge amount of money to only get a couple dB of difference at modal peaks.  With many rooms, you could line the walls and fill the corners with acoustical treatments, spending $30k or more, and still have bad room modes.  In fact, in most rooms, it's simply impossible to add sufficient bass trapping, let alone too much.  That's why many acoustical absorbers are designed to trap little or no highs…because if you fill the room with high frequency traps the room will sound horribly dull.

In my multipurpose living room I find it hard to imagine where I would put traps to make any significant difference at all.  There is so little room for traps, and the modes so large, I'm strongly tempted to use an active absorber, like the one from Bag End.

I'm currently thinking about a living room redesign to make it better for parties and watching TV.  The result will be even less space available for room treatments.

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