Setting the Equalizer

You have an equalizer! Either you bought one or found it to be a part of the equipment that is part of your job. An equalizer can do two things. Change the gain or volume of the system before feedback occurs and increase the naturalness or clarity of the sound. It does not eliminate the voice from a CD, and it cannot do miracles.

Write down the settings. Whatever you do, there will always be someone to ask, "Can I hear how it sounded before?"

Put a cover over the equalizer. It doesn't have to be a custom fit. A bath towel would work.

Once a year, it would be good to move all the sliders. ONLY do this when the power is off. This helps to keep the sliders clean and working.

Always make sure that your components are powered off when you are removing or adding items to the system.

Equalizers are used to make minor adjustments to compensate for room or speaker effects. Adding too much equalization can cause distortion.

An equalizer cannot eliminate the echo in the room.
An equalizer cannot eliminate the feedback from the speakers.
An equalizer cannot eliminate the pop from a vinyl record.

Don't make changes to levels without giving your ears some time to listen to the results of new settings. Working with an equalizer should be a slow process. The point of an equalizer is to make the sound better to hear. Your ears are the tools to do this.

Start by raising the volume to where you get feedback. Just when the feedback starts, pull down the frequency sliders one by one until you hear the squeal stop. Always start on the high frequencies and work toward the lower frequencies. Using the sliding controls of the high frequencies on the right side of the equalizer usually filters out a high squeal. The middle range of sliders stops a “howl” or “ring.” Pulling down sliders on the left — the low frequencies — controls a low roar. These overlap You experiment to get the best sound.

If there is an echo in the room the best way to fix it is to move the speakers. Next is to lower the volume. Adjusting the equalizer can lessen the echo.

Reverb is an artificial echo. Unless you are going for sound effects remember that reverb is not for speaking. Many a karaoke host has discovered that people cannot recognize their own name when called on a system with too much reverb.

Using an equalizer to put your vinyl records onto CDs is useful. It can create a better sound but it cannot eliminate the pop. An equalizer can mitigate the hiss. The best way to fix the hiss and pop is to clean the record. Try using the soft brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Clean the record in a circular motion.

Remember that sound is affected by the environment where it is heard. It is best to work the equalizer before the metal chairs are set up. Since empty metal chairs resonate more than chairs with people, an empty room will be a better test than a room full of empty chairs.

Real Time Spectrum Analyzer
For $1000 or more you can get a Real Time Spectrum Analyzer. This allows you to see how each adjustment of the equalizer affects the quality of sound. In most cases, you would use this device once. Also, it takes a long time to master the device. That is why there are RTA Specialists. These experts bring their Real Time Analyzer (RTA) and help you with the equalizer settings.

An equalizer is just one part of your audio system. Once you have it set for a specific venue, make a note of the settings for later. If they like your sound, they may ask you back.

About the Author: 

John Pilge is a photographer who worked in radio.