The equalizer you don't know you have

Audiophiles are amazing at finding ways to not use an equalizer or tone control of any sort. Shame because in the bass regions EQ are magic. We can talk all day long about being able to hear the felt on the seat of the third violinist, but when you have a bass mode that is 20dB louder than anything else it can ruin your experience, and no power cable in the world is going to fix it.

But while our desire for audio purity is commendable for its tenacity, you may not be aware that EQ circuits are built right into a lot of speakers. A lot of very expensive speakers.

What do I mean? Well, very few very good sounding drivers are ideal, or integrate well with the other drivers. Speaker designers compensate for this within the crossover. Those caps, and coils which you think are just there to prevent a driver from going ballistic may also be coloring your sound, in a good way. Hopefully no one starts throwing their speakers out after this. :)


I'm a big believer in measurements and tools in speaker design. Of course I believe in science and engineering and that there are giants of both who have lots to say about what makes a great speaker.

It's also true though that the recording engineers are making judgement calls as to what we want to hear, and what gear we use to listen to it. This has always been true. There is no commonly accepted baseline of how a neutral speaker should behave. I mean, I use the B&K curve as a reference, but truth be told not many others do.

In this sense, the motion picture industry had a much better standard in the work of THX. Not only did they specify frequency response curves, reference volume levels but even crossovers and auditorium acoustics!

That's light years more standardized than we have in the music industry.

So what should we do? In my opinion, buy the speakers we like the most and use tone controls when needed.  Sit back and enjoy what makes you happy.
Have my awesome EQ, the Onkyo EQ-540 integra, she is a great EQ!
 It gets some use on specifics CDs and albums.

i just like the green lights. :)
I just want to point out that EQ (and other signal processing) takes place in many places along the recording process as well as in playback systems.

As Erik pointed out most speakers systems have some sort of EQ by necessity. All speaker drivers and speaker systems have compromises. When a speaker designer is tasked to design a pair of speakers that will be sold through retail stores that will retail for $2K they must cost no more than $500~$600 to manufacture including overhead, packaging and labor for the company to stay in business. Not all speaker manufacturers have the same resources. Five different speaker manufacturers will each have their own way to meet that price point as well as having their own preferences. So each company will build a $2K speaker that sound different from their competitor's $2K speaker. Also, it is very difficult to accurately predict what people want in a speaker so designer do what they think is best.

Stated in a previous post:
" Part of that explanation is why an outboard electronic crossover, while very useful for some applications, can provide only "textbook" filters, NOT compensation filters for drivers needing help."

With all due respect that statement is not accurate. Frequency contouring or EQ can and often is designed into analog electronic crossovers. They are usually designed for a specific speaker. For example we designed an analog electronic crossover for one of our two way OB speaker systems. Along with performing the crossover functions the unit is used for contouring the upper mid-range and also adds bass boost required for OB woofers. More than "textbook" filters are possible.

"Outboard electronic crossover" is a broad term. I believe the poster was describing analog electronic crossovers. DSP crossovers fit the description too.

There is truth in saying that just substituting off-the-shelf analog electronic crossovers for the factory passive crossovers that have driver and cabinet compensating circuits and other EQ could have very negative sonic consequences.

speakers are there to be heard and enjoyed not measured. Therefore it is crucial that they are custom tuned to your ears only. 

Unfortunately many speaker designers rely on measurements and the result is speakers that sound horrible. 
the prime example of a hidden equalizer is within a phono preamp that has to adjust for the RIAA curve.   The circuitry has to boost and cut the signal by 40 db! from 20 to 20K Hz.