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Speaker/Headphone EQ Curves

The most obvious difference between high-end and cheap headphones/speakers is the flatness of the frequency response.  That said, equalization is very easy to perform in the digital domain nowadays. 

I've wondered for a while why there isn't a standard machine-readable format for speaker/headphone frequency response curves and a standard way of applying the inverse EQ curve in audio software/operating systems to produce flat frequency response from even cheap speakers/headphones.  Is this idea feasible?  Are there major downsides I'm overlooking to achieving flat frequency response via digital equalization?

One other thing I've noticed is that the frequency response sounds pretty good on even fairly cheap Bluetooth earbuds.  I suspect that's because they receive their signal digitally and can apply whatever EQ they want before the DAC, so maybe a version of this is already happening?

Re: Speaker/Headphone EQ Curves

Reply #1
Many home theater receivers come with
automatic room correction
.

Or you can measure and EQ your speakers/room yourself.   Or, you can just EQ to taste which is what most people do.  ;)

Headphone.com used to have frequency response curves but it's not working right now.    I think somebody makes an equalizer with presets for a variety of headphones.

Quote
even cheap speakers.
Of course, there are physical limitations.   You can't get realistic bass from the little speaker built-into a TV, etc.    The room is involved (especially with lower frequencies) and, with standing waves you get nodes (where the waves cancel/dip) and anti-nodes where the waves sum/peak.      You can knock-down the peaks but it essentially takes infinite power and infinitely large woofers to correct a dip. 

It's a lot more practical with headphones, although there still could be physical limits, and due to the interaction with the ear, headphones/earphones are notoriously difficult to measure, and they interact different with different people's ears.

Quote
One other thing I've noticed is that the frequency response sounds pretty good on even fairly cheap Bluetooth earbuds.   I suspect that's because they receive their signal digitally and can apply whatever EQ they want before the DAC, so maybe a version of this is already happening?
I don't know, but I doubt it.    You'd probably find similar (or better) performance with wired ear buds/headphones/in-ear monitors.     I don't think it's particularly difficult or expensive to make good-sounding earphones but of course you can find very expensive in-ear monitors.

Active monitors do often have built-in equalization/correction.

Re: Speaker/Headphone EQ Curves

Reply #2
The most obvious difference between high-end and cheap headphones/speakers is the flatness of the frequency response.
No. Speakers and headphones are completely different and there is no correlation between cost/performance except extreme cases.
Hard to believe you've been a member here this long.
Please read this and especially the response by "Tonmeister" aka Sean Olive of Harman Intl.
Please also disregard DVDdougs 2nd link, which is an anti-scientific nonsense website by a blind test rejectionist studiophile believer.
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Speaker/Headphone EQ Curves

Reply #3
The most obvious difference between high-end and cheap headphones/speakers is the flatness of the frequency response.
No. Speakers and headphones are completely different and there is no correlation between cost/performance except extreme cases.
Hard to believe you've been a member here this long.

My apologies.  Perhaps I should have been more precise.  What I meant to say is that the most obvious difference between good quality (not necessarily super expensive) headphones/speakers and obviously-bad ones is frequency response.  I did not mean to imply a very close correlation between quality and price or that one needs to spend several hundred dollars to get a good pair of headphones.  When I said "cheap" I meant extermely cheap ones where they're cutting every corner imaginable.

Re: Speaker/Headphone EQ Curves

Reply #4
Understood, but please also see my link to headphones where "a" "flat" response as you state, is not perceptually flat.
Speakers, which are not worn on ears/ear cavity, will have a great many measured frequency responses, depending on angle and distance. You would really have to specify which/where when saying "a flat" response. Generally speaking, smooth/flat axial response and off axis responses, measured anechoically, is perceived as spectrally neutral in rooms.
There are many freely available papers and video by Dr Floyd Toole discussing EQ (eg here)as you think is applicable. It would be wise to read his works or better yet his book based on perceptual science research using controlled listening tests, rather than the anti-science anecdotal sighted "listening" belief of DVDdoug ilk/linked site.
YMMV.
Loudspeaker manufacturer

Re: Speaker/Headphone EQ Curves

Reply #5
Understood, but please also see my link to headphones where "a" "flat" response as you state, is not perceptually flat.
Speakers, which are not worn on ears/ear cavity, will have a great many measured frequency responses, depending on angle and distance. You would really have to specify which/where when saying "a flat" response. Generally speaking, smooth/flat axial response and off axis responses, measured anechoically, is perceived as spectrally neutral in rooms.

I was not aware of these complexities, but they are fascinating.  (Yes, I've been on these forums for a while, but I only visit/post intermittently.)

Another example that comes to mind is TV speakers.  In my experience most TV speakers have abysmal frequency response.  It's bad enough that splitting hairs about the room, axis vs. off-axis, etc. is pointless.  Also, since modern TV signals are digital, TVs can do processing in the digital domain.  I wonder why TVs don't just compensate for their lack of large woofers or good speaker enclosures by enabling a strong equalizer by default.  It might not sound perfect, but it might at least make listening to music on TV speakers bearable.

 
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