When talking about audio, you may often hear the term ‘EQ’ thrown around. EQ refers to equalization, or how the frequencies are balanced in the audio spectrum. Two major factors in this are bass (the low end) and treble (the high end).
It can be confusing to know how to best set up the bass and treble for your speakers, whether they’re the speakers in your car or your setup at home.
To some extent, the settings you choose will depend largely on your personal preference – how you want the music to sound. But there is a case for standard settings to make all genres, including podcasts, sound as best as possible.
Let’s take a look at the details.
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EQ Settings – An Overview
When we talk about adjusting the EQ, what we’re actually doing is adjusting the volume of a frequency (or frequencies) on the audio spectrum.
This allows us to boost certain aspects and cut others, effectively manipulating the sound so that when it reaches our ears, it sounds as satisfactory as possible.
If the idea of balancing frequencies across an audible spectrum of 20Hz to 20,000Hz sounds a bit daunting, then you’re not alone.
EQ controls and filters are made for this reason, allowing you to choose from a range of presets created by professionals.
They also give you direct adjustment of treble (2,500Hz to 20,000Hz), mids (250Hz to 2,500Hz), and bass (60Hz – 250Hz) frequencies.
For this article, we’ll focus mainly on bass and treble, as these are the frequencies that can shape the audio output of your speakers the most.
What Are the ‘Best’ EQ Settings for Bass and Treble?
While there can be no definitive answer to this question, there are some guidelines to follow that will ensure your speakers are putting out the most optimally-equalized sound possible.
For general listening, it is widely agreed upon that a relatively neutral setting for your EQ is best. That means keeping the bass, mids, and treble around the middle of their respective Hz range.
Of course, how good this sounds to you can depend on many factors. The physiology of your ears, the quality of the speakers you’re listening on, and the production values of the audio recording itself.
If you think something sounds off, even if only to you, then you can (and should) start adjusting. As a tip, it’s always better to cut frequencies that are too dominant rather than boost frequencies that are lacking.
The main reason for this is that an excess of volume can lead to distortion fairly quickly, especially on lower-quality speakers. A reduction of volume will lead to a more balanced frequency spectrum.
Genre-Specific EQ Adjustments
Well-produced music of any genre should sound better than adequate when played through decent speakers, at a reasonable volume, with a neutral EQ.
However, some genres of music will definitely benefit from certain tweaks here and there to emphasize certain frequencies.
Pop music nowadays is mixed for a full, bass-rich sound which puts the vocals front and center. To accentuate this, boost frequencies in the range of 70Hz – 900Hz and 6,000Hz to 12,000Hz.
Rap and Hip-Hop
When listening to rap music it is of course essential to hear the voice of the rappers. However, a lot of classic old-school hip hop has a fat, steady kick drum and bassline, so you can’t neglect the low-end wither. Boost around the 65Hz mark for the bass, and 1,000Hz – 2,500Hz to allow the lyrics to cut through.
Rock and Metal
Classic rock will benefit from a similar setup to pop music, with a slight extra boost on the upper mids to emphasize guitars. A slight boost in the 3,000Hz – 8,000Hz range can make a big difference.
For metal, follow the same pattern, but maybe increase the low end even more to accentuate the deep, heavy sounds.
Bass and Treble Settings for Car Speakers
When it comes to car stereos, things work a little differently. It’s unlikely you’ll have a graphic equalizer with the entire audio frequency spectrum laid out for you in hertz, with named and numbered sliders for fine-tuning.
Whereas most sophisticated home audio systems will have a graphic EQ to allow the precise tweaking we’ve been discussing in the first part of this article, most car audio systems will have what is called a parametric EQ.
Parametric EQs allow the adjusting of a wider range of frequencies at once. That’s why when you go to fiddle with your car’s audio setup, you’ll probably just have the option to boost or cut the bass, mids, and treble.
So for this section of the article, we’ll discuss EQ in terms of + and -, followed by a number, to dictate the recommended settings.
Again, the ‘best’ settings for your car’s audio system depend on a number of factors. Namely, the quality of the speakers, the volume of the car and the road noise, your own personal preference, and of course, what you’re listening to.
Many of these will vary from car to car, so if you own or drive more than one vehicle, be prepared to configure the EQ settings to your taste for every vehicle!
Optimal EQ Settings for Car Speakers
As with your home audio system, you’ll want to opt for a close-to-neutral EQ for general listening in your car. This will allow the original mix to shine and give you a ‘clean’ starting point so you can really listen out for any adjustments that may be needed.
To compete with road and engine noise, it’s recommended to start with a slight boost to the bass (+1 or 2), and then a further boost to the treble (+2 or 3) to balance out the newly boosted bass.
For a quieter car, this may not be necessary, but again, it’s all down to your personal preference.
It’s only really necessary to adjust mids if you’re struggling to hear the vocals, or if they’re overwhelming the instruments. Adjust + or – as needed. Bear in mind that some cars do not offer midrange adjustment – only bass and treble.
Genre-Specific EQ Adjustments for Car Speakers
For general listening, apply the neutral EQ rule. This also goes for more subdued music such as acoustic folk or country, as well as spoken word audio like podcasts or audiobooks.
Just like your home audio, boost the bass and the treble a bit to allow the beat and vocals to cut through. To maintain a balance, the mids can take a small boost too, if applicable.
- Bass: + 4
- Mids: + 2
- Treble: + 4
Rap and Hip-Hop
The same EQ settings as pop can be applied to rap and hip-hop as well. Consider cutting the treble just a little to account for the more enthusiastic vocals, so they shine without being brash.
- Bass: + 4
- Mids: + 2
- Treble: + 3
Rock and Metal
As rock and metal are usually mixed with a boosted low-end already, it’s probably not necessary to go too crazy with the bass, but instead focus on the mids (if applicable) to emphasize the guitars. If your car stereo doesn’t have a control for the mid, add an extra boost on the treble.
- Bass: + 2
- Mids: + 4
- Treble: + 3
Bear in mind that all speakers, whether at home or in the car, will sound different. On top of that, all songs are produced by different people and therefore their mixes will be different, even across similar genres.
Fine tune your EQ settings so they sound the best to you, and don’t be afraid to experiment!