Am I alone? Probably

Am I alone in not using EQ at all?
I run Audirvana 3.5 flat into my pre-amp, and direct out to power amp and speakers. Only control I use is the big round loud making one!
Also, no EQ when listening via headphones.
My experience is that EQ in the hands of the listener is the best way to fuck up the hours of work the artist/producer/engineer put into mastering the music in the first place! :joy:


No, you’re not. No EQ or upsampling on my set up. Plain vanilla.


While EQ alters the sound, upsampling doesn’t. It only upsamples the sound with the CPU of the computer and the algorithm of the player, instead of doing it with the processor of the DAC and its algorithm.

I also use AS in vanilla mode, because I don’t hear with my DAC any benefit from its upsampling.


I gave up on using EQ for now. I was using the famous Harman target to enhance my HD800S headphones but ultimately it really does narrow the soundstage, I don’t know if that’s because the integrated macOS AU EQ is bad, or if that’s expected with real time software EQ in general, but anyway, now I don’t use that anymore. No upsampling either since I haven’t found the sweet spot yet (it really harms the sound on my headphones setup — even that r8brain one with the less agressive settings — and my headphones DAC has a built-in upsampling which can’t be turned off anyway).

But I still use the software gain, which isn’t neutral either. Since my headphones amp doesn’t work well in low gain (analogic knob, stereo problems for example), lowering the input gain fixes this issue (and it’s convenient to control with the remote app :grin:). And Audirvana’s software gain control is considered to be very good (anti-aliasing is applied if I remember well). So it’s not exactly “vanilla” in my case.

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You have a good playback system. I know that the HD800S don’t perform equally with all headphones amp. Is that the reason for which you have to fix the gain? Did you try with other headphones to see if the amp needs a gain fix?

Upsampling can’t be turned-off on any of the DACs that I know. When you upsample with a player and the computer to the frequency that the DAC supports, the DAC just doesn’t have to do it. It converts to analog the upsampled sound that it gets.

Here’s the 9 pages paper on how upsampling works on my DAC, please enjoy.
As a result, the DAC has no idea what the source bitrate was, while it could before this routine was activated through firmware update.

As for the gain, the only reason it doesn’t work properly is the same as any other audio equipment with an analogic knob. When you’re on the lower end of the knob, it’s not precise and doesn’t address stereo as well as it should. My speakers’ amp has the same behaviour, it’s a common thing.

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I also use an iFi DAC. As always, iFi’s documentation is painful to read.
What I learned is that the upsamling algorithm of your DAC will be gradually implemented to the other iFi DACs through a firmware upgrade. It was not the case yet with my iFi micro iDSD Black Label.

Anyway, if your DAC receives a digital stream from the player that is at its upsamling frequency, it won’t have to upsample it. It’s up to you to try with each player what sounds better for you: the upsampling of the player or the upsampling of your DAC.

iFi makes excellent kit, and ‘affordable’.

Fortunately my headphone DAC is pretty good, so no software gain used there either.

Yes, I’m very happy with iFi products. Their support is also very good. I have two iFi DAcs, the one that I’m using and my old iFi micro iDAC that sounds good, but does not support DSD natively. I may buy a third iFi Dac for my phone.

I have the iFi Zen Blue in conjunction with a FiiO BTA30 for when I am at my desk working, Slightly better than CD quality over Bluetooth, can’t complain!
And for plugging directly into my systen I have the iFi Zen DAC, an excellent DAC; Sounds immense on my setup.
For headphone listening I use an xDuoo XIII in USB-DAC mode.

All very excellent ‘budget’ equipment.

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probably best to buy 2nd hand then. they’ll be well broken in.

Never heard of that. In fact iFi, for example, put analogue volume control on their DACs precisely because it is the better option.

It might be a better option, except for low volume.
It’s a widespread behaviour on audio equipment, and iFi publicly acknowledged channel imbalance at low volume on another board, answering to a customer unaware of this typical issue. It’s my second Zen DAC (had the first replaced because of 4.4 output faulty connectors), and both show the exact same expected behaviour at low volume (8 o’clock).
I would have prefered a digital gain I can control through ĀS for example. So now, basically I freeze it at 11 o’clock on the knob (higher than 12 shows distorsion for my headphones, it’s a good product but not very powerful) and then use software volume control with ĀRemote.

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Was unaware. Also, never noticed. Maybe not all? But then I probably listen to headphones at around 3 o’clock mostly.
Anyhow, I use my DAC in ‘fixed’ mode, utilising the volume control on my pre-amp, with software volume control off in Audirvana for most of the time. When I’m feeling particularly lazy I may use software volume control and the remote, but that’s rare.

I have never used EQ. I didn’t know it was even possible through Audirvana. A few days ago I bought Audeze LCD-X 2021 model. I’m now desperate to get into EQ! I downloaded Audeze Reveal+ trial and the sound through Audirvana was terrible!

I’m now looking for a better way to do EQ through Audirvana.

If your music sounds good through your headphones without eq, why bother?
I left eq alone and bought some headphones with a ‘flat’ response. each album will sound different, but will sound pretty much as the artist intended. But, I not an audiophilist, just a music lover.

I’ve just started using EQ, and want to run Qobuz through some form of DSP. This is the only reason for subbing to Audirvana, though may still yet switch to roon if the plugins are not stable. I use EQ because headphones are rarely flat, they all have some flaw that could be corrected and turn them into something more enjoyable. The argument that is fucks up what the producer intended doesn’t hold, as your hardware has probably already done that, in fact EQ might get you closer to the original intention. Some phones won’t EQ well because they generate excess distortion when you adjust things, and of course, it’s pointless doing it unless you have a FR plot as a starting reference point. Thus far I’ve tamed the wild treble of my HD560S, turned the dark yamaha MT5 into a ridiculously good phone for the money, and retuned the Grado Hemp into something more sophisticated. There really is no point in pursuing bit perfect when the last transducer in the chain introduces so many errors and variables.

@Stever750 … I agree generally with your perspective…

The rationale for using EQ or not, is purely subjective, dependent on a myriad of factors with any given listening scenario… This scenario is composed of the subject’s playback system, the amalgamation of computer platform, components and tweaks and the electronic-mechanical and acoustical environment in which the playback is auditioned, and ultimately the hearing acuity/neurology of the subject and subjective cognitive biases one may hold… There are many ways to achieve a preferred, subjective, level of sound-quality and satisfaction in a given playback system/environment…

If EQ is applied with conscientious detail, based on the subject’s audiogram or a technical analysis of the synergy/interplay of the playback components, tweaks and speaker/room acoustical environment, a high level of satisfaction can be achieved in the context of a given playback system scenario…

What we are seeking, generally, as audiophiles, is a view into the recorded production-sound, that is relatively transparent and closely representative of the intended level of artistic and technical expression, the artist, producer/engineer and mastering engineer have imbued in the recording.

The construct of “Bit Perfect” generally pertains to the final bit-stream signals produced and transmitted to the DAC… The key aspect being, the “bits” (digital signals) have not been altered in the transmission-path before and after the bits (digital signals) reach the DAC, not in the context of DSP, but rather, the mathematical, software application, system/component level design and of the design of the electronic/mechanical/power/ground architectures, during and subsequent of DSP. The bits delivered to the DAC are, what they are, and the subject’s interpretation is rationalized down to the subjective assessment and cognitive biases of the subject…

Obviously, all of these things are intrinsic to the final subjective assessment of the playback sound-quality and perception of transparency, something that is extremely subjective, because without reference to the mastering system, we really have no way of knowing the ‘real’ sound of any given recorded production… What we are concerned with is the integrity of the data as it flows through the playback system to the DAC, and within the DAC platform architectures, through-to the final analog output…


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