How to adjust an equalizer on a sound system

Written by heather bliss
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How to adjust an equalizer on a sound system
(Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Adjusting the equaliser settings on an audio output device can deliver sound with more fullness and clarity than the original recording. Equaliser settings are used to give radio announcers their booming voices and to adjust the sound of a singing voice in recording. Properly adjusting equaliser settings requires attention to the levels of the sounds in the recording, since many recordings have different original equaliser settings that affect how the equaliser needs to be adjusted. Boost bass and bring out vocals by skilfully adjusting the equaliser settings on your stereo or software music playing program.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Familiarise yourself with the location of the equaliser. An equaliser usually has a series of vertical sliding controls indicating control over the labelled frequencies. Some equalisers are controlled digitally or using software equalisers.

  2. 2

    Play with the equaliser sliders while listening to a familiar song to get acquainted with the levels' effect on the sound. The sliders (sometimes called "faders") are the vertical sliding controls that adjust the equaliser levels on your sound device. Move each slider up and down individually to hear how the sound changes with each slider.

  3. 3

    Understand the meanings of the numbers listed on the equaliser sliders. The numbers on the equaliser correspond to the sound frequency controlled by that equaliser. The frequency on the sliders is indicated by Hertz (Hz) and kilohertz (kHz). One kHz is equivalent to 1000 Hz, so the bass tones, 250 Hz and below, are at a lower frequency than 10 kHz, a high-pitched tone usually found in the sound of cymbals.

  4. 4

    Set all of the slider levels at the centre. The centre of an equaliser slider is the zero level and will produce levels roughly similar to those set in the original recording.

  5. 5

    Play the media with the sound levels you wish to adjust. Listen to the sound for a moment and determine which tones needs to be boosted and which need to be dampened. If the sound is tinny and hurts your ears, chances are the high frequencies are too high. If the sound is muddy and vocals are difficult to hear, the middle or high tones may need a boost. Move a slider up from the middle and the equaliser will boost that sound frequency. Move the slider below the middle and the chosen sound frequency will be dampened, lowering the frequency levels in the original recording.

Tips and warnings

  • Some audio playback software requires that you add or enable equaliser plugins before you can adjust the program's equaliser.
  • Equalisers can be referred to by their abbreviation, "EQ."

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