Home Audio Tips ‘n Tricks: Add a Graphic Equalizer, Ya Dummy

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The more time you spend on this Earth… the more things you learn. So share what you learn with others, because they’re learning too.

– Frieddy Nietzsche

Word of warning: this is going to either sound like the most obvious advice you’ve ever heard, or this is going to blow your mind (I fall in the latter category, that said I am also incredibly easy to amaze). By adding a cheap, used graphic equalizer to your existing home theater system you can make a monumental difference in the quality of the music to which you listen. Installing a device which cost about the same as five cassette tapes has transformed my listening experience, and the only reason I never took this step before is that I didn’t know that it was needed. After all, I don’t walk around the house shouting, “hey Google: what’s a thing I didn’t know I needed? How about I start by listing all the things that I already know I need, so that you can answer by process of elimination.”

[There’s some reading music for you, whilst you read…]

My set up is as follows: a cheapie $99 turntable from Best Buy is running into a years-old Pioneer 5.1 channel receiver, directed to some Polk towers. Any time I’d listen to vinyl, I would set the receiver’s audio mode to “Stereo” so that it didn’t add any unnecessary channel mixing to try and simulate surround sound, or modify the incoming signal to something other than what the artists intended. (In the 90’s it seemed like every audio playback device had an added “3D Audio!” option — which always did way more harm than good.) The turntable doesn’t have any sound processing effects (as they shouldn’t); so in my mind these were the ideal listening conditions. As it turns out, I was either wrong, or I was correct but it sounds cooler this way.

[Oh Stevie, you are going to sound simply purr-fect.]

[See! I still listen to heavy metal, it’s not all old stuff.]
(Hat tip to record stores in Chicago for being cool enough to stock those.)

The Technics Stereo Graphic Equalizer SH-GE70 can be purchased online at places which stock vintage equipment, or you can see if your local hoarder would be happy to part with it. I found this bad boy for $40 at the local used record / audio and video equipment store I briefly mentioned a while ago called Record Exchange. Here’s a “review” of it on a site that kinda looks like GeoCities. Now It definitely doesn’t have to be this particular model, as I looked at about five different ones and they all perform the same function. Your best bet is probably just to find the one that’s least banged-up. Installation takes no time at all:

  1. Do a marijuana.
  2. Unplug your existing turntable or tape deck from the speakers/amplifier/what-have-you.
  3. Plug that device into the graphic equalizer.
  4. Run a new pair of RCA wires from the EQ back to your speakers/amplifier/what-have-you.
  5. Press buttons or slide sliders until it sounds the way you want it to.
  6. Enjoy some smooth and sexy soul from the seventies (or heavy metal if that’s your thing).

With one simple [complicated] trick your expensive home theater system can now perform the function of changing the equalizer settings on your Microsoft Zune. Music comes alive and you’ll hear notes you didn’t know existed! It’s like putting on glasses or doing kratom for the first time. Who would have thought? Just like changing a ceiling fan’s direction of spin according to the current season, it was a thing I didn’t know I could do until I learned it. And so shall I share this knowledge with you readers (who probably already know about it or don’t care).

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Namaste.

…and Stay All Kinds of Music.

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