Recently I picked up a pair of Sennheiser HD600s, my first pair of proper audiophile headphones. While researching I stumbled onto the topic of equalisation.
In this guide, I am going to explain how to apply the best equalizer settings for gaming (and music) to ensure that you are getting the best audio quality possible.
By utilising proper equalization it drastically improved not only my gaming experience (especially footsteps in certain games) but also the clarity and crispness of my music.
If you have audiophile headphones and you are not using equalization you are missing out on the potential of your headphones.
If you are new to some of the jargon I have already said, don’t worry. By the end of the guide, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
If you would prefer the guide in video form, check out my YouTube video below. You can always use this text guide to help as it also provides you with images through each step.
Before going ahead with the rest of the tutorial please check the GitHub link. This contains a list of the presets for a range of audiophile headphones. Please check that your headphones are there before continuing as you will need this for the equalisation to be effective.
What Is Audio Equalization?
If you already have an idea of equalization then feel free to skip this part. It is, however, beneficial to understand what it is so that you can gain the most from the guide.
Quick disclaimer, I am not an audio engineer. This guide is meant to be an easy way towards improving your audio quality and getting your feet wet in equalization. Not a technically professional depiction of audio engineering!
The definition of equalization is “the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an electronic signal”. In simple terms, it involves adjusting the bass, mids and treble frequencies of the sound your headphones produce.
By adjusting these frequencies we can cancel out any of the unnecessary ‘noise’ that we don’t need allowing us to hear the frequencies that matter most. Whether it is footsteps in PUBG and Apex Legends or the vocals of a rap song.
Best Equalizer Settings Guide APO & Peace
Let’s get into the guide so we can get your headphones sounding the way they should be.
Step 1: How To Install Equalizer APO
The first thing we need is the Equalizer APO software. What is Equalizer APO?
It is a “parametric/graphic equalizer “ for Windows. It is used in conjunction with the Peace GUI which is what we will use to drive the settings for our equalisation.
So jump on over to the Equalizer APO download page and download it.
Next, run the installer and follow each of the steps. Then you will be greeted with the Configurator window to allow you to choose which devices you want to install the APO onto.
Select the checkbox for the headphones you are using. In some cases you might not have named your devices so you may not be sure which device is actually your headphones.
To check you can go down to your sound icon on your taskbar. Right click and select sounds.
Select the playback tab and you will see the list of playback devices you have connected. If you have your headphones set to your default playback device then that device will have a green tick next to it.
I recommend you right click your headphone device and select properties. Then you rename this device and select an icon for it so that you can easily identify which device are your headphones or speakers etc.
Back to the configurator! You should now know which device is your headphones. So select that checkbox and click ok. Equalizer APO will ask you to restart your system. Do as it says and come back here after your restart.
Step 2: How To Install Peace APO GUI
The next step is to install the Peace APO GUI. This basically provides an interface for us on top of Equalizer APO to allow us to see all our frequency sliders and import headphone presets specifically for our model.
Once you have downloaded the Peace setup run it and you will be prompted with the setup window. You should see what is shown below, that you have Equalizer APO installed with a ‘Yes, Installed’ notification next to it.
If you don’t then check in your program files that Equalizer APO is installed, if its not then it may have been accidentally picked up by your anti-virus.
If that is the case, disable your anti-virus and follow the steps above again until you reach this point.
If you see the green ‘Yes, installed’ text then great, click the install button! Peace should install into the same folder as your Equalizer APO installation. By default this is:
After you click install you should be prompted with a small window saying that Peace has been installed.
Click ok and then in the setup tool in the bottom left click ‘Start Peace’.
You will then be prompted with a warning stating “File config.txt of Equalizer APO must be overwritten to activate Peace”.
Click yes to overwrite the config.txt.
Next, choose what interface you want, I recommend the full interface so you can see everything. You won’t need to play around with the settings much at all once you import a preset.
However, it’s nice to have the settings there in case you do decide to tweak some of the equalizations yourself.
Try toggling PEACE on and off by selecting the on-off switch in the top right pictured below. I recommend choosing a noticeable EQ preset such as ‘Radio’ so that you can clearly hear the difference between the Peace EQ being on and off.
If you hear a difference then your Peace has been installed correctly.
If you don’t then you need to follow these steps:
- Run the Peace installer again
- Select the ‘Get help and Trouble shoot’ tab
- Click the configurator button (This opens up the Equalizer APO configurator)
- Click your headphones
- Check the troubleshoot options checkbox on the bottom
- Ensure your settings look like the following:
Once installed, reboot and try the trick above to test the Peace EQ to see if it’s now working correctly.
Step 3: Import Equalization Presets To Peace
Great! Now you have Equalizer APO installed, Peace installed and the EQ settings are working as expected.
Now we are going to import some presets for your headphones so that you are getting the very best ‘studio’ quality sound from your headphones.
There are a few ways to get presets. These presets have been engineered by some great people over on reddit. I recommend you try each of the following methods below to ensure you have different options to test out.
These might not be the best equalizer settings yet but you are welcome to change the sliders to fit your needs. Once you have the presets in Peace it is really simple to switch between them.
So the first method is to download the zip from the following GitHub page. Once you download it, unzip it.
Next, navigate to either headphonecom/sbaf-serious, innerfidelity/sbaf-serious or referenceaudioanaylser/zero. Open each of these folders and navigate to the name of your headphones.
Copy the ‘ParametricEQ.txt’ version of the preset and paste it into a folder you can easily find for importing to Peace.
Each of the folders above are different presets designed to give the best equalizer settings and sound stage for your headphones.
As with most sound though it is very much personal preference. That is why I recommend you try them all out.
Once you have your presets all saved we need to import them to Peace.
Navigate to Peace and click the small import button.
Find the folder where you saved your presets in the previous step and import them all.
They will then show up in the list in Peace in the bottom left. Make sure Peace is turned on in the top right and then start playing some music and toggle between the presets you just imported.
Notice the difference?
There is a second source of presets though that I really recommend you also check out. This is also from a super helpful Reddit user called Oratory1990.
He has individually tested all the headphones he can get his hands on to EQ them to the best of his ability.
You can find a list of his presets over here. He also goes into much more detail on the technical side of equalisation so if you’re interested in that see what he has to say.
To use his preset for your headphones you need to manually add the values into Peace. This is really easy so don’t get overwhelmed. He also explains how to do this in the Reddit thread above.
Put simply, click the link in the Reddit thread for your headphones and it will open up a .pdf. Scroll down and you will see a table that lists all the filter settings to apply in Peace.
Oratory uses 10 bands so in Peace make sure you have 10 sliders to configure which correlate to the 10 bands.
Next, it is as easy as adding in the values you see in the table into Peace. Don’t worry about the BW / S column you can ignore it. It is the equivalent to the ‘Q-factor’ which is the Quality (Q) row in Peace.
Make sure you select the ‘Filter Type’ in Peace by selecting the little graph symbol and changing it to the filter type in Oratory’s table.
Save the preset and name it something to help you differentiate between the other presets we imported earlier.
You now have a range of presets to test to see which one you prefer. One huge tip I can give is that louder does not equal better. You might find that Oratory’s presets sound quieter than the ones you downloaded from GitHub.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking Oratory’s preset is bad. In fact, Oratory’s preset for the Sennheiser HD600’s is the one I use right now.
If you want to compare each of the presets at the same volume then you can reduce the gain on the presets from GitHub to match Oratory’s. This helps you focus on the clarity of the sound.
Best Equalizer Settings For Gaming
When it comes to gaming the sound stage in your headphones is important. Everyone likes different settings so there is not a one size fits all solution.
I recommend you work with the presets you imported earlier and you can tweak them if you find they are missing frequencies when it comes to gaming.
For example, you might find the bass is signficantly less than the stock configuration. If you want more bass to have more immersive explosions then you can tweak that in Peace and then save your preset under your own custom one.
That way you keep the original preset and you can switch between them to test which one you like best.
Keep in mind, explosions and gun fire although they add a lot of immersion to the game they muffle other sounds such as footsteps.
So having a more flat sound stage makes it a lot easier to hear footsteps in the likes of PUBG and Apex Legends.
So There You Have It
This is just one method towards getting the best equalizer settings for gaming and music. You can easily switch between different presets depending on what you are doing.
The idea is that equalisation cuts out the noise and focuses on the sounds that matter. This means you get better quality audio and most importantly you get the most out of your headphones.
Don’t be scared to play around in Peace with the options and configuration. You might find you can tweak it yourself and find something better.
It might not be technically correct if an audio engineer were to hear it but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how you hear the sound.