A Note On iPhone 4’s New EQ: Do You Like It? | iLounge Backstage


A Note On iPhone 4’s New EQ: Do You Like It?

One thing that past iPhone owners might not have noticed on the iPhone 4 is a change to the equalizer (EQ) feature found under Settings > iPod > EQ. It’s not obvious from just looking at the screenshot, but if you plug a pair of headphones in, start listening to a song, and then change the EQ from Off to something else, you’ll notice that the volume drops. By about one bar on the 16-bar on-screen scale.


Reader Butch H. suggests that this was likely done to address long-standing complaints about iPod and iPhone audio distortion that was evident when the EQs were turned on—specifically, bass distortion used to be extremely obvious at higher volume levels. Rather than improve the audio chip, iPhone 4 appears to be lowering the sound level a little bit before applying the equalization effect. We’re wondering whether you’ve noticed the change, and what you think of it.

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I did notice this, but I also bought a new radio transmittor for my phone at the same time so I assumed it had to do with that rather than the EQ. But makes sense now.

Posted by Shan on June 28, 2010 at 4:46 PM (CDT)


If a wave is at maximum amplitude (digitally) and you amplify it even more (e.g. by using the equalizer), the wave gets cut off (which results in distortion). This all happens before the signal even reaches the audio-chip, therefore making it pointless to change the chip because of this issue.

This isn’t a problem with all music since “back in the days” recordings weren’t normalized to -0dbfs and therefore had some headroom left before distortions kicked in.

To make matters worse: Some recordings are even shipped with digital distortions that occured during the mastering process (e.g. Metallica’s Death Magnetic).

Anyway: Not much of an iPhone problem but more of a general problem with music these days (not saying that the A/D converter couldn’t be better, though).

Posted by foobar on June 28, 2010 at 5:03 PM (CDT)


The eq on iPod touch 2g with iOS4 seems to have changed. Choose ‘bass boost’ and it seems to make a bigger difference than before the update. Not sure if its a feature or a bug.

Posted by AlexB on June 29, 2010 at 2:14 PM (CDT)


I saw the headline and my heart skipped a beat. I thought finally, Apple has added graphic EQ… :(

Posted by Paul on June 29, 2010 at 8:56 PM (CDT)


This appears to be an iOS 4.0-related change, rather than an iPhone 4-related change.  I’ve noticed the same thing with my 3rd generation iPod touch since I upgraded it to iOS 4.

Posted by mbta3247 on June 30, 2010 at 3:24 PM (CDT)


There has been a huge change in several sound functions that are apparent on my iPod touch. 

The very annoying new equalizer is on and there is now some volume ramp up at the beginning of a song that lasts WAY too long.  You can restore the volume by hitting pause and then play and full volume is restored, but still.


Also, and this is subjective I admit, the sound just is not as good as it was with the last OS no matter how much I fool with the settings.

Posted by Scott D on July 1, 2010 at 3:08 PM (CDT)


Nice that I can finally use the Bass Booster on my dance tracks without topping-out and distortion! I have been waiting SO long for this!

Posted by Matt H on July 2, 2010 at 5:37 PM (CDT)


I’m not sure how you could care about this one way or the other. What we need is an adjustable EQ, or really all I want is bass and treble. That would do. There isn’t a single selection in the iPhone/iPod EQ that is even remotely appealing to my ears. It seems about time that we *finally* get this. Why does Apple not want to give that to us?

Posted by Crunc on July 2, 2010 at 11:22 PM (CDT)


Personally, I am finding the reduction in volume more than I can stand.

I used to listen to my music on about 1/4 volume…with the EQ set to (whatever) I now find myself listening to my music on 3/4 volume to achieve the same level of aural delight.

I find the whole thing exteremely underwhelming and it yet again reeks of Apple controlling the way I enjoy my device.

Posted by Handsomedan on July 5, 2010 at 6:11 PM (CDT)


I ABSOLUTELY HATE IT! I am downgrading to the previous version. I used to listen on 1/3 of the volume, now I have to listen at 3/4 of the volume. This means the battery dies in half the time.

I can’t believe they’ve done this. I’m so annoyed!

Posted by Liam on July 13, 2010 at 8:27 PM (CDT)


I can’t agree more with the comments, it really makes the battery last a lot less.

I am so unhappy I wish I could downgrade.

Posted by hossletoe on July 13, 2010 at 8:28 PM (CDT)


I’ve been using a program called MP3Gain for years to get around the iPod/Phone’s EQ distortion. I normalize all my music to 89.9Db to give the EQ some headroom and avoid clipping the audio. This also has the nice side effect of making all your CDs play back at the same level when shuffling music!

So this seems like a pretty useful fix for people not as motivated to massage their music as I am. :)

Posted by PKMousie on July 16, 2010 at 12:55 PM (CDT)


I noticed this in a big way.  Car iPhone adapters use the line-level audio output supplied via the dock connector.  This volume drop also applies to the line-level output.  As a result, I can no-longer listen to my iPhone with the windows open, as the non-replaceable factory stereo doesn’t have a powerful enough amplifier to compensate.

With my 2G iPod touch, this was never an issue.  Now with the iPhone 4…almost impossible to ignore.  The only fix I’ve really found is to turn off Sound Check if I’m going to use the EQ.

Posted by zefram on July 31, 2010 at 8:47 PM (CDT)


yeah, i now don’t use any of the EQ, just set it to “none” it’s the best. the bass and tremble is the best. using monster turbine pro copper. don’t like the volume drop. the bass booster doesn’t boost bass at all. i have a sony D-NE9 cd player and the sound 0, 1 and 2 makes huge bass difference on IEM’s.

Posted by muscleking on August 3, 2010 at 1:12 PM (CDT)


DUDE i barely noticed just RIGHT NOW.. And i SERIOUSLY thought my earphones were blew off…. cuz usually with Aloha by FatJoe the Bass would be Disturbed and since i got Beats (Tour) i got f*kin scared… (sorry for my
language) til i googled it.. uff.! Close one. Theyre Just Fine:) and the Sound its just.. Unbelieveable. Thumps Up.

Posted by Erick on August 4, 2010 at 3:57 AM (CDT)


Omg, I was seriously bugging out when I listened to my ipod and realized the bass sounded way off. I thought it may have been my headphones until I compared my sister’s ipod to my own and her’s still sounded the same, luckily I found this site before I called up apple lol. It sucks that they changed the eq, I listen to the bass on all of my songs and now they just don’t sound right. I hope they change it back.

Posted by LeeSun on August 7, 2010 at 11:04 AM (CDT)


Equalizer please…does Apple think we are too dull to set our own preferences?  At least why not provide one “custom” entry that can be changed and saved.

Posted by Anonz on August 11, 2010 at 6:13 PM (CDT)


I’m very disappointed :(
I do most of my listening in my car, so I splurged on an Ipod dock connector for my factory stereo.
It sounded great with my old Ipod Mini; almost as good as my CDs. I especially liked the sound of the ‘Rock’ EQ.

But since I’ve upgraded to a 3G iTouch, applying the EQ results in a volume drop that my factory stereo isn’t able to compensate for, even after cranking the volume to MAX. It’s not nearly as good as my CDs anymore.

Posted by Frank on September 6, 2010 at 6:57 PM (CDT)


Glad to know there’s an answer and its not my iphone 4.  My 3G had a nice bass boost without much effect on the rest of the range.  Bass boost on the ip4 is more like sticking cotton balls in my ears and a sock in the music’s mouth.  What a sorry implementation once again.  And btw, I tested with a number of high end audiophile headphones.  Very disappointed in ip4.

Posted by fasteddie on September 10, 2010 at 3:01 AM (CDT)


I knew the first time I updated to this ios4.1 the sound quality wasn’t the same. I have an iPod touch 2g and the battery dies almost 2x faster now. Where did all the bass go on treble booster? It’s supposed to boost only treble not lower the bass…. This was highly disappointing for me and makes me want to downgrade to ios3.1.2 again where all the sound loudness and bass was there. Know I feel like I just lost all the great sound and bass… Don’t forget the battery life to.

Posted by Alex123 on September 14, 2010 at 3:06 PM (CDT)


I was tying to use the iphone 4 with OS 4.1 to watch rented movies through an Apple Dock - more than $100 for the dock and the cables.  I connected it to my Denon 4308 and The iphone will not drive the Denon enough to even hear the movie.  So now, I am going to stop renting movies and wait to see what happens.  I figure there is a conspiracy since Apple doesn’t allow streaming of the Netflix video through the dock and now killing the volume - Just in time for the new release of the Apple TV.  Conspiracy?
Also several devices that I bought for my 3GS nor longer work with the OS 4 - example iSimple stero interface for my Chevy - now requires a new IC in order to operate.  Apple got us hooked and is now going to rail us hard.  They are going to change the modelfor movies to rent-only and the iTunes music has gone up in price - I prefer to buy mp3s from Amazon.  NOW SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING DROID.  If enough people look at abandoning Apple, maybe they will wake up!.  Also bought an iPad that is virtually useless for wireless extremely poor reception - my iphone asks to connect to every router as I drive down the freeway so at least they got wireless right on the iPhone

Posted by Bruno on September 28, 2010 at 8:43 PM (CDT)


Yes, I have noticed this. On My old iPod, and on my iPhone running system 3, the various EQ settings acted as you’d expect, boosting or cutting without adversely affecting the overall volume of whatever you were playing, except for what the eq setting was (claiming) to do. Therefor, if you had a pair of phones or buds that needed a bass cut, a treble boost, whatever, you could get that pretty easily. Now there’s a substantial volume cut when eq is applied, almost like if you added a bass boost it actually leaves the bass where it was, and tapers everything down a bit, in order to actually boost the bass relative to other frequencies, but not relative to your current listening volume. I NEVER had a problem in the past with eq setting distortiong or adding distortion, and I listen on a pretty wide variety of phones/buds.systems. Apple’s failure in the EQ realms on their audio products is massive, they need to immediately remedy this with a full featured, multi-faceted parametric eq that can be as detailed or global as you want, with lots of features and options for critical listening, or basic functions for those not so particular. Anything else is really unfair.

Posted by Mark on October 20, 2010 at 6:54 PM (CDT)


Apple has to give us a customizable equalizer someday. I am in great hopes. :)

Posted by Limbo on November 3, 2010 at 2:20 PM (CDT)


I just found an App which is really a solution for equalizing on the iPhone. Check it out: EQu.
It is the first app doing the trick well. At this moment the search in the iPod library is not done very well but I received a mail from the developers that they will fix this…..
It is amazing to hear, and see, what this app does with your music. I’m using it with airplay on my hifi, really cool.
let me know what you think about it

Posted by hifijoe on November 22, 2010 at 7:57 AM (CST)


Equ works great. But i would like to use it on the internetstream too.
I come from htc hd2 with windows mobile 6.5. With windows you can control everything, but it never works as good as on the iphone.

Posted by Bedaux on January 1, 2011 at 6:36 AM (CST)


I changed the EQ from “Off” to “Flat” and it seemed like the volume increased a bit. I’m not sure the difference between the two settings but I’m rolling Flat from now on.

Posted by Gnato on July 11, 2011 at 5:35 PM (CDT)

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