Equalizer for Windows?
December 18, 2011 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Is there a non-expensive way I can add system-wide EQ to my Windows 7 HTPC (Asrock ION 330)?

I have a ASROCK ION 330 running Windows 7 which I use as an HTPC.

I recently added a pair of not-too-fancy powered computer speakers (Cyber-Acoustics CA-3602). I'm no audiophile. I like the speakers, but it think they could use a little EQ tweaking. (The main reason - when I watch movies, when men with deep voices speak, it sounds a little boomy...)

I know that with some sound cards, there's an equalizer built into Windows in the "enhancements" tab of the sound control panel. But it does not seem to appear on my computer, presumably because of the sound card build into the computer, although maybe I'm missing something.

I've looked all over online for a free-or-cheap EQ program. That sure seemed to be the sort of thing that I would have thought would exist, but I can't seem to find anything anywhere. (I found VST plugins, and plugins for specific players, and a couple of EQ programs that cost $40 and up)

Any suggestions? Either:

- Is there a decent system-wide graphic EQ program for windows that's (ideally) free or (I guess) under $20 or so? I really would have thought that such a thing would exist, but to my surprise, extensive web searching has not turned up anything.

- Is there some way to get Windows to show the "EQ" feature for my system? (An Asrock ION 330).

- Is there some other way to adjust the frequency response that I'm overlooking? (Other, I suppose, than buying an external hardware equalizer).

Any suggestions or thoughts would be much appreciated!
posted by ManInSuit to Technology (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wonder if you could run all your audio through Audacity? The downside would be you'd need to have Audacity running all the time.
posted by ian1977 at 10:57 AM on December 18, 2011

(ps: I know that some players have EQ built in. But I watch stuff using various software: Boxee, NetFlix, VLC, etc, so I'm really hoping for something system-wide, not something specific to just one player...)
posted by ManInSuit at 10:57 AM on December 18, 2011

ian1977 - An interesting idea! Some quick research suggests that Audacity can't do real-time processing. Maybe some other program can...
posted by ManInSuit at 12:24 PM on December 18, 2011

Looking at the support website (or here if you're running 64-bit Win 7), it looks like it uses a VIA audio chip for the regular audio output ports (the 1/4" jacks), and it uses the Nvidia driver for HDMI audio. I'm guessing that you're using the VIA chip if you're connecting to speakers separately.

Have you installed the full audio drivers? Because it looks like both of those drivers (Reaktek for the VIA chip and the Nvidia driver) come with system-wide EQ options. For example, if you're using HDMI, it looks like the Nvidia drivers come with something called Nvmixer where you can tweak the EQ curve.
posted by spiderskull at 12:38 PM on December 18, 2011

Spiderskull, thanks!! I'll try those out! I might not have the latest fullest version of those drivers.

(btw: I acutally use HDMI audio right now, because I output the audio to my TV, which in turn sends it to the speakers. But I guess I could also go directly to the speakers if that allowed me to use the EQ... I am running 64-bit win 7. So I guess I should try the drivers in your second link...)
posted by ManInSuit at 1:21 PM on December 18, 2011

Hmm. Okay. I tried installing the "NVIDIA HDMI driver:" from that link. It installed fine, but after it installed - I still don't see any EQ when I use the NVIDIA HDMI audio output: The "enhancements" tab of the sound control panel has no EQ. I checked the NVIDIA control panel, and it's just about video settings. Is there somewhere else I should be looking? Some extra software I need to install?

(I also tried installing the VIA driver, but got an error: "We can't find HD audio device..." I'll try and figure that one out. I did not try re-installing the NVIDIA All-in-one driver, since that appears to be for everything *except* the HDMI audio- for video, ethernet, and SMU. I'm pretty sure I'm already running the latest things here... I'm nervous to (re-)install stuff unnecessarily )
posted by ManInSuit at 1:49 PM on December 18, 2011

I doubt it will show up in the enhancements tab. You probably have to get at it through a different menu. Go into your Control Panel and see if there's anything with Nvidia or Nvmixer on there. If that doesn't work, look in the Start Menu under Programs to see if there's an Nvidia submenu. Unfortunately, I cannot test any of this, so you'll just have to poke around or ask someone who has the same drivers as you.
posted by spiderskull at 3:24 PM on December 18, 2011

Too bad Audiomulch no longer has a free beta version, it could totally do what you are asking for. Check out the KVR forums for hosts. There has to be a free one that can do this.

Maybe this one?
Or this one?
posted by ian1977 at 5:28 PM on December 18, 2011

Spiderskull- I've looked all over - in the NVIDIA submenu in the Start Menu, in the NVIDIA control panel. It really appears that there is not an equalizer anywhere- I may have missed something, but I'm usually pretty good at finding this sort of stuff.... (and my sense is that Nvmixer is something that is either very old, or for another card than mine, or both). I am still hoping this path is a good one- I'd love for this to work!
posted by ManInSuit at 6:19 PM on December 18, 2011

ian1977: I have only the vaguest notion (okay - less than that, really) of what a VST is and what a host is. I'll look into those links you send. It looked like this one might be what I want, but really, I sorta can't tell:


posted by ManInSuit at 6:21 PM on December 18, 2011

You might be able to do this with (pay software, but with a trial) Virtual Audio Cable, as per this thread. Basically, VAC provides a bunch of fake inputs and outputs, or put another way, it provides Windows with a virtual audio card. You would set your system sound to go through the virtual in (instead of your real sound card), select the corresponding virtual out as the input for the VST host, then in the settings for the VST host set your actual speakers as the host's output. This should run sound from all Windows apps through the VST host and out to your speakers.

To answer your question, the VST host basically takes audio and runs it through a set of plugins in real-time -- in your case, the equalizer plugin. The one you linked is very simple but would be enough for what you want (running 1 plugin). Other VST hosts let you do more complicated things like chain plugins together and automate them, but those are not likely to be super useful for you.

the way you would do this on Linux or OS X is to use Jack, btw
posted by en forme de poire at 9:29 PM on December 18, 2011

What about an actual equalizer?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:56 PM on December 18, 2011

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