hearEQ: FAQ

What’s the best way to use hearEQ?

Start easy with just one or two frequencies, and practise regularly. An easy one to start with is 4 kHz. If it’s cranked, the audio will sound very clear and present; if it’s turned down, the sound will be dull. Once you get a few scores of 8/10 or more, add another frequency. Just like any kind of real training, keep coming back to it, don’t overtrain (10–12 minutes a day is fine), and please get in touch if you have any questions.

What is an equalizer?

Imagine that your neighbour is listening to some music next door. What do you usually hear coming through the walls? The bass. Now let’s say you’re on the subway and someone’s earphones are cranked. You know that tinny audio that you hear sitting beside them? That’s the treble part.

Sound has low parts (like that neighbour’s bass), high parts (like the earphones’ treble), and lots in between. An equalizer lets you turn these different parts of the sound up or down. This can take a muddy, thumpy mess of a song and make it clear, rich, and exactly how you want it to sound. Equalizers are powerful creatures.

OK, and hearEQ uses a “10-band” equalizer. What’s that?

Think of the treble knob and bass knob that you might find on a normal stereo. That’s two bands—frequency bands, to be specific—and each controls a part of the sound. In this case, the bass knob controls how big and boomy the sound can be, and the treble can control clarity.

But with only two frequency bands (i.e., low and high), you don’t have too much control over the sound. We need more frequency bands! Enter the 10-band equalizer. It’s as though the bass knob was split into five knobs (one for realllly bassy sounds, the next for a little less bassy sounds, and so on), and so was the treble. It’s what iTunes uses, as well as many mixing systems.

What are all the numbers? Are these the frequencies?

Yup. In general, people can hear sounds as low as 20 Hz and as high as 20 000 Hz (that’s 20 kHz). A ten-band equalizer just splits this range in ten, and that’s where the 32 Hz, 64 Hz, and so on come from.

I can’t hear 32 Hz! What’s up?

Some speakers and headphones don’t present the full range of audio. That’s why, by default, hearEQ doesn’t include all frequencies in the training. (You can easily add them in with a tap.) To find out what’s audible and what’s not on your speakers/headphones, check out the app’s “Learn” tool.

Is it better to practice with headphones or speakers?

The short answer is both. A decent-quality set of speakers or headphones in a quiet environment will help you to really focus, and should be a foundation of your practice. But, in addition to that, you can gain some really valuable insights—and skill—by practicing with background noise (like while you’re on the subway), poor quality speakers, or other non-ideal circumstances. You’ll learn how to listen deeply despite audio distraction or sound quality, and as a musician or live sound engineer, that’s a pretty well-used skill.

What’s pink noise?

It’s a type of audio noise, which is that sound you hear when an old radio is stuck between channels. You know, that KSHHHH sound. What makes pink noise special is that the volume of the lows (like 32 or 64 Hz) is the same as the highs (like 16 kHz). Or, more technically: “pink noise has the same amount of power in each octave.” Anyways, because it’s a balanced sound, it’s a lot less hissy and it’s great for ear training. Interestingly, it’s called “pink” because doing the same thing to visible light (i.e., same power in each octave) leads to… pink light!

What’s dB?

From some of the questions above, you know frequency measures how high-pitched or low-pitched a sound is. A baby’s cry is more high frequency; an attacking bear is lower frequency. A frequency value lets us put a number on pitch. A decibel, or dB, does the same thing for volume. It’s a measure of volume—more dB means more complaints from the neighbours. One more thing: the number 6. It’s sort of like a magic number for decibels. Want to double the volume of something? You could say you’re turning it up by 6 dB. What about if you wanted to cut the volume by half? That’d be the same as –6 dB. By default, hearEQ boosts and cuts frequencies by 12 dB—that’s a 4x boost in volume and a cut to 1/4 volume.

Why are tracks a little quieter in hearEQ?

The track volume in hearEQ is reduced (just a little bit) to allow for frequency boosts. Otherwise, if you try and boost the volume of an already-loud track, it’ll start to distort. And that’s not pleasant.

Can I play Apple Music tracks in hearEQ?

The tracks you download from Apple Music are stored as “protected tracks” by Apple. This means that hearEQ is unable to carry out its processing on them. That said, we’re keeping an eye on this and as soon as Apple allows processing of protected tracks, you can expect to see this capability added to hearEQ!

I have a suggestion for the app, or a question about how to use it. Who should I contact?

Us! And please do, we’d love to hear from you. You can send us a note right from the contact form.