An equalizer (EQ) can help you shape the sound that comes out of your stereo system. While the right pair of aftermarket car speakers is vital in producing high-quality sound output, the best car equalizer can allow you to select and fine-tune certain frequencies, making them clearer, sharper, mellower, stronger…etc. As a result, they give you way more control than what the bass, treble and midrange settings in a typical stereo system can provide.
Being the ‘mechanic’ and ‘car guru’ among my friends, I often help them with replacements and performing maintenance and tune-ups. Recently, I had a friend ask me about which car equalizer I’d recommend he buy which led me to do some in-depth research on what were the best units you could buy this year. Needless to say, I got my hands on around ten different equalizers, tested them for a couple of days each and managed to shortlist a top five.
You can read my review of each below.
Choosing The Right Car Equalizer
Before we get to the reviews, I want to talk a bit about how you would go around picking the right equalizer. There are a few important factors to consider which we’ll take a look at now:
Car equalizers come in two main types: graphic and parametric.
Graphic equalizers are quite simple, often featuring one control or slider for each frequency band present. These sliders allow you to either cut down that particular frequency or boost it in the mix.
The number of bands and therefore sliders present in the EQ can vary, depending on the make and model. For instance, five-band EQs will have five sliders, each responsible for manipulating a fixed frequency. This includes sub-bass (30 Hz), mid-bass (100 Hz), midrange (1000 Hz), upper midrange (10,000 Hz) and treble (20,000 Hz).
Likewise, a ten-band EQ will give you control of ten fixed frequencies. Usually, this includes bands that are in between the aforementioned once, which means you get even greater control of the entire frequency spectrum.
One important thing to note with graphics EQs is that when you manipulate one slider, it’ll also have a slight effect on the neighbouring bands, with the closest ones being affected the most. It’s easy to understand if you picture the entire EQ curve as a straightened piece of string placed on a flat surface. If you to try to push up one point in the string, it’ll create a slope where a tiny bit of length on either side of the peak is also pushed upwards.
Parametric equalizers allow you to manipulate more than just the levels of each frequency band. They also let you tweak the primary frequency and the bandwidth as well, both of which I’ll explain right now. A primary frequency is a frequency that sits right in the center, between the upper and lower cutoffs of a certain frequency band. When you’re adjusting levels in a band, this is the exact frequency that is manipulated.
Parametric EQs actually allow you to change the primary frequency so that you end up tweaking a different Hz value. For instance, if a slider is fixed at 20Hz, you can change its primary frequency to 10 Hz, 15Hz, 25Hz, 30Hz and so on. The ‘jumps’, whether it’s 1, 5 or 10 Hz, can vary depending on the make and model of the EQ.
Bandwidth or range refers to the sloping effect that occurs when you adjust a certain frequency.
Bandwidths can be either wide or narrow, determining what range of neighbouring frequencies will be affected. For instance, let’s say that you wish to tweak the 30Hz frequency. An EQ with a wide bandwidth may also affect the 15 Hz and 25Hz frequencies. In contrast, a narrow bandwidth might only affect the 25 Hz and 35Hz frequencies.
In summary, parametric EQs are more suited for people who want to fine-tune every little thing in the tone while graphic EQs are better for people who want some control but aren’t willing to spend a lot of time shaping the sound.
The Number Of Bands
As mentioned above, different EQs may come with varying numbers of sliders. The more sliders you have, the more control you get over the frequency spectrum. However, an EQ with a fewer number of bands is probably better for quick fixes, when you don’t want be tweaking every little frequency and you simply just want a spike in the midrange or a tiny treble cut.
A lot of people make the mistake of not checking what installation spaces are available in their vehicle before they go out and buy an Equalizer. Equalizers come with different mounts. For instance, dash-mounted EQs are quite popular and can be installed either on top or below the receiver. You can purchase special mounting brackets if you want to mount the EQ below the dash.
Certain EQs have filters (or crossovers) that separate low, middle and upper frequencies and set them to the correct sound driver in your speakers. For instance, the low frequencies will be sent to the woofer, the middle frequencies to the midrange driver and the high frequencies to the tweeter and a super tweeter (if the speaker has got one). This makes for better imaging in the sound, where the original panning of the recorded instruments is more accurately reproduced.
Component car speakers tend to have their own crossovers but if you’ve got a speaker that lacks one then an EQ with a filter can certainly make up for it.
In addition to sliders, EQs may also come with controls such as faders, volume and different inputs such as auxiliary inputs. Having a lot of additional controls can improve your ability to fine-tune even more but can add to the price of the product.
The Top Five Picks For 2019
Now that you’ve received a crash course on how to pick an EQ that will suit you best, let’s take a look at my top five picks for this year, starting with the:
- 1/2-DIN chassis graphic equalizer with built-in low-pass...
- 3.5mm Front aux input2-channel RCA aux input with variable gain...
- Blue illuminationindependent master volume and subwoofer level Control...
- Ground loop isolation circuit Dimensions: 7"(w)x4-1/4"(l)x1"(h)
If you’re an audiophile like me and you like to spend a lot of time crafting the perfect tone, then having seven bands would make you very happy. The Clarion EQS755 allows you to control the following fixed frequencies: 50 Hz, 125 Hz, 315 Hz, 750 Hz, 2200 Hz, 6000 Hz, and 16000 Hz. This covers everything from mid-bass to upper treble frequencies.
The EQS755 comes with both RCA and high-level speaker inputs, so you can hook it up to just about any old or new stereo system. In addition to these, it also has two auxiliary inputs: a traditional 1/8″ AUX in the front of the unit and RCA jacks in the rear. The latter comes with a variable gain control which allows you to add or cut down on distortion if needed. RCAs are quite useful for hooking up a video device or gaming console since 1/8″ AUX doesn’t support video.
It’s also got a low-pass filter which allows you to toggle the cutoff between 60 and 90Hz. This can help you control the bass and prevent it from sounding harsh at the lower or upper ranges.
8 Volt Outputs
All outputs in the Clarion EQS755 are powered at 8 volts, which is pretty standard for car equalizers. This makes sure that your amplifier and speaker receive a powerful but clear signal. I had no complaints about the audio quality whatsoever while using this equalizer.
- 7 bands give tons of versatility when tweaking, especially for a graphic EQ
- Clear, accurate audio output
- Low-pass filter helps clean up any ‘rough edges’ on the low end
- Easy Installation
- Compatible with old and new stereo systems
- I can’t really think of any
- Rockville R7EQ 1/2 Din 7 Band Car Audio Equalizer EQ w/ Front, Rear +...
- Each band is adjustable from -18dB to +18dB. Adjustable subwoofer...
- Built in 7 volt line driver. Blue LED lights on each rotary knob ....
- Amazing quality with low distortion (Built with top quality...
- Input impedance: 10K. Input sensitivity: 200mv per channel >7V. THD:...
Like the Clarion EQS755, the Rockville R7EQ also features 7 equalization bands. This includes 50 Hz, 125 Hz, 315 Hz, 750Hz, 2.2 kHz, 6 kHz and 12 kHz with each one being adjustable from -18 decibels to +18 decibels.
The R7EQ’s frequency response ranges from 20 Hz to 20 kHz, covering everything from sub-bass to the furthest extremes of the upper-treble frequencies. This was very useful whenever I put on my ‘rock classics’ playlist which featured a lot of high-pitched, belting vocals and distorted guitar riffs. I could easily make cuts at the upper frequencies in order to dial out any extra fizziness from the mix.
The Rockville R7EQ comes with a built-in crossover with subwoofer level and frequency controls from 40 Hz to 250 Hz. This helps to better separate the bass frequencies from the midrange and iron out any ‘harshness’ coming from the sub-bass region. I found this quite useful because I could easily crank up the sub-bass when I was listening to Electronic music and dim it when switching to classical or rock music.
At 7 volts, the power output is just slightly lower than the EQS755. However, this didn’t really seem to impact the quality of the sound as far as I could tell, with no noticeable loss in detail or clarity.
The Rockville R7EQ features:
- a standard 1/8 AUX input for connecting a Head unit
- a CD input for connecting a phone or MP3 player
- A dedicated subwoofer output
- Front and rear amplifier outputs
- 7-bands provide a lot of tweaking ability
- Frequency response covers the entire spectrum
- Built-in Crossover with subwoofer controls
- The knobs felt a little flimsy so I’d recommend handling them with care
- TOP RATED CAR AUDIO EQUALIZER | The EQ7X Massive Audio Car Stereo...
- MORE TUNING CONTROL | With Stellar features such as: Adjustable Master...
- SAY GOODBYE TO WHITE NOISE | Don't waste your time or money on cheap...
- EASY TO INSTALL. LONG LASTING. | The Massive Audio EQ7X Car Audio...
- MASSIVE AUDIO QUALITY | Since 1999, Massive Audio has been an industry...
7 Band EQ
Like the two aforementioned units, the Massive Audio EQ-7X also sports 7 equalization bands, each adjustable from -12dB to +12dB.
The EQ-7X features a low-pass crossover with cutoffs from 60Hz to 90Hz. This allowed me to really ‘tame’ those wild upper-bass frequencies and prevent the low-end from turning harsh. If you love listening to EDM music, then this is quite useful as it allows those low, thumping drone beats to come out with as much clarity as possible, without being overshadowed by white noise.
Gold-Coated RCA Terminals
Over the years I’ve seen many equalizers with corroded RCA terminals. Not only does this look bad, but it can also mess with the signal transmission at the inputs and outputs. Fortunately, the Massive Audio EQ-7X counters this with gold-coated terminals. With these, you can go years without having to clean any rust off of the unit.
8 Volt Output
The Massive Audio EQ-7X features subwoofer and RCA outputs powered at 8 volts, meaning the signal sent to an amplifier will be powerful enough to produce a sharp and clear sound output.
The EQ-7X gives you the option to toggle the colour of the LED indicators between blue and red. While this isn’t a performance-enhancing feature, I can certainly how it can make the unit look more attractive. In addition, it can be quite useful if you’re trying to adjust the settings in dim-light conditions. After all, we all want out car interiors to look as good as possible!
- 7 Equalization bands
- Low maintenance due to the corrosion-free RCA terminals
- Low-pass filter gives more control over the bass frequencies
- Switchable LED Illumination
- Some may find the LED lights to be a bit too bright and annoying. A couple of my friends certainly did
- Front Adjustable EQ Band Frequencies: 125 Hz, 500 Hz, 3.5 kHz, 12 kHz
- Rear Adjustable EQ Bands Frequencies: 50 Hz, 600 Hz, 6.3 kHz
- Switchable Subwoofer Filter 32 Hz – 128 Hz, Frequency Response 10 Hz...
- Inputs: Dual 2 Channel Source. Outputs: Front, Rear & Sub. Fader...
- Gain + / - 18 dB, Maximum Input Voltage 15 Volts, Maximum Output...
I do tend to prefer 7-band EQ units. If you’re not the type of person that likes tinkering with so many frequency controls, then the AVA1210 also comes in a 4-band version. The equalizer bands in the AVA1210 are 50Hz, 125 Hz, 500 Hz, 600 Hz, 3.5 kHz, 6.3 Hz and 12 kHz, covering everything in the spectrum from sub-bass to extended highs. These frequencies can be cut or boosted up to 18dB, which puts the AVA1210 in the same league as the Rockville R7EQ.
Subwoofer Output Volume and Frequency Controls
The included Subwoofer volume control lets you adjust the volume of the frequencies between 32 Hz and 128 Hz. This allows you to really crank up the bass when you want to and dim it down otherwise, without having to mess with the frequency controls.
The subwoofer frequency control allowed me to eliminate really low sub-bass frequencies whenever I needed just by setting the cut off a bit high. This can come in handy for particular if you notice that your speakers are straining to process really bass frequencies leading to a muddled low end.
Gold-Plated RCA Terminals
If you don’t want to have to take out your EQ and give its terminals a thorough cleaning from time to time, then gold-plated RCA terminals are the way to go.
8 Volt Output
The maximum voltage the AVA1210 will output is pretty standard at 8 volts.
- 7 Bands for optimal fine-tuning
- Corrosion-free RCA terminals
- Subwoofer controls for eliminating harshness in the low-end
- The build didn’t feel as durable as the other units on this list
- 2 selectable balanced inputs & front panel aux input
- 4 bands 18Db parametric equalizer
- Independent volume & fader control
- 1 Db/Octave Pre-Amp
- Isolated Pwm Power Supply
The Power Acoustik PWM-16 is the only unit on this list with just 4 adjustable equalization bands. This is perfect for anyone who’s not looking to fine-tune to their tone to the last detail and simply want a usable sound with minimum tweaking. Each band can be cut or boosted up to 18db.
Blue LED Illumination
As soon as you turn on the Power Acoustik PWM-16, it lights up behind the knobs in a bright blue shade. While I personally like this sort of lighting in EQ units, I imagine there are some people that would find it annoying.
Subwoofer Volume and Frequency Control
The Power Acoustik PWM-16 lets you roll down the sub-bass or cut it off completely on the fly which is extremely convenient if a song’s already playing and it’s sounding a bit too fizzy on the low-end.
8 Volt Output
Nothing special here; just a standard power output that sends through all the details in the music without any weak spots.
- Solid construction and easy installation
- 4 equalization bands give you a high-quality sound without the need to tweak things to death
- Subwoofer volume and frequency controls help optimize the low-end to your liking
- The blue LED lighting might be annoying to some or not fit in with certain car interior aesthetics
The Best Overall Car Equalizer..
Choosing my favourite EQ out of these five was not easy. In terms of sound quality, you can’t really go wrong with any of the units on this list. They were all quite responsive and I was able to get the exact tones I wanted out of each EQ. So it wasn’t so much a matter of which sounded the best.
However, ultimately, I chose the BOSS Audio Systems AVA1210 Parametric Equalizer. Here are my reasons:
First of all, I found the frequency response of the unit to be nothing short of excellent, covering all bases from the extreme lows to the extreme highs. The included subwoofer level and frequency controls really helped me take control of the low-end. If there was a bass-heavy song that my speakers were having trouble with I could simply increase the cutoff of the low pass filter and dial out the sub-bass. At the same time, the lower cutoff wasn’t so high that I could never any of the extreme low-end if I wanted to.
The unit featured pretty much all the ins and outs that you could need in an equalizer. I was able to toggle between my stereo and phone with ease thanks to the dedicated phone/CD input. Another thing I really liked was the inclusion of gold-coated RCA terminals. This meant that I could go years without having to worry about corroded terminals interfering with signal transmissions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the answers to some questions that people are constantly asking me about car equalizers.
How Do You Hook Up A Car Equalizer?
First of all, you need to determine where you’re going to mount the unit. Ideally, this should be a place where you can reach it easily, like under the dash. If your car has an extra DIN slot in the center console, then you could mount it there instead.
Next, place the mounting bracket against the installation spot and mark the positions of the screw holes. Drill through these positions but makes sure not to go too far with the drill bit. Following that, position the mounting bracket and secure it in place with screws.
Lastly, we need to connect the wiring, starting with input wires. Follow your speaker wires and cut them at a spot that’s close to the equalizer and then join the right and left positive and negative wires to the correct input wires on the equalizer. The same goes for the output wires. Now, all that’s left is to disconnect the battery earth lead and connect the equalizer’s live wire feed to a good earth point.
What Hz Is Best For Bass?
Typically the audible bass frequency spectrum is from 20 Hz to 250Hz. See below for a more elaborate explanation of what frequency bands control what area of the low-end.
Should You Use An Equalizer?
If you’ve gone through several aftermarket car speakers and you’re still not satisfied with the sound you’re getting, then perhaps what you need is the ability to fine-tune the tone. In that case, an equalizer is a good solution. If you’re not much of an audiophile or don’t regularly listen to music in the car, then you probably don’t need one.
What Is The Best Setting For Equalizer?
That depends entirely on your personal preferences and what’s missing in the sound coming through your particular set of car speakers. That being said, here’s a guide on what each slider controls:
- 32Hz – this controls the sub-bass which can’t really hear properly unless you’ve got a subwoofer.
- 64Hz – this controls the levels of most bass drums and bass instruments in the mix.
- 125Hz to 250 Hz – these two sliders still control the low-end but what it does mainly is adding that ‘boom’ sound to bass instruments. These sliders also affect the low end in guitars and pianos.
- 500Hz – controls the lower-midrange frequencies, some low-end in the vocals as well as some mids in bass instruments.
- 1K – controls the low-midrange in most instruments.
- 2K – controls the ‘nasal’ quality in voices.
- 4K – controls the upper-midrange of most instruments.
- 8K – controls the treble range of cymbals and high-hats as well as vocals and some synths.
- 16K – controls the amount of ‘sizzle’ in the music.
How Can I Get More Bass In My Car?
I’d recommend cranking up the subwoofer levels to your liking and boosting the bass frequency sliders.
The products featured on this page were last updated on 2020-01-23 at 14:29 /. Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.