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Equalizers: Mixin’ Control
Making up a large part of the mess of dials and switches that appear on a soundboard, the equalizer is one of the DJ’s most valuable tools. Read on for Groupon's study the equalizer's role in producing smooth sound.
Not all music venues are created equal. Some are short and shallow, others cavernous, prone to echoes and deep, full sounds. Even less predictable are the shapes of cars, bedrooms, dance clubs, and other spaces where people blast tunes—a disparity that can make any given song sound completely different depending on where it’s played. Enter the equalizer, a piece of audio equipment that helps even out the sound to compensate for these differences. Plenty of audio equipment, including car radios, phones, and CD players, already have built-in equalizers, and DJs regularly use professional-grade equalizers when playing music in unfamiliar venue or trying to seamlessly mix together two discordant songs.
Every song is a combination of sounds, each with its own high, middle, or low frequency. Equalizers turn these frequencies up ("boost") or down ("cut"), depending on how the DJ wants the track to hit our eardrums. The equalizer's job is to divide these frequencies into different bands, which the DJ then controls through dials. Better equipment means more bands and more manual control to boost or cut the various frequencies in a song to suit the venue or the tracks being mixed.
For humans, low-frequency sounds are the hardest to hear. These sounds include the bass-heavy thumps that typify dance and house music and ghosts’ late-night square dancing. Because they’re harder to hear, though, these frequencies often need to be played at a louder volume, and equalizing them is necessary to avoid distortion caused by turning their volume up so high. It’s the job of the DJ to balance harder-to-hear, low frequency sounds with melodic, middle frequency sounds and easier-to-hear, high frequency sounds. When performed correctly, equalizing makes a DJ’s spontaneous mash-ups sound like a single, professionally produced track.