Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Westone 4R Neutral/Hi-Fi EQ Settings!

I recently bought a pair or Westone 4R in-ear monitor headphones/earphones. These are an excellent set of earphones. However, like practically any IEM (in ear monitor) they are not truly "flat" or "reference" in tone or frequency response. This matters because having a flat frequency response allows you to hear music as closely as possible to the way it was recorded and intended to be heard.

Without equalization they are still very good, but adding some EQ can help any IEM tremendously. In the case of the Westone 4R, the main detriment to the sound quality is a bit of bloat in the mid bass frequencies. This causes some of the details to be masked and harder to pick out. It gives the earphones a warm and smooth sound, but strays from being neutral because of this.

The easiest way to fix this is by simply cutting the mid/bass frequencies around 200hz. This will immediately makes things clearer and more precise/neutral. You could stop there, but if you are a discerning listener, as you probably are purchasing such an IEM, you probably want the best sound you can get. So how do we get there?

I started the process by examining online frequency graphs of the IEMs response curve. I primarily used the graph found on the en.goldenears.net website:


This is based off of measurements they make with specialized IEM testing equipment. These measurements show how far from neutral the IEM is by default with no EQ. While there are small disputes as to what constitutes a "flat" response, these graphs are fairly accurate. You can read how they measure IEMs on their site if you want more info on that. Anyhow, I'm writing this to provide what I consider a very neutral EQ setting for the 4R on an iPod touch using the free Denon EQ app. However, this also translates to any EQ on any platform with a few caveats.

First, this article assumes the device you are using has roughly a 1ohm or less output impedance. This is important, because the 4R's sound, like most balanced armature earphones, is strongly affected by the output impedance of your device. That is an article for another day, but suffice to say, with the 4R higher impedance essentially boosts the treble region.

The basic idea behind these EQ settings is to inverse the frequencies that stray from neutral based on the graphs. Goldenears has an iPod app "Accudio" that actually does this automatically based on their measurements. This works very well, and I based my EQ settings off of the Accudio neutral setting by ear.

So, basically, enter these settings into the Denon EQ app and you should have a much more neutral "hi-fi" listening experience with your 4R. For other apps, the decibel levels and width of each band of frequency may differ. However, with a little trial and error and careful listening, you should be able to translate the settings to another app fairly easily. If you are unsure of how to accurately input these settings, simply use any EQ app and reduce the 200Hz frequency area about 1-2 dB with a medium size width/band (so the adjustment you make isn't very narrow or wide, but sort of in the middle) and you will get the most benefit from the least amount of effort.

Please try these setting and let me know what you think of them. Give them some time. Get used to them. Do some comparisons and enjoy your music!

Denon iPod Touch App - Westone 4R Neutral EQ

33hz 2.6db
54hz 2.0db
80hz 0.8db
227hz 0.2db
540hz 1.3db
1024hz 2.6db
3517hz 3.9db
7429hz 3.3db
1530hz 3.6db

The result should look very similar to this:





You can see, for the most part, it is roughly an exact invert of the humps in the measured graph from goldenears. Ears may differ in canal shape slightly and require slight alterations, but in general it should be very close.

The biggest and quickest improvement to the 4R is simply cutting the mid bass hump as seen in the EQ. This makes a drastic improvement in clarity and depth. The rest is more refining the neutrality to be more exacting.

The most noticeable improvement is that treble sounds more realistic. Crisp drums and shakers and metal noises sound very 3d and realistic compared to the soft treble the earphones have by default. The bass is punchier while being level in volume with the rest of the spectrum, essentially unclouded by the mid bass hump that existed pre-EQ. I can also say that I don't believe Accudio is doing anything weird to the audio or lowering the quality much if any. Based on my eq adjustments things sound very similar which would seem to indicate accudio is strictly applying eq.

You can raise the entire EQ in the Denon app up and down to match the typical overall ipod volume to prevent clipping, which seems pretty rare in the Denon app unless you blast the eq curves high.

Anyhow, this is pretty easy to replicate quickly in any eq app once you know the basic areas to adjust. It might take a little more time to match it closely like I tried to with Accudio, but I find it is worth it. Things sounds very accurate and precise and neutral.

Hope that helps if anyone is looking to better EQ their 4R.

Oh, and for the record, I've been using the medium grey foam tips. They sound smoother to me than the silicone. The silicon has better treble with no EQ, but the foam has the best overall frequency smoothness to me, and with the EQ the treble is excellent. I'm also no longer using the headphone volume control adapter. The impedance of the adapter does indeed make a noticeable improvement in treble and attenuation in lows, as mentioned earlier, however while this is good using them without EQ, Accudio and my EQ settings are based on the normal signature of the phones directly connected to the iPod, or theoretically any device with an output impedance of 1 Ohm or less.



  1. Hi, I'm trying to adjust the eq for denon for my ue900. How to make sense of the graphs in goldenear to know what to adjust to for the neutral setting?

  2. Hey,
    I use the accudio graphs, because they are less "adjusted" and easier to follow, although you can get pretty much the same idea from the main graphs.

    Here is the accudio compensation:

    For whatever reason, they don't always fully compensate the frequency response with accudio. You'll notice the treble isn't brought all the way back up. I ignore that accudio line all together. Just look at the green line of the ue900 (which is surprisingly similar to the w4r). Now compare the green response line at each major frequency (10, 20... 100, 200... 1000, 2000, etc.) and look at roughly how high or low the line is compared to the center line.

    For instance, you can see that the bulk of the mid bass of the ue900 is around 500hz. And at that point it is about 7-7.5db above the center line. So start by using a good eq app and make 500hz -7db to counteract the extra mid bass. Unfortunately, not every eq app applies the exact same actual amount of db levels. So it helps if you know what a good speaker or studio monitor sounds like to begin with. Anyway, take the 3 or 4 main bumps and dips in that green line and adjust them like you did with the first point.

    Next, you should adjust your "q" width of your eq app for each point you've made. Usually the bigger the "!" number the wider the area it affects. I would start with a very small number and listen to how much it affects the sound. Then make it very big and listen to get a sense of how much it affects the sound. Then slide it around until it sounds right.

    You can use my w4r eq settings as a guide, because the ue900 is similar enough overall. Keep in mind other eq apps might need more or less level adjustment. The denon app seems to exaggerate the db values. In another app I would have the values half as much to get the same sound. That's basically the way to do it. Hope that helps somewhat...