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What is a Parametric EQ?

A parametric EQ is a powerful tool that gives you ultimate control over your sound. Let's break down how exactly that's done and how it can be used to your advantage.

No doubt you've heard of Sonar if you looked at our products before (and if you haven't, that's okay -- it just came out of Early Access). It's a powerful suite of audio tools that serves to make any headset you have better, as it works not only with SteelSeries headsets. But when we use terms like equalizer, Parametric EQ, frequencies, what does all that exactly mean?

What is an equalizer?

A standard equalizer in iTunes

Old-school iTunes equalizer

First of all, an equalizer is a tool that allows you to hear more or less of a sound from a specific frequency range, which means you can tune what kind of details you want to hear more and which less.

However, the impacted frequencies are set on specific ranges: 32 Hz, 64Hz, etc. If you happened to have sounds occuring on something in between, for example, like at 3.2KHz, you wouldn't be able to make impactful adjustments for that specific sound range.

What is a Parametric EQ?

Sonar Parametric EQ

Now, all the sound frequencies become your playing field. While you still adjust 10 bands like in a standard equalizer, each band has more aspects of control, as you can shift the frequencies and selectively boost or lower them.

In the image above, you can see the "Game" equalizer in Sonar, which indicates that we are only affecting sound that is coming from the game you are playing. To the left, we have the decibel scale, which shows us how loud or quiet we want each band to be (the amplitude). That's just like in a regular equalizer, but this is where the similarities end.

Each of the colorful dots represent the bands, and we can shift those left and right to adjust the center frequency of each. This means you can shift something from a sub bass to a bass, or move everything to upper mids and highs. You have complete freedom over your sound, unbound from the typical frequencies of a regular equalizer, allowing you to boost any kind of sound.

Q Factor

Q factor lets you isolate the specific frequency even more. You can fine tune this very precisely and reduce the impact on neighboring frequencies. Let's illustrate this.

Fortnite Low Q

Let's say you're playing Fortnite, and you want the drinking sound to be boosted. You can move the dot up to raise to amplify it, though that's not very precise. Look how the hill forms and impacts other frequencies as well, which means we are boosting other audio as well.

Fortnite High Q

Notice how the hill is a lot sharper with a high Q value (10,000). And you can make it even louder by pulling that dot higher. Now we increased the sound frequency of drinking without impacting other sounds too much. This is the kind of "magical precision" we get with a Parametric EQ.

Keep the Q numbers low when you don't really want any particular sounds to stand out, like when you're trying to immerse yourself with the full background sounds, for example.

Filter Type

By clicking on the dot, we can also set filters. On the right side of the little window, you can see words such as "Peaking EQ." Click on it to reveal a little dropdown.

High Pass Filter

A high pass filter essentially eliminates all the sounds below the threshold that we chose, meaning all the frequencies "to the left." This means that a lot of background and bass sounds disappear in favor of the ones that might be relevant to your game. While you can do this manually by controlling the band, the filters do this job for you with a couple of clicks.

Low Pass

The low pass filter does the opposite, as all the frequencies above the treshold we set will be gradually eliminated from our soundscape.

Notch Filter

If you want to eliminate a certain sound in the middle of your preset, you can do so with this filter.

There are a few more filters you can use, but the point is to show you just how much control you have over pretty much every aspect of your sound. Whenever you are done creating your own unique setup, you can save it and easily recall it with the Sonar dropdowns.

Sonar saving a preset

Click the three dot icon next to the presets, and select "Add New," then give it a unique name. From that point on, you will be able to load your sound setting with a click.

This still sounds a little bit complicated... How can I make this easy?

If you aren't the kind of person who likes to tinker with settings, we have prepared a number of audio presets for games like CS:GO, Fortnite, Valorant, and many more, in consultation with the pros. Simply select them from the dropdown menu, and they will be instantly applied. You can still adjust any kind of settings you want after that.

Sonar options below

Once you select your preferred preset, you can still adjust it in any way you want. Note the three sliders below the EQ chart: Bass, Voice, and Treble. Simply slide them left or right to enhance each one, and you'll see the shifts live in the EQ screen.

Sonar can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. A parametric EQ is something that's used by professionals, but it's available to you at no cost.

OK, so how does this help me win?

CS GO Highlight

By adjusting the sound coming out of the game, the Parametric EQ helps you focus on what's important to your ears.

In the image above, take a look at how the preset is adjusted specifically for CS:GO. The presets are selected at the top left. If you click the drop down arrow on the right, and select the same game, the names at the top switch to sounds relevant to CS:GO.

The frequencies of the background sounds that aren't important (labeled "immersion") are decreased, so they don't interefere. The footsteps, on the other hand, are elevated to increase your awareness of your surroundings.

Finally, see how the bomb sounds are highlighted. Not only is it boosted with the decibels, but the Q filter is also raised to a high value to really accentuate it. This way, you'll be sure to hear those beeps.

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