The Best iTunes and iOS EQ Settings for the HomePod

As I pointed out in my early review of the HomePod, some music sounds very good, but a lot doesn’t. The reason for this is Apple’s digital signal processing (DSP) that tweaks the sound toward the low end, combined with the fact that the mid-range on this device is weak. You can’t change this when streaming from Apple Music or iCloud Music Library, but you can adjust the equalizer if you stream from iTunes or an iOS device.

In this article, I explain how to use the iTunes equalizer. I’ve found that the best preset to compensate for the HomePod’s unbalanced sound is Vocal Booster. This setting lowers the bass a bit and heightens the midrange, fixing what the HomePod gets wrong.

Itunes eq

On iTunes, you can further tweak this setting, as you see above, in ten different frequency bands. It’s probably not worth the trouble, but feel free to roll your own. The problem is that on iOS, you can’t create custom EQ settings; you can only use the presets. If you got to Settings > Music, then the Playback section, you’ll see the EQ menu. Choose a preset here.

Ios eq

Naturally, you may want to have that extra bass at times: when you’re having a party, or if you’re listening to music that really benefits from strong bass (hip-hop, reggae, etc.). In these cases, you’ll be happy with what the HomePod plays natively. And you may even like the extra bass the HomePod adds. But if you don’t, if you want more neutral sound, at least you can adjust it, when streaming from iTunes or an iOS device.

2 thoughts on “The Best iTunes and iOS EQ Settings for the HomePod

  1. That detailed reddit review (linked from @Asymco) notes that Apple builds in a fancy form of “loudness compensation” that shifts the sound profile according to the loudness.

    Human ears are known to be much less sensitive to lower frequencies at lower volumes, relative to mid-frequencies. See
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness_compensation
    and the chart at
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudness

    The reviewer worked around this by cranking the HomePod up to 100%, then reducing the strength of the input signal to prevent the HomePod from boosting the bass unnecessarily.

    You seem not the first to be tricked: the Consumer Reports prelim ALSO finds a boomy, muddy bass that specs indicate should be crystal clear.

    The trick of tweaking two different volume levels strikes me as a bit of a kludge, one that Apple should explain or better address.

    Disclaimer: I haven’t yet gotten my ears on one. Yet.

    • Most people don’t realize that the Loudness knob on an amplifier or receiver is not meant to be used all the time, but only at lower volumes. This isn’t new; it’s a well known psychoacoustic phenomenon.

      In my review of the HomePod, I called this continuous variable loudness, which is the term that Yamaha uses for it. It’s not that common, but my Yamaha receiver has this feature, and it’s very good.

      It’s good that Apple has included this; it makes a big difference at low volumes.

Leave a Comment