I’m a music lover that has some issues with the sound quality I get from my iPhone. Thanks to the fact that no two speakers (or headsets) sound the same, I can’t get the same amount of satisfaction from the default Music player app wherever I play it. To be more specific, the iPod speaker dock I have at home isn’t crisp enough, the in-ear headset I use when I’m walking around offers too much high-end treble, and the standard entertainment system I have in my car pumps out too much bass (to be fair, some people pay a lot to get booming bass from their in-car audio, but personally, I prefer clarity). Left unsatisfied with the integrated equalizer presets available on the iPhone – which is pretty hard to get to, since you have to change the presets from the iPhone’s settings page – I decided to scour the App Store for something that offers manual equalizer settings and an easy interface. I believe I found a winner: elephantcandy’s EQu app.
EQu is basically a music player that replaces the main screen interface – usually made up of music control buttons and album art – with an interface that shows the sound spectrum. Layered on top of the visual sound levels is a line that you can shape by dragging the points to get the sound you want. Despite the number of buttons, sliders and drop-down boxes on the main interface, it’s a pretty simple interface that you should get the hang of quickly enough.
The low-end is at the left of the spectrum, while the high-end frequencies are at the right. Using your finger, you can set the line up or down to highlight the parts of the song you’re listening to. For example, drawing a shape that looks roughly like an ‘N’ will get you a bass-heavy sound, while raising the right side of the curve (a reverse-‘N’, I suppose) will get you a crisp sound for highlighting snares and high-hat hits.
To get you started, the app comes with a number of presets that you can select, or a manual mode where you can shape your own sound on-the-fly. Favorite settings can be saved, which allowed me to shape three presets that I can quickly switch to depending on where I’m using it. To solve my earlier issues, I set the bass low when I’m driving, I raised the bass and mid-range when I’m using my earphones, and I raise the treble when the iPhone’s hooked up to my speaker dock.
The three-preset system I use isn’t perfect though. I have an old gripe regarding certain tracks — or in this case, certain artists. I’ve always wished for a remastered version of Jimi Hendrix’s old albums, which, by today’s standards, lack a certain bit of “pop” thanks to the garage-y recording process they used back then. No disrespect to Jimi, but I love how this app lets me lower the mid-range and add a bit of treble to make it a bit more crisp. While we’re at it, I also loved how the app lets me balance out the shrill harmonica that Dylan uses on some of his hits (the harmonica parts used to physically hurt when I’m listening to them through my in-ears).
Thanks to the interface, it’s a hundred times easier to get the sound you want without having to go through a number of menus – it’s definitely safer when I’m driving, since I don’t have to look at it (at least not much) to set. Unfortunately, if you’re the type who has a playlist that mixes songs from different genres, you’re going to want to tweak the sound curve on just about every song you’re playing now – I found myself constantly tweaking the curve on every song; raising the middle tones for grunge and alternative music, tweaking the bass on hip-hop tracks – but at least you get it exactly the way you want it.
Play/pause and track skip buttons are on top, along with shuffle and repeat toggles and the sliders for volume and track time. At the bottom, you get an interface toggle that switches between the sound spectrum and album art, and a scroll-box for selecting presets. A playlist button up top will take you to a screen where you can sort through songs, albums, and playlists, while settings are at the bottom.
The rest of the app’s features are pretty similar to what you’d get from just about any other available music player app (including the stock Music app that the iPhone comes with); it supports AirPlay and Bluetooth streaming, it properly mutes the music when you get an incoming call, and it automatically loads the songs and playlists from the iPhone’s music library, which makes it a cinch to use. Just download the app, and you’re good to go.
The settings screen also comes with a nifty feature that isn’t necessary, but certainly appreciated: a customization screen that’ll let you tweak the colors used on the interface, from the button and background color to the text and spectrum lines. This let me match the interface colors with the blue-and-white backlighting on my car’s dash – again, an unnecessary, but awesome feature that made it look like it was part of the in-car entertainment system.
Probably the only downside I can see is that it doesn’t allow you to create playlists on-the-go. It’s easily solved by creating your playlists on the stock Music app (which EQu will automatically detect and list) though, so it’s a minor issue. I’d also prefer an easier iTunes-like way of searching for songs or artists with a search bar. Other than that, I’ve got no complaints here.
EQu is a universal app that supports both the iPhone and iPad (specifically, it’ll ONLY work with the iPhone 3GS, 4 and 4S, iPod touch 3rd and 4th-gen, and all iPad versions), and is available on the App Store for $2.99. While I wish it could have been cheaper (or downright free), it’s three bucks that’s well-spent. Just based on the number of times (and situations) that I use it, and the fact that it makes Jimi and Dylan’s old tracks sound 10 times better, it’s worth every penny.
Download EQu for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch [iTunes link].