The Apple Music App has an okay (i.e., usable) equalizer with plenty of presets for the average user. It can help compensate for the small speakers on your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro or fine-tune the bass and treble in your headphones to your personal tastes. But what if you listen to Spotify on your Mac? What about YouTube or streaming music in a web browser? Unfortunately, there is no built-in EQ for Safari, nor is there a way to control the EQ on a system-wide basis. But you’re not entirely out of luck!
The EQ Problem: System Audio
When I work from home (WFH), I like a little background noise. It actually helps keep me focussed. Often it is in the form of a random news channel on the TV, or (unfortunately not during the COVID-19 shutdown) a Cubs game lilting just within earshot. I know that a lot of people like to listen to music while they work, but I am not one of them. Because I am a musician, I find it very difficult to not pay attention to the music.
This morning, I decided to fire up wgnradio.com (a local talk station) on my iMac as I was working on my MacBook Pro. Yikes! It was woofy, boomy, muddy, and very distracting. I needed to EQ the audio, but as mentioned above, I couldn’t. So I did a little searching, found a solution, and thought I’d pass it along in case you run up against the same issue. And the best thing is that it’s free!
The EQ Solution: eqMac
What I stumbled across was a very light and straightforward app called eqMac. It took only a few minutes to download and install, and in no time, the low-end was rolled off, and mids boosted slightly on my iMac. The spoken audio instantly had more clarity and was much less muffled. There are plenty of other applications out there such as Boom, Audio Hijack, and Airfoil, but if you are looking for an easy to use and free equalizer without a lot of bells and whistles, the open-source eqMac just might fit the bill for you as it did for me!
How to Install eqMac
1) Download and open the .dmg file from http://eqmac.app
2) Drag the eqMac.app file into your Applications folder.
3) Launch the Application. For security reasons, you will be asked if you want to open it.
4) The software will need to install an audio driver. Click “OK.”
5) You will be prompted to enter an administrator name and password because the driver that is being installed will be done at the system level. Do so and click “OK.”
6) Watch the spinning wheel for a bit while it installs. But don’t go out for lunch, it’s quick.
7) You will be informed that eqMac needs permission to use your computer’s microphone. This is necessary because that is how the audio will be routed. Don’t worry, it doesn’t actually do anything strange like play the sound through the speaker and then pick it up again via the internal microphone. It’s just the input for the system audio source, which in this case, is eqMac. Click “Proceed.”
8) The system will now prompt you to allow eqMac access to the microphone. Click “OK.”
How to Use eqMac to Adjust the System Audio
Now is the fun part! You will find yourself looking at the default “Basic Equalizer” window, showing the EQ setting as “Flat.” All this means is that no EQ is being applied. If you only want to make a few simple tweaks and be on your way, you can raise or lower Bass, Mid, and Treble by adjusting the virtual knobs.
If you want a little more control of specific frequencies, or (and this is important!) access to presets adjusted for various music genres and presentation EQ’s, click the arrow to the right of “Basic Equalizer” to bring up the “Advanced Equalizer.” You will see a respectable 10-band equalizer for your tweaking pleasure.
Not comfortable with your mixing chops, or just feeling lazy? Click the gear icon to the right of “Advanced Equalizer,” and in the settings pop-up, click “Import Presets.”
It’s not instant, and I don’t think you are alerted when it’s finished, but in a few moments, you will see close to two dozen EQ presets like Dance, Acoustic, RnB, Rock, and Spoken Word (yay). This should make your ears happy as it did mine.
One thing to note is that you will need to be in the “Advanced Equalizer” section if you want to boost your computer’s overall gain. In the upper left corner of the window is a volume knob, but all that does is adjust the volume like the controls on your keyboard or Touch Bar. To increase the system-level gain (and blow your speakers if you’re not careful), adjust the “Global” slider to you and your ears’ liking.
The EQ Conclusion: Happy Listening
No, this isn’t a paid advertisement for eqMac, but I really do dig how lightweight and easy it is to install and use. It quickly and efficiently solved my problem well enough. If you’re like me and just want a few adjustments on the fly, it may be right for you as well!
If you have run into issues with how the system audio sounds on your Mac, how have you dealt with it? Have you used a 3rd-party EQ program or utility? If so, what is your favorite app of choice? Let us know in the comments section below!