April 29, 2009, by Mark Frink
This is the 40th anniversary of Altec Lansing’s passive third-octave “continuous” equalizer that began modern sound system equalization.
It didn’t start as a graphic equalizer, but rather, was three rows of eight knobs on third octave centers. A companion third-octave real-time analyzer, three rows of eight VU meters, provided a means to measure a sound system.
Subsequent Altec EQs replaced the knobs with a row of sliders, earning the name “graphic” because their positions provide a graphic display of the equalizer’s response.
Today the favored device to quickly equalize temporary sound systems is still a graphic equalizer, whose third-octave filters on standardized frequencies give engineers a consistent set of EQ controls, as well as providing a universal vocabulary for describing a wide range of audio tones.
I won’t argue that there aren’t better ways of equalizing and optimizing the response of a sound system, but when time is tight, a good graphic EQ in the hands of a good engineer is usually “good enough.”
A quarter-century ago, Crown’s Techron division unveiled the TEF System 10, the first portable Time Delay Spectrometry acoustical measurement system. Now owned by Gold Line, TEF provides near anechoic measurements due to its tracking filter.
Two decades ago, Meyer Sound developed source independent Fast-Fourier Transform measurement using Hewlett-Packard’s 3582A dual-channel FFT analyzer, released as SIM II in 1992 and updated in 2003 as SIM 3.
SIA Software (now Rational Acoustics) Smaart put FFT onto laptop computers one decade ago, providing high-definition measurement to the average sound engineer.
More recently, the new Studio Six Digital FFT iPhone application puts single-channel FFT measurement into the hands of the masses.
With higher resolution, it becomes obvious that some frequency response problems aren’t fixable with the average equalizer, whether graphic or parametric.
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