[HowTo] Improve your audio with software equalization, the easy way!

Preface

If you’re like most users who are familiar with Microsoft Windows, you probably know you have a software equalizer as part of your driver software for your PC audio hardware or installed by you, the end-user. If you’re like some people, you actually care about it. And if you’re like some other people who gave qpaeq a try, you’ll find it’s difficult to use.

The next best thing — PulseEffects — requires an audio engineering degree before that can be used to its full potential. Worst yet, if it’s configured as a system audio equalization solution, it may crash on certain hardware and leave you with no audio, which isn’t a good thing to occur in a party setting.

If you don’t want your instance of Manjaro to sound like its audio is coming from a tin can and thought to yourself Gosh, the audio when I use Linux sure does suck, then this guide will assist in installation of an easy-to-use and nearly bulletproof solution for making PulseAudio suck a whole lot less.

The solution

From Manjaro’s official repositories, there is a software known as pulseaudio-equalizer-gtk which is available from the pulseaudio-equalizer-ladspa package. This uses the Linux Audio Developer’s Simple Plugin API for attaching an instance of Multiband EQ to PulseAudio, providing a braindead-easy, yet comprehensive solution for modifying the audio through software.

Mind, there needs to be a reasonable processor to use it without crackling, but any desktop machine made within the last decade should fulfill this requirement, so most readers need not worry.

Installation

As shown —

:heavy_dollar_sign: In xdg-terminal:

sudo pacman -S pulseaudio-equalizer-ladspa
pulseausio-equalizer-gtk

Configuration

As this is a GTK3 application, context-sensitive display buttons do exist in the title bar.

In the title bar, there are a few buttons. Tooltips explain most, but the ability to keep configuration between sessions is hidden in the menu triggered from left-most CSD button, labelled as Keep Settings.

The drop-down menu in the middle, left of the toggle switch holds all presets available. Many of these are inspired from WinAmp’s default presets, some of them are based on profiles from other hardware. You should listen to each of them depending on the your current audio configuration and select whichever one most resembles a profile you would be satisfied with, performing tweaks and changes as necessary using the sliders below.

To enable use of the equalizer, flip the only visible switch in the titlebar. The equalizer can remain on while modifying settings, allowing for real-time adjustment until you are content.

Caveats

If you encounter an issue where you need to delete ~/.config/pulse then there also goes your equalizer settings. If your custom configuration was saved previousiy it can be chosen once again. Regardless if your preset was custom or not, all which needs to be done is re-enabling the equalizer, and selecting your preference.

You also shouldn’t use other equalizer solutions with this as what’s provided is a system-wide equalizer. This means you can eschew use of equalizers per-application once your preference is dialed in.

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Modified the top half with a bit more introductory context and to add some variety to the sentence structure for a more enjoyable reading experience.

Just to be clear — yes there is PulseEffects. The people at Pop!_OS reminded me about this when I wrote a version of the above guide on Pop!_Planet but not only does the software crash on me, it’s also as inaccessible for mortal beings without a PhD in audio as I claim with all of its various niche settings and it seems more suited for use as a compliment to an audio solution for creating with sound using additional sound processing software and maye some virrtual cable stuff with JACK — Stratospherically beyond the scope of this guide and most people’s intentins for using an EQ.

There is also this long-standing issue about the LADSPA EQ where the GTK3 version had never been compiled to my knowledge in Ubuntu and alike, so far as I am concerned information I’ve previously written about it at Ubuntu MATE forums and Pop!_Planet are effectively outdated and obsolete in comparison to this work for anyone using a GTK3-enabled desktop.