The Apple iTunes Conspiracy Theory

Last week, I made a rather horrible discovery: I found that my iTunes had its EQ turned on. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Well, it gets worse… at least to me it does. The EQ settings were set to “Spoken Word”. I’m sure you are asking how this is bad. For me, it is bad in two ways:

The first way is that I already use a graphic EQ in the studio. I have it set to match the characteristics of the room relative to the listening position. Great pains goes into these settings as I am often having to endure both white and pink noise generators for a couple of hours. Not only that, it drives the rest of my family crazy ‘cuz all they hear is a constant noise ranging from a hiss to a jet engine noise. So, you can best believe after all of that setup, I am going to use it heavily to ensure that what I am hearing through those monitors is going to translate to other speakers. An added EQ in the chain will colour everything. It will change what I am listening to and it will ensure that what I am hearing is not correct. So, when I am playing my reference mixes, they are all tainted by iTunes’ EQ. This will affect how I mix, because I want it sonically similar to the references. Because of the EQ setting that it was on, it boosted the mid-range excessively. The problem this creates is that I am now doing funny things with the mid-range in order to make it sound like the references in iTunes. The worst part is that I never listened to my mixes through iTunes on my computer. I just use it to sync to my iPod and listen to it there.

The second way compounds on the first. Because I am not hearing those references properly. I am making misguided mix decisions because I am believing what I am hearing. These mix decisions carry over to other speakers, such as my car, headphones, etc. All of a sudden, things start to really sound weird and I find myself doing unnecessary things to make it sound reasonable when it translates over. This has often resulted in mixes that I felt were either missing something, or had too much of it. All I can say is that the mix is way off.

How did I discover this? Stupidly enough, by playing a raw mix in iTunes. It didn’t sound anywhere near what I had just done. In fact, it was worse… much worse. After shutting the iTunes EQ off (I already ensure Sound Check and Sound Enhancer are disabled) and re-listening to my references for a half hour, I discovered that I had a more solid mix. Everything was right where I wanted it to be. Not only that, it translates rather nicely now.

You’re probably thinking, why all the huff? Why didn’t you just turn it off sooner?

Well, I never turned on iTunes EQ in the first place. And I would never set it to Spoken Word. So, for me, it wouldn’t have dawned on me to look there first. And, like I said, I don’t listen to my mixes through iTunes… I can do a Quick Look and preview it there. Main reason I use iTunes is because it hooks me up to my iPod in a rather brainless way. However, I think that brainless has its pricetag.

I’m almost convinced that Apple turns on the EQ either with an iTunes update or a OS X update. Either one of the two. I’m almost thinking that Apple at times is arrogant enough to believe that it not only knows what we want in our settings, but that they believe they know better than we do. I will be watchdogging my settings on a regular basis. If I find that Apple has touched any of my settings without my permission from this point onward, you can bet that they will be on the receiving end of a 64-bit tongue lashing!

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