How to EQ the System Audio on a Mac

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

eqMac Icon

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!

OWC Mark C
the authorOWC Mark C
Content Marketing Manager
A creative by nature, Mark is a writer, programmer, web developer, musician, culinary craftsman, and interpersonal artisan. He loves the outdoors because greenspace is to the soul as whitespace is to the written word. He does not like Diophantine geometry or mosquitos. Most everything else is okay. Oh yeah, he is also the managing editor of the Rocket Yard blog.
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32 Comments

  • Hi, can I use eqMac to adjust the sound when I’m recording via Zoom. I want to adjust the sound quality when I’m using Zoom go record me doing a voiceover. Thx.

    • eqMac is only for adjusting output sound, not input. Perhaps someone on this thread has a trick to help with Zoom recording quality!

  • I tried EQMac after this article but quickly got frustrated with its buginess. Somebody on Reddit mentioned Audio Hijack Pro (which I happen to have) so I’ve switched to using that for an EQ boost and haven’t looked back. Works with any audio source on your Mac. Also let’s your record any audio source so quite handy. Not that expensive either.

  • ok in fairness. I actually got it to load when I tried to remount and said NO to update driver.. and It’s not bad for just a simple EQ. I’m happy Thank for info.

  • This was exactly what I was looking for. I have trouble understanding certain spoken accents in on-line classes. Punching up the higher frequencies and muting the lower ones helps me understand speech more clearly.

  • WHOOPS! I WAS WRONG! eqMAC is great!

    5-25-20. My profound apologies for criticizing eqMAC yesterday, when I alleged it had high-jacked the SEND button on Catalina on my MacBook Pro. My bad! It did no such thing.

    Unknown to me was the fact that the icon on the lower right of the iMessage page is NOT a SEND button. Rather, it is an AUDIO RECORD button, which turns on the microphone. To send an Imessage, it need to simply hit the RETURN key.

    I was so used to having to hit a SEND ARROW on an iPhone or iPad, that I forgot there is no such arrow on any other Mac product. (Thanks, Apple, for your inconsistencies!)

    Again, my profound apologies for posting a bit of misinformation.

  • DO NOT INSTALL eqMac!!!!!!!!

    I previously thought OWC/ Rocket Yard was a source of solid Mac info – apparently NOT the case. The eqMac program you recommend is a MESS. Others have had the same problem as I have – installs incorrectly, buggy as hell and the UNINSTALL function does NOT WORK.

    Screwed around for several hours to try to get rid of it. These Terminal commands sort of worked, but…
    https://github.com/bitgapp/eqMac/issues/131

    Google the problem and you’ll see LOTS more complaints. https://www.google.com/search?ei=7-bLXu3AGuupytMPhLuxiAs&q=eqmac2+will+not+uninstall&oq=eqmac2+will+not+uninstall

    Rocket Yard’s credibility has dropped to zero!!! You really need to send out an apology to all subscribers.

    WHAT A MESS!!!

    • Hi P,

      This post post was not intended to be a definitive recommendation as I did not evaluate the other options I mentioned. It was merely my experience with one application – that it worked for me, and might for you if you wanted to give it a try. Open-source software is not going to be the right solution for everyone, so I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you.

    • I am not certain what improvements were made to eqMac and eqMac2 …. I began using maybe 5 years ago, and eqMac2 was a major improvement over the original. I even donated because the app dev had really put a lot of sweat & tears into it.

      Again, I do not know what improvements have been made over the past 2 years, but as soon as Apple first introduced SIP “System Integrity Protection”, it introduced problems that made installation of eqMac2 very inconsistent and problematic. In addition, I may be out of my depth here and if I have this wrong I will apologize. But I began having problems with bluetooth connections to various headphones and earbuds whereby one or more audio apps I had installed (the second being SOUNDFLOWER to enable recording system audio on various screen recording apps) somehow began taking over the output control of the Sound Preference on the Mac.

      I cannot pin this with certainty on eqMac2, but the issue was expressing as: When one pairs and switches to a given bluetooth connection, what is SUPPOSED to happen is that after that bluetooth device is selected, the sound output from the mac automatically switches to the selected bluetooth headphones seamlessly.

      But whether it was due to eqMac2 or Soundflower or perhaps some other audio utility I’d installed over the years, this automatic output switching stopped working, requiring that each time i selected and switched to a different bluetooth headphone device, i also had to manually select that same device in the Sound Preference dropdown from AppleMenuBar — and I actually lost track of and forgot that the automatic selecting of current bluetooth audio device was not working– and my habit/behavior shifted to always having to manually select that device.

      I only discovered this after a bluetooth device vendor saw a screen recording I made showing this problem and explained to me “it should be switching automatically”. They suggested I uninstall all audio utilities, and i did. And that problem cleared up.

      I don’t want to besmirch eqMac2 at all because when it was working without hassle, it was absolutely awesome. So I just want to say that the problem where auto-switching stopped working could very easily be attributed to my USER ERROR. Perhaps I had unintentionally introduced some other conflict when i had installed other utilities (like Soundlflower, which is not at all an easily intuitive utility to use, and requires that you configure the MIDI controller utility)

      But reading the comment above gave me pause, and does make me wonder if there is any bugginess in this eqMac app. My suggestion is that if you’re using it, and it is working fine, by all means keep using it!

      But if there are any unexplained audio-control issues that have crept in, I think it might be wise to reconsider.

      ALL OF THIS SAID, can anyone recommend BOOM as working flawlessly? I would far rather pay at this point to gain reliability, so would value any feedback.

  • The iTunes EQ has a 4-second delay before takes effect. Doe this program do that? GarageBand eq adjustments are applied pretty much immediately. Why not on iTunes?

    Can I use this with iTunes? I want a single overall EQ setting for my headphones, which are bass heavy. I presently use Treble Booster and Bass Reducer settings on the phone, depending on the song. I’d like to make a custom EQ, but there’s the 4-second lag or delay that makes EQing in iTunes almost impossible. And even if you do, your custom settings don’t get transferred to the phone when you sync!

    Im using iTunes v12.8 on macOS 10.13.6. Thanks!

    • The EQ does appear to be instantaneous – no delay. I haven’t messed around using it in conjunction with iTunes, so I’m not sure if one would override the other, or if the EQ’d signal would be passed through to be re-EQ’d again.

  • WORKS WELL, BUT…

    eqMac v0.2.0 has hijacked the “send” command arrow on the desktop of my iMessage bar, at lower right of screen! In fact, the actual “send” arrow icon now missing. It has been replaced by another icon which, when pressed, sends a timer and several audio files across the screen, which are received by the person to whom I send a message. (Tried it between my Mac and my wife’s machine, which both sit on our kitchen table.)

    This issue persists even after running the “uninstall” command from the eqMac tool box… per instructions from the developer.

    Anyone else suffering from this issue? Perhaps blog article author OWC Mark C needs to contact the eqMac developer to ascertain if he has, perhaps, a terminal command that can remedy this.

  • Cool…I’ve looked for such a utility before without luck… The speakers on my Philips monitor are horrific (I use the MacMini speaker instead), but maybe this will make them usable.

  • Worth giving Rogue Amoeba’s SoundSource a plug here. Not free, but great 10 Band Eq, many presets, ability to redirect audio outs per application. You can even use Apple’s (and others’) Audio Unit Effects if you want to dig deeper. Highly recommended whether you’re using built-in speakers or studio monitors.

  • What OS are you running?

    With 10.15.4 (MacBook Pro 16-in), when I launch the application and click Open to confirm I want to open it, a square white window appears with a rotating gear icon — nothing else happens.

    • Running 10.15.4 here and the application works just fine. I have nothing special running on my system which might interfere with it. Did your install run without a hitch? I had to run the installer twice to get it to work.

      • Hi Derek,

        It’s the installation that is failing (at step 3 above).

        I’ve reinstalled several times but still get the same results.

        The gear icon just keeps spinning and the only way to get it to stop is to restart.

        Did you install it on 10.15.4, or before updating to it?

        • David,
          My computer was already at 10.15.4 when I performed the installation. It did fail on the first attempt to install – Although with a failure message, it did not lock up. The second install went just fine.

          There was a message about not playing audio during the installation:
          “Please pause any playing audio if possible, otherwise audio might break.”

          You must also give it access to your microphone… Although the explanation for why is somewhat vague.

          I just did a re-install, and everything worked first time (keeping in mind I had already installed the driver once).

          Sorry, I cannot be much more help. I don’t have a lot of extra “stuff” installed on my system that might interfere with the install. Perhaps you have an anti-virus package which is preventing the program from properly installing the driver.

          • Thank you for letting me know.

            I don’t have antivirus software (or anything particularly out of the ordinary), so it must be something else.

  • I have a 2017 iMac and never encountered an issue with audio clarity, but might give this a go just to play around.

    Do you know if the adjustments apply only to the built-in audio or will it also tweak any streaming audio (i.e. AirPlay)?

    • That is a great question! I am not entirely sure because I haven’t tested it with other output sources, but I believe you can select any connected device such as headphones, and possibly AirPlay, from the list at the bottom of the screenshot (which currently shows “Mac Book Pro Speakers”). Let us know if you get a chance to test it!

      • Okay! I tried this out with airplay and encountered problems. I was unable to stream from the internet to my computer / remote speakers. spinning wheel followed by nothing. When I tried to play local music to my AirPlay devices nothing played (at least at the computer). When I went to eqMac AirPlay was a selectable option from the device list, but when I selected it, eqMac crashed.
        In the end, I un-installed eqMac as I really don’t have time to troubleshoot something which I have not found to be necessary – The audio on my iMac is quite nice.