I've always listened to trance music whenever I need to concentrate. I've run sound before and have always just kind of assessed my sound setup based on the acoustics in the hall we were playing in, with a primary goal of just avoiding feedback.

Today I was playing around with my EQ on my winamp and it occurs to me that some of these might get me in a groove more than others. Now, I could always track metrics with various EQ settings to see which of them I tend to be more productive in over others, but there's a whole host of other facts (repeatable music, workloads, time to invest in the project, etc). But it also occurs to me that there are more research studies out there than you can shake a stick at.

So, are there studies or other research that has been done in this area, or that might apply to this area, that would indicate that certain EQ settings are more prone to enhance productivity than others? Specifically in a headphones environment, but more general studies are welcome.

  • 1
    As others have said this is not a sound design question and the question will probably not get a generally accepted answer, because there are to many factors influencing 'concentration'. Jun 19, 2014 at 9:18
  • I'd argue that the clear answer is that it can't be answered (and if it could, then there would be a clear answer). It might be too broad as you'd have to narrow it down to a particular type of sound or music. It might also be sound design related since I think it's safe to say that would be a useful thing in mastering if it had a clean answer.
    – AJ Henderson
    Jun 19, 2014 at 13:53

3 Answers 3


I dont think this is particularly a Sound Design question in the first place, but I would point out that there can be considerable differences between any two different equalisers (hardware or software) in the first place, so the notion that settings for 'an' EQ might be studied, rather than the more consistently measureable frequency content of music, seems pretty unlikely.


I don't think you will find any research in to what EQ settings will make a difference. There may be certain frequency groups that help, but EQs just apply adjustments to what is already there though and countless other things have more of an impact. Pacing of the music, how busy the music is, how complete the "wall of sound is", tempo, style, volume, etc all have a substantial impact on how "energizing" the music is.

To really have a solid study, you would need to try a variety of different EQ settings applied to a variety of different songs and examine the results from so many different tests that it is unlikely to be worth the effort to attempt a rigorous test due to the extreme complexity of performing such a test with the low expectation of meaningful results.


I haven't run formal studies, but I do listen to music a lot in an attempt to focus. To achieve this, the music has to be loud enough to drown out distractions, but it shouldn't command attention.

This has several consequences:

  • the more noise insulation provided by the headphones, the better. Open headphones require a lot of volume to drown out distractions, defeating the point. I like custom moulded in-ears for this.
  • the choice of music is vital. I can't concentrate when vocal music is playing. A frenetic tempo or irritating instruments/sound effects are also detrimental. A great dynamic range doesn't help either.
  • the reproduction system should be transparent to avoid listening fatigue. Part of this is a flat frequency response, so what you want generally is no EQ at all, unless you have to compensate for defects in the frequency response of your headphones.

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