capsule review

SoundBest Audio May Improve Music Playback

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder SoundBest

    PCWorld Rating

    SoundBest attempts to optimize the sound on your system via an interactive listening test.

The music listening experience is highly personal. Witness the subwoofer: I hate it, some people love it. Having said that, most folks want to listen to the music the way it was recorded with just a little tweak here and there. That's where SK Planet's SoundBest comes in.

SoundBest screenshot
SoundBest optimizes its equalizer via a listening test. As you can see here, it overcompensated in the low frequencies on my system.
SoundBest steps you through a listening test, playing tones in the various sonic registers and asking you to click a button as you hear them. It uses your responses to determine how to equalize source material to best effect for your ears and audio setup. After the test, the SoundBest equalizer driver sits in the background, applying what it's learned.

The SoundBest test is not only dependent upon your ears; it's also dependent upon the frequency range of your speakers or headphones. If you change your speakers or their placement, or your headphones, or anything else about your audio setup, you'll need to run the test again. You can save the EQ settings from each test (you can test as much as you want) and switch between them at any so you can optimize for your various speakers, laptop, headphones, etc.

My results with SoundBest were mixed. The first version I downloaded wouldn't install, and another didn't make any noise. Even after SK Planet fixed these problems , the program still seemed to overcompensate drastically in the 250Hz and 500Hz frequency spectrums no matter what type of speakers I used for the listening test: Boston Acoustics CR11's, a tinny portable USB clamshell, or some large EPIs.

I literally heard no low frequency tones during any SoundBest test, though my own pure testing waves were easily distinguishable from 100hz on up. SoundBest provides stock presets such as ballad, metal, and hip-hop, which is what I stuck with. Alas, just about every music player in existence provides those and they're hardly worth the $35 that SoundBest will set you back.

Even if I'd gotten great results from SoundBest, I'd be hard pressed rationalizing the purchase. I'd much rather pay for something such as SRS Audio Essentials, which adds perceived space and depth though psycho-acoustics than plain old EQ. To be completely honest, on those days I'm not into listening to what the recording artist intended, I find the SRS Wow and TruBass in Windows Media Player, as well as the sound enhancement in iTunes, do just fine. And they're free.

But as I intimated up top, beautiful music and appropriate EQ is in the ear of the beholder. SoundBest is an interesting concept/experience and the trial is free for 30 days. Download it and see what you think.

Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor's site, where you must register to download the latest version of the software. SoundBest is also available for Android and iOS.

--Jon L. Jacobi

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    SoundBest attempts to optimize the sound on your system via an interactive listening test.

    Pros

    • Attempts to auto-optimize your audio system

    Cons

    • May or may not work for you
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