We asked mastering engineer and all around nice guy Neil Pickles to give us his top 5 EQ plug-ins choices for getting the job done in Pro Tools.
The following are some recommendations based on my personal opinions. I only like to comment on things I have genuinely used extensively over the years and have got (for me) great results. Like Post in Mastering we are often, though not always more concerned with clarity and precision than vibe. If something isn’t in this far from extensive list it certainly does not mean it could not be used or indeed get you great results. So here they are my own personal favourites.
- MDW®EQ5-AAX. DSP and Native, the earlier V3, TDM and RTAS.
My go to 5 band EQ for clean and precise smear free cutting and boosting. The filters, both HP and LP are arguably the best of any digital EQ available for Pro Tools and band 5 can also be switched to 18dB or 24dB per octave. Not currently available in 64bit but should be by Jan 2014. Watch out it has a delay compensation bug at the moment and does not correctly report it’s delay time which is supposed to be fixed in the 64bit version. MDW
- Brainworx bx_digital V2. AAX Native 64 bit, TDM, RTAS, AAX.
Sadly no AAX DSP as yet (hint, hint;-)) . This is a shame as it was available in TDM. My favourite MS EQ. Great sound slightly more coloured (slight being the operative word) than MDW. I tend to use both. Plug-in Alliance
- Sonoris Mastering EQ. AAX Native 64bit, RTAS.
This has a a primitive looking GUI but delve in and you soon realise it’s one clever piece of software. Any band with a right click can become L or just R or Just S or Just M or L-R. Super cool and I’m surprised no one has copied this idea as it’s brilliant. It can also be a Phase Linear EQ if you want at a switch of a drop down menu. Did I mention it also has a great transparent sound and a very good high end? The RTAS version has/had some automation bugs, but these apparently have been addressed in the V11 compatible 64bit version. I can’t verify this as I have yet to update. Sonoris
- Sonnox EQ with GML option HDX AAX DSP, AAX Native 64 bit, TDM and RTAS.
I included this because it’s such a dependable EQ and although the HPF doesn’t go as low as you’d like at only 20hz for mastering, the sound is great and it’s perhaps more of an all rounder than my previous choices. MDW can be too “nice” to mix with, but with 4 EQ styles plus the GML 8200 EQ curves option you can get great results with this. Probably my desert island EQ if I had to take one plug in only. Jack of all trades and also a bit of a master if you’ll excuse the pun. Sonnox
- UAD Massive Passive Mastering EQ. UAD2 RTAS AAX Coming Soon.
Is it as good as the real one? No, but as Pro Tools expert once said does it matter if it does the job? Like the real one, which along with a real GML 8200 are my usual analogue EQ’s, this can bring out mid range definition in a way a super clean EQ doesn’t necessarily do and lift lo mids without sounding “boxy” and that’s gotta be worth $299 right?. Like the Sonnox it’s also super useful in all mixing situations as well as mastering in a way perhaps my first 3 choices are not. UAD
Finally I thought it was worth mentioning a fantastic tool by Brainworx called control-V2 as with this you can make any EQ or indeed plug in you like MS, if it doesn’t have that feature built in. The vast majority of the EQ I do is not MS but it’s nice to have the option.
Neil Pickles is an award winning mastering engineer and Pro Tools Certified Expert instructor at Alchemea College. Alchemea are currently offering 20% discount off their weekend mastering course which Neil also teaches for people who mention PTE when booking.