EQ plug-ins are such really important tools for "in the box" music producers. EQ enables us to shape the tone of a track helping us to sit instruments together in a mix. Often EQ is used to correct frequency problems, in other cases EQ can provide character and charm to the sound of an instrument that cannot be achieved with other types of plug-ins.
This article lists my top 5 EQ plug-ins that I use in Pro Tools for music production. All of the EQ plug-ins in the list have different feature sets that I use for different types of mixing applications.
Let us know your top EQ plug-ins in the comments below.
FabFilter Pro-Q2 is by far one of my most used EQ plug-ins. I like to think of it as an audio production swiss army knife, it does pretty much everything I need from an EQ. What I like most about FabFilter Pro-Q2 is the GUI as I can easily create and set bands unlike other EQ plug-ins that have fiddly virtual knobs. The "display range" scales in four different ranges of db - 3db, 6db, 12db and 30db. This is a really useful feature as it stops me from being too heavy handed with boosts and cuts. However, if I do want to push a boost higher than let's say 6db the display range rescales automatically to the next level up, 12db. FabFilter Pro-Q2 is an EQ plug-in that can be set to work in several different modes such as zero latency, natural phase and linear phase. These three modes impact differently on CPU load making this a great plug-in to work with on any strength of computer system.
Type Of EQ? Surgical
Watch the Pro Tools Expert video review of FabFilter Pro-Q2.
SurferEQ By Sound Radix
The SurferEQ by Sound Radix has one main party piece, it is exactly this feature that gets me using SurferEQ when I'm mixing bass guitars. SurferEQ automatically tracks the melody of monophonic instruments enabling users to boost or cut the fundamental notes within the full performance of a melody. SurferEQ also tracks the relative harmonic structure as well. Often bass guitars/instruments can be hard to place in a mix. Static EQ's that cut or boost fixed bands can result in notes within the bass performance being dipped or exaggerated. SurferEQ makes sure this doesn't happen by keeping the melody, bass guitar in this case, strong and consistent making a bass instrument easy to place in any mix.
Type of EQ? Healing
Watch the Pro Tools Expert video review of SurferEQ 2 By Sound Radix.
The Maag EQ4 is an EQ plug-in I reach for when I need to musically shape the tone of an instrument. Vocals, acoustic guitars, piano, drums... you name it, Maag EQ4 sweetens it. I remember how easy it was to learn the sound of each band which is a really important aspect of these types of EQ plug-ins. The AIR band is the special sauce of this plug-in, it doesn't sound harsh when pushed beyond what your instincts tell you could be too much. Same goes for the 2.5 kHz band, that band should sound harsh when boosted but somehow it doesn't, it sounds natural and fitting. The Maag EQ4 plug-in is available as AAX Native, DSP from Plugin Alliance and UAD.
Type Of EQ? Creative
Watch the Pro Tools Expert video review of Maag EQ4.
PuigTech EQP1A By Waves
Based on the classic Pultech EQ, the PuigTech EQP1A by Waves is an EQ plug-in I reach for when I want to focus on ducking the mud of an instrument's tone. Like the Maag EQ4, this is a very easy plug-in to learn and fast to use. The only feature I do not use in this plug-in is the emulated hiss as that's not to my taste.
Type Of EQ? Doormat - It keeps the mud outside
Watch this Pro Tools Expert free video tutorial to hear the PuigTech by Waves in action.
Neutron Advanced Built-In Equalizer By iZotope
The EQ section in Neutron Advanced by iZotope is a tool I reach for when I need some EQ ideas or inspiration. Sometimes my EQ instincts need a nudge in a different direction and the "Track Assistant" in Neutron Advanced acts as a very cool virtual assistant offering up an EQ curve that it believes to be a good choice. Most of the time it get's there without needing to be adjusted any further. The EQ mask feature is also very cool as it displays areas between two instrument EQs where problems can be occurring making this a great time saver feature.
Type Of EQ? If Siri was an EQ...
Watch the Pro Tools Expert video review of Neutron by iZotope.
EQ Ear Training
The 5 EQ plug-ins in this list are fantastic tools, however, they would all be utterly useless if I didn't know what to listen for when using them. The only way of improving one's EQ skills is by training one's ears.
Ear training is so important as it develops your understanding of frequencies which in turn improves mixing skills. Having a strong ear for frequencies will help you to use EQ correctly and fast. When I hear a bad mix I generally find the person who mixed the song doesn't fully understand the basics of EQ and frequencies.
A great training tool that I really like is called TrainYourEars EQ Edition, as the name suggests it helps users to develop their listening skills in frequencies. I have had a copy for a few years now and I still have a play around with it when I have some downtime as I don't want to lose my ability to hear and recognise different frequencies.
Don't forget to let us know your top EQ plug-ins in the comments below.