The Mystery Behind Using EQ (Part One)


This short post is about using EQ (or equalization) and since we have members of our community who have many different levels of experience, I’m going to start off with some basics and build this up over the next 2 or 3 posts.  EQ is something that is of paramount importance when you are recording.  A lot of amateur recordings either have too little use of it or way too much.  How do you know what to do? Why should we consider using EQ plugins or hardware on our tracks?


L3-16 Multimaximizer by Waves

There are really three reasons why anyone who is recording should consider using EQ. First, when you are equalizing a track properly, you are giving the instrument more definition. Used properly, equalization should make the track sound clearer as well.  Secondly, equalization can make all the tracks fit together in a mix by making sure that each instrument/track has its own range in terms of frequency.  And lastly, you can make the instruments/tracks sound huge (if that is what is needed in the mix).

If you talk to anyone who has been successfully recording great music for a length of time, the one piece of advice they will give you is to use your ears.  This might seem obvious, but with the technological revolution in digital recording, a lot of people are using their eyes and making decisions based on the way the sound wave looks, or the way the graph looks on the UI of the plug-in.  Don’t get me wrong, I use graphs and other visual cues when I am mixing, but if you don’t sit back and give the music you are mixing a really good objective listen – it doesn’t matter what your gear is – the gear and software will not help you.

T-RackS Linear Phase EQ

T-RackS Linear Phase EQ

So before you even think about using an equalizer – there are two main concepts that are common among most audio engineers.  These two concepts are great to keep in mind when you are up past midnight mixing and you think you’re losing it. LOL!

First of all, the fewer instruments/tracks that you have in the mix, the bigger each instrument/track should sound.

And the more instruments you have in the mix – the smaller each one has to be in order for everything to sound right or fit together in the mix.

~~ Yoda I am not. ~~

Something that I have discovered over the past 20 years, is that not every EQ is created equal.  Some EQs do give a different sound to a signal – whether you are using hardware or software – and some EQ plugins/hardware are better at certain jobs than others.  These differences can be seen between the different types of equalizers, but also between the different makes of equalizers (e.g. Fairchild, Oxford, etc.).  In order to explain this idea I’ll refer to a couple of different EQ plugins that are representative of different recording budgets.  For example, if you use IK Multimedia’s T-RacksS – the Linear Phase EQ (which I will refer to as LEPQ) is a very clean sounding EQ that doesn’t really add any coloration. It’s my “go to” EQ for acoustic instruments like piano and guitar. For metal, I love the LEPQ for vocals since there are no sound artifacts when you use it.  An EQ that can influence/color a track’s sound in a positive way is UAD’s Pultec EQP-1A plugin.  This EQ was originally made in the old days of audio when they used tube circuits and the needs of the engineers were not as detailed as they are now.  Putting this plugin into your tracks can make them sound amazing; it has a really unique boosting and tightening effect on bass and kick drums.  I have also used its ability to boost and cut a signal at the same time.  It can add “air” to a guitar solo!

UAD Pultec

In my next post on EQ, I’m going to explain the frequency band and subtractive equalization in detail.  If you have any questions or comments, please send them to and I’ll get back to you ASAP!

Yours in Christ!


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