Different EQs have different purposes. The best EQ plugins are the ones you know inside and out. While “best” is always subjective, to truly make an EQ the best choice for yourself, you need to know what they can do and what kind of signals they are designed to massage. Here’s my personal top 5:
FabFilter Pro-Q 2
You might have noticed from my earlier posts that I vouch for the FabFilter Pro-Q 2. Workflow-wise, it is the greatest EQ plugin I have found. In addition to a stellar workflow, the sound of Pro-Q 2 is superb. The EQ works in Zero Latency, Natural Phase and Linear Phase modes, which offer great options for tracking, mixing and mastering duties. Fabfilter explains these modes in detail.
The area where FabFilter Pro-Q 2 truly shines is in cutting frequencies. For this task, Pro-Q 2 is an excellent choice due to its stealthy filters that truly earn the title transparent. The bad frequencies just seem to disappear, like they weren’t in the signal in the first place. If I had to choose only one EQ to work with, Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 would be it.
The Maag EQ4 is a totally special beast. You could use it as a tone-shaping tool, carving delicious EQ curves for your instruments, but I personally like to use it to bring that final stardust into a signal. Each six bands of the EQ4 are fine-tuned to specific frequencies each. To my taste, the Maag EQ4 shines in the lows, low-mids and the very highs. By boosting the 160 Hz low-mid band, you will instantly get those giant low mids heard in countless professional records.
The Maag-exclusive Air-band brings the most sparkling highs heard in any software EQ. It’s good to know though, that even a 0.5dB boost with this EQ will do a lot. The Maag EQ4 is an excellent choice as a secret weapon in EQs. While it is certainly not a necessity, it is a luxury.
The PSP McQ is a great, easy to use tone-shaping EQ. It has great low and highpass filters and plenty of different filter shape options for each of the bands. The mid and high-mid bands sound especially good, and can bring out specific instruments in a mix easily with tons of clarity. My favorite use for this EQ is to boost some creamy vocal frequencies in the high midrange.
Try this for a vocal with this EQ: apply a 2-6dB cut at around 1kHz in the Mid1-band and a 2-6dB boost at 6.4kHz in the Mid2-band. Did someone say vocal clarity?
PSP NobleQ is like a Pultec with some custom modifications, such as the adjustable valve saturation knob, a high pass filter and an extra midband filter found in the NobleQex version of the plugin, which is also shipped together with the original when bought. The NobleQ has a very special color which can be heard when boosting or shaping the low end with the two interacting filters. The color could be described as gentle, warm and tube-like.
For the low end and bass instruments, the NobleQ is killer. The two low filters can be used to create bass sounds that are so warm and gentle you’ll know exactly why this EQ is no joke. Also, don’t be afraid of boosting the hell out of this EQ – it can handle it. Transparency is not a word associated with the NobleQ. Love it!
Your DAW’s Stock EQ
Okay… Forget about all the EQs I mentioned above. The only EQ you really need is the stock EQ plugin that is supplied in your DAW. Why I chose to include the stock DAW EQ in this list is because it’s so easy to get lost in the EQ and plugin jungle while the real tools already exist under your nose. Any stock EQ will get the job done with good results and the rest is just bonus. If you decide to invest some money into third party EQ plugins, you are free to do so, but ask yourself whether you really need all the different EQ plugins, because need is a totally different matter than want.
(With that said, I totally love all the EQs I have purchased over time, but at least I did so with careful consideration and evaluation!)
In the end…
Mixers can easily get off with only one EQ in their mixing duties, but it’s always great to have a selection of a few EQs if there’s a budget for them. The good thing about EQs is that they bring instant inspiration when applied to sound. That’s why I love EQs so much and even though I understand I necessarily don’t need all my EQs, I want to because they lift my spirits in music making and mixing – ultimately letting me make better music.
As long as you’re having fun, right?
I hope my selection of EQs will shed some light to you, perhaps in the situation if you’re looking for a great all around EQ or a more specialized weapon in EQs.
Leave a comment below and share some of your favorite EQs, and what is it you like about them!