Plugin Spotlight: EQ's

When it comes to mixing dance music, the digital eq is the master chef’s blade. The sharper and more precise it is, the quicker you’ll get your job done.

Every DAW has its own onboard EQ but they’re not all created the same (see the ‘Use Plugins That Work With You, Not Against You’ blog entry). Once you establish that a digital EQ is error-free and in good working order, then it really just comes down to ergonomics and preference. Beyond that however, some EQ’s go way deeper than others, providing you with onboard tools like M/S and wide arrays of filter slopes, curves and even phase adjustment!

If you’re running an ancient computer, maybe you’re better off with onboard DAW EQ. Nothing kills workflow like a processing error every 10 seconds. But if not, give these a look:

FabFilter Pro-Q

Over the past few years, Pro-Q has become a staple within the dance music production community. It’s super efficient on processing, has a great built in analyzer, nice big interface and sounds great.

In addition, it also has the ability to create unlimited (?) bands simply by double clicking the interface and any of them can be put into M/S mode for treating the mono and stereo information separately. Other EQ’s offer M/S but I’ve found them to be more limiting usually.

It’s no wonder why this one is so popular, ergonomically sound and at no cost to sonic quality.

http://www.fabfilter.com/products/pro-q-equalizer-plug-in

VST/AU/RTAS 32/64bit (Mac/Windows)

DMG Audio Equilibrium

The follow up to Equality, brought to you by the brains behind Sonalksis plugins, Dave Gamble. Equilibrium is hands down, the next level digital EQ. Nothing like this has ever hit the market til now. Not even close.

The amount of features this plugin has is ridiculous. For people who like to get under the hood to tweak and hack their software, this one is for you. And for people who don’t, this plugin is also for you because it’s optional.

I feel like i’ve barely scratched the surface of what this EQ can do and every time I use it, I find new features. It really deserves an entire article of its own but I’ll try and break down a few of the coolest bits.

First off, let’s talk about digital EQ’s for a second. When push comes to shove, what makes digital EQ’s differ from one another sonically? There have been studies done that prove every digital EQ (without a saturation circuit) can sound identical by copying curves. What sets them apart, potentially, is the phase response.

Gamble has ingeniously integrated an adjustable phase response curve in this EQ. Why? Because when you take saturation out of the picture, phase response is a big part of what gives analog eq its sound and vibe. He’s given us the option to manually alter the phase but imo, that’s far too advanced for most users. What’s great is that he’s created presets that emulate classic analog eq responses (Pultec, SSL, etc). 

He’s also allowed the switching from IIR to FIR mode as well as 'impulse length’, both of which directly affect quality. The speed of your computer is important when it comes to raising this parameter. My i7 Macbook Pro can’t run a single instance at it’s highest setting.

Anyway, as you can see, it goes DEEP. Beyond all the geeky details, this thing sounds incredible when set right. And when not set right, it sounds as good as Pro Q. You also get a ton of filter shapes and curves, M/S, every type of analyzer imaginable (spectrograph!), and endlessly customizable GUI options.

This is THE pro digital EQ for 2013 and beyond, highly recommended.

http://www.dmgaudio.com/products_equilibrium.php

VST/AU/RTAS 32/64bit (Mac/Windows)

MDW EQ

Developed by the creator of the parametric eq, George Massenburg, the MDW EQ emulates the curves of his legendary GML 8200. I personally love this one. It’s simple but sounds incredible (do all digital eq’s sound the same?). It comes in 3 and 5 band instances and the filters go above and below the frequencies most EQ’s offer (10hz and 41khz).

There’s just something about the 80-90hz area on this eq that just knocks. Can’t explain it, coding voodoo.

Super high quality transparent sound but unfortunately available as RTAS/TDM only. If you’re a Pro Tools user, highly recommended.

http://www.avid.com/US/products/MDW-Hi-Res-Parametric-EQ-30-RTAS

RTAS/TDM (Mac/Windows)

- Mike Bell @ Darkart Mastering