How Many EQ Plugins Do You Need? Image of a concentrated producer in recording studio

How Many EQ Plugins Do You Need? (Explained)

When making music, it’s important to use EQs to make your mix sound great. But how many EQ plugins do you need in the process?

There are many awesome plugins out there for this purpose.

The problem comes when we don’t know which ones will give us what we want and how many we should use!

This blog post will explore different types of equalizers, how many you need and why they are so useful in our process as musicians/producers.

Let’s take a look!

What is an EQ?

Equalization (EQ) is the process of adjusting the balance between frequency components within an electronic signal.

EQs change audio signals’ timbre and tonal balance, making them sound “fuller” or “thinner” or boosting or cutting specific frequencies.

EQ frequency range

The standard frequency range for most EQs is 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which covers the entire audible frequency spectrum.

The standard frequency range for most EQs is 20 Hz -20 kHz, which covers the entire audible spectrum; low-end frequencies can be boosted to add fullness, while high ones may need some cutting.

Midrange frequencies can be boosted or cut to achieve various results.

How Many EQ Plugins Do You Need?

The number of tracks you usually work with, and the complexity of your mixes are two factors that will determine the answer to this question.

However, you probably won’t need more than a few different EQ plugins and filters to get the job done for a good result overall.

One EQ plugin that is often overlooked is the stock EQ that comes with your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). 

This EQ is also fine and can get the job done if you learn to use it correctly.

One type that’s particularly helpful for mixing is a multi-band equalizer. 

This allows you to target specific frequency ranges and achieve sounds with more accuracy than the stock EQ provides on its own, which could come in handy! 

Spectrum analyzers are also worth considering because they provide an easy way of visualizing frequencies within tracks while identifying potential problem spots that need attention. 

To Recap: You only need a few EQ plugins to get the job done. Learn how to use the ones you have to get the most out of them.

The Common Types of EQs

Did you know that different types of EQs are used in music production?

Here is a breakdown of the most common:

Parametric EQ

Linear Phase EQ in Logic Pro X

A parametric equalizer (or “parametric EQ”) is a specialized audio processor that allows you to adjust the levels, frequencies, and bandwidths of specific bands in an audio mix.

This can be useful when you want to boost or cut certain regions of the frequency spectrum without affecting other parts of the mix.

Levels: A Parametric EQ can boost or cut dB levels (+/-48dB), depending on which sector you are adjusting. This adjusts the overall volume of all frequencies within that specific sector.

Center Frequency: The center frequency is adjustable using a slider control, allowing you to increase or decrease the intensity of sounds at that specific location on the spectrum. This allows for more detailed tonal shaping than simply boosting or cutting dB levels alone would allow.

Bandwidth/Range: The bandwidth/range controls adjust how wide a band of frequencies will be affected by your adjustment(s). This allows for greater flexibility when fine-tuning width and impact at different regions of the audible spectrum.

Linear Phase EQ

Linear Phase EQ in Logic Pro X
Linear Phase EQ in Logic Pro X

In settings where numerous microphones are used to record an instrument, Linear Phase EQ plugins can be highly useful.

For instance, when recording drums, if the microphones are not in the correct phase, the low end will be lost, and the sound may be muddy.

Linear phase EQ can help to prevent this by nudging the affected frequencies back in phase.

While many people believe that linear phase EQ plugins are super effective, some will prefer the sound of regular parametric EQ plugins.

Dynamic EQ

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 Dynamic EQ
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 Dynamic EQ

It is possible to adjust the volume and tone of individual frequencies with a dynamic EQ, making it ideal for fine-tuning the overall sound.

They are also useful for filtering out sibilant and other harsh frequencies. T

To do this, simply adjust the threshold so that the EQ correction kicks in once the signal strength is above the set value.

Graphic EQ

Graphic EQ

Although not as precise as a parametric EQ, graphic EQs are great for fine-tuning a room’s acoustics or live sound.

Equalizers like these are frequently used in live sound engineering to eliminate frequencies that could potentially detract from the overall mix.

Shelving EQ

Baxter Shelving EQ
Baxter Shelving EQ

When you want to create a more subtle sound, like the bass in your music and other sounds that need less extreme cuts but still have an appealing quality – shelf EQ is what we recommend.

It has wide and smooth curves, so it won’t be harsh when cutting frequencies or boosting them at certain points on its curve; this makes shelving easier for beginners who might not know how best to tweak their settings with low pass filters first-hand yet without having too many extreme changes right off the bat.

EQ Filter Types

Each type of EQ filter has a different effect on the sound, so it’s important to understand how each one works before making a decision. Here are five of the most used filter types you will find in equalizers:

1. Low-Cut filters

Low-Cut filters

Low-Cut filters are used to remove the low frequencies from a sound. This can be useful for cleaning and removing any Mudd or unnecessary frequencies from the mix.

2. High-Cut filters

High-Cut filters

High-Cut filters are the opposite of low-cut filters – they remove the high frequencies from a sound. This can be useful for cutting out high-end frequencies.

3. Band-pass filters

Band-pass filters

Band-pass filters remove both the high and low-range frequencies from a sound, leaving only the midrange frequencies. Everything lower or higher than that band is rejected.

This can be useful for creating a “radio” effect or making a sound more focused.

A bandpass is a type of filter that lets through a band of frequencies around the center frequency.

4. Shelf Filters

High Shelf Filter (Boost)
High Shelf Filter (Boost)

Shelf filters are used to boost or cut the frequencies at the extreme high or low end of the spectrum. This can be useful for adding brightness or depth to a sound or taming overly harsh highs or muddy lows.

5. Bell Curve Filter

Equalizer

A bell curve filter is an equalizer plugin that isolates a specific frequency band for boosting or cutting while keeping the rest of the spectrum untouched.

This might help you balance out the sound in your recording or highlight a specific instrument or vocal track.

When picking an EQ plugin, you should think about the sound you want to get – beginning with a general-purpose equalizer such as the FabFilter Pro-Q is a good starting point.

The Benefits of Having Multiple EQs

While it may seem overkill to have multiple EQs at your disposal, each can serve a specific purpose to make your workflow more efficient and help you achieve better results.

Here are some benefits of having multiple EQs:

1. You Can Use Different EQs/Filters on Different Parts of the Same Track.

For example, you could use a high-pass filter on the low end to clean up rumble and mud while using a Shelving EQ to boost highs for clarity and presence.

2. Having Multiple EQs Gives You More Flexibility When Crafting Your Sound.

With several options available, you can try out different settings until you find what sounds best for the particular track or situation.

3. By Using Multiple EQs in Series or Parallel Routing Configurations, You Can Create Unique Sonic Textures That Would Otherwise Be Impossible to Achieve With Just One Plugin.

This is especially useful for special effects or when working with the difficult source material.

4. If an Equalizer Doesn’t Have All the Features You Need, Two (or More) Smaller Units Might Offer Greater Versatility Than a Single Larger Unit.

Using a good variety of plugins allows you to accomplish more with your sound design and gives you more room and flexibility to experiment.

So it cannot hurt to expand, but you can start off with less if you are just beginning.

To Recap: Having multiple EQs available is beneficial because they offer more flexibility, sonic possibilities, and workflow options.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Equalizers

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your EQs:

  • When using multiple EQs, try to avoid applying too much boost or cut to any one frequency. Too much of either can lead to a muddy or harsh-sounding mix.
  • Experiment with different types of EQs on different tracks to see what works best for each individual sound source.
  • Be careful not to overdo it when EQing vocals – a little goes a long way!
  • Use EQs to help create a sense of space in your mix by carving out room for each instrument.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment – sometimes, the best way to learn is by trial and error.

The good news is that a few EQ plugins can cover a wide range of genres and styles.

Conclusion

We recommend checking every track in your mix and making low cuts on muddy unnecessary frequencies.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how many EQ plugins you need.

It all relies on your individual requirements and what you want to achieve with your music.

However, having numerous EQs might be advantageous in general because it gives you more choices when shaping the sound of your recordings.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal number of EQ plugins for music production?

There is no specific “ideal number” of EQ plugins for music production, as it depends on the individual’s preferences and needs. Producers may use multiple plugins to achieve a particular sound and to gain more control over the mixing process. Ultimately, the right number of EQ plugins will depend on the producer’s style and workflow.

How many EQ plugins are typically used on vocals?

The number of EQ plugins used on vocals can vary, but typically, producers will use at least one or two for basic tone shaping and surgical EQ tasks. Additional plugins may be added to achieve specific sound effects or creative treatments, but it is essential to use EQ plugins sparingly to maintain the natural quality of the vocals.

Is it necessary to have an EQ on every track?

Having an EQ on every track is not necessary, but it can be helpful in achieving a balanced mix. Using EQ plugins can help to carve out space for each instrument, thus avoiding frequency clashes and ensuring that each element of the mix is audible. Producers should use their discretion when applying EQ plugins and aim to achieve a clean and balanced mix without over-processing the audio.

Why do producers use multiple EQ plugins?

Producers use multiple EQ plugins to have more control over the sound and to achieve a specific tonal balance. Different EQ plugins have unique features and algorithms, allowing producers to shape the sound in various ways. By using multiple plugins, producers can optimize their workflow and achieve the desired sound more efficiently.

What’s the difference between various EQ plugins?

EQ plugins can differ in terms of their features, interface, algorithms, and sound quality. Some plugins are designed for general-purpose EQ tasks, while others are tailored for specific purposes like mastering, surgical EQ, or vintage-style tone shaping. The choice of EQ plugin will depend on the needs and preferences of the producer, as well as the unique requirements of each project.

How do I choose the right EQ plugin for my needs?

To choose the right EQ plugin for your needs, consider factors such as workflow, budget, sound quality, and the specific requirements of your projects. Research and evaluate different EQ plugins, taking advantage of trial versions where possible. Some highly recommended EQ plugins include Fabfilter ProQ 2, Waves PuigTec EQP-1A, and Slate FG-S. Ultimately, the right EQ plugin will depend on your personal preferences and production goals.

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