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7 Essential EQ Tips To Make Your Music Mixes Shine

The sculpting of frequency content within multiple discrete audio signals for the aggregate benefit of the overall mix, equalisation is a technique that every audio engineer must master. Here are a few pointers to get the inexperienced up and running, and give old hands some possible food for thought.

Use The Right EQ For The Job

When you reach for an EQ plugin, you should always know what it is you’re aiming to achieve with it, and, therefore, what type of EQ you need. If, for example, you’re looking to get rid of low-end rumble in a vocal, a simple high-pass filter will suffice. But if you want to get into the details of that vocal, emphasising its defining frequencies by attenuating problem areas in the signal, a parametric ought to be your weapon of choice. There’s considerable variation within each type to bear in mind, too, with vintage analogue EQ emulations generally being less surgical than modern equivalents, but desirable for their warmth and vibe, and, often, the inherent musicality of the curves they’ve been designed to facilitate.

And then there are dynamic EQs, including FabFilter Pro-Q 3 and Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ, which combine compression and EQ, enabling frequency-targeted gain changes to be made based on the volume level of the incoming signal; ‘smart’ EQs such as oeksound Soothe 2 and Sound Theory Gullfoss, which literally do the hard work for you, constantly adjusting their EQ curves to optimise the spectral balance; Sound Radix Surfer EQ 2, which tracks the pitch of a monophonic signal to maintain equalisation as it rises and falls; and Eventide SplitEQ, which lets you EQ the transient and tonal components independently. As great as these things are, though, they’re not intended to be sweepingly ‘superior’ replacements for conventional EQ, and thus shouldn’t be your automatic first port of call in every frequency-shaping scenario. Again, don’t be beguiled into blindly firing up the most powerful EQ in your arsenal when all you need is an aerating high shelf.

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