How to EQ a Mix

When equalizing a full mix, be sure to only make subtle changes to the frequency response – also, utilize mid-side equalization for subtle stereo expansion.  You can also use other creative forms of equalization like dynamic eq or intelligent eq to subtly reshape your mix’s response.

Adding Stereo Air to a Mix

For this video, let’s focus on processing the mixbus with EQ.  Keep in mind that none of these sections are in any particular order and can be used individually or collectively.

If we use a mid-side EQ, we can easily achieve a really sought-after sound – we’ll create a high shelf to our side image and gradually increase its amplitude.  What’s great about boosting this frequency range on the side image is that it rarely contains harsh or unwanted signals.

For example, vocal sibilance, intense cymbal sounds, and other aggressive high frequencies are usually isolated to the mid image, so increasing this aspect of a mix often has a really pleasant sound.

Subtle Stereo Expansion

If we use an EQ with filters that can be isolated to the left and right channels, we can create some great-sounding stereo imaging suitable for the mixbus.  I’ll create 2 bell filters, one on the left another on the right – then I’ll vary their frequencies by about 50Hz.

These close frequency bells will cause mild and natural sounding phase cancellation that’ll widen my mix.

Automated EQ

If you want certain sections of your mix to stick out or maybe fall back a bit, try automating an EQ in and out.  For example, say I have an EQ with the high-frequency side shelf I covered a moment ago – I could turn it on and off a certain points

If I go to my automation window, then select this EQ’s bypass setting, I can turn it on and off say during the chorus.  This will help differentiate sections of your mix from other sections – it also opens up a lot of creative possibilities. 

EQ with Saturation

Saturation adds harmonics which increase certain parts of the frequency response – if we a curve analyzer we can more clearly see how this works.  With that in mind, if you want to boost your highs use an exciter, use tube saturation to increase your lows, or tape saturation to increase your mids.

Be sure to use your ears though, since each saturator is a little different.

Analog EQ with Unity Settings

Most analog EQ emulations, and the hardware on which they’re modeled, impart very subtle frequency curves onto the signal.  For this reason, a lot of engineers will keep a piece of hardware in their mixbus or master chain but keep all of the settings at unity.

I like to use the Maag EQ for this since I find it has a really pleasant curve that works well for a lot of mixes.  But you have a lot of options for this, so place an analog emulator on your mixbus and listen carefully for the changes it makes.

Gullfoss EQ then Additive EQ

Additive EQ will boost both the frequencies you want and the ones you don’t, especially when using wider bandwidths.  With that in mind, if you have the plugin, use the Gullfoss EQ before additive EQ to subtly reduce the effect of masking and an unbalanced mix.

Keep the effect subtle since it can become overbearing on a full mix pretty quickly.  Then with the mix balanced, amplify what you want a little more of.  This way you don’t have to worry about amplifying the wrong thing.

Increase Dynamic Range with EQ

On occasion, I’ll use a dynamic EQ to both equalize my mixbus and increase the dynamic range of my signal.  To do this I’ll create dynamic bands, and lower the gain of the band while raising the range of the dynamic processing – usually by a couple of dB in both directions.

This way I get to amplify aspects of the range, but when the signal isn’t present or falls below my threshold, the frequency’s amplitude is reduced.  This is a great way to combine a couple of forms of processing.

Parallel Shaped Reverb

If you’re an engineer that uses subtle reverb on the mixbus, consider shaping it to better control what frequencies include its reflections.  Some plugins let you do this within its interface, but if you’re using one that doesn’t, send your mix to a parallel track and then add equalization.

If I do this, I typically amplify the high frequency of the reverberation to add a little air to it.  If you choose the parallel option, you can affect the left, right, mid, and side of the reverb, similar to how were equalizing earlier.

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