Top 9 EQ Tips Published in Mastering

  1. Octave-Based Bandwidths
  2. Emulate Analog Equalizers
  3. What is Linear Phase?
  4. Boost Sub with EQ
  5. Boost Vocal with EQ
  6. Boost Air with EQ
  7. Control Dynamics with EQ
  8. Bypassed Analog Emulation Plugins
  9. Increase Perception of Fundamental

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Octave-Based Bandwidths

When equalizing, it’s important to know how to create a more musical sound - one of the best ways to do this is to base the bandwidth of your EQ curves on octaves. For example, the Q value of 1 Octave is 1.414 - this works well on your fundamental.

Multiply this by a little over 2 to get smaller bandwidths, for example, 2.871 is 1/2 octave and so on.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Emulate Analog Equalizers

Analog emulation EQs don’t often show the curve they create, but with this free plugin by Bertom audio you can see how the signal changes. This gives you the opportunity to recreate analog curves with your favorite parametric eq - for example, we can observe this Pultec and recreate it.

This is convenient if you want to add modern functions to classic curves, like mid-side or maybe dynamic functionality.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

What is Linear Phase?

EQs are made up of multiple filters from roughly 20 to 20kHz - when we alter the response in a zero-latency EQ, these filters can conflict with one another causing constructive and destructive interference amongst them. This isn’t an issue with linear phase since all filters are identically delayed.

This is particularly useful on low frequencies where octaves are closer together. Since this delay needs to be compensated for, it causes issues with your track’s transients, so best to use as low of a delay as possible.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Boost Sub with EQ

If you’re working on pop or hip-hop or any genre where sub-frequencies are important - know that these are located between 20Hz and 60Hz more or less. If you boost these frequencies with a high dB per octave sloped band, you can greatly improve your sub frequencies.

Use a low-latency linear phase setting when doing this for reasons we just discussed.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Boost Vocal with EQ

Your vocal’s clarity and presence rest between 1.5kHz and 3.5kHz, meaning you should find a harmonic of your fundamental within this range and boost it. For example, if the fundamental is an A, 1760Hz and 3520Hz are both good options, but this is just a good guide.

The best area to boost for vocal presence may not be notes that relate to the fundamental.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Boost Air with EQ

Air is talked about a lot in production, but achieving it is surprisingly simple - all you need is an EQ that extends beyond 20kHz. For example, I can use the FabFilter Pro Q 3 to amplify a shelf centered at 30kHz and then adjust my Q and slope.

The band will subtly cover the highest perceivable frequencies, create a sense of air.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Control Dynamics with EQ

Dynamic EQs are a great alternative to compressors or expanders - they often have a cleaner tone, and of course the ability to make your processing frequency specific. For example, I can use a dynamic EQ as a de-esser by creating a band over my vocal’s sibilance.

I’ll adjust the threshold and bandwidth to control the right range and make the de-essing transparent.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Bypassed Analog Emulation Plugins

This is a somewhat random tip, but it isn’t talked about too often so I figured I’d discuss it - in short, most analog emulation equalizers are affecting your signal even when bypassed or when all settings are at 0. We can notice that even when bypassed, the response isn’t flat.

It’s best to keep this in mind if you want to create very subtle curves or if you want to ensure your signal isn’t being affected.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

Increase Perception of Fundamental

If you increase the amplitude of your harmonics, you can achieve a psychoacoustic effect in which the fundamental frequency becomes easier to perceive - which is beneficial for a few reasons. To do this, know the note of your fundamental, and then subtle boost each octave note above it.

So if the fundamental is again an A, you can slightly boost each A to create this effect.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

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