Learn How to Choose the Right EQ!

How to Choose the Right EQ in Mixing: Analog vs. Digital EQ Plugins

When it comes to mixing, one of the most crucial tools in your arsenal is the equalizer (EQ). The right EQ can transform a muddy mix into a polished masterpiece, enhance the vibe of your track, and help you achieve a professional sound. However, choosing the right EQ for the job can be a daunting task. Should you use an analog EQ emulation plugin or a digital EQ plugin? In this article, I'll walk you through the considerations to help you make the right choice for your mix.

1. What is the Vibe, Feel, Style?

The vibe and style of your track play a significant role in determining the type of EQ you should use. If you're aiming for a vintage sound reminiscent of the 60s or 70s, an analog EQ emulation plugin is the way to go. Analog EQs impart a certain warmth and character to the sound that digital EQs often lack. They emulate the circuitry of vintage hardware, adding a subtle coloration that can bring your mix to life.

**Example:** If you want your mix to have that classic 60s vibe, consider using an analog emulation EQ plugin like the Pultec EQP-1A. This EQ is renowned for its musical and smooth curves, making it perfect for adding warmth and richness to your tracks.

2. Is Corrective EQ Needed?

Corrective EQ is often necessary to address problematic frequencies in a mix. Whether it's unmasking frequencies or eliminating annoying resonances, a digital EQ is usually the best tool for the job. Digital EQs offer precise control over frequency bands and Q size, allowing you to surgically remove or attenuate unwanted frequencies.

**Example:** When dealing with a snare drum that has an unpleasant ring, a digital EQ like the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is ideal. Its ability to manipulate the Q size with precision helps in isolating and removing specific frequencies without affecting the rest of the mix.

3. Do I Need to Blend Tracks Together?

When blending multiple tracks together, such as drum tracks, an EQ with a predetermined EQ points and curve designed by experienced audio engineers can be incredibly useful. Analog EQs often come with preset curves that are optimized for musicality, making it easier to achieve a cohesive sound.

**Example:** To blend drum tracks seamlessly, an analog EQ like the API 550A can be highly effective. Its fixed frequency bands and proportional Q ensure that your drum tracks sit well together, providing a collective and balanced sound.

4. Am I Sound Designing?

Sound design often requires creative and experimental use of EQ. Whether you're crafting unique effects or shaping the tonal character of a sound, a digital EQ offers the flexibility needed for sound design tasks. Digital EQs allow you to apply drastic changes and automate parameters easily, making them perfect for creative applications.

**Example:** For creating a telephone effect, where you high-pass the low and low-mid frequencies and boost the main part of the vocal frequencies, a digital EQ like the Waves Q10 is perfect. Its versatility and precision make it easy to achieve the desired effect.

5. Do I Need Dynamic EQ?

Dynamic EQs are essential when you need to suppress certain frequencies only when they exceed a specific threshold. This can be particularly useful for controlling harshness or taming resonances that occur sporadically in a track. A digital EQ with dynamic capabilities is the go-to choice in these scenarios.

**Example:** When dealing with a vocal track that occasionally becomes harsh in the high frequencies, a dynamic EQ like the iZotope Neutron 3 can be incredibly effective. It allows you to dynamically control the offending frequencies, ensuring a smooth and consistent vocal performance.


Choosing the right EQ for your mix is crucial for achieving a professional and polished sound. By considering the vibe, corrective needs, blending requirements, sound design tasks, and dynamic control, you can determine whether an analog EQ emulation plugin or a digital EQ plugin is best suited for the job. Each type of EQ has its strengths, and understanding these will help you make informed decisions in your mixing process.

For more in-depth teachings on music production and audio engineering, please become a Sonic Philosophy member through my Patreon. Join us and elevate your mixing skills to the next level!

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