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Difference in EQ Plugins?


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I've gotten a lot better at mixing music over the last few years, but I still have a lot of issues finding a good balance in equalization. Lately I've been wondering if it might be because I've only ever really used the native FL studio parametric EQ plugins for it. Occasionally I'll need to use the ones in Kontakt, Omnisphere, z3ta, etc. but I've been wondering if I should get a new, higher quality EQ plugin that some of the fancier mixing companies make, like iZotope or something.

I've not seen a lot of threads on this topic and it feels somewhat juvenile to ask because I already know that it's not what you buy but how much skill you have in using it. All the same, if all these plugins and VSTs had the same quality and functions, people wouldn't keep making them.

Thoughts? Insight?

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I still love to use Fruity Parametric EQ 2 for its visualization feature, and I'm probably not going to stop using it anytime soon. I do also have FabFilter Pro-Q, which is a more precise EQ plugin that has a standard deviation of 0.01 dB, as compared to Fruity Parametric EQ 2, where its standard deviation is 0.1 dB. I don't use that quite as much, though, for typical EQing, since it is more RAM-heavy and really accomplishes the same thing with negligibly higher precision (plus it doesn't have as good of a visualization feature IMO).

Some tips I would give for cleaner EQing (less overboosts, less excessive cuts, etc) are:

  • Pay close attention to how the EQ edit you are doing changes the sound, and try to find middle ground; don't neglect to boost very high, then cut very low, to narrow in on that optimal gain on the EQ band. If you hold Ctrl while dragging the EQ band, it drags more precisely.
  • Check reference mixes if you feel that helps.
  • If you synthesize your own sounds, try making their EQ clean from the get-go, and you don't have to EQ as much to get them to fit in the mix. Generally, cutting more than boosting is a pretty good rule of thumb.
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To be completely honest, I don't really see a point in buying a different EQ. The fruity parametric EQ 2 is still my favorite for the reasons Timaeus just said. I can't really think of any features another EQ plugin would have that would be enough to justify spending hard-earned money on.

As a side note, I know people more into mixing than the other aspects of music might crucify me for this and say I'm "wrong", but I feel I've gotten better with mixing recently and the most important thing I think I've learned in terms of "frequency balance" is that it's not so much about EQ, but about composition and arrangement. For me, giving up on trying to get things to "fit" by fiddling with the EQ on a bunch of different tracks and instead, if something isn't audible, changing up the voicings, strategic choice of when a particular instrument plays, or just omitting certain parts altogether has yielded far more satisfying results. 

 

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Adding my two cents to the change pile; Parametric EQ 2 is fine; but I do have to recommend Pro-Q or similar if you're looking to use linear phase EQ to prevent transient smearing or phase issues when you notice regular EQ plugs creating that problem. Fruity Convolver has a linear phase EQ built in but it's not real-time adjustable and the interface is poor.

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EQing as a process alters the phase of your program material--this may be important or not to your particular needs, but it is one significant feature that distinguishes EQ processors.

Some processors will have useful visualizations or Mid/Side processing or other features that you find useful, try them out, see what works for you.

I'm a big fan of the Fab Filter plug-ins and Pro-Q is incredibly useful for spectral surgery--I like the visualization, it's easy to place the q-point I want, there are lots of options for phase control, etc.

Despite that, I definitely remember loading up a PSP AudioWare parametric EQ (I think it was their Classic Q or their Console Q) and while it didn't leave me with a lot of control, it was instantly musical and I appreciated the ease at which I arrived at a pleasing sound.

Not that I probably couldn't have achieved the same sound with Pro-Q, but simply that I probably wouldn't have done it in just that way or approached the problem in the same way--simply because the interface was different.

Ultimately, this is about workflow and I have a selection of EQs that I will employ based on the needs of the situation.

 

For what it's worth, my two main EQs are FabFilter Pro-Q and Brainworx bx_Digital_v2.

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I'm a huge fan of everything that Variety of Sound does.  I haven't really used much of their two EQ's but judging by the quality of their other plugins (especially epicverb) I would give them a shot before spending too much money.

One is a buss EQ called BaxterEQ  the other one is BootEQ which is a pre-amp sim and EQ so it may end up coloring things just how you want it.  

https://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/vst-effects/

Can you elaborate on what you mean by "good balance in equalization"?  Do you mean having a variety of EQ's for subtly different uses or that you are having problems keeping a mix balanced while eq'ing or something else?

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Yeah, but like I said, there's knowing how to use them and knowing when the job requires something else. It's why I alternate between FL Studio's MB Compressor and... that... other free one whose name escapes me right now. I suspect there are just some sounds PEQ2 can't help me with, so I'd like to try a different one and see if that gives me more pleasing results.

This is good stuff, gents. Lot of meat in this content. Thanks much! :D

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On 1/17/2016 at 4:55 PM, AngelCityOutlaw said:

As a side note, I know people more into mixing than the other aspects of music might crucify me for this and say I'm "wrong", but I feel I've gotten better with mixing recently and the most important thing I think I've learned in terms of "frequency balance" is that it's not so much about EQ, but about composition and arrangement. For me, giving up on trying to get things to "fit" by fiddling with the EQ on a bunch of different tracks and instead, if something isn't audible, changing up the voicings, strategic choice of when a particular instrument plays, or just omitting certain parts altogether has yielded far more satisfying results. 

 

Right... But there are far more uses of EQ than getting things to balance. What you're saying is really good advice, but don't discount what EQ is for. Mixing is way more than just getting elements to balance.

As far as features, PEQ2 doesn't have linear phase which is a pretty big deal.

Simply try doing parallel processing with a variety of stock or free plugins, you'll notice that often times the sound quality will deteriorate pretty dramatically because frequencies become out of phase. Linear or zero phase processing options gives you ways to keep tabs on how your signals are behaving phase-wise, allowing you to keep phase correlation to a maximum (in layman's terms it doesn't sound like you put a comb filter on the drums).

Also, of course bad phase response also smears transients. It's all connected.

Re: no higher quality eq than PEQ2 (how to multi quote on new forum??)

Remember that a parametric EQ is a bunch of parallel bandpass filters. Saying there can't be higher quality EQ is like saying there can't be higher quality bandpass filters or higher quality summation. And that is... well, I'm not blaming you because you're not an electrical engineer, but it's wrong nonetheless. 

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Here's a nice article about the general differences in digital EQs; https://vladgsound.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/a-classification-of-digital-equalizers-draft/

One thing I didn't like about DAW stock EQs I've tried, including Parametric EQ 2, is that none of them seem to have great-sounding lowpass/highpass filters (at least to my ears).

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  • 4 weeks later...

I don't find a large difference in digital EQs, but things suddenly up and change when we talk Nebula versions of analog EQs or analog EQs themselves.  Avalon or API or Neve etc. have rather distinct signatures.  All the raving over various EQs didn't make much sense to me until I stumbled upon what Nebula offered.  Now I'm fine with using ITB eq for general tasks where no signature is wanted or surgical cuts.  (Helps to curtail CPU usage as well, since Nebula is one of the most demanding non-instrument plug-ins out there).

A good high quality mastering-grade/use digital EQ is the one from Sonoris.  You can get very far with just one decent parametric, however.  It's easier to make them generate phase shift, but their versatility is unrivaled.

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Eh the differences between most any digital EQ simply comes down to functionality rather than sonic qualities. For the most part you can emulate any digital EQ with a fully parametric EQ. Just how it goes. Though there is something to be said for the speed at which you can use an EQ to do what you need. For the most part I don't use fully Parametric EQs when I mix, I typically use Nomad Factory's NEQ-1972 which is like a Neve 1081 EQ. I just like how fast I can dial in what I need with it rather than to get all fiddly with the various settings of a fully parametric EQ. Though I do use Parametric EQs when I need to get in and do something cleanly or surgically. For those situations I use ReaEQ for more general stuff and Pro-Q for the more advanced stuff. 

Just find something you're comfortable using and go from there. If you like to be speedy with EQ then perhaps looking at an EQ that isn't fully parametric may be beneficial. Something free would be BootEQ from VoS. It isn't a surgical EQ by any means, but it has a good overall sound and surprisingly flexible. If you like the way it flows over using a fully parametric EQ then you should try and explore different EQ plugins. But sonically? I've never noticed a big difference between EQs except in the bands and how they react to the sound. Compressors on the other hand I have a lot more to say, but that isn't the question at hand.

Use the digital EQ that sounds good to you and jive with.

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As I think more about this particular question I feel that some more information should be on offer than there currently is in the thread.

So, as I said I don't really notice much of a difference in the way digital EQs sound. That is pretty much universally true for me. That doesn't mean that there isn't a difference. I personally despise the way linear phase EQs sound and so I don't use them despite having Pro-Q and Equilibrium from DMG Audio. They both are capable of linear phase with the proper PDC reporting to the DAW. However, I don't like how the filter rings equally and what that does to the spectral balance of a signal. But that is just me personally, and that doesn't mean I haven't found a need or use of that in a mix from time to time. That is something that PEQ2 simply cannot do. So, for utility purposes with complex material having an extremely flexible, powerful, and clean sounding EQ is something everyone should have in their toolbox. Otherwise as long as the developer gave enough attention to HF filters in relation to Nyquist then pretty much any Parametric EQ will sound the same with the primary difference being functionality. 

As an example of functionality between PEQ2 & Pro-Q real quick. If I want to change the Left channel of a sound only using PEQ2 then I have to mult out the part into two separate entities and treat just that side with an EQ. This is something that I can do completely internally with Pro-Q. Though the need to do something like this is pretty rare, but what about M/S? Pro-Q can do that without needing additional plugins. That right there is extremely useful functionality. 

Now, you may perhaps being wondering about so called "modeled" EQs as you've probably read about them. Well, supposedly the EQ I use a lot, Nomad Factory's NEQ-1972, is a modeled EQ. In certain situation flipping the "vintage" switch does alter the sound a positive way, but more often then not I don't hear a difference. But I've got more than one modeled EQ. There is Pulse-Tec EQ which is a Pultec with the mid range EQ part as well. This is a digital EQ that just doesn't quite sound like a normal EQ, which it shouldn't given that it has a tube makeup stage in the real unit as the actual EQ section is passive (at least IIRC the basic topology). Most of the time with this just putting it on something makes it sound better. No EQ is even necessary. However, you can perform the classic Pultec trick with it for bass or kicks, and it sounds fantastic doing it. Though the reason for this is that this EQ models saturation.

Yeah there are differences in digital EQs sure. But honestly for the most part if you're just using a parametric EQ you should be able to achieve most anything you want with it short of an EQ that models saturation. Then you're kind of SOL with just a parametric EQ as that isn't something they do. 

A quick tip on EQs to make them sound more natural or more like they're analog counterparts. Most of the time when it comes to boosting try wider bandwidths. For some reason our ears are extremely sensitive to even a minor increase. If you ever look at the transfer curves for passive EQs you'll find that the Q of the filters in them is proportional in that the more gain is applied the narrower the filter gets. Now, if you're cutting start with narrower cuts in the first place. A lot of old EQs actually have asymmetrical boost & cut transfer curves. We're not nearly as sensitive to cuts as boosts and as a result you can get away far more when cutting than boosting.

Do you need a fancy, shiny, super featured Parametric EQ? Not really.  Are they handy to have around? Very much so. Do you need a modeled EQ? Not really. Are they handy to have around? Very much so. I guess that is kind of the point of my post here. You don't really need a fancy EQ, but there can be advantages to working with an EQ that has a fixed set of bands & frequencies as they can be faster to work with (I'm in this camp). Certain kinds of modeled EQs do wonders for certain things. There is a reason the Pultec is famous and Pultec models will show you why. They're super smooth and big sounding. Seriously, give a try to some of the modeled EQs out there. OverTone DSP offers a free demo on their Pultec emulation, the PTC-2A. A very sweet sounding EQ in general to try is TDR VoS SlickEQ. If you want to try a great sounding free program EQ give BaxterEQ from VoS a try. Just start trying and see what you think. 

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