Last Updated on December 29, 2020 by IDS Team
In our endless pursuit for better-sounding recordings, we’re lucky enough to have an abundance of great plugins for our DAWs of choice.
Whatever kind of music you’re into, there’s always a way to enhance the tone at least a little bit, no matter how polished it already is.
However, we should never stray too far away from the basics and neglect some of these fundamental principles and effects.
With this said, proper EQing is a must, no matter the genre, instruments, or the setting.
And there are two basic types of equalizers: graphic and parametric.
Although their function is essentially the same, they usually have a different application, but it often comes down to personal preferences of the one who’s in charge of the mixing process.
Graphic EQs are pretty simple to figure out, with each slider control presenting a specific frequency range.
With parametric EQs, it’s a bit more complex, but it allows more precise tone shaping methods.
It offers more detailed controls over all the parameters, and you can even completely filter out certain “troublesome” frequencies.
In this brief guide, we’ll be looking into the matter and sharing some of the best parametric EQ plugins that we can find. You can find a summarising table below, and the full list after.
Released back in 2011, Pro-Q by FabFilter slowly found its way into the world of professional music-making.
Of course, it’s been improved many times since then, and the current version is up to date with all the current trends and needs.
The current version allows users to tweak up to 24 individual frequency bands.
What’s more, since the third version, there is also a dynamic mode which helps you save time by automatically filtering out the “bad” parts of the spectrum.
Whenever they reach a certain peak, Pro-Q automatically takes care of it. It’s as simple as that.
Of course, there are also high-pass filter and low-pass filter curves, which helps a lot with any types of vocals or instruments.
If you’ve got 30 minutes to spare, Manchester Music’s video on the Fab Filter Pro Q3 is a great little gem to get deeply acquainted with the possibilities of this plugin:
This is perhaps the most popular parametric EQ plugin, having received a bunch of awards and accolades from industry leading producers and engineers.
It gets a perfect score of 5 stars on pluginboutique:
Harrison 32C by Universal audio is a bit different from the rest of the plugins in this list.
First, its interface does not include the view of the curve.
Instead, it has somewhat of a “vintage” approach, giving the view of a supposed rack-mounted unit.
This is a console-styled plugin with only knobs and switches available on it.
The whole idea was to recreate the well-known Harrison 32C console, the one that ruled during the 1980s.
Expectedly, it gives that analog feel to the tone, making it a great choice for anyone who’s aiming at that type of sound.
There’s a total of four bands to control.
Each of these has a frequency level knob, as well as a gain knob.
You can also add a low-pass and a high-pass filter.
The approach feels a little “outdated” in some way, but it still provides great results for those who love vintage vibes in their sound.
The idea behind this particular plugin was to have a very precise and detailed EQ for any purpose.
There’s a total of seven bands to control on it, along with multiple different curve shapes.
Basically, you have full and comprehensive control over every possible parameter.
It can be set to do low and high-pass filtering, different bell curves, as well as shelves and additional fine-tuning.
What’s interesting is that you can set this equalizer to work between the linear phase and minimum phase response.
With the linear phase, you can keep all the frequencies in sync while also adding a small delay.
This way, you can do substantial boosts and cuts without messing up the relation of frequencies across the entire audible spectrum.
MDW EQ5 by Massenburg DesignWorks became well-known for its completely clean and very flat response to the original signal.
This gives a solid base to shape the tone the way you want to with this EQ plugin.
As its name suggests, this plugin can control five frequency bands, with each having its own detailed controls.
Aside from different shapes like shelves and peaks, there’s also a useful Q control that gives more detailed EQ curve shaping.
Sound Radix’s SurferEQ 2 takes the parametric EQing process to another level.
Now, what’s really special about it is that it not only takes care of the EQ curve but also handles the pitch of monophonic tracks.
Whether it’s an instrument track or a vocal track, it can help you sort out any “loose ends” and help you figure out the best equalizing practices with lower or higher notes.
It’s a fairly advanced feature that you don’t see in most of the EQ plugins today.
With its special Surf mode on, the plugin automatically tracks the audio recording’s pitch and adjusts the curve.
This feature also works with any standard MIDI controller, allowing some unusual tone-shaping processes.
Check out the video below for a quick glance at the plugin:
And here’s another one for the lovers of vintage-oriented and console-style EQ plugins.
PSP Audioware’s ConsoleQ is not the regular kind of “clean” equalizer, but rather adds somewhat of a “flavor” to any track that you’re processing.
It is based on many different old consoles.
This plugin deals with four different frequency ranges, and it includes a separate high-pass filter.
Again, just like with other old school types of parametric EQ plugins, there’s one knob for the frequency and another one for the gain level for each frequency range.
It might take some time to get used to for those who are not familiar with parametric EQs, but it’s still a very effective one that adds a vintage dimension to the sound.
Now, Brainworx made sure to make a very detailed and complex EQ with their bx_digital V3.
It takes only a glance to realize how advanced it actually is.
Not to get too technical, you can do both mono and stereo editing here.
In the stereo mode, you can do different settings for both the left and right channels.
Overall, there are five frequency ranges here.
And each of them can be shaped with special parameter controls.
As we said, it’s fairly advanced, this most suitable for professional work.
All of the above listed plugins are time tested favorites of our community, but regardless of which one you end up choosing, never forget to deep dive into it and learn all of the features and knobs.
Only this way will you give the plugin a fair chance.
If you’ve got any suggestion that we’ve missed, please leave it in the comment section below.