Just like compression in our previous “PAR Picks 6” installment, equalization is added to taste. But in doing so, you can land anywhere between killing your mix with it or making it sound just right. And through the range of dangers and potential, we all still seem to rely on it in virtually every session. Here, I share my thoughts on six software EQs that I find useful, each offering its own character, all of which are reliable for getting the job done when needed.
1 Abbey Road TG12412
4-band, semi-parametric EQ Developed in collaboration with Chandler Limited, this 4-band, semi-parametric EQ is part of the company’s TG Mastering Pack, which also includes the TG12414 filter. Both were modeled after EMI’s custom-designed mastering “transfer consoles.”
The TG12412 EQ is broken down into four bands: low, low mid, upper mid and high. With all four, you can select a fixed Frequency, Gain and Shape as well as adjusting a master Level control. There is no metering at all, which is sometimes good, as it’s truly about using your ears and not your eyes.
The interesting (and quirky) thing about the TG12412 is the Shape feature, which offers five selections for each band: LOW, BL (blunt), MED, SH (sharp) and HIGH. The High and Low are shelving curves, while the rest are bell curves.
While the TG12412 is primarily intended as a mastering plug-in, I find it most useful on certain instruments such as Bass and Kick. I often use it to EQ and filter frequencies out of instruments, as it’s incredibly smooth and warm-sounding; you can crank the levels either way (up to +/-10 dB) without it ever getting harsh. It will run as TDM, as well as RTAS/AU and VST.
Price: $560 and $335 (as part of the TG Mastering Pack, TDM and RTAS/AU/VST, respectively)
Contact: Abbey Road | abbeyroadplugins.com
Left: Abbey Road TG12412, Right: Waves Linear Phase
2 Waves Linear Phase Equalizer, Broadband Version
Another EQ plug-in that was intended for mastering use, the Waves Linear Phase comes with two components with purchase: selectivity between Lowband and Broadband. The Broadband component offers five bands and a special low-frequency band, whereas Lowband offers 3-band, low-frequency components. It runs as TDM, RTAS, Audio Suite, VST and AU, each to 96 kHz.
This paragraphic EQ type has up to +/- 30 dB per band and the linearphase component means all frequency bands are delayed by the exact same amount, which helps avoid any phase smearing. It also features “double precision bit resolution processing” — fancy words to say that internal processing is done at 64-bit floating point in Native, and 48-bit fixed with TDM.
I do like to use this EQ across the master bus. I can best describe it as having super clean and crisp character. I tend to combine it with an outboard hardware EQ to help shape my final mixes, and I’ll often simply add a touch of air and cut a touch of bass (like a single dB or two). It’s pristine sound lets me turn to it in critical EQ situations.
Price: $250 and $200 (TDM and Native, respectively)
Contact: Waves | waves.com
3 Sonnox Oxford EQ
The algorithms for the Sonnox Oxford EQ were developed directly from the Sony Oxford OXF-R3 console. It features five bands of fully parametric EQ with selectable shelf settings on the LF and HF sections as well as separate low- and high-pass filters with variable slopes.
A unique feature are the four various selectable EQ types. Each features unique control over Gain/Q dependency and control range — and, of course, each has its own “sound.” You can easily hear the sonic changes by clicking though them with the TYPE button on the GUI. Sonnox also offers an optional fifth Type: a GML (George Massenburg Labs) 8200 EQ emulation with center frequencies up to 26 kHz.
Without trying to be cliché, the Oxford can best be described as being highly musical; I turn to it when I really don’t want EQ to be heard. The various TYPEs help cover a lot of territory, and it’s one of those rare EQs that work great on just about anything. The Oxford EQ will run on TDM, RTAS, AU, PowerCore and VST systems.
Prices: $495, $350 and $200 (HD including Native, PowerCore including Native, and Native, respectively); $675 and $220 (with GML 8200 EQ option, HD including Native and upgrade including Native from the base Oxford EQ, respectively)
Contact: Sonnox | sonnoxplugins.com
4 Massenburg DesignWorks (MDW) Hi-Res Parametric EQ
Aside from running as one of the optional TYPE options within the Sonnox Oxford EQ, the Massenburg DesignWorks (MDW) Parametric EQ plug-in will run standalone on Pro Tools HD systems as well as within the Mackie d8b and in the TC Electronic’s System 6000 reverb/effects processor.
I use the MDW within the Pro Tools HD environment, where it’s 96 kHz capable with 48-bit double-precision processing. On this plug-in, the five filter bands are connected in series, and each filter band has eight filter-type options. Filter band five has four extra filter types, and the Frequency Response Curve Display is scalable.
The interface is amazingly easy to use, and dialing in good sound literally takes just a few seconds. But ease of use is not why I call it up — it just sounds fabulous, especially in the high frequencies. The air it can add to a vocal is superb. It’s something I refer to as “soft,” but in a good way. Note that it operates only in mono or multi-mono.
Contact: Massenburg DesignWorks | massenburg.com
Top: Massenburg DesignWorks Hi-Res Parametric; Bottom: Universal Audio Cambridge
5 Universal Audio Cambridge EQ for UAD-2
The Cambridge EQ for use on UA’s UAD-2 platform is the most aggressive EQ of this bunch. I call it my “savage” EQ, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be subtle. It can, but I use it for its edginess: for example, when I really need to get a snare or kick to pop through a mix.
It’s a 5-band design with three types of Q and resonant shelf per band. It also has 17 low- and high-pass filter types, each designed to emulate the response of a classic analog filter.
While I like the useful zoom controls for fine adjustment, I tend to just grab the colored frequency bands and start dragging. But when it’s time to get specific, I’ll just type in a frequency value. The filters are excellent, and of course, highly flexible. You can really crank this EQ up. The results are not subtle — and that’s exactly why I like it.
Contact: Universal Audio | uaudio.com
McDSP Channel G
6 McDSP Channel G Equalizer
The only “channel strip” in this list, I turn to the Channel G’s 5-band parametric and shelving EQ section when looking for a nice variety of analog-type tones. The HD version of this plug-in supports TDM, RTAS, Audiosuite and AU formats, where the Native version supports RTAS, Audiosuite and AU.
You have the choice of calling up the Console, Dynamics or EQ version in mono or stereo. I tend to use the Console version on a master bus and/or the EQ-only version on individual channels. It’s nice that the filters have selectable slopes of 6 to 24 dB/Oct and you can choose from high/low pass and notch filters. However, the real winner here is the selection of modeled EQ modes that include E (SSL E Series), G (SSL G Series), N (AMEK/Neve 9098i) and the A (API 550). A nice feature is the ability to switch through the various EQ types and not only hear the difference, but watch the EQ curves/response change with each.
I prefer the A series EQ for nasty guitar tones. It has that inherently wide API sound; and wow, can it add some harmonic edge to a track! I also like the sound of the N series on acoustic guitars while the SSL E works great on a stereo mix.
Price: $349 and $279 (HD and Native, respectively) Contact: McDSP | mcdsp.com
Rich Tozzoli is a composer, engineer/mixer and the software editor for PAR.