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  • EQ Plugin Quality

    Posted by Jesse Lewis on at 9:21 am

    Hello MIX LEGENDS!

    I have a question that I’m hoping somebody can answer — It’s about the sound quality of various EQ plugins. Specifically I’m asking about EQ 8 that comes in Ableton Live. Should I expect to hear any audible difference in the exact same EQ curve (same filter, same frequency, same gain) between Ableton’s EQ 8 and any other similar style EQ like FabFilter Pro-Q or Kirchhoff-EQ? I know these more expensive EQ plugins offer much more functionality in terms of the ability to add more bands, use of Dynamic EQing, and many other useful functions…but just in terms of SOUND. Is there a difference? If I only needed to do a simple surgical cut for example, is there any benefit to using one EQ plugin vs a different one? Thanks in advance for sharing any of your wisdom on this subject.

    Best Wishes,


    Dana Nielsen replied 1 month, 1 week ago 2 Members · 5 Replies
  • 5 Replies
  • Dana Nielsen

    at 7:16 am


    What a great question, man. Here’s how I tend to think about the plethora of plug-in EQs out there for your DAW.

    • I tend to notice the unique “sound” of an EQ when BOOSTING frequencies, and much less so when CUTTING. i.e. “How forgiving or open or airy or sweet is that 10k shelf you’re boosting 6db? How does that 60Hz bell-curve boost on the kick drum sound? Is the bandwidth narrow and ultra defined, bordering on resonant; or is it wide and warm and wooly?”
    • When I’m CUTTING surgically my EQs feel much more like Swiss Army Knives rather than artistic paint brushes. I recognize a frequency (or five of them) I’d like to reduce and I slap a versatile parametric EQ on it — usually the stock Avid 7-band EQ or Fabfilter Pro-Q3 in my case — not because their cuts “sound the best” or better than any other option, but because they offers me either a) the most options, and/or b) the least amount of fuss (i.e. time). For this type of EQ I want many fully-sweepable bands, capable of extreme/resonant/notch/narrow bandwidths (sometimes known as Q), and a hi-pass and low-pass filter, again with as many db per octave as possible.

    I hope this helps in some way, brother! Can’t wait to hear what you’ve been EQ’ing lately 😉


  • Jesse Lewis

    at 9:39 am

    Thanks as always for your informative and thoughtful answer, it was very helpful and appreciated!!

    In terms of those versatile parametric EQs that you mentioned, such as the Avid 7-band EQ or Fabfilter Pro-Q3 — Is there any sonic difference when you boost the same frequencies with the same filter/same Q. I know that Pultec and other analog emulation Eq plugins will have different sounds because of their unique curves and circuitry, etc but I guess I’m just wondering if the parametric style EQ’s (Fabfilter vs Avid-7) can actually sound different from each other? I certainly don’t have the ears to perceive a difference:)

    ❤ JLew

    • Dana Nielsen

      at 9:46 pm

      My pleasure man!

      True about the sweet, sweet pultec sounds as well as other colorful EQ models, which add a lot of wonderful mysterious beauty when boosting. Regarding the sonic differences between surgical parametric EQ plugins boosting equal amounts of the exact same frequency and bandwidth …. If you don’t hear a difference then there probably is none! Simple as that. And in my experience that tends to be the case – not much difference if at all. Don’t second-guess yourself or let any of that wig you out – just keep it simple and trust your ears. Most EQs of that type sound the same at the end of the day, and you might end up preferring one over the next due to non-sound-related things like:

      • system resources / efficiency
      • graphic interface
      • metering / visual feedback
      • band solo-isolate option while sweeping
      • wide range of db/octave options on high and low pass filters
      • map-ability to hardware encoders (Eucon, Hui, MIDI faders/pots etc.)
      • number of available bands
      • Mid-side options (EQing only the mid or the side channels)
      • mono-maker (summing all frequencies to mono above a certain frequency)
      • “tilt” band option
      • specialized processor compatibility (UAD, HDX)

      …And on and on. That above list is off the top of my head, and just some of the factors that may lead me to favor one “surgical workhorse desert-island” EQ over another. And incidentally NONE of those factors have anything to do with sound QUALITY. Know wha’mean?

      TL;DR: Chances are your stock Ableton parametric probably sounds just as good as the competition. ⚡️

      • Jesse Lewis

        at 5:23 am

        Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of this insight! So helpful! I feel as excited about all of this mixing and production stuff as I did about learning my 2-5’s back in the day:)….which is very excited haha

        • Dana Nielsen

          at 9:12 pm

          Hahaha – well, you certainly shed your ii-V’s MUCH harder than I did, and are a much better player than I, so it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be on the cover of TapeOp or hosting Mix With The Masters, I have no doubt!

          Also, for anyone else reading this thread — please weigh in with your thoughts and opinions on Jesse’s question about EQs! I’d love to hear — and welcome — any contrasting opinions. If you’re like, “nah, Dana, the top end boost on the Farfelbanger 5000 parametric plugin is sonically far superior to all other EQs for your DAW!” you best believe I’ma download that Farfelbanger and check it out! 😂 #farfelbanger5k

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