In the world of mixing, the equalizer is often the first plugin an audio engineer puts into the mixing chain.
It is an essential tool to remove unwanted frequencies from a track, shape the tone of vocals, give presence to an instrument or simply use it for creative purposes – the sky is really the limit!
There are literally hundreds of EQ plugins on the market, but which ones are the best?
We’ve compiled a list of 10 of our favorites that we think all producers and mixing engineers should have in their arsenal.
Now, this list is by no means definitive, but these are what we consider the best EQ plugins on the market as of 2023.
Let’s get started!
FabFilter Pro-Q 3
Imagine for a moment if your audio signal was an object—imagine you could see it or touch it. Now imagine if there were a tool that allowed you to scrape away the unwanted frequencies, smooth out the rough edges, and breathe some air into your tracks. That’s FabFilter Pro-Q 3 in a nutshell!
The Q 3 is the successor of the popular FabFilter Pro-Q 2, which has been praised by top audio engineers around the world for its great sound quality, innovative features, and excellent usability.
The new version adds exciting new features like external spectrum visualization, band mid/side or left/right processing, and full surround support (up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2).
This is probably the most advanced EQ in the world for mixing, mastering, and everything between and offers everything you could want in an EQ.
I’ve used the old version for years and I love it, and the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 sounds even better.
You can use it on vocals, guitars, the master bus… pretty much everything. It’s your go-to plug-in for many uses.
By the way, it’s worth mentioning that this EQ really shines on snare and bass. It has a special solo mode that can add some real presence to those instruments.
No matter what genre you’re working in, if you need an excellent EQ, then FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is for you.
The only downside we could think of to this EQ is that it costs more than most other EQ plugins on the market. However, you do get what you pay for – the quality!
Oxford EQ V3
Oxford EQ V3 is one of the best-sounding parametric EQ plugins that I have used. The interface is designed with simplicity in mind, making it easy to use. The four EQ modes each have a different sound, so it is great for a wide range of tasks.
- The SSL4000 E series EQ type has a clinical lower mid-frequency cut which is useful for removing specific frequencies in guitars without having to resort to drastic EQ changes.
- The tighter ‘cut’ type is great for subtle changes without affecting the rest of your mix.
- Neve and SSL G series type is perfect for gentle tonal shaping of frequencies.
- Wide and gentle curves are perfect for applying a subtle amount of EQ across the entire frequency spectrum to polish the mix. The curves give a good ‘glue’ to the mix, and with no added coloration.
This plugin certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the best-sounding EQs on the market. The price tag might be a bit of a turn-off to some, but I think it is worth it for the quality of the plugin.
The Sie-Q EQ plugin has been developed based on the famous Siemens W295b hardware EQ. It contains all of the essential functions of the original device, but with the benefits of the software.
If you want to take your mixes to the next level, this is an EQ that should be in your arsenal. You can use it for sculpting or adding richness to your tracks. Plus there’s a drive knob that recreates the color of the original hardware EQ.
The Sie-Q works well on tracks where you need saturation without having too much aggression come out in the mix. For mastering purposes, it provides lots of flexibility when shaping frequencies while still sounding rich and natural. And if you’re looking to add some airy top end without compromising clarity, this EQ shines!
Downsides? It naturally colors the sound which some people like and some don’t, but regardless, that color is what most audio engineers will come to love. I especially like how it colors the low frequencies.
TDR VOS SlickEQ GE
This is one of the cheapest premium EQ plug-ins out there, recommended by Dave Pensado himself.
There are several reasons why this EQ is so popular – and not just because it’s cheap:
It offers five diﬀerent EQ models: American, British, German, Soviet, and Japanese, which gives you a wide variety of flavors to choose from.
In addition, it has seven diﬀerent output stages, which allow you to further adjust the EQ’s character.
With this little beast, you can add “tube-like” distortion to high frequencies, or a subtle boost to the low-end that’s warm and thick.
I really like the interface of this plugin. It’s super simple; there are no confusing knobs or hidden features.
If you like the sound of vintage EQs, you will love this plugin. It’s way more versatile though, as it offers a wide range of EQ models and output stages.
Cons? There’s really nothing to complain about, considering the low price.
TDR Nova GE
This parallel dynamic eq will give your mixes or tracks the punch they deserve with its six independent frequency bands of dynamics processing (downward compression, upward compression, upward expansion, downward expansion). And it comes with a drag-and-drop interface that is very intuitive and easy to use.
With its flexible, dynamic eq mode, it can be used on anything from mixing vocals to drums, guitars, or even master busses.
It’s an elegant musical answer for any problem that needs solving in your mix.
It does come with some downsides, however: it doesn’t offer enough gain per band and also lacks simultaneous input/output analysis. Furthermore, when using the insane mode, you may experience moderate to high CPU use.
If these limitations don’t bother you too much we think TDR Nova GE will be an excellent addition to your arsenal of EQ plugins!
Empirical Labs Lil FrEQ
Softube is known for creating plugins that accurately model hardware products and their version of the Lil FrEQ has unparalleled sound quality.
It provides you with punchy, fat, and analog sounds with its smooth EQ bands. This plugin is an accurate software emulation of the popular hardware unit and features four bands of fully parametric EQ with an added Vintage style High-pass filter. It also has a DS (De-Esser) section with the same controls as its famous hardware equivalent.
I’ve used it on a number of projects and been blown away by the sound – every time. Works especially great on kicks and bassy sounds as well as guitars to make them more fat. It’s also very CPU-friendly and comes with a fantastic presets library.
Price-wise, it’s a bit pricey at $200+, however with how great it sounds and Softubes reputation I believe this plugin is worth it.
If you are looking for a super fat-sounding EQ plugin I would definitely check it out.
Chandler Limited® Curve Bender Mastering EQ
This EQ is based on legendary British console EQ circuits and knows for its smooth, warm sounds, tight lows, and creamy top end. Perfect for mastering and overall very musical and can be used in many different ways.
If you’re after analog flavor but can’t afford to buy the actual hardware, get this plugin instead because it’s very close to the original and definitely one of the best EQ plugins ever made.
It’s hard to find any downsides because it really does sound amazing but if we had to choose something, it costs way more than most other EQ plugins but is well worth it if analog is your thing.
AVA Mastering EQ
This EQ is a powerful solution for mastering purposes and allows you to shape the stereo image of your mix in a very musical way.
The low-pass and high-pass filters are designed for gentle slopes with a spectrum analyzer to find frequencies that need boosting or cutting. It has 31 control bands ranging from 20hz to 20kHz, increasing by ⅓ octave increments.
Reasonably priced, simple and clear interface. Trusted brand with over 30+ years in the business. If you’re looking to professionally master your music, this plugin will definitely help along the way.
Warmy EP1A Tube EQ
Are you looking for a warm and full-sounding analog emulation of the classic Pultec EQs?
This FREE Pultec emulation plugin is packed with features that will give your vocals, drums, guitars, basses, synths, or any other instrument the fullness and lushness it deserves.
The tube emulation knob allows for anything from subtle boost to heavy saturation, making it a versatile tool in any mixing or mastering engineer’s arsenal.
I wouldn’t compare this to a real Pultec though. It’s a great EQ, but it is not nearly as smooth and musical sounding. Still, it is an excellent free plugin and probably better than most stock EQs.
EQ1A is another FREE, simple, and straightforward analog-style EQ with limited options, but it does what it was built to do very well.
It has a nice analog feel to it, which helps to add a bit of life to the tracks. Many users echo that it is one of the best free EQ plugins available because of its simplicity, sound quality, and usability. I tend to agree!
There are so many great eq plugins on the market right now that it’s impossible to list them all or choose the “best one”.
We’ll continuously update this article as new eq plugins are released so check back again soon for updated information.
We hope that this article will help guide you to choosing your next EQ plugin. And remember, if it sounds good, it is good, no matter what plugin you use. Even stock plugins can achieve the sound you desire. So choose wisely where you put your money!
If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below!