Game Changing EQ Technique


CORRECTIVE EQ > LIGHT COMPRESSION > ENHANCING EQ: This is my favourite process chain for handling audio. It‘s good technique to first use subtractive EQ to remove errors in the audio, then send the signal into some light compression to hold it together and then add your enhancing EQ to bring the sound to life.

Hi-Pass: The first and most essential EQ you need to do on all your tracks is to filter out unnecessary bass frequencies, apart from on the Kick and Bass tracks. Even if you can’t obviously hear any bass frequencies there will generally be enough in all your tracks adding together to create a murky bass end, and clutter your mix. The best thing you can do for your mix from the start is to clean up all this murkiness . So go ahead and place a hi-pass on all your parts, excluding just the kick and bass. Experiment with the settings but as a guide you should be cutting away as much as you can without loosing any core characteristic of the sound. Generally a cut-off ranging somewhere between 60hz to 200hz should do the job. And use a soft and natural Q on your hi-pass EQ to avoid any unwanted ripple artifacts.

Hi-Pass EQ

Fig. Applying Hi-Pass filter at the first stage in order to remove unnecessary bass frequencies.

Corrective subtraction EQ. The next stage is to remove any troublesome frequencies from your audio source, such as resonant spikes and clusters. In order to do this you can isolate the unwanted frequencies by first using a boosted narrow band EQ with high Q to locate the problem frequency, then once you‘ve honed in on the undesirable frequency switch turn the gain down to reduce it, and now widen the Q band to soften the EQ if required in-order to achieve a more transparent and musical sound. Repeat until you‘ve removed all the troublesome frequencies (if there are any to start with).

Corrective EQ

Fig. Example showing corrective EQ notches to remove troublesome frequencies

Light Compression: You can now go ahead and send the signal into some light compression to hold it together. It's generally a mistake to compress a sound that contains troublesome frequencies (such as too much bass or resonant notches) as these troublesome frequencies will negatively influence the behavior of your compressor. In order to get the best and most useful sound from your compressor I recommend you first hi-pass then remove troublesome frequencies and then compress, as the compressor wont be dealing will distracting frequencies.

Enhancing Additive EQ: After your compression stage you can now go ahead and add your enhancing EQ to bring your part to life and to help it sit in the mix. Also as a general rule softer and broader curves on your additive EQ sound better than narrow bands, which can sound artifical. And remember to EQ using your ears and don‘t just draw curves based on what you think it should look like. Close your eyes and think about the sound you want.

Enhancing EQ

Eliminate Harshness: Personally I'm a huge fan of softening the top end in my parts to avoid excessive top end. In the current digital era now more than in the analog do.. than ever you need to watch out on excessive top-end frequencies summing together in the mix, creating nasty and harsh sounding mixes. I‘m talking especially 10KHz+. It‘s a smart practice to cut some of the top-end often in your parts. You‘ll find after a while you don‘t need as much super-top end as you thought, and you‘ll be preserving your ears and other peoples ears in the process. If you start by applying extreme hi-cut, and then slowly reintroducing some top end to the parts that need it then you‘ll find that your mix sounds much more balanced, clear and separated.