EQ plugins probably seem pretty straightforward with basic functions and maybe a few extra features. While this may be mostly true, you shouldn’t underestimate how essential an EQ plugin is to creating the best sound for your mix. If you take a look, you’ll quickly find that there are hundreds and hundreds of EQ plugins currently available. These are not all made equal. Sifting through these numerous options to find the one that will work best for what you need can be a daunting task.
Yes, your stock EQ plugin is quick and easy to use on your DAW, but you shouldn’t limit your creativity. It’s worth it to expand your horizons a bit to discover new controls and sounds to really advance your mix. Now we’re going to take a look at some of the best EQ plugins that we recommend.
Top 11 EQ VST Plugins
- FabFilter FabFilter Pro-Q 3
- Softube Tube-Tech Equalizer Collection
- iZotope Ozone 9
- Soundtoys Sie-Q
- Sonible Smart: EQ 2
- Boz Digital Labs The Hoser XT
- Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ
- Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova GE
- Softube Chandler Limited® Curve Bender Mastering EQ
- Wavesfactory Spectre Enhancer
- Voxengo Voxengo PrimeEQ
There’s no question that the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is among the top EQs currently available. It has an abundance of features that work across the musical genres. Its 24 separate bands make it possible to shape any sound with surgical precision. For each band there are eight distinct filter shapes to explore as well as nine slopes for low and high-pass filters. You’ll also get other features that you would expect like bandwidth controls, frequency, and gain.
One feature that absolutely stands out with this plugin is the amazing spectrum analyzer. This gives you the ability to see your waveform frequencies. If you look at the bottom of the analyzer, you will see a small piano roll that gives you a visual of the notes and the corresponding frequencies. This will help you quickly identify and correct any frequencies that stand out too much.
You’ll find three processing modes to work with: Zero Latency, Linear Phase, and Natural Phase. Within each of these modes you’ll find different processing capabilities that will help you get where you want to go. You also have the option to switch between mid/side processing and left/right mode to set how you will process your incoming signal.
There’s a reason why the Pro-Q 3 is one of the most in-demand EQ plugins that money can buy. It would be difficult to find a plugin that offers more versatility and functionality.
- Spectrum visualizer is very beneficial
- Awesome selection of filter types
- Fantastic surgical capabilities
- Dynamic EQ is not super clear
If you’re not familiar with the smooth, warm tones that tube-driven passive equalizers produce, you need to get familiar. These incredible tones will improve the overall quality of just about any instrument or vocal sound. These types of equalizers have been used by top engineers in studios around the world for many years. Now that sound can be produced with just your computer and a plugin like those found in the Tube-Tech Equalizer Collection.
The PE 1C should be your go-to if your goal is to add punch to your low-end or shimmer to your high-end. It’s a digitized version of the legendary Pultec tube-driven equalizer, which certainly stands apart from other equalizers in this category. Another plugin from this collection is the ME 1B, which can get the job done with its high frequency peak, mid frequency dip, and low frequency peak controls.
The Tube Tech Equalizer Plugin includes emulations of some of the most popular equalizers ever used, so it’s certainly an awesome addition to your EQ collection.
- Both tube-techs sound amazing
- Dual EQ interface is impressive
- Ideal for adding coloration
- Can’t reorder the EQs
- Preset manager can be bothersome
The iZotope Ozone 9 gives you more bang for your buck with not one but two EQs: the Dynamic EQ and the Vintage EQ. The Vintage EQ is based on the incredible Pultec EQ. It makes it easy to add that classic warm tone that analogs are known for to your signal. It’s simple to use as you only have to handle the cuts and boosts. This particular EQ does not have bandwidth controls.
The different sections of the Vintage EQ allow you to boost and cut the frequency ranges that you specify. If you prefer not to work entirely in stereo, you can easily toggle into mid/side or left/right mode. This feature, which allows you to split your signal, is really cool, especially when working with top-notch analog tones.
The Dynamic EQ, on the other hand, gives the user increased control with six bands and a user-friendly interface. The bands only go into action when the input signal surpasses the threshold that you determine. In this way, you can control the signal only when necessary. With many multiband compressors, you’ll experience phase shift in the EQ process. That isn’t the case with the Dynamic EQ. It’s also super easy to bounce between analog and digital modes to see what works best for your sound.
These two EQ plugins offer pretty much everything you could want when you’re ready to tackle EQ. However, we should note that you will have to purchase the entire Ozone package to gain access to them.
- You get two separate EQs with distinct features
- Vintage EQ gives a warm analog sound
- Dynamic EQ increases the user’s control over their sound
- Ozone 9 might be cost-prohibitive for some
Soundtoys has an incredible range of effects plugins that rightfully get a lot of attention, but don’t overlook the Sie-Q, which also happens to be one of the top analog EQs currently available, particularly if you’re on a budget. The Sie-Q was inspired by the Siemens w295b, a 1960s German EQ that was included in the Siemens Sitral Console. With the original hardware, you had to insert different EQ cassettes based on the particular sound that you were looking for.
The Sie-Q’s Low and High controls enable you to get variable frequency responses based on the gain level. They also let you boost or cut frequencies up to 8dB. With the Mid control, you can focus in on six frequencies that are found between 500Hz and 5.6kHz.
One unique feature is the saturation knob. This puts the power in your hands to add some distortion if you like to your signal as it moves out. This plugin is not meant for those who are trying to produce a super clean mix. But if you are going for a warm vintage coloration, you’ll be impressed with the sounds you can achieve with the Sie-Q.
- Unusual overdriven sound
- Not super flexible
The Sonsible Smart EQ 2 is indeed among the smartest EQ plugins currently available. The features on this plugin make it more than capable to handle all of your EQ needs. The Sonsible Smart Engine Filter Technology will target any tonal imbalances that occur as a result of EQ. This element alone makes this a must-have plug-in.
The EQ 2 fully analyzes the incoming signal and then creates a customized filter curve that delivers a natural balance. If your goal is to eliminate all the nasty sections of the signal, the EQ 2 can definitely handle this for you. If you think your signal could benefit from increased clarity or punch, this plugin can take care of that too. The Sonsible Smart EQ 2 does all the heavy work involved in refining audio while you reap the benefits.
- The EQ curves are super transparent
- The AI works accurately, saving on time and effort
- Delay time for locking in the EQ might not work well for live situations
The Hoser XT is an emulation off the classic M462B Ward-Beck Systems hardware equalizer that enjoyed popularity years ago. This channel-style EQ is an ideal choice if you want to inject some color and cohesion into your mixes. As a bonus, you also get the original Hoser plugin with your purchase. Sound engineers love the Hoser XT because it is CPU-friendly and won’t crash in the middle of a session.
The Hoser XT gives you authentic analog tones that seem to improve any signal. Don’t be shy with going all in with the gain on frequencies because distortion will not be an issue. There’s also mid/side processing and left/right processing capabilities, which enables you to add some stereo width to mono signals, among other benefits.
As we already mentioned, you will also receive the Hoser, which features a more compact design. It only offers mono and stereo modes and does not have an M/S processing option.
- Very authentic emulation
- Super easy on the CPU
- Added Mid/Side Control
- Doesn’t have a solid demo version
If you’re a producer in these modern times and you don’t have a dynamic equalizer plugin at your disposal, it’s time to fix that. If you have the money to spend, I would go straight to the Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ. This plugin has five separate bands and Oxford Type-3 EQ filters. These filters go way beyond what’s expected. They give you proportional-Q settings and also have an onset detection feature, which is particularly beneficial when you have an instrument like drums with powerful transient signals.
Another cool feature is the EQ listen mode, which enables you to listen specifically to the audio that is being processed in that moment. This makes dynamic control changes a breeze since you won’t have to A/B multiple times. This EQ VST also gives you mid/side processing, which is becoming more common with this style of plugin. This can be utilized to address high energy to the outside or low energy to the center. The GUI is basic but effective, the bands are versatile, and the processing is incredibly precise. It costs more than other dynamic EQ plugins currently available, but it’s certainly worth it if you can afford it.
- Well organized GUI
- Superior sound quality
- Crazy flexibility
- Quite expensive
Producers are drawn to dynamic equalizers because of their versatility and capabilities. If you don’t want to dig too deep in the wallet, the Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova GE is a great dynamic equalizer option. It will give you the tone that you expect from a dynamic parametric equalizer along with additional features that can be utilized for almost any type of mix.
The Nova GE features six dynamic EQ bands that work independently from each other. Their dynamic processing capabilities include downward compression (otherwise known as gating) along with upward and downward compression. In addition to the standard EQ filters, you’ll also have access to a variety of low and high-pass filters.
If you want to take advantage of some AI-style automation, be sure to utilize the Smart Operation panel. When this is activated, the plugin handles equalizing on its own, which involves removing unwanted resonances, matching spectrum frequencies, and so much more. We should point out the convenient drag and drop display, where you’ll find a number of easy-to-access knobs you can use to tweak the signal processing parameters. You’ll also definitely want to try out the equal loudness function, which makes it easy to find the ideal setting while keeping the overall loudness consistent.
The Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova GE is an impressive equalizer that should be used by way more sound engineers.
- Top-notch dynamic equalizing
- Gorgeous interface
- Smart Operation and Equal Loudness functions
- No simultaneous analysis of the input and output
The Softube Chandler Limited is a highly recommended digital mastering equalizer with that desirable analog quality. It offers insane control, incredible sound quality, and component-level modeling. This plugin perfectly emulates the original equalizer circuit from the EMI TG12345.
The curves on this EQ plugin have been meticulously designed to offer subtle mastering touch-ups. Whatever you are looking to achieve in your mastering, this EQ makes it simple. You’ll also have mid/side processing capabilities so that you can perfectly tweak your stereo field. The original console only offered two bands, but the Mastering EQ gives you two additional bands to work with. You also go from nine filter points in the original to 51 in this digital version. This gives you incredible room for creativity as you sculpt your master without having to worry about harshness.
This plugin also provides you with some amazing presets from celebrated mastering engineers like Joe Chicarelli, Tony Maserati, Maor Appelbaum, and Kevin Kadish. Whatever you are looking to achieve as you perfect your stereo field and finalize your mix, the Curve Bender will help get you there.
- Awesome sound for mastering
- Authentic control
- Adds excitement to the whole frequency range
- Out setting on frequency selectors isn’t needed
The Wavesfactory Spectre stands out among all the other ones we’ve mentioned with its unique functionality. It doesn’t utilize phase manipulation processing like you would expect it to. It actually works through harmonic saturation. It’s pretty limited because it only works for boosting, but what it does it does well. It is an ideal option if you are looking to add some body and punch to your mix.
Surprisingly, it combines its graphical EQ features with an enhancer. This gives you the unique capability to process not only the dry input signal but also the EQ signal. You will be impressed by the efficiency of this plugin when you are working on sub-busses, single tracks, or even the complete mix. It offers multi-band enhancement with 10 distinct saturation algorithms. This is an unusual way to add color and zest to your signals.
The Wavesfactory Spectre never claimed that it can cover all of your EQ needs, but you should certainly consider adding this funky EQ to your collection. It has a unique way of enlivening a static mix.
- Unusual and creative EQ/enhancer hybrid
- Stereo, left/right, and mid/side processing
- Offers a great selection of quality saturation algorithms
- There’s no input or output visualization
Beginner producers have an overwhelming amount of software and gear that they’ll need to accumulate. There’s no reason to spend more than necessary on plugins when you are just figuring things out. Our advice is to master the cheaper plugins and then graduate to some of the higher ends when you are ready. The Prime EQ is one of those cheaper plugins that we recommend working with in the beginning. It’s a strong parametric equalizer that can help you achieve all your EQ goals.
The interface is designed to give the user complete control. Use the differential filter display to figure out how a specific filter affects the overall shape of the EQ signal. You can make changes efficiently because of the control points located on the EQ. The PrimeEQ does not make use of a continuous EQ curve like you might expect. Instead it features independent parametric filters.
One thing that’s helpful for new mixers is that it gives you a visual representation of the frequencies that are running through it. PrimeEQ may be an affordable option, but there’s still plenty to love about this plugin with its amazing customization options and its helpful visual interface.
- Versatile interface
- An abundance of filter options
- Cheaper than most EQ plugins
- Not enough presets
- Default setting is not preconfigured
Plug into EQ
Becoming more experienced with EQ can improve your mixes by leaps and bounds. Invest some time and money into some of the EQ plugins we’ve suggested and see the results for yourself. Make sure you target the right plugin for your skill level and work your way up. Never underestimate the importance of EQ in shaping the perfect mix.