Tag Archive for: EQ

Favorite Equalizer For Electronic Music

People often ask me what my favorite equalizer for electronic music is, and my answer is that it depends on what their goal is, as well as their skill level. However, the EQs that I like for electronic music generally fit a certain set of criteria. Not every equalizer in this article fits all of the criteria, but here is a not-so-exhaustive list of things that I like to see when I’m purchasing a new EQ.

Keep in mind that all EQ’s are at their core, just filters, but some go above and beyond this. Equalizer settings for electronic music vary based on the timbres and styles, but each one of these will work universally for electronic music.



  1. They have previews of the band that you can solo (you can press the button and hear the band on its own). This allows you to hear things more specifically.
  2. The plugin needs to be able to do oversampling.
  3. The plugin needs to be able solo the filter (EQ band).
  4. The EQ needs to have a mid and side mode, aka M/S mode.
  5. The EQ can switch from digital approach to analog. A digital EQ is very clean, and an analog is a little bit more organic and less precise.
  6. The EQ can be dynamic
  7. While all don’t have this feature, it’s nice if an EQ has a piano roll, so you can see how frequencies quantize to notes (this is a good way of seeing if a note will fit inside the track).


Fabfilter Pro-Q 3

A picture of one of the best equalizers for electronic music, in my opinion, the Fabfilter Pro Q 3

First on the list is the Fabfilter ProQ 3 – an affordable, easy-to-use EQ that hits most of the points I look for in an equalizer. It’s versatile, as in it can be used in both mastering and mixing. On top of state-of-the-art linear phase operation and the ability to get zero latency readouts on your EQ, you get natural phase modes, mid/side processing, and a bunch of other intuitive options.


A Neat Pro-Q 3 Trick

One of my favorite features is that if you have the ProQ 3 on multiple channels or busses, it can communicate with the ProQ 3’s on the other ones and let you know if there are conflicts in frequences.

Then, with the side processing (sidechain), you can easily duck precise frequencies, and you can even solo these frequencies to hear exactly how the sidechain is affecting the relationship between all the individual sounds. Or sometimes you don’t even need a sidechain, and you can just grab the curve and bring the conflicting frequency down.

Another neat trick with the Fabfilter ProQ 3 is that you can use it to split the stereo, and modify the same frequency at different amplitude levels on the stereo. So for instance, sometimes in a recording, you have a sound that mixes well on the right pan, and doesn’t quite mix perfectly on the left, but should be somewhat present on the left panning in order to fill out the stereo field.

With the ProQ 3, you can leave the level on the right channel as is, and on the left, alter the amplitude in order to fit the frequencies it’s conflicting with.

All of these reasons are why it’s a favorite equalizer for electronic music. It produces some of the best equalizer settings for bass, mids, and highs in all genres.


Wavefactory Trackspacer

A photo of Wavefactory's trackspacer, which allows you to have some of the best equalizer settings for electronic music without the hassle.

This one is not necessarily an EQ, but if you’re familiar with Wavefactory’s Trackspacer you can see why it would fit well within this list. Basically, it uses a mathematical formula in order to automatically figure out where conflicting frequencies are between two tracks and then it will apply precise side compression to the parts that are necessary to compress to get them to meld better.

You can even apply a low pass or a high pass filter to each end of the frequency spectrum to isolate what part of the sounds you want to compress. It’s ridiculously easy to use.


HornetVST Total EQ

a photo of HornetVST's Total EQ. It's one of my favorite equalizers for electronic music.

Not everyone has the money to invest in VSTs. However, HornetVST makes VSTs that are ridiculously cheap, and they often do sales, so you can get decent plugins for 5 bucks. 

The HornetVST Total EQ is similar to ProQ 3, sounds really good, and is easy to work with. Personally, I believe it’s better than Ableton stock EQ’s because you have a team working specifically on developing the best equalizer for electronic music (or all music at that matter).

While it doesn’t have all the gizmos and detail goodies that the ProQ 3 has, it’s still really good. For instance, it has 12 bands, a real-time spectrum analyzer, a whopping 17 different kinds of filters for each band, individual analog response and emulation for each band, band soloing (like in the ProQ 3), mono/stereo for each band, and a bunch more features.


Melda Productions – MAutoEQ

Image of one of my favorite equalizers for electronic music - the Melda Productions - MAuto EQ

The thing that makes this EQ special is the MeldaProduction Filter Adaption (MFA) technology which uses a formula to analyze your recording and make suggestions based on your recording, another recording, or even a spectrum that you can “draw” inside the interface. It’s kind of the Photoshop of EQs, in a way. It can also be used extensively for mixing and mastering.

MAutoEqualizer can place a track into a mix using the spectral separation feature, where you can, like in Photoshop, pencil your preferred frequency response. MAutoEqualizer’s technology will search for the best settings and alter the parametric equalizer bands to fit the best form.

With a normal equalizer, you are listening to the spectrum and then increasing or decreasing the amplitude of the band to fit what you believe is the correct level, which can be a chore. With MAutoEqualizer it gives your ears a little bit of a break by setting things to levels based on its algorithmic predeterminations. 

Also, if you are allergic to resonance in your sound then this EQ is for you. One of the things it does best is listen to the incoming signal, where it then finds resonances that it can apply filtering suggestions to. Then with the wet/dry knob, you can determine how much resonance you want in the areas it pointed out. It’s really simple, and a favorite equalizer for electronic music.

Brainworks’ BX3

A photo of the Brainworks’ BX3, which produces some of the best equalizer settings for electronic music.

A mastering and mixing EQ I recommend is BX3 by Brainworks. It’s an extremely powerful, surgical EQ that I use extensively. It can make space, clean, and can really polish things up. This EQ is not meant for adding color or character to mixes, but rather making sure that everything sounds as clear and crisp as possible. It’s a bit difficult to use if you’re not super familiar with mixing and mastering, but it’s extremely powerful, making it a favorite equalizer for electronic music.

This EQ’s Auto Listen feature automatically solos each band’s Gain and Q (resonance) controls based on their respective settings while doing the same with the channel’s Frequency controller. By setting Gain, Q, and Frequency on an individual channel (L or R), Auto Solo switches the monitoring to that channel.

Your tweaks are illustrated with separate frequency-response graphs for each channel. With this feature, you may notice that your adjustments will become more visible and audible than ever before since it allows for some of the best equalizer settings for electronic music.


Brainworks’ AMEK200

photo of one of my favorite analog emulated EQ's for music, the Brainworks’ AMEK200.

My favorite analog emulation EQ is AMEK200 by Brainworks. This is modeled after classic 70’s and 80’s mastering EQ’s, such as the GML 8200 and vintage SONTEC vintage EQs, but with some plugin specific upgrades, such as Auto-Listen features, variable high-pass and low-pass filters, and M/S processing.

All of these features result in a very transparent mix that does a really beautiful finishing. Note that the AMEK200 has no spectral readout, just knobs you twist, which is good for learning how to trust your ears.


So, which one is my favorite equalizer for electronic music?

There is no specific one. All of these plugins will allow for the best equalizer settings for music, whether that’s minimal house, techno, jazz, rock, hip-hop or k-pop. They all allow for the best equalizer settings for rolling bass, or entrancing mids, it just depends on your experience level, and your desire to learn and experiment.

This article contains affiliate links which I may make a commission off of.

Bass Line and Low-End Mixing Tips

Tips on mixing low-end is an often-requested topic in our community and Facebook group. Handling low-end in electronic music is important to give it the glory it deserves, since it’s one of the most important parts of the genre. In this post, I’ll cover tips on how to handle low-end from multiple points of view, not only from the software side, but also from a monitoring perspective. As I’m writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, I’ll also propose some tips on how to manage low-end at home.

The Theory

I won’t go into boring engineering theory here because it’s not my blog’s style. I like to keep things simple and straightforward. So for making low-end easy to understand, let’s cover a few important points:

  • For the purposes of this post, “low-end” means 20hz to 300hz.
  • The low-end is basically the fundamental part of your song. If it’s muddy, your track will not flow.
  • Low-end is the most powerful part of your song in terms of loudness. If your song has a lot of lows and not much mid, it will feel less loud while in theory while actually being very loud from a technical point of view.
  • Over-powering lows makes a song feel muddy and empty in a loud, club context.
  • Lacking lows will make your song feel wimpy.

When it comes to mixing, I usually start by cutting everything with a filter or high-pass EQ at 20hz with a 24db/octave slant. This cuts unnecessary rumble that most sound system can’t reproduce. If you feed monitors garbage frequencies, it takes away precision in the “good ones.” So I cut everything on the master/mix bus, but I will also high-pass every channel by removing any frequencies aren’t needed. When mixing claps, for example, I will remove everything under 300hz.

Low-End Frequency Bands

  • 20-30hz: The section is the sub area. Not always present in every sound system, but when it is, it really creates a warmth that is quite addictive.
  • 30-50hz: I find this section is where a song gains in power. Most clubs cut at 30, and on vinyl records they also cut there—this zone is critical.
  • 50-80hz: The range that creates a lot of punch.
  • 80-100hz: Punch, presence and precision.
  • 100-320hz: This is the body of the song. It gives a lot of weight.

I usually put everything under 150hz in mono. This really solidifies the low-end and avoids phasing issues that are often present, which can help in clarity. Vinyl cutting requires mono low end or the cut will make the record skip. I’ve seen producers who enjoy the weird effect of a stereo low-end but that’s for home listening mostly, and they know there can be issues.

Frequencies are shared by many sounds, and the more you free space for your low end content to breathe, the better it will perform. I know it’s time-consuming but there’s nothing like doing it this way compared to using a side-chaining tool. This phase of mixing is critical for clarity. The more care you put into each channel, the better the results will be in the end.

Since the low-end has fundamental notes, in electronic and dance-oriented music, it’s generally important to pick a key note for your song and not change it much. You can change it as much as you want, of course, but if you do, you’re going to deal with a few headaches.

The Challenges of Mixing Low-End

Handling low-end has multiple challenges, but with time, but hopefully some of my suggestions here help you to deal with those challenges more effectively.


In general, people who can’t hear or deal with low-end properly is because they’re not equipped to work with it. Using a sub is a good, but it will never have the precision of a tool like the Subpac. The Subpac is a wearable device that reproduces the low-end more physically, making it easier to understand what’s happening down there—you feel low-end on your back directly. Headphones, on the other hand, can mislead you, as you cannot hear lower frequencies.

After figuring out the bet monitoring options for your setup, you need to A/B your mix with something to see how your low-end compares to it. There are two main plugins I highly recommend for A/B tasks: Bassroom and REFERENCE. Both allow you to pick a song you like, and then it measures your work in reference to that song to show you how to manage your song to get the desired result. Doing this without these plugins is very hard unless you’re a veteran engineer.

A/Bing requires something very important that a lot of people find difficult to understand when I explain it: you need to find quality song that has well-mixed low-end to compare your work to.

You can’t make quality music if you have never been exposed to it beforehand.

Low-end mixing approaches also vary widely in genres and producers. I would recommend that you pick a song to A/B that you like the feeling and sound of, and then try to emulate it with those plugins. For instance, some techno producers prefer the bass too be present all the way to 20hz and the kick to hit at around 80hz, while some other genres, it will be the opposite. One isn’t better than the other—they’re just styles—but both will create a certain feel on a dance floor.

Shared Frequency Ranges

Speaking of the kick, I should also mention pads, toms, and synths, as they all share space in the low end with the bass elements. It can quickly get messy down there, and the more shared space, the muddier it gets. If you look at the different bands I mentioned, I try to make sure one one sound per section occupies each band. This is why side-chain compression can come in handy—when the kick hits, you can apply ducking to all the rest of the signals that could be present in that range as well. You can also side-chain the bass with percussion or synth so they all have a moment but not at the same time. For quality side-chain compression, I highly recommend looking into the Shaperbox 2 plugin. It’s a “knife” for extremely precise ducking, filtering, and applying mono to your low end—it’s crazy-good.

Space is not only shared in frequencies but also in time. We all love low-end and I see people getting a little bit too excited and have way too much decay on all their sounds down there, which means a lot needs to be removed. The shorter the sounds, the clearer your low-end will feel. You can do that with Shaperbox 2 but also with the very useful mTransientMB that can help you make super punchy sounds.

This means that picking your envelope can be a very delicate task. If your low-end has too much attack, it will compete with the kick and make things muddy. If it lacks attack, it will feel slow and lifeless. To shape your sounds, I would say Shaperbox is the best tool, but if you can look into understanding the attack/decay/sustain/release of your tools and perhaps looking into a good envelope follower, too. Some max patches can really come handy for this as well.


It’s not because your low-end is loud that it’s dense. If you have your low-end coming in loud, it might need some compression to have more density. I find that the best way to get that is by having side-to-side compression (eg. insert 2 compressors), both in parallel mode (wet/dry at 50%) which will condense the signal and make it thick, warm, and fat—pretty much what we love in low-end. You can also add harmonics by using some saturation. I personally find that the most interesting saturation for the low-end is tape; it just works very well. My favorite is the Voxengo CRTIV Tape Bus plugin, it’s a marvel.

Practice Mixing Low-End

Practicing the mixing and design of the low-end of your song takes time, good monitoring, and understanding of each of the challenges that come with it. Once you start working on it and start feeling something isn’t right, check which challenge you’re facing. Try to be methodological about this.

Here’s how I approach it, step by step.

  1. Pick the root key of your song; G, for example.
  2. Find the hook, motif and main idea of your song, then tune it to the key. Usually the main idea, which could be an arpeggio, will situate itself in around G5.
  3. Use the same idea, pitched down to G1-2 to define your low end. It could be one or two octaves difference. It will support your main idea in the same key, making sure your song feels unified.
  4. Put in mono—all your elements under 150hz should be mono.
  5. Add your percussion. You can tune each element to the root key. Tuning the kick can really give a whole different feel.
  6. High-Pass all channels to remove garbage frequencies.
  7. Clear the decay. Fine tune the decay of all sounds so there’s no bleed and they have more dynamics.
  8. Side-chain elements that are masking one another.
  9. Add or control the attack of each sound for precision.

If you do the items in this checklist, you’ll have much better results already. The rest will come with time.

Writing Bass Lines

This tip builds on my previous post about chord progressions and music theory. I come from the dub techno world where we had one-note, one-bar bass lines that felt satisfying enough, so when people ask me if a bass line can be monotone, I sometimes reply that the simplier the low end, sometimes the more effective it can be. Sometimes making it complicated doesn’t mean good. That said, having a bass line over two bars instead of one is often pretty lovely for variation.

I also find that powerful basses are the ones that are reply to the main idea. Support is efficient, but it will make your bass line lack interaction and making it less engaging.

A good way to find a dialog for a bass is to put a square LFO modulating the volume and then using it to mute parts of your bass. If you change the speed of the LFO, you’ll gate parts out, and might find a good combo or variation. In Hip Hop, they often use a pure sine tone and they’ll duck with an LFO or kick. This makes the low end very full and thick.


If you’re going to pick a synth to design with, it might be wise to consider the use of certain wave shapes. For instance, a sine is warm and pure but it can have resonances which are difficult to remove with a bell EQ because they can phase. You want to control your low end only using filters (high-pass) or a shelving EQ. A filter’s slant will help control a rumble. You can put it at 30hz and then switch the slant from 6dB/oct to 12,18, 24 and see how the low-end changes. They all make it very different, from taming to numbing it out. I like to use a square oscillator, but I’m not a fan of the harmonics it creates, so I will filter some out. I’m very careful with resonances in the low-end, but they can also bring a certain warmth to it. For instance, you can use resonance as an extra sine oscillator, which brings fullness to the low-end.

I hope this covers low-end sufficiently for you. Feel free to share your own findings, techniques, or extra questions!

EQing Resonant Frequencies and Harsh Sounds

EQing resonant frequencies can be a very difficult task. Once in a while, I see ads in my Facebook feed that claim to reveal some “secret” EQ tips. Recently, I clicked on one just to see what they had to say, and was very disappointed to read stuff like “if your track sounds honky, you need to cut at 500hz…blah blah blah…”, as if a simple cut at a specific range would easily solve everyone’s EQ problems. The thing about EQ’ing music is that one simple solution cannot apply to every case—it’s more complex than that. Yes, there are things that you can do consistently that will make a difference, and yes, in some cases, cutting at a specific frequency can help, but there are other ways to EQ, too.

In this post, I will provide a very high-level outline of how to identify resonances and to fix them with surgical EQ’ing. If you’re an advanced audio nerd, I recommend you carry on with your online searches for EQ tips.

In past articles, I’ve referred to the benefits of shelving EQs in certain cases to fix tonal issues in a song. Using shelving EQs to correct tonal issues is one of the most misunderstood concepts in mixing and it is also, in some ways, probably the easiest to fix. Surgical EQ cuts are the exact opposite, as they are difficult to really explain—especially through a simple blog post—and can be a bit of an esoteric subject.

Training your ears to detect resonances

Ear training is the most important part of EQ’ing and it is also the most difficult to develop; it demands practice and guidance. I’d say roughly 90% of my clients’ projects have bizarre EQ correction(s). I often see multiple cuts, very sharp and very low. When I remove them, I hear no difference in my studio. Why? Probably because of how they hear things at home with their speakers/headphones. Bad referencing is counter-productive, as you might expect. It’s like wearing glasses with a stain on them; you’ll see it everywhere. Problems can also arise from the acoustics of the room which might overload certain frequencies, creating resonances that aren’t in the mix itself, but from the room, which results in people cutting valuable frequencies from their mixes and sounds.

I find it useful to mute a problematic sound and listen to an oscillator on its own, to train your ear to recognize that kind of frequency.

One trick I found useful in developing my understanding of resonances is the use of a keyboard and a simple oscillator (note: Ableton’s Operator will do). When I hear a resonances—which sound a bit like a delay with too much feedback—I would try to play the note on a keyboard with a sine oscillator to mimic what I hear. With the help of a FFT or a great EQ plugin like Fabfilter Pro-Q3, I can then “see” the frequency of my note and compare it to my sound. You want to play them roughly at the same level to see exactly where the resonance is in the spectrum.

Another way to identify a resonant frequency is to take your EQ, starting with a wide Q of about 1, and boost it by 5dB then scroll through the frequency spectrum. This will amplify what you hear in certain ranges and you might notice a resonance. Once you spot a sensitive area, leave your boost on that spot and slowly increase the Q to 2.5, then adjust the covered area to pinpoint where the resonance might be. Once you get to about 5 on your Q, then you can cut down on the problematic frequency, starting by cutting 3dB off. Toggle the bypass on the EQ to see how much of the frequency you removed.

Sometimes resonances are the sum of multiple incoming sounds that have similar frequencies that overload on top of one another. These are nasty because you might want to EQ one sound, but you can’t really pinpoint where the problem is coming from. It’s best to group similar channels and EQ them all together.

I usually tell people to group channels by “sound families” such as all metallic sounds, organic percussion, synths, etc. Grouping can be great for fixing issues, and also to place sounds into a specific spot in the bubble you’re creating in the mix (ex. fore front vs background).

Visually speaking, resonances are often difficult to see on the FFT. Sometimes people believe it’s a simple peak rising, but that might not actually be the case. This is why on the Pro-Q3 or Ableton’s EQ8, you can monitor what you’re altering. But before searching for a resonance, it’s important you hear it first. Otherwise, you’ll go hunting for problems that might not exist, which will create “holes” in your mix (a frequent problem I hear in mastering but luckily it’s easy to fix). If you’re checking for little peaks poking out only visually, sometimes those can actually be pleasant frequencies, but because of a poor listening environment, you might interpret them as bad ones.

My general tip on cutting frequencies is: never too sharp and always start with -4dB. Often you’ll hear resonances from 200hz to 800hz, mostly because a lot of melodic content and ideas have a fundamental note within that range, so some sounds might clash. Also, if you feel you need more than one EQ to fix a problem, just trash the thing you’re trying to fix. It might be garbage and if you need to really alter it that much, there’s something fundamentally wrong with it. Using too many EQ points might also result in phasing issues. Same thing goes for using more than one EQ plugin…it can be risky!

Optimizing your listening conditions and environment is a hugely important thing to do.

Detecting Harshness

Harshness or other difficult frequencies that aren’t resonances can be found at any level of the frequency spectrum. Most of the time, harshness-related issues are around 1-5khz. The human ear finds this range sensitive, and when there are too many sounds in it, it brings confusion, muddiness, and unpleasant feelings.

Harshness can also be a result of the sum of multiple sounds. It’s important to hear everything on its own—specifically similar groups of sounds—then mute them one by one to find out which ones are causing an issue. Once you find the problematic sound, I suggest you try the following corrective techniques:

  • Start by lowering the volume to see if that can help.
  • Try the EQ’ing cut method explained above to see if you can isolate a resonance or something annoying. Try cutting it by 3dB. Cutting along with the volume drop can sometimes be enough to fix a problem.
  • Try panning it to the opposite position. I often see that sounds that are crammed in a same location will clash.
  • Add subtle reverb. This trick can help smooth things out. I’d suggest a reverb at a 10% wet/dry.
  • A chorus effect can sometimes do wonders on certain sounds.
  • Controlling a transient can fix wonders. Instead of cutting with an EQ, just spot the problematic frequency and then use a multiband EQ like Melda’s mTransient to remove some of the attack of that band. Isolate the frequency. If you don’t have a transient shaper, you can create your own with a compressor that has a fast attack.
  • On higher-pitched sounds, a de-esser can really help. If you don’t have one, make sure to grab ERA4 De-esser as it’s affordable and super useful.

Harshness is easier to fix than resonant frequencies—it’s often simply the result of noisy sounds at wrong levels that need adjustments. With practice, your mixes will be clearer and smoother. Train your ears!

SEE ALSO : Creating Depth in Music

Balancing a Mix

Balancing a mix is simple “mixing 101” theory; it’s usually fast and simple to do. I could go into a lot of detail about mix balancing, but the point here is to provide you with some quick information that you easily can put to practice to get quick results yourself. Hopefully this will also make you more curious about balancing and you will research it more on your own.

One of the very first things I do when I create a new project or mix for a client, is to drop Fabfilter Pro-Q3 on the master. Not only do I love how the FFT looks (the frequency graphic analysis), but I also love that I can make cuts, or even dynamic cuts, that react to the incoming signal. The problem with the Spectrum Analyzer from Ableton is that it’s ugly and can be a bit confusing; other than displaying information, it doesn’t do anything. The Pro-Q3 needs no adjustments; you drop it on a track and it’s ready to be used. With Pro-Q3, if you hover your mouse pointer over the graphic, you’ll be also shown the peaks with the precise frequency target. It’s hard to go wrong here.

That said, let’s say your track is about 85% done, and you’re about to switch to mixing mode to see how the track will turn out. At this stage, you know you need to have one thing in mind: balance. People who use a reference track find that there might be a tone that seems to be right to emulate, such as a very bassy or bright track. However, I find that when it comes to a rough mix, balancing the mix before referencing will give you a more objective outlook of your work so far. When I work with clients who are in this stage of their project, this is what I advise: if you’ve been working on something that’s too bright (eg. high frequencies being pushed over 0db), you’ll lose perspective of how piercing that might feel in a club. Darker mixes (eg. high frequencies below 0bd) will sound more organic, mysterious. Human ears tend to get excited by bright mixes at first, but in a loud environment, they get tired. Engineers often get “tired ear syndrome” at the end of a day because of over-exposure to bright sounds.

If you play your track and then a reference track (which should be inside your Project, in a channel that is muted unless you want to AB your mix), you might see some very different EQ curves on the graphic analyzer comparatively. In the middle of the graphic, there’s a line that points to zero dB. Ideally, you want your signal to remain under that throughout the entire frequency spectrum; by doing this you’re creating a mix that’s considered balanced. You will most likely see some “holes” in your mix or some sounds that jump over the zero line (spikes).

The circle points a hole and the arrow points to a potential overload.

One of the things that people sometimes do is boost everything to reach the zero line, but engineers go about this a different way. We will lower the louder zones with a shelving EQ and – using the gain on that plugin – we’ll raise the volume, which will automatically adjust the lower frequencies to reach the 0dB line. This simple trick alone can save you tons of time and headaches. In the case above, I’d lower everything above 3k, raise everything by 3dB and probably give a nudge at around 1k with a wide resonance.

But will this alone solve all your balance problems? The answer is no, it won’t.

The idea of using this technique is not to get into the habit of relying on EQs or tools on your master track to fix things, but more to help you understand how to balance the sounds in your mix as you go. One of the most valuable things you can do is solo each channel and look at the analysis graphic to see what’s truly going on with that sound alone. I usually take some time to fix a channel’s content with its own EQ so that it falls under 0dB on the master. If you do that with each channel, you’ll have a good base to start working from.

What about frequency spikes that go over 0dB? Well, it depends, really. I’ve heard some really good sounding songs where there’s a spike or two somewhere. Usually, spikes can work if they’re not too resonant and if they don’t go beyond 3-6dB at the most. Keep in mind that spikes will really stick out of a mix, and at loud volume they could be imposing if the quality of the system isn’t best.

One of my favorite plugins to put on a track is a channel strip, and there are many out there for you to choose from. Neutron 2 sticks out to me as one of the best out there, based on all the options provides. It also allows each instance of the plugin to “talk” to one another, so you can do useful side-chaining between numerous channels. I’d suggest trying out a few different channel strips, but make they have at least a 3-band EQ as you want to be able to do shelving to balance out your channel(s). Balancing a mix is one of the simplest things you can in the early stages of mixing, and it makes a world of difference!

Let me know what you think and happy mixing to you.

SEE ALSO : Common mindsets of musicians who have writer’s block and how to solve them

Tips and recommendations for compression (Pt. 1)

After two important posts on EQs, it’s time to start discussing how to use compression, as these two work so well hand-in-hand, and I’ll offer my own recommendations on some of the best compression VST plugins. Your own selection of VSTs should always start with a few of these two categories:

For EQs:

  1. One Parametric EQ for surgical needs.
  2. One Shelving EQ for toning.
  3. One analog based EQ for coloring.

For compression, there are also several choices and it’s easy to get lost, so one of the things I find important to start with is to explain the different families of compressors (more suitable to relate them to as models).


This type of compressor is one of the most popular out there. It’s known for its aggression and for its use of adding tons of punch to sounds, mixes, with a lot of attitude. The FET compressor, which means Field Effect Transistor, appeared later in the history of compressors, when they switched the tubes for to a model that helped make sounds warmer and richer; it became an instant favorite in studios. The 1176 is one compressor that became one of the most popular models in studios.

Use: Amazing punch on percussion and add life on textures, pads.

Recommended plugins:

FET Compressor (Softube)

FETpressor (PSP)

Black Limiting 76 (IkMultimedia)


This type is pretty much the opposite of the FET (although there are people who will argue about this). The Opto model is smooth and super warm. Not idea for percussion but I do use it in parallel (see techniques below), which can give beef to a kick, for instance. The way this model works is very interesting. It’s basically a lamp that reacts to the incoming sound and will light up depending of the incoming signal. I’m not the best at explaining this, but that pretty much sums it up,  and this makes the Opto compressor not the most aggressive, as it offers smoothness.

Use: Ideal for pads, synths, textures and I would recommend you experiment it with percussion, but in parallel mode.

Notable suggestions for VST:

Bx_Opto (Brainworx)

Opto compressor (IKMultimedia)

Renaissance Compressor by Waves also offers an Opto mode.


VariMu is like the prince of compressors because it has finesse and elegance. Manley popularized the VariMu with their famous version of it. It is a cousin of the Opto in the way it works, and is also very smooth. Often used in mastering, it works like a charm to handle punch problems or to keep coherence in a mix that needs general glue to it. It’s not the best to create punch and this is why, but when used in pair with another compressor, it can really create beautiful results.

Use: On your mix or on a group. It will glue it all together in the most luscious way.

Suggestions of plugins:

The Manley Compressor from UAD

MJUC by Klanghelm

DynaMU by IKMultimedia


This type of compressor is also very popular just like the FET. I’d say that most generic compressors are often based on that model. Since it’s based on voltage control, this compressor is a surgical type of tool. It is really effective to produce snappiness to percussion but it can also be used to control harsh transients.

Use: Smack those kicks with it and control the transients of hats with another setting.

My favorites:

TDR Kotelnikov

U-He Presswerk

API 2500 (There are a few imitations from UAD and Waves, so check it out)


You may have the best plugins but if you don’t know how to use them, you’ll miss the full potential of these amazing tools. I’d say that if you don’t, please know that a large number of producers out there, even experienced ones, struggle to fully understand them. So while you will find so many tutorials out there, I’d like to explain you my simple vision.

But first, let me explain what compression does. It takes the incoming sound and monitors the loudest peak and checks if it is louder than a certain point: the threshold. If that’s the case, it will push down the signal above the threshold, down. I like to picture it as when you sit in a bath, where the water rise as you sit in it. The way a compressor “pushes down” the audio will be controlled by the attack (how fast it reacts), release (for how long) and ratio (how much).

I’d like to compare a compressor to an oven and the incoming music as the dough. The compressor doesn’t work like, let’s say a reverb where if you put it on a sound, you’ll automatically hear what’s being altered. How compressor VSTs work are really, to me, like a oven. You need to bring in the sound, cook it, then push it out.

So, use these parameters when dealing with compression:

  1. Incoming signal. You’ll need to raise the volume of the incoming signal to make sure it meets or is above the threshold. If the signal is too low, it won’t be processed.
  2. Threshold. Lower it down if needed. You’ll see that most compressors have a “GR” for gain reduction meter. This will start to pump as the signal meets the threshold. If nothing happens, lower down the threshold and or boost the incoming signal.
  3. Attack/release. A fast attack will make the pumping start react quickly while a slow one will be less aggressive. You can then adjust the release to control for how long the pumping will last.
  4. Ratio. This is how much will be pushed down. For instance, a 2:1 ratio means that for 2dB over the threshold, it will be turned down by 1dB over the threshold. Eg. 8:1 is a more aggressive result.
  5. Make-up gain/Output. Your output signal will be turned down in the process so you can use the make-up gain to adjust the processed signal to match or be louder than the incoming signal.

So yeah, it sounds weird on paper, but compression is about lowering the volume to make things louder.

Regarding my analogy with the bread, you need to make sure it bakes (gets compressed) before pushing it out.

Now, the techniques you can use compression for:

  1. Limiting. This is the most known use of a compressor. It is a way of making sure the sound never goes above a certain level. Ideal on a master bus to avoid clipping. You can use it to a certain extent on busses to maximize the volume. But make sure it’s not too much as it can then distort in mastering.
  2. Side-chain, ducking. Popular in electronic music, this makes the compression work based on an incoming signal. I’ll get back to this in a future post.
  3. Parallel compression. To do this, you need to put the compression in an AUX/Send bus and then send whatever needs compression to it. This ensure the original signal is mixed with the compressed one, adding power, loudness, precision.
  4. Serial compression. To be used with care, but has very powerful results. This is about putting two (or more) compressors back to back. One can be in parallel (thanks to a wet/dry) and the second one, not. This makes sounds really powerful, punchy, fat. Ideal on sounds that are wimpy and pale.

That’s it for the basics of compression! I’ll discuss the art of sound design using compression and EQs next.


SEE ALSO : Tips for compression: The Multi-band compressor (Pt. 2)

The best EQ plugins and various EQ’ing tips (Pt. II)

In my previous post regarding the best EQ plugins, I covered some of my favorite EQs and some of their uses. After receiving many compliments about that post, I’ve decided to continue with a part two. In the following post, I’ll share a few tricks with you that you can easily do yourself when facing certain mixing situations, and I’ll also briefly outline compression.


In case you didn’t already know, EQs are filters; really complex mathematics which each developer has coded in more or less slightly different formulas. This explains why some EQs are really expensive: because of the time invested in perfecting the curves. Many people don’t realize it, but EQs do sound different from one another and you can tell once you have a high quality sound system.

“Most people don’t have a high quality system, so what’s the point…”, you say.

Well, if you use high quality tools, in the end, your regular sounds will be “upgraded” in quality too, which will eventually make a difference where ever you play them.

The number one tip for a better mix is to use filters; this alone can make dramatic improvements.

For instance, your kicks might sound muddy if you don’t remove the garbage frequencies that are below the fundamental note of it. If this sounds complicated, let me explain it in the most simple terms:

  1. Use your EQ and the first point on the left should be switched to filter, then low cut.
  2. The slope should be put to 24db/octave.
  3. Then roll it to 20hz to start with and then go up frequencies until you hear your kick losing power. If that happens, you’re now filtering too high and you have to roll back a bit.
  4. My general rule is to cut kicks at 20hz by default.

Now that tip was for kicks alone, but you should apply this idea to basically everything in your mix. However, besides the kick, I wouldn’t use a slope of 24db/octave on anything else unless there are big issues. It’s up to you to experiment but if you want to test something interesting, try 18 or 12 for cutting other sounds and you’ll see that this leaves less of a digital feel, giving your sounds clarity and warmth.

I’d also cut the highs where they’re not needed, but not too much either.

Percussion, melodies, and high pitched sounds such as hi-hats would benefit from a 6db/octave, high cut filter; this smooths things in a lovely way.

Some of my favorite filters for this kind of use are:

EVE-AT1 from Kuassa

SliceEQ by Kilohertz

PSP MasterQ2: Smooth!

Sharp cuts

Surgical, sharp and static cuts are very useful for a ringing resonance. Many people ask how to spot it these and how to know if it’s really something to cut or if the it’s something to do with the acoustic of the room. There’s no real way to know but to often cross validate with reference tracks.

So often, I get clients sending me a project in Ableton and I see really odd cuts. Is that bad?

Yes and no.

First off, if you use Ableton’s native EQ, switch it immediately to oversampling mode for better quality.

Second, cutting might change something in your environment but you’ll also permanently cut frequencies that might not be needed to change, which could also potentially induce phasing issues (i.e. during the entire length of the song).

*Note – do not use too many EQs in one chain because that will definitely cause phasing!

So, how do you spot one rogue frequency?

Sometimes I just use a spectrum meter to get hints if I can’t pinpoint where it is. Try to always use a spectrum meter on your master to have an overall indication of your mix. If you see some sounds that start to poke above 0dB, this *might* be a problem; not always, but it could. What you want to look for is one thin spike coming up out loud about +3-6dB. This might really be an issue.

My instinct would be to try to lower the volume of the sound itself if that’s possible. Sometimes it’s not and that’s when you use an EQ.

  1. Isolate the sound in the appropriate channel.
  2. Drop your EQ of choice (see below for suggestions).
  3. Pick an EQ point, set it to the frequency you spotted, then adjust the Q to 3-4. Cut 4dB to start with, but more if needed.
  4. On the EQ, there should be a output gain. If you have cut that frequency away, it might be great to just increase the gain by about the half of what you have cut away. Ideally I like to compress but we’ll get into that later.

TIP: Avoid sharp cuts in the low end. That can cause issues such as phasing, muddiness. If you really have to, make sure to use a mono-utility after.

I revealed some of my favorite EQ plugins in the first post in this series, but I’ll add some more:

Cambridge EQ by Universal Audio: Works amazing on synths and melodies.

AE600 by McDSP.

Voxengo CurveEQ: Solid on percussive content.

Valley cuts, boosts, and shelving

Many readings on the subject of EQ’ing only will recommend that if you need to boost, go moderate and try to have a very low Q to have an open curve. However, there are really no rules on what you should or shouldn’t do. Explore, fail, and be audacious, because sometimes great things come out of it.

My only red flag would be on those really complicated, several points EQ curves you can do in Fabfilter ProQ2. This sometimes induce weird resonances when you’ll bounce, which is no good for mastering unless you are OK with annoying people’s ears.

Also, think differently. If you’re going to use 3-5 points that are all boosting, then why not start by turning up the gain on your EQ’s output and cut down whatever you don’t want.

But if you boost, I like to have a Q below 1. It gives really interesting results!

  • For instance, try to boost 2-3db at 500hz to instantly give presence and body to a song.
  • Try it at 8khz to add a lush, bright presence to metallic percussion.
  • Boost at 1khz on your snare to make them pop out of your mix.

Experiment like this. At first it will appear subtle but with practice, great results will come.

My favorites of the moment:

Sie-Q by SoundToys for really doing beautiful shelving.

MEqualizer by MeldaProduction.



Tips and recommendations for compression (Pt. 1)

Tips on how to pick your EQs and use them (Pt. I)

People often ask me about my opinions on what the best audio plugins are, and there are no doubts that investing in quality EQs and compressors is one of the most important things you can do for both sound design or mixing. You can do pretty amazing things just with EQ and compression, but of course you need to understand your tools to make the best of them. In this post I propose some exercises and tips, as well as covering the main tools I have gathered through the last years and my thoughts on the best EQ plugins.

Types of Equalizers

There are many types of EQs and I believe some are more important than others. It took me a while to understand how to fully use them all and how to select the right one for specific situations. This subject is actually so vast and complex, I could make a series of multiple posts and I wouldn’t get through it. I’ll try to avoid being too technical and will explain them in simple terms so anyone can understand.

The way I approach EQs are based on different actions:

  • Corrective. Sometimes a sound will have part of it that will feel aggressive and annoying. I will do corrective by spotting where where it looks like it’s an issue and then cut. Corrective cuts are usually not too narrow (Ex. Q of 3)
  • Surgical. A resonance in a sound makes your ears hurt and that will need a very narrow cut. (Q of 6-8+).
  • Tonal adjustments. An EQ can be used to make tonal changes such as deciding if you want your track more beefy or more light by either boosting lows or highs.
  • Coloring. Some EQs aren’t transparent and will have a musical touch to the changes it makes. This will add some personality.
  • Valley cuts. The opposite of surgical, where the Q will be make the curve really wide. It makes very subtle changes, somewhat tonal, a bit colored and sometimes a bit corrective. Try it at different points on a sound and see it change without being able to really know what’s happening.

TIP: The human ear will hear a noticeable difference if you cut 3-4dB minimum. If you cut 6dB, it will be quite obvious.

The main types of EQ plugin categories are:

  • Graphic/Fixed Frequencies. Influenced by older models and the first EQ, the frequencies you’d have access to are fixed and won’t be changed. In many of those models, the frequencies are based per octaves but certain companies will have their own way of deciding which ones are used.
  • Parametric. One EQ that is very popular is the Q2 by Fabfilter which allows you to drop a point anywhere and then be able to shape how narrow you want to cut or boost.
  • Shelving/Band. This is a part of the spectrum that will be affected. For example, on DJ mixers, the 3-4 EQ buttons are basically shelves of frequencies that are altered.
  • Dynamic. This one is advanced. You can “order” a point of your EQ to react depending of certain conditions. For example, if you have a recording of a drum, you can order the highs to lower down by 3-4dB if the cymbals hit too loud. Very practical!

TIP: If you love the sound of analog, you might want to dig in Universal Audio’s suite that does emulation of classic pieces of gear. The fidelity of replication is absolutely mind boggling!

Now let’s make some associations regarding which EQ does what:

  • Surgical and valley cuts are mostly done with parametric EQs. This type of EQ will allow you to precisely identify the rogue frequencies and then cut or boost, in the way you want.
  • Corrective EQ can also be done with parametric but with graphical ones too. Sometimes a correction needs precision but sometimes, it can just be a way to realign the curve of the sound which a graphical EQ can do easily.
  • Tonal adjustments. This is done with shelving and band EQ.
  • Coloring. This is basically fixed frequencies, but if you look for analog emulation or EQs that provide a type of saturation, then you’ll also get some coloring and personality.

My favorite EQ plugins

Here are my thoughts on the best EQ plugins  that are precious tools to have in your arsenal. I’ve also included low budget EQs alternatives that are similar.

1. Fabfilter ProQ2 (Surgical, Valley cuts, Corrective, Tonal)

This plugin seems to have found it’s way in many producer’s tool kit mostly because it can pretty much do it all. From complex curves, mastering touch-ups to shelving tones and copying the frequency of a sound to apply it to another… the ways you can use this beast are so numerous that you’ll have to watch a bunch of tutorials to get all the hidden things it can do.

Budget Alternative: TDR Nova GE by Tokyo Dawn

2. Electra by Kush Audio (Shelving EQ, analog replica)

Not so known by the masses but this EQ is an absolute wonder to have on hand. I use it in every single mixes I do and the results are always amazing. A bit of a learning curve to understand as the GUI is a bit weird but even if you’re not sure of what you’re doing, it shapes the sound in a way that makes it pop out and warms it too.

Budget Alternative: RetroQ by PSP

3. BX_Hybrid V2 by Brainworx (Corrective, shelving)

I don’t think there’s any plugin that can do what this can do in terms of results. Not as versatile as the ProQ2 but where this one stands out is for how buttery it cuts in the sound, smoothing things out. When I have people studying mixing with me, I would always require them to buy this one as the very first EQ to have and use.

Budget Alternative: Voxengo Prime EQ

4. Passive EQ by Native Instruments (Shelving, correction, color)

This emulation of the famous Manley Massive-Passive EQ is a bomb EQ. I love to place it on a bus of all my melodic content and then smoothly shape it into something that magically turns organic and warm. It requires a bit of exploration but when you get your hands around it, you’ll always want to use it. I find it quite powerful for sound design as a way to warm up the lows.

5. F6 Floating band dynamic EQ by Waves.

I’m not a big fan of Waves as well as their aggressive tactics for selling but this plugin is a really useful one to have. As described above, with a dynamic EQ, you can tame some frequencies that are randomly happening. The problem with a static EQ is, you’ll be cutting permanently a frequency so if what you’re trying to cut isn’t always there, you might cut something that doesn’t need adjustment. This is why you can have more control with a dynamic EQ. This one is also really easy to use if you’re familiar with the concept and the fact that you can use it in MS makes it really versatile. Not as easy and fancy looking as Fabfilter’s but it does more, in other ways. Wait for the price to fall but you might get it fro either 29$ to 49$ if you’re patient enough.

In the next post, I will go more in detail with my favorite plugins and will also explain certain ways, in details, for how to get the most of them.


The best EQ plugins and various EQ’ing tips (Pt. II) 

How to get the right tonal balance for a mix

One of the biggest challenge of finishing a song is to properly adjust the tonal balance. There’s no doubt this part of track-making is puzzling; many people – even experienced producers – are still going to have some issues with tonal balance some days. There are tools and methods to correct tonal balance, but it’s always a challenge; I feel that it’s important to share some tips on how you can make adjusting tonal balance easier.

What is tonal balance?

I’ll keep this as simple as possible: tonal balance, from my perspective, is dividing your song into three frequency sections and figuring out how to adjust them. For instance, in certain genres, you want the tone to be totally balanced, while for dance oriented, electronic music, you’d want the lower end louder in the mix. While this sounds extremely simple to achieve, in reality, it can be a nightmare.

The biggest issue with tonal balance is that if your tone is wrong, your work when played in a specific context (ex. in a club) will sound completely off compared to similar songs of the same genre.

Common problems with tonal balance include:

Lower end anemic: The song will feel weak, energy less and hollow.

Lower end too loud: The song will feel muddy and lacking in body.

Mids lacking: The song will feel empty, no punch or body, far off.

Mids too loud: The song becomes unnecessarily aggressive and obnoxious.

Highs lacking: The song lacks definition and precision in the sounds.

Highs too loud: The song is fatiguing and harsh.

Using the right tools for tonal balance adjustments

Monitoring is of course, crucial to adjusting the tonal balance of a song. I’d say 75% of the time I get a file for mastering and the tonal balance is completely off, mostly because of the artist’s listening environment. While we don’t all have the budget or space to have a fully treated studio, there are some things you can still do:

  1. Cross-validating. With my speakers, I’ll always check a mix periodically with headphones as I work. I like to have a different perspective and I find that the sound I have between the two often reveals a perspective I missed.
  2. Mixing at a low volume. You’d be surprised at how you’ll automatically hear what’s wrong. Reduce by half the volume level you’re working with and listen to how the kick comes through, then the melody compared to it, then the high end, etc. Cross-validate with a reference track.
  3. Using a subwoofer. Many people will tell you that you don’t need a sub to do a good mix but it certainly helps to have an idea of what’s happening down there. Many of us will have issues with the neighbors so I suggest to only use sparingly just to check your mix. A good alternative is getting a Subpac.

There are also tools you can use in your productions to help you. I use many but here are some of my favorites:


This plugin is a life-saver, no doubt. You load in your reference track, adjust the volume to match and then you can swap between your mix and the reference. There are even some dynamic graphics to show you what part of your mix is too loud or lacking in comparison to the reference track.

If the track is already mastered, you won’t be able to rely on the compression meter but the levels will be used the same way. For 60$, this is certainly an essential to have in anyone’s collection.

Shelving/Band EQ

When I first started to make music, I really didn’t like shelving EQs as I felt they weren’t useful, but once I started looking into them, I have to say that it almost became one of those obsessions one can have for a plugin. There are many of them, so I’ll name a few and then explain how to get the best out of them.

  • Tonelux (Softubes): One of the most recognized and acclaimed tools out there. It gets things done, quickly. Often on sale too.
  • Solid EQ (Native Instruments): I love this one because you have some precision on what you do and it is a good mix between being a musical EQ and a transparent one.
  • Maag Audio EQ4: This one is great for highs. It’s one of the most used in the industry in mastering to get the proper “air” sound, right.
  • Hammer DSP (Kush Audio): Crazy musical, warm and outstanding all the time. Often something to just play with on the master bus to see all the different moods one song can have.
  • Sie-Q (Sound Toys): A bit like Hammer. Musical, and slightly magical in how it handles the mids.
  • ValvEQ (Kazrog): A good alternative to the expensive Bax EQ by Dangerous. It’s handling your tone in MS mode as well.

Using the right techniques in tonal balance

If the EQ, cross validation and other tools don’t seem to work for you, I’d recommend a very simple technique to help you nail down the tone.

Basically, we’ll limit it our tone balance to three sections but you can pull it to four or five if you want, but the lower the number, the easier it gets later on. Knowing this, I’d encourage you using Ableton Live 10 for the use of the groups in groups feature. You can make alternative groups where you push all the channels using lower end in one group, then mids, finishing with highs.

If you have only three groups or busses, you really limit your options to these 3 faders to control. The less you have in front of you, the more focused you’ll be.

The way I usually do it, I’ll start with the main, loudest channel and put it as the loudest one, then mix the 2 others accordingly. Pretty often I feel like knowing the level of the low end first will greatly help settle the rest.