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The Best EQ Plugin is the One That's Best for the Job.  That Said, These 3 Workhorse EQs Are Great All-Rounders for Music Production

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You probably know by now that there's no one best EQ plugin.  From EQ plugins that emulate the well-loved outboard hardware units of days gone by, to modern EQ plugins that make use of the power of digital user interfaces and flexibility,  there's definitely no shortage of options to choose from.

In this post you'll discover 3 solid all-rounder, versatile EQ plugins,  each of which can easily take the place of your go-to plugin for any type of corrective of creative EQ jobs in the studio.

A quick note about this series:

The purpose of this series of posts is to provide you with only 3 good DAW audio plugin choices for the different types of available professional music production plugins.

This, as you can imagine, is no easy task given the sheer amount of plugins available in most of the various audio plugin categories.  Some really excellent contenders had to be left on the virtual cutting-room floor.

Why not just list more?

That would've been the easier option for me, but there are countless blog posts listing the 20 or 10 "best [.....] plugins".  While these types of posts have their place and purpose they can still leave you with a bit of overwhelm when it comes to making a choice. Even more so when you start comparing plugin features.

So, the general idea of these posts is...

... to narrow-down to just  3 top contenders in each of the popular DAW plugin categories.  This means you can start with a solid shortlist and demo the plugins which appeal to you most, knowing that these have been selected for good reasons.

So, how are the included plugins selected?

Nothing too scientific.  It's a mix of my what I've picked up in my experience in audio and music for the past 20-ish years, coupled with some light research on sites with ratings and reviews and various lengthy "what's the best plugin for... ?" music production and audio forum posts.  You know the ones. ;-)

So, you can think of it as my opinion plus a bit.  Take it with a grain of salt as you would with any opinion about music production software and gear in general. My hope is you'll find the 3 recommended plugins in each category a good starting point and find the plugin that suits you best,  faster.

Note: You May Already Own the Best EQ Plugin

It can be tempting to think when you start out with music production that you need to get the latest and greatest 3rd-party EQ plugin to produce professional-level tracks.  This is not the case however.  Your first port-of-call should be the stock EQ plugins that come with your Digital Audio Workstation.

The reason for this is because top DAW developers have really stepped-up their stock-plugin game in recent times.

This means that for most jobs you'll be able to get what you want done without splashing out $100s+ on 3rd-party EQ plugins.

That said, some 3rd-party plugins have functionalities and workflows that are unique. So, when it comes time to select your new go-to EQ plugin,  the 3 options you'll discover below are sure to impress.

Ready to dive in?  Let's go...

1. Pro-Q3 by FabFilter

Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 Screenshot

A quick scan through music production forum posts and reddits makes you realize that FabFilter's Pro-Q 3 is considered by many professional producers, beatmakers and audio engineers as the best EQ plugin on the market today. It's little wonder why...

The interface and resulting workflow makes this EQ plugin a breeze to use.  Couple that with a deep and wide feature set and you have a beast that's not only elegant and simple but also sounds good and is extremely powerful as an all-rounder EQ plugin in your studio.

Pro-Q 3 allows you to operate in linear phase, zero latency and Natural Phase modes.  It also allows you to use Mid-Side processing and offers variable stereo placement for up to 24 different EQ bands.  The intelligent solo feature means you can listen to just the frequencies you're affecting with your EQ moves which, as you can imagine, is a very useful feature to have.

The built-in spectrum analyzer means you can visually see what's happening as you make your EQ moves.

If it stopped there you'd already have an excellent EQ, but as you've probably guessed by now, there's much more to Pro-Q 3.

Newer features includes the option to use dynamic EQ on your bands, ultra-steep brickwall slopes on high-pass and low-pass filters and per-band mid-side processing.  The Spectrum Grab feature allows you to grab and adjust a peak in the spectrum analyzer in real-time while EQ Match gives you the ability to automatically match your curve with another Pro-Q instance or outside signal. Pretty sweet!

All that, and much more, combined with Fabfilter's usual focus on quality features and execution and you can see why Pro-Q has a raving fanbase of professionals across the planet.

Pro-Q 3 is available for Mac OS and Windows and there's a free trial version you can demo to try it out before you buy.

Learn more about Pro-Q 3 and grab it over at Plugin Boutique right now. (affiliate link)

2. EQuilibrium by DMG Audio

DMG EQuilibrium Screenshot

Where to even begin with this one?!

EQuilibrium by DMG Audio is one great-sounding, super flexible and versatile beast of an EQ plugin that has fast become a firm favorite for many producers and audio professionals.  If you cannot get it done with this plugin, whatever the EQ job may be, then I'd be really surprised!

Whether it's the clean transparent modern digital EQ sound you're after or more character with the circuit models of vintage outboard units of days gone by, EQuilibrium has you covered.

The interface is also customizable,  so you can set it up in a way that best suits your workflow and requirements.

You can use up to 32 EQ bands and in terms of modes you get to select from the following:

  • FIR mode
  • Linear
  • Analogue
  • Minimum
  • Zero-Latency Analogue
  • Free phase control

You're also covered when it comes to Mid-Side processing so you can zone in on exactly the areas you want to affect with your EQ moves.

Now lets talk curves and filters,  one place where this beast of an EQ plugin shines...

You can load up circuit models from classic EQs.  Model numbers include 4000, 3, 110, 550, 88, 32 and 250.  In terms of filter types you get Coincident, Butterworth, Chebyshev, Bessel, Critical, Legendre, Elliptic and Allpass.

The flexibility of this EQ plugin also extends to the built-in spectrum analyzer which can operate in different modes and the metering which can be configured and supports K-metering and variable ballistics.

There's so much more to be said about EQuilibrium but for the sake of brevity I'll stop here.  I trust you can see by now why so many producers and engineers consider this to be the best EQ plugin for their needs.  Now all you need to do is hear it in action!

EQuilibrium is available for Windows and Mac and a demo version is available for you to try before you buy.

Learn more about EQuilibrium and grab the demo here.

3. TDR Nova GE by Tokyo Dawn Labs

TDR Nova Screenshot

If the 2 options already listed seem like overkill or you were budgeting for less then TDR Nova GE by Tokyo Dawn Labs may be a decent option to consider.

Nova GE is a dynamic equalizer. So, you can use it as a normal parametric EQ but also as a dynamic EQ which makes it useful in many cases.  For example:

  • Parametric equalization
  • Dynamic equalization
  • Frequency selective compression/expansion
  • Multiband compression/expansion
  • Wideband compression/expansion

You're also covered for Mid-Side operations, spectral-matching and equal loudness functions.

Nova GE is great value for money when you consider the use-cases this EQ plugin has and the great price-point.

Nova GE is available for Windows and Mac and a trial version is available so you can demo it first.

Learn more about Nova GE and grab the trial version here right now. (affiliate link)

The Best EQ Plugins - Conclusion:

The intention of this series of posts, as mentioned, is to provide you with 3 good options to consider without the overwhelm of choice that kicks in when you read "20 best plugins" type posts.

This, as you can probably imagine, means that I had to leave other really competent EQ plugins off this list by design.

I trust the EQs mentioned will serve you well.  They make up a solid shortlist to begin with at the very least and each one can become your favorite go-to EQ.

That said, it's different strokes for different folks when it comes to music production tools and toys and sometimes you need to explore your options a bit further before you make your selection.

In that case you'll find some other great EQs listed in order of user rating for your convenience here.

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