An equaliser can by far be the most powerful tool in any engineers arsenal when used correctly, for tracking, mixing, live audio, production and of course, mastering. This 3 part instalment I intend to show you a little of how I use equalisation day to day when mastering records. To start off I think it’s best for me to cover a small selection of EQ’s I use and why I use them.
Crane Song ibis - Analog Parametric Equaliser
The IBIS is an extremely powerful and transparent stereo analog equaliser. I use this mostly for creative equalisation, most notably the shelving on the highest and lowest band is a great overall “tone control” for songs that come through sounding too dull or bright. The low cut I use regularly to help shape the bottom end of a song. When the low end(<30/40/50/60hz) is kicking around and booming too much, cutting/rolling off the right amount of low end can really add a lot of definition and clarity to what’s going on in the bottom end of a mix for the frequencies above it.
One of my favourite aspects of this EQ is the fact the switchable frequencies in the 4 bands are labelled with their corresponding musical note value. It’s quite useful for when a client attends a session to convert engineer jargon to musicians talk.
Brainworx Hybrid - Digital parametric Equaliser
The brainworx hybrid is the workhorse of most of my mastering sessions. It plays a very important role in terms of corrective equalisation. It makes easy work of notching out ringing frequencies with extremely high Q-values(narrow bandwidths) and it’s frequency solo mode. When sweeping frequencies it will isolate the frequency in the playback; for example if I hear an audible ringing at somewhere around an A440 I can sweep the filter to 440hz, then i can sweep back and forth between 425hz and 470hz until I find which point the ringing is most audible/prominent.
Brainworx dynEQ - Digital Dynamic Equaliser
As the name would suggest this is a dynamic equaliser, I use this as a corrective equaliser mainly for taming sibilance, splashy/wooshy high hats and sometimes to help bring out the crack of a snare.
Some other EQ’s I use are the Elysia Museq Master(digital version), EQ3 7 Band, BX_digital V2 & JDK r24.
So you may be wondering how to go about selecting equalisers to work with and what is probably the best suited for your work.
I find the best equalisers for me are the most intuitive, well laid out and easy to operate ones. When working you should be using your ears and not distracted by an overkill of little buttons, additive features or things that won’t contribute to your workflow. I know engineers that have stuck with equalisers like the default EQ3 Avid provides with their Pro-Tools software because they know exactly how it works and it is very easy to operate and get good results from.
Another is the application of the equaliser, if you want to bring in some colour or get a bit creative with your equaliser analog can sometimes pave the way for options, but if it’s fine accuracy and surgical work you have in mind most things in the digital realm will outperform nearly most options in the analog realm.
Also the recall, digitally you can save presets amongst pre-sets until you fill up your drive. Whilst most high-end mastering equalisers do offer switched potentiometers, you still need to photography or pencil document all your settings for session recalls.
In my next instalment I’ll be discussing corrective equalisation, techniques and it’s role in the mastering process.