Pro Audio Files

7 EQ Plugins That *Aren’t* Modeled After Analog Hardware

We recently published an article entitled 6 EQ Plugins Modeled After Analog Hardware that covered some of the most popular EQ emulation plugins — but modern digital equalizers have developed some pretty innovative features of their own. Check out these unique digital EQ plugins, and what makes them stand out from hardware clones.

1. Fab Filter Pro-Q 2

FabFilter is a plugin manufacturer based in Amsterdam, who have been making mixing and mastering tools, creative effects and synthesizer plugins since 2002.

Most analog EQs are preferred for the particular color they impart on a sound, but Pro-Q 2 is famous for its total lack of color. Pro-Q 2 is all about making EQing easier with intelligent features like:

  • Universal filter slopes on all 24 bands, and selectable Bell, High/Low Cut, High/Low Shelf, Notch, Tilt and Band-Pass filter shapes.
  • Spectrum Grab, which allows you to grab a peak in the real-time spectrum analyzer and adjust — great for grabbing obvious frequency peaks.
  • Optional Gain-Q interaction, which increases the Q value along with the gain, and vice versa.

2. Tokyo Dawn Records VOS Slick EQ

Tokyo Dawn Records (TDR) is actually a record label (although founder Marc Wallowy prefers the term “music unit”) that started in Munich, Germany in 1997. After the label relaunched in 2009, TDR became known for their innovative sound stamp, which was thanks to their custom plugins.

TDR VOS Slick EQ features a simple design with three bands of semi-parametric EQ and an independent high-pass filter. Although it may look like a standard Pultec clone, it’s actually much more than that. The free standard edition allows you to select between four distinct EQ models: “American”, “British”, “German” and “Soviet”, which each have their own unique equalization and saturation algorithms. Slick EQ also features five output stages: “Linear”, “Silky”, “Mellow”, “Deep” and “Toasted”.

The “Gentleman’s Edition” includes upgraded features like:

  • Advanced shape controls
  • An additional “Japanese” EQ model
  • Two new output stages: “excited” and “funky”
  • Smart EQ actions like reference matching, de-resonate, and auto HP/LP

3. Sonnox Oxford EQ V3 + Dynamic EQ

OK, this one is admittedly cheating a little bit since it’s an emulation of the legendary Sony Oxford OXF-R3 digital console EQ from the 80s.

On its face, the Oxford EQ V3 seems like any other digital parametric EQ. It features 5 bands of EQ with variable slopes and dedicated high-pass and low-pass filters — but the charm of the Sonnox is under the hood. By changing the “EQ Type” setting, you gain access to four completely different sounding EQ types:

  • A clinical EQ similar to the SSL4000 E series
  • A tighter ‘cut’ for removing problem frequencies
  • A classic EQ similar to Neve and SSL G series curves
  • A wide and gentle curves perfect for mastering
  • An optional 5th EQ type is available for Pro Tools HD and HDX users — an exact emulation of the highly regarded GML-8200 EQ hardware unit

4. Eventide EQuivocate

Eventide has been producing industry-standard effects units since the 70s. They’re best known for their hardware units like the Harmonizer, but in 2017 they released EQuivocate: an innovative “human ear EQ”.

EQuivocate uses 26 linear phase auditory filters, which are modeled on the human ear to make EQ adjustments as natural as possible. EQuivocate also includes advanced features like:

  • Match EQ, which allows you to EQ tracks to match the frequency response of your favorite tracks
  • Draw Curve, which allows you to draw the EQ curve with the swipe of your mouse
  • Auto-Level, which automatically compensates for level changes from EQ adjustments

5. Sound Radix SurferEQ2

Sound Radix is a software developer founded in 2010, and in 2012 their SurferEQ plugin won two Innovation Awards. SurferEQ is a pitch-tracking equalizer that uses unique morphing EQ algorithms and harmonic filters to track monophonic instruments or vocals and alter EQ curves with the music in real-time.

Just engage the “Surf” mode on any band to track the pitch of the instrument or vocal source and adjust its frequency relative to the notes being played. Or select to follow the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd harmonic — perfect for keeping single notes from sticking out more than others.

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At first glance, SurferEQ looks like a standard 7-band parametric EQ with a colorful interface, but a closer look shows some unique features:

  • Instead of a standard Q control, each band features options for 4-5 unique filter shapes.
  • The middle band can also be used in “harmonic mode” which allows you to target a frequency and all of its harmonics.
  • Sidechain and MIDI functionality allow you to trigger EQ surfing using a keyboard

6. Brainworx bx_panEQ

Brainworx is a German software developer founded in 1999, now part of Plugin Alliance. Their innovative bx_panEQ is a three-band spatial equalizer that can be used anywhere within the stereo field. Each band features gain, frequency, and Q controls like a standard parametric EQ, but they also include pan and focus controls, which allow you to precisely regulate the panoramic width of your EQ adjustments.

bx_panEQ can be used for carving out space in a mix for certain instruments, increasing the stereo width of a track, or creating larger-than-life sounds. Perfect for adjusting the balance of stereo drum recordings, spreading the frequencies of an instrument across different parts of the stereo spectrum, and controlling the depth of time-based effects like reverb and delay.

Although bx_panEQ may be simple, it creates endless possibilities. But don’t take my word for it — hear it for yourself.

7. DMG Audio EQuilibrium

DMGAudio is a plugin manufacturer founded by Dave Gamble in 2010. In 2013 they released EQuilibrium; “a surfeit of functionality predicated on the curves of the greatest EQs from times past.”

EQuilibrium is a massively flexible EQ with options for modern digital curves or circuit models of vintage EQs, similar to:

  • SSL 4000G
  • Sony Oxford OXF-R3
  • Focusrite ISA 110
  • API 550
  • Neve 88RS
  • Harrison 32C

But EQuilibrium isn’t a vintage EQ emulator — it’s fully outfitted with modern features, like selectable filter slopes, M/S and L/R processing, and a hi-res spectrum analyzer with multiple modes. And to top it all off, the user interface is fully customizable to suit your specific workflow.

Now that you’ve got the lowdown on some of the most unique digital EQs, you can manipulate signals in ways you never thought possible. Pair them with these innovative compressors and take your mixes to places they’ve never gone before.

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Brad Pack

Brad Pack

Brad Pack is an award-winning audio engineer living in Chicago. He's worked for radio stations like NPR, in the studio with artists like William Beckett, and at live sound venues like House of Blues. He has a Master's Degree in Audio Production, and is currently teaching, writing, and working as a freelance audio engineer. Get in touch here.

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