FabFilter Pro-Q2
FabFilter’s Pro Q2 is my desert island EQ. It really is a master of all trades, from its incredible transparent sound quality to having one of the best and most intuitive GUIs out there. It’s particularly cool that the detailed frequency analyser can display material fed to the sidechain overlaid with the actual source you are EQing – perfect if you want to see the relationship of, say, the kick drum and bass guitar.

Some of my favourite functions that put it above other workhorse digital EQs are the steep bell filter options that allow you to lift or cut sections of the frequency range with minimal spill into the surrounding area, and the Tilt EQ that lets you apply drastically shift the entire frequency response of your source material.

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Kush Audio Electra DSP
Kush Audio’s Electra is a wonderful EQ for bringing out life and impact from drums, and forces you to make your moves intuitively through its notably limited frequency markings. Featuring uniquely shaped proportional-Q curves (think API 550, but with a much peakier central frequency) the Electra has an uncanny way of highlighting the transient detail in the sound you are EQing as you sweep through the bands.

I personally love what this does on a snare drum – as you search through the upper mids you’ll find certain spots which highlight different flavours of the stick attack and give a snappiness I haven’t heard in other EQs. I also am a big fan of the high shelf control, set at its lowest frequency of 3.8kHz, as a general brightening control that brings life to drum shells instantly.

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Slate Digital FG-N
The Slate Digital FG-N EQ is a model of the famous Neve 1073 EQ section, albeit with two mid-bands where the original only has one, to make it more flexible as a channel equaliser. This EQ is one of the most aggressive out there, with small adjustments yielding drastic results. For that reason I tend to use it sparingly, especially the high shelf control which, while nominally fixed at 12kHz, brings out a lot of aggression in the upper mids and lower treble area too. On the other end of things, the low shelf also has a big span – a technique a I use a lot is to boost lower down the spectrum than I might usually do, then use the high-pass filter to tame anything unruly in the subs.

A bonus feature that keeps me coming back to this EQ is the “Drive” control, which allows you to saturate the signal in a subtle but very pleasing way, adding a weight and thickness while also smoothing the high end just a touch. In fact, it’s not unusual for me to call on the Slate Digital FG-N just for this feature, and not to do any actual EQing!

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Waves SSL E-Channel Strip
The Waves SSL E-Channel Strip is on the other end of the scale to the Slate Digital FG-N, with a clean sound that encourages large EQ moves. Ignoring the compression and gate circuits, the 4-band EQ, plus high- and low-pass filters make for a very efficient workhorse channel EQ – which is exactly why the SSL 4000 E series console on which this plugin is based has become such a revered tool, used on countless records by an endless list of high-profile engineers and mixers.

I find myself reaching for this EQ when I want something that does exactly what it’s supposed to, with no frills, yet I don’t want to be presented with a modern digital interface that sometimes can be too distracting in their detail. We’re talking about EQs here, but it’s worth noting the compressor and gate functions are both excellent, and there’s little reason why you couldn’t get spectacular results using just this one plugin across every channel on your mix.

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Softube Tube-Tech PE1C
The Softube Tube-Tech PE1C is based on one of the most revered vintage EQs in existence – the Pulse Techniques (Pultec for short) EQP-1A Program Equaliser. It’s one of many digital emulations on the market, and all deliver slight variations on the classic Pultec sound and functionality. With just two, very wide bands and stepped frequency controls, a Pultec is never going to give surgical results, but they are legendary for their ability to add tremendous weight and presence to source material.

With separate controls for boosting and cutting each band, many engineers have discovered you can create some unique sounds by utilising both simultaneously – in particular on the low band it’s possible to boost the bass content heavily then use the attenuate control to clear out the frequencies above and around the shelf’s centre frequency for a deep and clear low end. Try this on a parallel bus if you find the effect too extreme when placed as an insert on your track.

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Buy the Matt Halpern signature drum library here