11 Best EQ VST Plugins 2022


11 Best EQ VST Plugins 2022

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When recording, start with a source you’re happy with. Then tweak. This is the best method to achieving the sounds you want in the studio.

Equalizer (EQ) VST plugins support that process. They can help you dial out frequencies you don’t want, add frequencies you need, create vocal “wells,” boost the presence of your vocals or lead instruments, and more.

EQ is frequently used on individual tracks, full mixes, and even at the mastering stage to get desired outcomes. It’s not often that an engineer doesn’t use EQ on a track!

Here we look at the best of the EQ VST plugins available, a must-have tool in your toolkit.

Sie-Q by Soundtoys – Best Overall

Sie-Q by Soundtoys – Best Overall

German engineered Soundtoys’ Sie-Q strives to be a boutique style EQ with classic color. Soundtoys found a rare gem in the Siemens W295b vintage EQ consoles and sought to emulate what this unit best – airy highs and smooth curves, all in an easy to use, “no-fail” interface. And if you’ve seen the physical Siemens W295b EQ unit before, then you know that 1) it’s an expensive piece of kit, and 2) it only features a few knobs.

This analog vibe EQ’s best feature is its highs. Even when boosted to the nth degree, it’s been designed to sound amazing. And that means you can get your vocals floating above the mix, and conversely, get those brittle and harsh highs out of your acoustic guitars and cymbals for extra smoothness. It’s a great EQ for your busses and full mixes too.

Soundtoys suggests using the Sie-Q with their Decapitator analog saturation modeler on your mix if you find that your mix sounds too smooth and polished and needs more of a vintage analog character.

They designed Sie-Q to sound great at any setting. And that’s because the Siemens W295b was originally created for broadcasting. Soundtoys rightfully asserts that these properties are what make this technology perfect for tracking and mixing music too.

Its interface, not surprisingly, was designed to look a lot like the Siemens W295b, except with slightly less color. That said, it captures the look and feel of the vintage EQ nicely. As you can see, the interface is only made up of five controls – low, mids, high, and drive, so there’s no way to get lost. It’s incredibly straightforward.

If we had any constructive criticism here, it would be that the plugin’s interface looks a little boring.

Also, for reasons that should be apparent, this plugin is lacking a little in terms of presets. But if you have a good sense of what you’re doing with frequencies, you shouldn’t get lost. And, as advertised, it does tend to sound good no matter the setting. Also check the video below for more details.

Now, we honestly hemmed and hawed at what EQ plugin to put in this position of “best overall.” As you will see throughout this guide, there are some amazing EQs with great features out there. What we simply couldn’t resist is the fact that 1) Sie-Q is emulating a vintage EQ, and 2) it sounds great regardless of the settings. That makes it an “easy button” for producers at any level, especially for beginner and intermediate level music producers.

You can get Sie-Q on Plugin Boutique for Windows or Mac.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter – Premium Option

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 by FabFilter – Premium Option

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 gives off luxury, alien vibes, as their plugins are known to do. Their quality? Flawless. Their interface? Unconventional but futuristic and smooth. Functionality? Much praised. While this does apply to the Pro-Q 3 as much as anything else, let’s dig a little deeper before giving this one a pass, shall we?

So, how does FabFilter Pro-Q 3 hold up? Well, it is one of the most popular and unanimously perfectly rated sound shaping EQ VST plugins available.

Singer-songwriter Matthew Koma said FabFilter is “solid across the board,” Grammy Award-winning mix engineer Dave Pensado says this EQ has one of the best GUIs of any EQ and is just as good as the rest sound wise, and German DJ Eddie Thoneick called it unbelievably easy to handle.

Pro-Q 3 claims to offer the best experience possible in terms of sound, ease of use, and interface. It features linear phase operation, zero latency, Natural Phase modes, variable stereo placement of EQ bands, Mid/Side processing, an intelligent solo feature, optional Auto Gain, and a built-in spectrum analyzer (customizable).

It also comes with Spectrum Grab, full screen mode, EQ Match, perfectly tuned knobs, interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switch, Smart Parameter Interpolation, an extensive help file, sample-accurate automation, advanced optimization, and more.

But it doesn’t end there. Pro-Q 3 gives you access to up to 24 EQ bands, optional dynamic EQ mode, ultra-steep “brickwall” slope for LP and HP filters, full surround support, Flat Tilt filter shape, and a great deal more. Do refer to Plugin Boutique for more information, because it’s hard to capture it all here.

What I love about the UI is that it puts your EQ shape front and center and keeps the controls off to the side. This lets you focus on the sound you’re creating versus the knobs and switches you need to play with to get it there. To say nothing of its beautiful interface, of course – colorful without being intrusive, and impeccably designed from top to bottom.

It is amazing how easy it is to use the Pro-Q 3 EQ. Learn the controls and functions and you’ll be creating EQ curves faster than you’ve ever been able to before.

There are many other quality EQ VST plugins available, as you’re about to discover. The FabFilter Pro-Q 3 EQ, though, is the most expensive on this list. There’s also nothing else that’s exactly like it. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. But it does make it the obvious pick for our premium option in this guide. This plugin is well-loved by many, and it isn’t just hype – it does what it says it does!

It’s very distinct from vintage-analog-gear-oriented emulation, though, so if that’s more your thing, then that’s probably what you’d want to pick up instead.

Either way, you can get FabFilter Pro-Q 3 for Windows or Mac.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

4020 Retro EQ HD by McDSP – Best Budget Option

4020 Retro EQ HD by McDSP – Best Budget Option

Delicious Audio magazine said McDSP’s 4020 Retro EQ HD made acoustic and electric guitars sound beefy and it made drums bold.

This highly rated VST plugin is a four-band EQ and filter set with a vintage flavor. The HF and LF bands offer shelving EQ along with two parametric EQs at HMF and LMF bands. These work on a gain dependent variable slope/Q system. The HPF and LPF filters feature a split-octave design with a 12 dB/Oct slope with a maximum slope of 24 dB/Oct.

To eliminate digital clipping and offer smoother distortion characteristics, McDSP plugins use an output stage topology. This, along with the analog saturation modeling makes it the perfect choice for those who want to add a little bit of character to their tracks.

The plugin’s interface gives off a slight ultrarealistic mid-2000s vibe, but not in a bad way. The design is balanced nicely, and knobs and VU meters look like what you would find on a vintage console. The output meter adds some nice flavor to the plugin too.

Now, you can certainly find cheaper EQ plugins out there if you go looking for them. But what you get in exchange for your money here is excellent value. There are better vintage style EQs available, to be sure, but this one is nevertheless powerful.

4020 Retro EQ HD is available for Windows and Mac.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Carve EQ by Kilohearts

Carve EQ by Kilohearts

Record producer Shadient loves that Kilohearts Carve EQ offers so much sonic versatility, and Distinctive Records’ Adam Fielding called it “lovely and musically intuitive.”

Its interface might have more in common with Adobe Photoshop than your standard EQ, but aside from all the hype, how does it stack up?

Carve EQ is a graphic equalizer breaks convention and attempts to take the concept of graphic equalization to a new level. This is a 31-band graphic equalizer with an advanced filtering system, digitally clean filters, an easy-to-use interface, processor friendly design, resizable UI, Snapin compatibility, point selection tool for extra precision, sculpt tool for adding peaks, referencing features, Match EQ, A/B comparison tool, and EQ in stereo.

Match EQ is probably the crowning gem of its feature set. You can find it on some EQs but not all. And it does exactly what you think it would – it matches the EQ to the reference you provide. That takes a lot of the guesswork out of achieving some of your favorite sounds. You can learn more about this in the video below.

Users rated the plugin perfect except with regards to presets. It’s certainly at a reasonable price point, and as for the user interface, it is well-balanced and nicely designed. As with the Pro-Q 3, it puts your EQ curves at the heart of the interface. That said, it feels like it could be missing a little color. That’s just my opinion, mind you.

Carve EQ is available for Windows and Mac.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Slice EQ by Kilohearts

Slice EQ by Kilohearts

So, you’re probably wondering. “Carve EQ? Slice EQ? What’s the difference, and which one is for me?” Not to worry – we will be looking at what Slice EQ has to offer to help you make up your mind.

Grammy-nominated British producer, composer, and DJ Mat Zo found this EQ useful and versatile.

Slice EQ is an advanced parametric equalizer (note – Carve EQ is a graphic equalizer) that lets you enhance or cut frequencies with exacting precision. It utilizes clean digital filters and comes with a processor friendly design, resizable interface, and it boasts Snapin compatibility too.

This versatile EQ comes with six parametric filter types, spectrum analyzer, frequency spectrum referencing, mid-size processing, graphical and knob-based editing, and more. Your custom EQ curves can be saved in the User Presets folder.

As for Slice EQ’s user interface, it’s basically the same as Crave EQ, so see my notes on that.

Get Slice EQ for Windows or Mac.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

Blue Cat’s Liny EQ by Blue Cat Audio

Blue Cat’s Liny EQ by Blue Cat Audio

Blue Cat Audio produces a variety of plugins for different purposes. They are a reliable developer to be sure, and while they don’t always hit it out of the park, Blue Cat’s Liny EQ seems to have caught the attention of at least a few producers who loved it.

This eight-band linear phase equalizer comes with four EQ shapes (normal, notch, smooth, and sharp), and it offers low latency as well as comprehensive visual feedback. It processes signals without phase distortion and comes with a wide range of gain (+-40dB) with multiple filter shapes.

The user interface is customizable and comes with a spectrum analyzer as well as a spectrogram viewer. You can set up your workflow how you want it, and that is an attractive feature for producers who need things to be a certain way. EQ curves in Liny EQ can be updated continuously using MIDI or automation as well as its Mix control.

Blue Cat’s Liny EQ user interface design is nicely put together. It’s industrial, thematically, but it’s easy to understand, and it’s not trying hard to be anything other than what it is.

This EQ promises to be a transparent effect. It doesn’t come with some of the fancier features we’ve already seen with other EQ effects (like EQ Match), but it’s fair to say it’s still a competent EQ that can help you shape your sounds.

If there is a downside, the EQ might be slightly overpriced given some of the options we’ve already looked at, as well as some to come.

Blue Cat’s Liny EQ works with Mac and Windows.

Learn more: Plugin Boutique

H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer by Waves

H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer by Waves

The H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer offers a mix of vintage and modern EQs inspired by American and British consoles. It comes with seven filter types per band, an asymmetrical bell filter, an exclusive MS matrix mode that allows you to apply different EQ to the sum of a stereo signal as well as its difference, solo function for each parametric band, a frequency spectrum analyzer with multiple display options, and more.

Audio director Ben Minto called H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer his “go-to EQ,” producer / engineer / songwriter Christopher DeStefano said this EQ gives him vibe, color, and tone, and producer/engineer Ross Hogarth loved the EQ’s versatility and its ability to apply precise boosts and cuts.

The H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer interface is nicely balanced and colorful without being loud. It looks sophisticated, but fundamentally, it’s simple. And ease of use is important when it comes to plugin selection, so we like how this EQ is set up.

You can get H-EQ Hybrid Equalizer for Windows or Mac at Waves.

Learn more: Waves

Manny Marroquin EQ by Waves

Manny Marroquin EQ by Waves

If you’re familiar with the Manny Marroquin series of plugins, then chances are you’ve come across the Manny Marroquin EQ already. If not, it’s certainly worth a look. Mixing engineer Marroquin’s plugins always include rather unique functions that show the personality and character of the developer.

Marroquin says he enjoys engaging in “creative equalization” versus cleaning up a mix. He adds that he usually ends up reaching for the same frequencies in this process. He usually chooses from one of six equalizers based on the frequency he needs:

  • The SSL 9080 XL K for high and low pass filters
  • Quad 8 or the Neve 1073 for the low end
  • Quad 8 or Motown for lows and low-mids
  • Motown, 1073, and API 550B for mids and high mids
  • Avalon 2055 for highs

And what do you know? Marroquin and Waves captured the favorite parts of each of these EQs and put them all into this “best of” VST plugin.

Record mixer Michael Brauer called the plugin “musical,” and producer-engineer Malay found it versatile regardless of application.

As for the user interface, we always find Manny Marroquin plugins well-branded, well-balanced, and nicely put together. The logo matched with the paisley background (different color based on the plugin) is a favorite. We love that this plugin is so easy to use and simultaneously so easy on the eyes.

The great thing about this EQ is that you can do a lot with a little. The EQ sounds relatively transparent, too, so it’s going to add a nice character to your tracks without taking away from them. If you resonate with Marroquin’s preferences, then this VST plugin is for you.

But if you have more varied tastes, you might consider adding this one to your arsenal as opposed to using it as your only EQ. Fortunately, most if not all DAWs come with an EQ as well, and there’s no reason you can’t take advantage of it.

Anyway, you can get the Manny Marroquin EQ for Windows and Mac at Waves.

Learn more: Waves

F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ by Waves

F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ by Waves

The F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ is a highly rated, popular option. This dynamic equalizer comes with six floating, adjustable parametric filter bands, advanced EQ, compression/expansion controls per band, mid-side processing, real-time frequency spectrum analyzer, and a great deal more.

Waves calls it the “ultimate problem-solving EQ.” That’s because it can be used for EQ, compression, expansion, and even de-essing processes. That makes it perfect for mixing and mastering. Each band comes with advanced EQ and dynamic controls as well, and that makes it easy to deal with problem areas in your mix.

Another unique focus of the plugin is that it’s sensitive to the dynamics of your tracks. It will move with the performance, kicking in when it needs to, and laying it back when it falls below the threshold you’ve set. If you’re interested in this plugin, then it would be worth exploring this aspect of it in more detail. Refer to the documentation you can find through the link.

Recording, mixing, and mastering engineer Jason Goldstein said the F6 is his favorite new plugin, guitarist-engineer Richard Chycki called the F6 a dynamic problem solver, and producer / mixing engineer / songwriter Charlie Andrew loved the EQ’s flexibility.

The plugin features a sleek, “flat vector” style interface. We’re usually big fans of this style (when it’s done well), and we do like the knobs especially. The bright colors set against the muted greys makes it feel like a piece of high-tech gear. The bands are color-coded, as with several other EQs we’ve looked at, and this makes it easy to know what you’re adjusting. The interface’s balance feels just a tad off, but that’s maybe being a little too picky.

This EQ is a favorite for fine-tuning vocals, and it can be a great choice for other mixing needs too.

You can get F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ for Mac or Windows.

Learn more: Waves

Q10 Equalizer by Waves

Q10 Equalizer by Waves

The simply named Q10 Equalizer is a multiband paragraphic EQ. It comes with 10 bands for mixing and mastering, and it’s a shoo-in for slight adjustments and precision repairs alike. It comes with six filter types per band, advanced noise shaping, Legacy and Modern interfaces, as well as Proportional Q filters, selectable band control, and double precision processing.

Producer Gil Norton said the Q10 sounds great on anything, producer-engineer Val Gray called it his “one and only” parametric EQ, and mixing engineer / producer Shawn Everett said he “will never give this old girl up.”

The Q10 Equalizer features a familiar design – it’s like a combination of Waves plugins we’ve already seen. That said, it does combine some of the best aspects of their VST plugin designs, and that makes it noteworthy.

Get Q10 Equalizer for Windows or Mac.

Learn more: Waves

Linear Phase EQ by Waves

Linear Phase EQ by Waves

Linear Phase EQ is a plugin ideally suited to mastering. It helps you keep your mixes intact while giving you precise control over the harmonic spectrum (with no phase shift).

Sound designer and mixer Scott Martin Gershin says this EQ helps him surgically clean up the sound of his mixes, and sound designer Dwight Okahara says Linear Phase EQ helps him rid of competing frequencies that can muddy up a mix.

This plugin comes with five user-definable bands of EQ with liner phase crossovers, lowband and broadband components, and nine linear phase filter types. It works great for acoustic instruments, stereo sources, transient-heavy tracks, and of course, mastering.

The plugin features a simple, colorful design. A gold brushed metal style console with a strong focus on the EQ curve. Color-coded EQ bands too. Not the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen, but certainly not the worst either.

This truly is a great EQ for shaping the sound of a mix without altering its natural characteristics. Also refer to the video to get a sense of what it can do for you and your tracks.

Linear Phase EQ is available for Windows or Mac at Waves.

Learn more: Waves

What Is The Best EQ For Me?

It depends. So, here are some questions to guide your buying decision:

  • What will you be using the EQ for? Individual tracks, busses, mixes, mastering, or all the above? You can use EQs for whatever you want, but some do specialize better than others.
  • What features do you need? Additional effects like compression and expansion? EQ Match? Saturation? Some features will likely prove more useful to you than others. And in some cases, a simple multi-band EQ is more than enough without all the extras.
  • What type of EQ do you want – graphic, parametric, dynamic, or otherwise? There are a few different types of EQs and understanding their difference can sometimes help you home in on your preferred plugin.

With these questions in tow, review the options above again. A picture should start to form. You should have a better sense of which EQ is right for you.

Top EQ VST Plugins, Final Thoughts

EQ is going to be a go-to in your mixing workflow. So, find something your comfortable with. And where possible, don’t compromise. You’re going to be pulling up the same plugin over and over, for a variety of applications, and that means the happier you are with it, the better results you’re going to get with it.

Keep optimizing that workflow of yours, because it’s really everything when it comes to music production and engineering. Have fun and enjoy shopping around!

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