Best EQ VST Plugins – 2020 Review

If we had to pick one studio equipment that seems most essential for any type of professional audio work, our pick would definitely be the EQ.

It has become integrated with so many other units that we couldn’t even imagine what would studio work look like without it. 

Comparison Chart of the Best EQ VST Plugins

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 24-band EQ plugin with Dynamic EQ mode
  • Automatic EQ Match feature
  • Innovative Spectrum Grab mode
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  • Intelligent 8-band parametric EQ plugin
  • Smart:engine self-learning A.I. technology
  • Instrument and vocal profiles provided
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  • Affordable 6-band Parametric EQ
  • Versatile Smart Ops panel
  • Equal loudness functions
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  • Siemens W295b 3-band vintage EQ emulator
  • Very musical High EQ
  • Dedicated +15dB Drive knob
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  • 3 separate modules packed into one interface
  • Very handy Magic Wand feature
  • Ambience and reverb removal algorithm
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  • 31-band graphic stereo EQ
  • Handy Sculpt, Pencil and Point Select Tools
  • Match EQ with famous songs profiles
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  • 5-band parametric EQ with proportional-Q
  • Ultra-musical Type-3 EQ curve
  • Compression and Expansion included in Dynamics
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What is an EQ VST Plugin and What is it Used For?

EQ is a short term for equalization and it allows you to alter the sound character of the track by re-adjusting the level of certain frequencies. It’s one of the most wide-spread audio effects out there and can be found on various commercial units such as audio players, TVs or even smartphones.

It simply applies a certain boost or reduction defined by the gain knob on a given frequency range. Those ranges are called frequency bands and most often they are named as low (bass), mid, and high (treble) frequencies. Also, it’s not so rare that you can narrow or broaden them to affect different spectral regions. 

Are All EQ VST Plugins The Same?

While all EQs share the same goal, they have quite different methods to achieve the result. 

Some may provide you with additional features such as a dynamics module or give you more saturated sound found at iconic vintage hardware units. Others will offer you dozens of EQ bands so you can be very detailed in carving your sound or provide you with the different EQ or filter types. And there are those most advanced ones that will provide you with certain automated equalizing throughout the song calculating the frequency range with a certain look-ahead method.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best EQ VST plugins:

  1. Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 
  2. Sonible smart:EQ 2
  3. TDR Nova GE

Review of the Best EQ VST Plugins

There are a lot of EQ VST Plugins out there, but we would advise you to check those first:

Best Overall:
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3

PROS

  • Automatic EQ Match feature
  • Innovative Spectrum Grab mode
  • Ultra-steep 'Brickwall' filter slope setting
  • 24-band EQ plugin with Dynamic EQ mode
  • Surround sound supported up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2

CONS

  • Larger display for Dynamic EQ would be nice
  • Plain and clean EQ, no channel strip saturation applied

Features and Specifications

Pro-Q 3 is an advanced 24-band equalizer designed to make you sculpt your sound as fast as possible. It is equipped with 8 different filter types including brand new ultra-steep brick wall filter. Frequency changes can be audited in solo and it even allows you to adjust a peak in the real-time by simply grabbing it thanks to the Spectrum Grab feature.

It’s equipped with the beautiful modern user interface that displays waveform graphics beneath the EQ layer and it can also work in full-screen mode.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The original FabFilter Pro-Q 3 was a game-changer in the EQ VST world. Pro-Q 3 followed that route and provided us with many improved features. There would be some jaw-dropping if you could go back in time and describe the EQ Match feature 10 years ago. Also, Show Collisions will help you highlight the possible problems you might have in creating a transparent mix. But the most important feature is that Pro-Q 3 actually uses pink noise instead of white noise to draw a waveform as a default setting, a much better solution for any kind of mixing.

PROS

  • Very intuitive interface design
  • Smart: filter fixes tonal imbalances
  • Instrument and vocal profiles provided
  • Intelligent 8-band parametric EQ plugin
  • Smart: engine self-learning A.I. technology

CONS

  • Zero-latency mode could be provided
  • Minor registration hold-back issues possible

Features and Specifications

This software comes with some advanced A.I. algorithms that aid you with creating a natural tonal balance or fixing other issues you may have in the mix or on the instrument track. It uses the self-learning system and analyzes the source with the instrument or vocal profiles to provide you with a very detailed musical and natural-sounding filters.

It’s equipped with an 8-band parametric fully-sweepable equalizer, pre, and post-analyzer, and mid-side EQ panning including Side Balance function. Also, in case you prefer old-fashioned design blind:flug mode without a knobs-only interface is also available.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Smart: EQ 2 is a very nice unit that may work as well as Pro-Q 3 for most users. It could be considered as the best buy in the premium class, so if you would like to spare some cash and get the most of modern EQ features, we strongly recommend this unit.

We were really impressed by A.I. smart: engine technology. We got some proper and very detailed EQ curve within a minute and it shapes human voice really well regardless if it’s singing or talking and it really feels like it’s learning about your song.

Best for the Money:
TDR Nova GE

PROS

  • Dynamic Equalizer mode
  • Equal loudness functions
  • Versatile Smart Ops panel
  • Several compression modes
  • Affordable 6-band Parametric EQ

CONS

  • Basic HF and LF options
  • Different EQ bell types would be nice

Features and Specifications

This EQ comes with the 6-band parametric equalizer and dedicated high-pass and low-pass filter with adjustable slope shown in a modern, elegant, and quite a visual user interface. Smart Ops is another feature that analyzes the input’s spectral properties and searches for the optimal settings.

Every band can work in either as high-shelf, low-shelf, or a bell mode and is fully parametric with dedicated knobs for frequency, gain and q-factor. On top of that, every band has a dedicated compressor with the threshold, ratio, attack, and release settings.

Why it Stands Out to Us

If you’re looking for a versatile and very affordable EQ VST for your studio, then Nova GE is the right for you. It won’t provide you with advanced features and dozens of EQ bands like other premium plugins, but it will do the job it needs to do. Let’s face the fact that so many iconic songs were actually recorded with semi-parametric 4-band EQ. This should remind you that it is quite possible to work with the features Nova GE provides. And on top of that, you will get a very useful multiband compressor at the incredible price.

Best Vintage EQ VST:
Soundtoys Sie-Q

PROS

  • Very musical High EQ
  • Incredibly easy to use
  • Dedicated +15dB Drive knob
  • 6-step semi-parametric Mid EQ
  • Siemens W295b 3-band vintage EQ emulator

CONS

  • Doesn’t support 32-bit OS
  • Master (and) or Dry/Wet knobs would be nice

Features and Specifications

This EQ VST is a high-detailed emulation of the broadcast-oriented vintage EQ Siemens W295b. It provides you with the 3-band EQ and semi-parametric Mids so you can pick between 0.7, 1.0, 1.5, 2.3, 3.5, and 5.6kHz values. Besides Lows and Highs, there is another knob dedicated to the Drive input and it ranges from -15dB to +15dB in the steps of 3dB. Presets are well-crafted and provide a nice variety of starting points for all kinds of instruments and vocals.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Vintage EQ is a very popular tool in modern music production these days because of the color it brings to your track. Somehow, the settings on the vintage units were organized with “less is more” philosophy. This made them almost impossible to sound bad.

Anyway, this one especially excels in high-end and it will work marvelously with the vocal tracks. Guitar will also sound much warmer and we find it somewhere logical to apply it on the overall sound or use it as an additional mastering tool and add that vintage saturation with the Drive knob turned to higher values.

Best Mastering EQ:
Sonible frei:raum EQ

PROS

  • Modern user interface
  • Very handy Magic Wand feature
  • Ambiance and reverb removal algorithm
  • Conventional 7-band parametric equalizer
  • 3 separate modules packed into one interface

CONS

  • Smart: EQ range might not be so broad
  • Plugin CPU-optimization is welcomed in next updates

Features and Specifications

Frei:raum EQ is made from 3 algorithms. Entropy: EQ simplifies the post-production of both noisy and harmonic parts of the original signal. Proximity: EQ heals the flaws of your recordings and restores the smoothness you wanted in the first place. Smart: EQ is an interactive plugin - it detects the problematic frequencies and phase cancellations and offers you possible solutions.

Everything is packed in a very modern visual interface, but in case you’re preferring the old-school knob style interface, there is a “blind:flug” mode made just for you.

Why it Stands Out to Us

We find this EQ to be a very unique plugin on the market. It is capable of proper EQing, so you can apply it to every track if you want. However, besides parametric EQ, other tools won’t fit into your daily routine unless you’re running late with the deadlines. You will find those features to be a real life-saver then, especially that automated magic wand process found in smart: EQ algorithm.

Overall, it will suit broadcasting files such as interviews because of room reverb removal, and thanks to the advanced filters you can expect top-quality mixing results.

Best Graphic EQ VST:
kiloHearts CarveEQ

PROS

  • 31-band graphic stereo EQ
  • Handy Sculpt, Pencil and Point Select Tools
  • Resizable user interface with A/B comparison tool
  • Match EQ feature with profiles taken from famous songs
  • Fully compatible with a bunch of free kiloHearts VST effects

CONS

  • We would like more gain depth
  • Missing dedicated Bypass button

Features and Specifications

CarveEQ is a 31-band graphic EQ with an advanced filtering system. It is made from 31 bands that edit sound very precisely and create a very responsive frequency curve.

It has a clear and modern design and leaves a very small CPU footprint. Editing EQ is very easy, especially with the Sculpt Tool. You can simply drag an audio peak around and modify it easily. With the Pencil Tool, you would literally draw the frequency curve and the Point Select Tool allows you to insert breakpoints on the curve.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Due to its 31-band nature, this EQ would work the best as a final touch so we would advise that you use it on either bus or master tracks. A/B comparison tool will be especially handy here to check if you’re going in the right direction.

It’s also rare to find a graphical EQ with a modern interface and this one extends even further with some extra features, like Match EQ. This feature will allow you to load either the pre-given factory stock sounds or even with your own WAV file as a reference and then align the sound until you see the graphics behave similarly.

Best Parametric EQ VST:
Sonnox Oxford Dynamic EQ

PROS

  • Ultra-musical Type-3 EQ curve
  • 5-band parametric EQ with proportional-Q
  • Flexible side chain controls for every band
  • Bands overlap without distortion or artifacts
  • Compression and Expansion included in Dynamics module

CONS

  • 5 bands may not be enough
  • It may lack bands for surgical work

Features and Specifications

This software is made from 5-band parametric EQ based on Oxford EQ’s Type Three gain/Q which allows more natural and smooth sounding while increasing the gain. Every band has high and low shelving and bell parametric EQ type with a proportional-Q feature.

Dynamic EQ is made from two gains - target and the offset. Target can be considered as the limiter while offset acts like a regular EQ gain when the threshold is not triggered. Every band can be soloed or completely bypassed and you can edit in stereo or panned mode.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Overall, we’re impressed by how the sound remained clear even after applying hard dynamics. We also love how the dynamics are configured in this unit and especially that Trigger mode switch. Apart from having regular dynamics knobs, there is an option where you can also check if the dynamics will be triggered when the signal is Above or Under threshold level so actually it can work as both Expander or Compressor. With such a given option, we feel that this EQ may even replace most multiband compressors out there and it will work great on not just vocals but other harmonic instruments as well.

Benefits of Investing in a Quality EQ VST

Next, we’re about to show you why investing in a good EQ is always a great choice:

Sound ​Clarity

While applying an EQ is a fundamental thing and all plugins can do it, some EQs have applied a  different technology that makes those changes sound more musical, especially regarding Q-factor. The cheaper EQs may crossfade certain frequencies without even showing on the display and may create aliases while the premium EQ VST will remain crystal clear no matter how hard you push it.

Versatility

Yes, you won’t need 15 bands for every track. But, when you need it,  having a single EQ instead of turning on 5 instances of the regular 3-band may save you a lot of time. Especially because it’s never just one track you’re editing like this.

Extra Features

Premium EQ VSTs may come with some other effects and the best part of it is that those effects come perfectly matched with that exact EQ in one single plugin so you don’t have to think about what third-party compressor or saturation would work here or navigate to various menus. Also, such EQ  may provide you with some really advanced and automated features that will make a significant impact on your overall sound.

How to Use an EQ VST Plugin

EQ principles are the same no matter what plugin you’re using. Some settings may be different, but the experience you got using one or another EQ will remain. Let’s give you some advice:

We’ll give you some global advice:

Apply Low-Pass ​Filter

Creating a clean mix is your main goal - applying low-pass on every single track will create space for the instruments that have something to “say” in the lower region. Those tracks are kick drum and bass sound and maybe some synth pads.

Trick to Find a Wanted Frequency

Would you like to remove any unwanted frequency and add a pleasant one fast? There is a trick you could use. Narrow the Q a lot and boost it over +10dB. Play the track and search across the complete frequency range. The unwanted one will sound honky and boxy while pleasant will create a loud but acceptable add-on for your track. Once located, proceed to the next step:

Boost Wide-Cut Narrow

The general rule is that whenever you need to cut a certain frequency, you’re doing it in a surgical manner with the very high Q applied. On the contrary, when you’re boosting a frequency, wide Q is applied instead.

If you would like to find out more, check out the video provided in the link:

Conclusion

A good and versatile EQ VST is the fundamental part of every music studio. You will use it every single day on literally any track and that’s why it’s very important to invest in one that provides you with the most intuitive options and goes with your workflow the best.

People Also Ask

EQ is often considered as an effect that many are afraid to ask about because it’s supposed that you know those things. Well, in case you’re shy, let us cover some of the most frequent questions people are “afraid to ask” but would like to know more about:

What is Parametric EQ?

Parametric EQ is an EQ feature that allows you to pick the exact frequency range you’re affecting. Sometimes it may come with further controls found on the Q knob so you can narrow (high Q) or broaden (low Q) the range you’re applying an EQ.

What is Graphic EQ?

A graphic EQ is a unit that mostly comes in a (stereo) pair and it allows the user to control a certain number of predefined frequency bands. Those bands are usually aligned ascending based on the frequency, so once finished, the user will have a clear graphical image of the frequency curve he just created.

What EQ Frequency For Vocals?

The core Vocal frequencies are generally located from 90-300Hz. For a male person, the core vocal frequency is usually somewhere between 85 and 180Hz while a female is set in the range from 165 to 255Hz. Treating these ranges wrong will result in vocal sounding unnatural - thin or boomy.

How Do You EQ Vocals?

Every vocal is specific but the general rule is to cut the low frequencies up to at least 80-90Hz, clear out some boxiness found in the mid-range around 300-600Hz and find a sweet spot around 1kHz to boost the most important vocal frequencies. Also, you may remove some sizzle around 7-8kHz.