An equalizer is a device or plug-in that allows you to change the tonal characteristics of a particular sound. It’s much like the bass and treble controls on you hifi except it covers a greater tonal range.

There are two main types of equalizer:

Graphic Equalizers

Graphic equalizers have volume sliders each of which control preset filters. The bandwidth (or ‘Q’), the amount of frequency either side of the chosen frequency, is also predetermined for each band. The user can either boost or cut the loudness of a given frequency using one of the sliders. This type of equalizer is very easy to use.

A typical graphic equalizer

Parametric Equalizers

On a parametric equalizer each band has user variable frequency and bandwidth settings as well as loudness control. This type of equalizer has rotary knobs instead of sliders. There is a knob that allows you to dial in the desired frequency, one to dial in the amount of ‘Q’ or bandwidth either side of the chosen frequency and one that lets you set the desired loudness or ‘gain’ of the frequency.  With a parametric equalizer you have much greater control over the end result.

A typical parametric equalizer

A general rule of thumb with equalizers is that If you want to make things sound better, cut or reduce the loudness of frequencies using a narrow bandwidth or Q.  If for example your vocal sounds muddy, try cutting some 250Hz or if it sounds honky cut some 500Hz.

If you want to make things sound different boost frequencies using a wider Q. If you want to make your vocal a little warmer for example, try boosting somewhere around 250Hz to 300Hz. Be sure to keep an eye on the output level meters though as too much boosting can overload the output and cause distortion.

Use the guide below to easily work out what frequencies need changing to obtain a desired sound.

FREQUENCY                                DESCRIPTION
30 Hz                                    Rumble
60 Hz                                    Sub Bass
125 Hz                                   Bass Thump or Warmth
250Hz                                    Fullness or mud
300 Hz                                   Warmth
500 Hz                                   Honk
1000 Hz    (1 KHz)                       Whack
2000 Hz    (2 KHz)                       Crunch
3000 Hz    (3 KHz)                       Edge
5000Hz     (5 KHz)                       Clarity or Definition
8000 Hz    (8 KHz)                       Presence
16000 Hz  (16 KHz)                       Air

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