Why are some EQ's so much easier to use than others?

There are two obvious features that seem to help with workflow on a basic digital EQ. An analyzer and a band solo button.

Other than that, why is faster seemingly effortless to find the sweet spot of the bell curves during a cut/boost or park hi/lo shelves in a good spot on the first try?

I wasn’t looking for a gear debate here, but I could swear I’m able to get the Massenburg MDW EQ, the Waves Rennesance, and the Fab Filter plugs dialed in faster. Anyone else experiencing the same thing??

If you’re still working on your “listening” ears like me, the analyzer gives you a visual queue where to start, so that is certainly helpful.

As for your question in the title: a couple of my favorite non-parametric EQs (Sie-Q and Manny Marroquin EQ) both have “notched” knobs on the EQ Frequencies. This gives you built-in limited options. As a result, I can run through each of them fairly quickly and know if it is going to work or not.

I was more curious about the science behind the thing. I did some more reading and it looks like the Massenburg algorithms have other stuff going on to reduce certain artifacts that come with making EQ adjustments. A good number of other EQ plugs seem to do this too though.

Have you ever used the Waves H-EQ?

I first heard about it when Marcella Araica did a Waves Promo for it. They talked it up like it was a big deal to have uber control over the contour bell curve shapes (not just the Q range). I really really wanted this thing to work, and struggled using it on 30+ songs over the course of 4 months, then finally ditched it after giving it way more effort than it even deserved.

It seems bizarre to say “I really like the way X and Y and Z digital eq’s sound!”. Because you sort of think - how the hell can they even be that different?? I’ve gotten the hang of how and why some emulators (Neve 1073, SSL E, Helios, Millenia, Pultec) sound unique. But I’ve never really understood why that Fab Filter Pro Q, the Stock Cubase EQ, the Rennesance, Waves Non-linear EQ seem easier to dial in.

I’m of no use to this discussion then… :slight_smile:

I don’t have H-EQ. The parametric EQs I use are TDR NovaGE, Studio One’s ProEQ, and the free Melda EQ. Fab Filter looks wonderful, but is too spendy for me at this point.

Have you tried out TDR Nova yet? I don’t know if it’s the UI or what, but the Nova GE is far an away my favorite. A perfect example of an intuitive UI and one that does a lot for you without getting in the way. But that’s not really about the science of it either, is it? :grin:

I pulled up the SieQ and threw it on a couple different rock snare. This things got a lot of grit. Fixed bell curves too. Reminds me of the Helios. Very interesting :slight_smile:

I like the Melda one. But not quite as much as the FF. Some people write Melda off because they’re cheap and there’s a lot of it. They do some really cool niche stuff though. Like their Lo-Fi plugin…bit reducer…Amazing!!

Yeah, you know real quickly whether or not it’s going to work for a given application, and when it does… Love it!

The Melda stuff goes deep too. Even the free plugins. It’s amazing all the stuff he’s got under the hood once you go looking. Great value, but I have never totally made peace with the UIs. MAutoVolume is one of my go-tos. Great for smoothing things a bit before hitting a compressor or helping a vocal or lead instrument maintain the focus. But that’s a case in point, it works really great but the visual feedback leaves something to be desired. At least for me. Mr. Melda strikes me as a no nonsense function over form kind of guy.

Anyway, back to your original post, of which I am no help…

There are so many reasons this may be the case, and most of them come down to workflow.

I’ve come to the conclusion that 99% of pro mixers don’t actually know how to use EQ. By that, I mean that if you give someone an unobstructed EQ, they will have a harder time using it than if you gave them a more limited EQ. Noise and distortion are such a minor part of what makes an EQ have character. The absolute biggest factor in what gives an EQ it’s sound is the shape of the curve, and how the shape changes as you boost/cut.

You could duplicate the sound of pretty much any hardware EQ with a standard digital EQ if it gives you the right controls. But it’s not about the ability to produce a certain sound in a lab, it’s about the ability to get to that sound quickly and easily that makes one EQ better than another.

If I took a track and applied some arbitrary EQ curve to it, then gave you the original track and my EQ’d track, I bet you would have a really hard time reproducing the same EQ curve that I used without doing some signal analysis on it. It’s just not easy to do. I know I wouldn’t be able to. Even if you know 100% what the end product is supposed to sound like, doesn’t mean it’s easy to create the same curve that produces that sound. That’s because when given unlimited access to EQ, it’s really hard to use it to create an exact sound, even when that sound is not just in your head.

So we tend to gravitate towards EQs that have given us fast results. We even cling on to past attempts to use the EQ. If the first time we used it it worked really well, we tend to trust it more, even if that first time was a fluke. If the first time we use it, we have a hard time dialing it in, then we tend to not like it as much, even if the reason we couldn’t dial it in was the fault of something outside the EQ. And since we’re not going to spend time experimenting with EQ every time we need it, we just stick to what has worked for us in the past.

It’s more psychological than scientific (yes, I know psychology is a science)


Is that because very few pro engineers ever have to use an unobstructed EQ?

Neither would I. Is the fine tuned contour of the curve even within our ability to hear? To the point where some people might recognize subtle differences in the angle of the slope itself? That seems like an waste of time to train your ear to do. Setting delays and verb tail times for me is often very mathematical. Setting adjusting slopes, curves, or choosing which digital EQ to apply is almost completely intuitive.

I get that, but what surprises me is how different the results are between four digital eq’s that live on a visual graph. I expect the Bendeth 10db to sound different than Massive Passive. No duh. Right? But I expected the Waves Q10 and the Waves Rennesance, the UAD Percision EQ, the stock Logic EQ and the FF Q2 to sound (or I should say behave) way more similar than they do. At $600, I thought the Massenberg EQ was just way overpriced until I realized how many other people opted to pay for it. And then I tried it yesterday myself. Then I started digging for explanations as to why it seemed to work so much better. Then I started seeing tracks where people plaster the MDWEQ5 thing on every track in the whole session.

So in cases of a high-dollar non-mastering (general use) hardware EQ like a Massive Passive, the A-designs, the Millenia MSEQ2, Fearn VT5, is the idea that the tubes alter the Q slope in a very distinct way? Why would you create a highly surgical precision EQ (which seems to imply sonic transparency) then pack it full of tubes (which imply added harmonics and distortion)?

No. They are everywhere. It’s just that people tend to not like them. Most of them are pretty hard to use. ReaEQ is a good example. Fab Filter managed to make an EQ that is pretty much unobstructed, but also usable. That’s a hard balance to hit, which is why everybody loves that EQ so much. They nailed the workflow pretty well, and packed it full of features.

Exactly, which is why nobody can do it very well (at least I’m assuming nobody can do it well). But different Q values do sound different. It’s just that a subtle difference can sound better even if you don’t know the cause of the difference.

I bet they do sound the same if you dial them in the same. But to dial them in the same requires actually measuring the frequency response and doing it that way, because saying +5dB with a Q of 1.5 is going to sound different on each one, and as we’ve already established, doing it by ear is pretty much impossible. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately?), you can’t really trust the dials to tell you what it will sound like.

I can’t really relate to this line of thinking. People spend money on all sorts of stuff. I try not to take my cues from other people’s spending habits. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great EQ. Maybe it creates cool sounding curves really easily. I don’t doubt that. But again, I’d chalk that up to workflow because if I can make the same freq curve with ReaEQ, then the main difference is workflow, not sound quality.

For the record, I think that workflow is waaaay more important than “sound quality.” I just think that most people confuse the two.

I guess you’d have to ask the designer why they used what they used. I don’t hold the same reverence for hardware that a lot of people do.

So by unobstructed you mean that the boost, frequency, Q, and type (HP, LP, Self, Bell etc) is not restricted?

I try not to either, but I couldn’t believe people were paying $600 for that thing. When I saw how much non-music guys were using it I wanted to know why. If the double sampling or upsampling and whatever he did to reduce artifacts to make it seem transparent are really minimal, it seems it would have to come down to how easy it was to set the Q right? Workflow as you say. I guess whoever is using it deemed the price worth the time it saved to not have to attempt to dial the same settings on a different EQ. Massenburg says the idea behind the design was to create a clearer and more precise EQ than anything else on the market. I’ve only been demoing it for a couple days but sure seems to be doing that. Its chewing up a ton of processor though. The fact that it can live on the Avid AAX DSP instead of the on the UAD or Native DSP might be another reason people are attracted to it. yet again that’d be a workflow thing if that is the case.

I’m pretty much past the hardware thing, but it is interesting how the Massive Passive, Millenia, and anything else from UAD that was over-the-top with tubes in the analog world seems to behave differently from their SS counterparts as is so with the analog versions. I don’t have a ton of experience with a hardware Massive Passive and have better places to park $5000, but it is interesting to observe these things from an ITB standpoint.

Wow. I went to vintage king, typed in EQ, then sorted most expensive first. Just to see who was still making that stuff. OMG This is insane. Some of these things are $12,000!!! What company engineers a piece of hardware with that niche of a market??? Wow. Been away from the ‘analog’ people so long I think I forgot how much people pay for that stuff.

now I have most of the Waves stuff and Slate everything…that being said i go for ReaEq 99% of the time lol

$12,000 EQ with no recall. yikes!

I’m really no fan of this stock avid decrepit thing:


But I use it because of how fast my control surface can splatter it all over the session. When there isn’t anything special that needs to happen to a source, I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this and kind of defaults to whatever EQ they can get up and running the fastest.

Yeah. That’s nuts!

Oh, when I used to use Pro Tools I absolutely loved that EQ3! So easy to use and to dial in. Great interface too. Damn, you’re making me miss it now. ReaEQ just doesn’t compare, even though functionally it may be the equal or even superior (unlimited bands). Just think about it … bitching about using stock Pro Tools plugins is like the the guy at the high dollar steak restaurant bitching about the the dinner roll that is no longer warm while some poor bastard is starving in India or China. You are a lucky SOB. Appreciate it! :slightly_smiling_face:

ReaEQ does bug me a lot. I don’t like it’s interface, but I don’t think I’ve ever used an EQ that has an interface that I like. I feel like there’s a fundamental issue with the way EQs are laid out, but I haven’t been able to figure out a better solution either, so…

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if thats the stock protools EQ pictured above, ill take ReaEQs boring interface anytime. My eye isnt going to look at that confusing mess of visual noise for very long

same complaint I recently made about the “omg latest greatest MUST have” plugin, the brainworkz bx_e…its just too butt ugly for me to look at for x hours of my life. Maybe its just me but once a plug in has more than like 5-6 colors its just simply too confusing to the eye

I agree, but how do you make an EQ that has all the options you need without having a million knobs? I’ve never liked controlling EQs from the dots on the EQ curve either.

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yeah I guess it gets into deeper issues like do u want a do it all swiss army knife plug in or do u want simpler plug ins but then you have to use more of them

maybe make the plugs with some degree of customization…like some TINY little button to click to pop out extra features of u dont mind the clutter. Also, make them resizable!

its sad because some of the waves plug ins probably work great but there is simply no way im going to squint my eyes out trying to make out whats what

This looks like a reject from the original Star Trek https://goo.gl/images/81caVC

And on the color, maybe its just me liking the more primary colors…they lose me when its starts getting into pinks, lime greens etc. Like I havent used the SSL G much yet…I wonder how much of that has to do with the colors?? that one purple knob throwing me off lol