10 Pro Mixing Engineers Discuss Their Favourite In-The-Box Equalizers

Ever since starting Modern Mixing, I’ve had the privelage of speaking with some very talented engineers (some whose work I have followed for some time) in a series I like to call the Psychology of a Mix Engineer.

I started the series for selfish reasons (if I’m being honest) because I truly was curious about other engineers work flows, especially those at the top of the music food chain. I got to ask the questions that I’ve always wanted to ask.

Some of those questions included gear and session set up but I was always most curious about the plugins they used. Mostly because I am 99% in the box and was curious to know their plugin choices but also because I wanted to validate that it was possible to mix at a pro level while staying In the box.

Now that we know it’s possible let’s see what these 10 pro engineers had to say about the EQ plugin(s) they love working with the most…

The EQ-3 from Avid is the one I probably use the most. I also use the MH Channel Strip, which has to do more with familiarity I think. In the early days when DSP was at a premium you didn’t have a lot of room to put five different plugins on the channel and the MH had the EQ and the compressor, etc. So it was always being used and it still gets used a lot. Also, the Focusrite D2.

– Phil Tan (Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, Katy Perry)
Read Phil’s Full Interview

Gee Mixing Vocals - Metric Halo Channel Strip

 

UAD makes the Neve 88rs plugin, which I’ve been using from the UAD-1 days and that plugin you can basically do anything with. It sounds great on vocals, drums, bass, strings and pianos; it sounds great on everything. It’s emulated off of a Neve Flagship console which a lot of people aren’t that familiar with but anyone whose heard it says how amazing it is. It wasn’t very popular because it cost like a million dollars [laughs] so not very many people ended up purchasing it but it really does sound good.

It has a function called hysteresis where you set the gate really tight and you adjust the hysteresis so the gate opens up slightly before the sound so you don’t clip the attack but it still has the tightness that you want from the sound. That’s a function that not many dynamic sections have.

If I was to be stuck somewhere and all I had was my Macbook Pro and my UAD Satellite, then I’m good. But yeah, the 88rs would be my favorite for compression and EQ.

– Gary Noble (Jessie J, Estelle, Amy Winehouse, Nas)
Read Gary’s Full Interview

neve_88rs_hq

 

I think because a lot of what I do initially is subtractive, I dive on the Pro-Q from FabFilter because that is something that is so easy to operate and it sounds very transparent. It has a built in analyzer, which is extremely useful. When you’re trying to address tonal imbalances, you can get down and dirty with that one in terms of broad strokes or finite correction. It’s also really flexible and you can use it in Linear Phase mode as well. It’s something I don’t have to think about, I just open it up.

– Paul Gatehouse (Janet Devlin, Nell Bryden, Honey Ryder, Alistair Griffin)
Read Paul’s Full Interview

Fabfilter ProQ 2

 

In terms of EQ that’s a tricky one but I would say something that’s more interesting to me then just straight EQ is something like the Soundtoys Radiator or the Decapitator. Plugins that add character and saturation, more than just the straight up EQ, are interesting to me. And I have a lot of Analog EQ’s so I’m fortunate enough to not have to do tons of EQing in the box. I do use the Waves SSL Channel a bit just to use the Low Pass and High Pass filters and sometimes the noise gates.

– Ethan Mates (Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tupac, Black Eyed Peas)
Read Ethan’s Full Interview

Radiator

 

I switched over to Universal Audio a couple years ago because I had an interesting experience where I recorded a multi track session on a Neve 88RS Console in London. I did very, very quick rough mixes on the console at the end of the recording session. I came back to my studio to mix it properly (If you like) and used all the plug-ins that I would normally use but I couldn’t get the same vibe that I had from the rough mixes. I probably spent less than 10 minutes per rough mix on the console and in frustration (at myself) I borrowed a UAD Box and inserted the Neve 88RS Channel Strip on every channel in my Pro Tools Session. In a way I was replicating the 88R console that I had done the tracking on. Amazingly I was able to match the rough mixes in about 2 hours for the entire album and then go on to beat it and improve it.

– Ali Staton (Madonna, Seal, Rufus Wainwright)
Read Ali’s Full Interview

neve_88rs_hq

 

There’s a lot of UAD Neve in my sessions, but I use a lot of different combinations with EQ’s. For example, on electric guitars, I’ll usually start with the Waves SSL G, a Neve 1081 and an SPL Twin Tube. That would generally be my ‘go to’ chain that I’ll drop across a lot of electric guitar tracks.

– Mark Needham (Fleetwood Mac, The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Elton John)
Read Mark’s Full Interview

Neve 1081

 

I think the ProQ 2 [Fabfilter] is the best for what I do right now. Not much for boosting. I usually use it to control the Mid/Side information. It has 72dB so you can really get rid of things. Right now I’m also experimenting a lot with dynamic EQ’s, which is a bit more unique then multiband compression. The one I’m using right now is from Melda and I’ve been testing it for the last couple of months.

– Luca Pretolesi (Diplo, Skrillex, Major Lazer, Lil Jon, Snoop Lion)
Read Luca’s Full Interview

Fabfilter ProQ 2

 

I really love the EQ on the Izotope 5, I think it’s the most transparent EQ I ever heard as a plug in. I don’t use it as much because I do like the way the SSL channel sounds – I use it for the color. There’s times when I’ll go to a regular stock Digi EQ7 depending on what’s happening. I use it a lot to roll of low end and to add a little crispiness here and there. But my go to EQ though is the Waves SSL Channel and I use it a lot just because it’s good for my first run through the mix.

– Lu Diaz (P Diddy, 50 Cent, Beyoncé, Mary J Blige)
Read Lu’s Full Interview

SSL E Channel

 

For EQ, it’s probably that Waves API EQ, Waves H-EQ, the SSL channel EQ (Duende) and then Wave Arts TrackPlug 5. Those are the 4 EQ’s I use the most.

– Adam Barber (Boyce Avenue, Creed, Limp Bizkit, Backstreet Boys)
Read Adam’s Full Interview

SSL Duende Native Channel

 

The UAD Cambridge EQ, SSL (both the UAD or Waves plugin, depending on the song), and Metric Halo Channel Strip.

– Ariel Barujow (The Black Eyed Peas, P Diddy, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kanye West)
Read Ariel’s Full Interview

cambridge_hq

 

  • heavymetalmixer

    My preffered ones now are ReaEQ (the one that comes with Reaper), TDR SlickEQ and TDR Nova (it’s also a Dynamic EQ and compressor). All of them are free BTW.

  • Rodney Alston

    This is the best damn info I have found. You all are amazing straight up! I love you all and never change please!!!!

  • bccccb

    Hello

    I’m begining in this World of producing and mixing music and I would like to make it sound professional. My current gear is basic:

    – Mac computer
    – logic pro
    – TH2 for guitar effects

    Do you think it is enough to get peofessional sound music? If the answer is no, I would like advice.

    Thank you

    • Partial Figure

      Its not all about the gear what u are using. Its learning how to use them.. logic got very useful stuf in it so just start from there.. its not the plugin that makes the magic ..its you

      • bccccb

        Thank you for your answer. I’m starting from there. I know I need to develop some skills but I would like to know If I’m using the right tools or if I’m missing some.

        • Partial Figure

          im not a logic user but i know it got everything that beginner/semi-pro or even pros needed… just be sure you have a reasonable good audio card, box, unit or what ever so you dont get in any troubles with your daw at least for that reason.. logic gots good compressors, eq’s, delays, reverbs and so on.. so start with them. And use youtube and o lot for the learning. It’s really useful for beginners (and also pros) to get start from there and it costs nothing. My advice is that don’t buy anything more before you know what specific plugin does and if it doesnt suit for your needs then start searching 3rd party plugs and use demos first to besure its really what you want. So try them first before buy anything. If some one says that something is really good doesnt mean that you will ever get anything out of it. I have spend extremly big sum of money for all kinds of plugs, controllers and stuff that i have afterwards realized that i could and did get better results with free or integrated plugins that comes with about any of the modern daw sequensers..

      • Hellraezer

        That’s like saying you CAN use a butter knife and a rock to build a house, but you’ll get better results if you use a saw and a hammer.
        There’s a reason the Pros use the highest quality inserts they can afford, and more often than not it’s hardware they’ve been using for years because it’s how they’re used to working. Today we live in a digital age and many of those hardware components are in plug-in form. Waves Audio has some incredible emulations of Go-To hardware, like the Neve, Pul-Tec, and SSL stuff just to name a few. Once you have some quality plugs, don’t go trying to build a mansion, build a birdhouse, and then maybe a mailbox. Start out small and fight the urge to add every plugin to every track. Less is more. Listen to the track and use your ears to determine what it needs, (not what you’d like it to have, but what element is missing). Sometimes it doesn’t need anything at all. Use your ears, and if it sounds great, leave it alone!

        • Partial Figure

          Don’t buy Ferrari if you can’t even drive…..

          • Hellraezer

            Sure, but if you’ve already driven before, and have SOME knowledge of the Road, I say if it’s doable, get that Ferrari and drive it. If you DON’T have a license, I say learn to drive anyway, who knows, maybe someday you’ll get that Ferrari and you’ll be well equipped to handle it.

    • John Judge

      IMHO you have everything you need at this point, now all it takes is time……..lots of time……which can and WILL be frustrating, but when you go back and listen to a mix you did 6 months ago to the one you finished today, THAT will show you that you are on your way to getting a “pro” sound….really….

    • Hellraezer

      I would suggest reading (physical or digital, (eg: PDF) of a great book on EVERYTHING you’ll need to “mix out of the box”. It’s titled, The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, by famed Engineer Bobby Owsinski.
      In this book he covers EVERYTHING you’ll ever need to know to mix incredible music. He’s also got a really good video course, “101 Mixing Tricks, Big Studio Tricks for the Small Studio”. Bobby tells you everything in a practical, straightforward manner in everyday English.
      These two have really opened my eyes!

  • Pepijn

    what about DMGAudio you guys??

    • Hellraezer

      What about it? You love it, but these guys don’t. What’s the problem?

      • Blanton Jones

        Well put!

Still Struggling with EQ?