As an audio engineer, EQ is one of the tools that you'll find yourself using most often. However, with a vast array of EQ plugins on the market, finding the right ones for your particular needs can feel overwhelming.
The last thing you want to do is go out and buy or download several EQ plugins just to find out that they don't have the features or tone that you need.
Luckily, we explore and experiment with EQ plugins all the time, and have created an in-depth list of some of the best free and paid EQ plugins on the market.
Let's dive in and explore more.
Best Parametric EQ Plugins
1. FabFilter Pro Q 3
When it comes to "best EQ plugins" lists, you'll often find FabFilter Pro Q 3 somewhere near the top. This digital EQ plugin has become somewhat of a standard for mixing and mastering engineers thanks to its highly versatile, world-class interface and top-notch sound quality.
You can use up to 24 free-floating bands, each of which gives you access to nine different shapes with slopes ranging from 6-96dB per octave. The spectrum analyzer is out of this world, providing all the visual feedback you could possibly need to make the right decisions.
Beyond the features you might expect, FabFilter Pro Q 3 also comes with A/B switches, MIDI Learn, Smart Parameter Interpolation, interactive hints, mid-side processing, and more.
Best of all, the memory and CPU usage on FabFilter Pro Q 3 are pretty minimal, meaning you can use this EQ VST on several tracks without bogging your session down.
2. Sonible smart: EQ 3
Sonible Smart: EQ 3 is a unique plugin in that it uses artificial intelligence to help correct any tonal imbalances in given signals. It's a great plugin for those who work in listening environments that aren't totally accurate, as it can effectively analyze the audio fed into it before generating a completely custom EQ curve to balance it out with the other tracks in your session.
It can help you achieve the perfect balance in your mix in a matter of seconds, giving you frequency curves that work well with one another so you can make the most transparent arrangement possible. There are tons of factory profiles to get you started, perfect for specific instruments, such as drums, electric guitar, vocals, piano, etc.
The interface is absolutely gorgeous, allowing you to tweak your audio material with efficiency in mind. There are tons of drag-and-drop elements and filter widgets that can speed up the decision-making process.
From cleaning up resonances to getting rid of pesky masking, the Sonible Smart: EQ 3 does it all!
3. Melda Production MEqualizer (FREE)
The MEqaulizer from Melda Production is a powerful six-band parametric EQ VST plugin that comes with some seriously impressive tools onboard for carving out space in your mixes. Each band allows you to choose between seven filter types. Plus, you can dial in the integrated tube saturation on each band, giving you an added dose of harmonic control that you won't find in many digital EQs.
Beyond that, Melda Production decided to add advanced visualization using the sonogram and spectrum analyzer.
Lastly, it's worth noting that this plugin comes with the Melda Production plugin bundle, which also gives you access to a wide range of other free plugins, such as compressors, reverbs, delays, and more!
It certainly may not be the most beginner-friendly plugin, though if you're looking for a free EQ VST that can provide power and versatility, you should probably look no further than this one!
Best Dynamic EQ Plugins
1. Waves F6
Waves F6 is one of our absolute favorite dynamic EQ plugins with six fully-adjustable parametric EQ bands and high and low pass filters. Waves F6 is highly functional and each of the bands offers control for compression and expansion. Whether you want to make surgical cuts to clean up your individual signals or musical boosts to enhance the best parts of your signal, this EQ performs really well.
Each band has mid-side controls and a number of additional compression-style controls to help you dial in your EQ with ease. We love the fact that the plugin has free-floating bands, as you're not confined to certain ranges when working with a particular band.
The plugin also comes with a real-time counterpart, which gives you a high-quality real-time spectrum analyzer. You can adjust the speed of the spectrum analyzer depending on how much CPU you're able to sacrifice.
Lastly, F6 comes with an external sidechain option, allowing you to control your various F6 parameters with another instrument. I often find myself using it to take the low-end out of my bass instruments whenever my kick hits.
2. iZotope Neutron 4 Equalizer
Though iZotope Neutron 4 has much more than just an equalizer onboard, the equalizer module is certainly something to consider when purchasing it, even beyond the fact that you can use the Track Assistant Technology to suggest a mix for you automatically.
One thing that stands out from all of the features in this plugin is the superb dynamic EQ option. You'll find four different displays on the plugin including meter scales, a filter response curve, a composite EQ curve, and a spectrum analyzer. The visuals can be really helpful in many mixing and mastering situations.
When you get into dynamic mode, every band gets its own threshold, upward or downward compression, and sidechain parameters. Like F6, you can use an external sidechain to trigger the band on your EQ.
3. TDR Nova (FREE)
The TDR Nova plugin is one of the few free EQ plugins that we believe shouldn't be free considering how many cool controls it has. Like the other two above, this dynamic EQ plugin has a smart and responsive interface and uses compression-style controls to give you more control over your mix.
For a free plugin, the GUI is absolutely gorgeous and completely scalable. Plus, you can't beat the quality visual feedback it provides.
Best Analog EQ Plugins
1. MAAG Audio EQ4
The Maag Audio EQ4 is one of the most legendary analog EQ plugins on the market today. This six-band EQ plugin has been heard on countless records, including those from artists like Justin Timberlake, Black Eyed Peas, Celine Dion, and more!
It's a unique musical EQ that presents tons of great features, such as exceptionally low phase shift and the ability to add tons of air on top of elements without making them sound harsh or unpleasant. You can sculpt your tracks from top to bottom, all while retaining the musical elements that made your tracks great to start with!
One of my favorite characteristics of the Maag Audio EQ4 is the Sub Band, which allows me to dial in the perfect amount of shake and rumble without overwhelming the speakers. It's even more powerful than the original hardware!
2. T-Racks EQ 81
The T-Racks EQ 81 from IK Multimedia is one of the best Neve emulations on the market. The one unique thing about this plugin is that it doesn't deliver the standard sound of the Neve 1073, but instead emulates the hardware's older brother, the Neve 1081 Classic Console EQ. You get all of the punch, presence, and shimmer that people have used Neve consoles to craft for many decades.
Not only is this EQ extremely musical, but it also works very precisely when you need to add specific bumps or cuts in certain ranges of your track. It sounds killer on vocals and other acoustic instruments, such as guitar, piano, drums, and bass. You'll also find the ability to introduce mid-side processing thanks to the handy M/S mode.
With top-notch sound quality and a sleek interface, this might just be one of our favorite analog-style EQ plugin options out there.
3. TDR VOS Slick EQ (FREE)
From impeccable sound to total flexibility, this analog-style EQ plugin delivers three distinct EQ modes that represent different curves found on various hardware EQs from history. Best of all, TDR VOS Slick EQ plugin doesn't cost a dime!
The EQ bands on this plugin allow you to add harmonic content to your material with four different saturation models. It's a far more unique sound than what you could expect with your stock DAW EQ.
If you're looking for a plugin that can give your mix the mojo it needs to stand out without having to fork over any cash, this might be the best EQ plugin for the job!
Best Pultec-Style Plugins
1. UAD Pultec EQs
When it comes to making high-quality, beautifully-modeled emulations of classic pieces of hardware, UAD is a master. The team at UAD clearly worked extensively to emulate the iconic Pultec EQ to bring users a must-have Pultec collection. Within this collection, you'll find emulations of the Pultec EQP-1A and the MEQ-5, both of which breathe musicality like the original hardware.
Whether you want to take advantage of the low-end simultaneous cut and boost to get that extra punch in your kick drum or make your high-end instruments breathe and shine without any harshness, this collection of Pultec modules is a great choice.
2. URS FullTec Program Equalizer
Many great things have come out of the URS studio over the years, including Grammy-winning albums and killer software. One of the unique things that have come out of this studio that we would regret not showcasing is the URS FullTec Program Equalizer , which is a five-band EQ plugin based on the famous Pultec EQP-1A and MEQ-5.
This high-end emulation plugin gives you the low-frequency spectrum shelving with simultaneous boosts and cuts that you can only get with the Pultec EQP-1A, as well as the iconic midrange boosts and attenuation that are only possible with the MEQ-5.
All of the bands on this single plugin take in the best characteristics of those two iconic pieces of hardware and stick them onto a single interface, giving you a Pultec-style EQ that is a Frankenstein of sorts.
Overall, this EQ plugin is powerful to use and comes with a crisp, clean interface that can help you dial in the perfect sound with ease.
3. Ignite Amps PT-EQx (FREE)
If you like the idea of adding the sweet sound quality of the Pultec to your mixes but don't want to spend the money on the plugins above, make sure to check out the PT-EQx from Ignite Amps. This three-in-one EQ plugin might just be the best EQ VST in the free realm, offering all of the vintage characters of the original Pultec hardware with some additional features to make it more functional and versatile.
Ignite Amps carefully modeled all of the components and the dynamic signal path to create an EQ plugin that sounds just like the real thing without being too hard on your CPU. I love the fact that you can use multiple instances of this plugin across your session without bogging down your computer.
You'll find three EQ modules with high-end analog curve responses and triode stage modeling that nail the sound of the various tube types. The three EQ modules include the PEQ-1A, the HL3C, and the MQ5, great for low, mid, and high-range processing.
Best Channel Strip EQ Plugins
1. Solid Stage Logic SSL Native Channel Strip
The Solid Stage Logic SSL Native Channel Strip plugin was developed by SSL, the same company that crafted the original consoles that held these channel strips many decades ago. You get all of the legendary character and sound quality of the original modules without having to spend thousands of dollars on a console.
Yes, there are many other plugins out there that emulate the SSL Channel Strip, though we haven't been able to find one that accurately represents the quirks and characteristics of the original quite like this one. You get the four-band parametric EQ, which you can switch between the E-Series and G-Series, as well as a Dynamics section that is home to a Compressor and a Gate/Expander module. There are also high and low pass filters on each end.
When it comes to the EQ section, the E-Series gives you a slightly more aggressive character, while the G-Series focuses a bit more, allowing you to focus in on certain frequencies with a bit more restraint.
Overall, this channel strip EQ plugin gives you superb control over your mixes and is great for those who want total control over their signal flow in a single, easy-to-navigate interface.
2. Brainworx bx_console N
The Brainworx bx_console N emulates the classic Neve VXS channel strip, though adds a bit of flavor and functionality not found in the original hardware. It's an incredibly accurate representation of the real model, delivering the distinct analog sound that you know and love. The way Brainworx was able to achieve such accurate modeling was thanks to the Tolerance Modeling Technology, which works to replicate the naturally occurring variations found in the more than 150 components within the channel strip.
What this means is that every variation of this plugin will sound slightly different from the last. The original hardware console had 72 channel strips n all, and the bx_console emulation delivers up to 72 variations, which is pretty impressive.
Beyond the ultra-functional EQ module, you get a compressor/limiter module, a full-featured expander and gate module, and high and low pass filters. You can also use some of these sections in parallel, which is an additional feature of the original piece of hardware.
Overall, if you're in the market for a channel strip plugin that delivers all of the best characteristics of analog hardware with the functionality of digital EQ, the Brainworx bx_console N is a solid choice.
3. Loaded Analog Obsession (FREE)
Analog Obsession has been making fantastic old-school VST plugins for quite some time, and the Loaded EQ plugin is one of our absolute favorites. This custom channel strip plugin acts like a 500 Series Channel Strip, delivering five independent processors and a single main control bus. Beyond the EQ module, you get a pre-amp, noise gate, de-esser, and compressor.
Each of these modules delivers a uniquely warm analog sound, and you can bypass any of the modules that you don't want to use. One of the things I absolutely love about Loaded is that you can also dial in everything in parallel, as each module has a dry/wet knob. You won't find this kind of functionality on many paid plugins, so it was surprising to see this here.
Best Graphic EQ Plugins
1. Waves G-EQ
The Waves G-EQ is a beautiful 30-band graphic equalizer that delivers two plugins in one: the Modern GEQ and the Classic GEQ. Each of these digital EQ options gives you 30 ISO bands, as well as high pass and low pass filters, a real-time spectrum analyzer, and the ability to draw in curves with your mouse, which is a super handy feature for those who don't want to spend time moving one slider after another to dial in the perfect sound.
The GEQ Classic uses proportional Q filters, narrowing the width of the filter as you increase the gain on the particular band. On the other hand, the GEQ Modern uses unique flat-top filtering, which gets rid of artifacts so that bands don't interact with one another as you move them up and down. This unique feature is helpful for drawing in the cleanest EQ curves possible.
2. Waves API 560
API is one of the biggest names in vintage EQs, and the API 560 10-band graphic equalizer just so happens to be one of the best EQ VST options for those who want vintage graphic equalization.
This plugin is based on the 1967 classic, giving you tons of headroom and ultra-precise filtering paired with a vintage sound. The shape of the curves is unmatched, using the unique design that narrows the filter as you boost or cut with more gain.
API was very careful to pick each of the frequencies on these bands, focusing in carefully on the frequencies that truly matter. Thanks to the fact that this was developed in association with API, Waves was able to put the same thought process into making this plugin.
3. Voxengo Overtone GEQ (FREE)
The Overtone GEQ from Voxengo is very reminiscent of your standard graphic equalizer hardware, giving you seven bands to work with. Beyond that, this plugin also offers mid-side processing and extensive internal routing capabilities.
What's truly unique about the Overtone GEQ is that it doesn't simply boost or cut frequencies, it also applies harmonic content to the seven enhancement modules. With each boost and cut, you get a bit of harmonic coloration to add warmth, color, and character to your mixes, just like you would get with a vintage EQ.
The plugin is nothing fancy, though if you want a functional zero-latency plugin that can get the job done, it's a nice one to have in your arsenal.
Best Mastering EQ Plugins
1. UAD Manley Massive Passive
Walk into just about any major mastering studio in the world and we guarantee you'll find the hardware version of the Manley Massive Passive . With multiple interdependencies, unusual filter curves, and wonderfully colorful tub amp distortion, the UAD emulation of this mastering engineer favorite delivers all of the characteristics and features that you could possibly want from the hardware in digital format.
From punch to sizzle to air to clarity, the beauty of this plugin is that you can really push its boundaries without ever adding a semblance of harshness to your mixes. It has an organic sound that is great for giving your mixes that extra bit of magic before you push them out into the world.
2. UAD Chandler Limited Curve Bender
While the UAD Manley Massive Passive is a wonderful equalizer plugin for adding clean and crisp boosts and cuts to an already vibey mix, the UAD Chandler Limited Curve Bender is a great plugin for adding vibe and color that needs to be there.
This unique EQ plugin is based on the iconic piece of hardware from Abbey Road Studios, the EMI TG12345 desk. This was the very same desk that was used to record hit records like Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road . However, it's not simply a recreation of the original hardware, as it delivers all of the boutique warmth with some added features that will rock your mixes.
One of the things UAD added was the mid-side mode, which is great for working on each side of your mix independently. It adds tons of control for tweaking width and punch that you wouldn't find with the original. Overall, this is an iconic plugin that we believe is an absolute must-have in your arsenal.
3. LKJB Luftikus (FREE)
The Luftikus EQ plugin from LKJB is one of the best EQ VST plugins on the market for mastering! Best of all, it doesn't cost a dime! The plugin gives you access to fixed half-octave bands and a high-frequency boost. The "keep-gain" mode is super helpful for allowing you to make changes to certain frequency spectrum bands while keeping the overall volume the same.
However, if you want to make an overall gain adjustment, there is a handy Trim knob waiting there for you.
The EQ plugin interface looks stellar, giving you color-coded bands that are easy to visualize and fun to play around with! Plus, because of its analog-modeled character, you get a slight bit of warmth and musicality that's perfect for adding the cherry on top of your mixed track.
As you can see, there are many great EQ VST plugins out there for just about any use. Whether you're looking for a plugin with a dynamic EQ mode to add automation to your music production, a zero-latency parametric equalizer for surgical use, or an emulation of a vintage EQ plugin that uses old-school filter types to add a bit of love to your otherwise sterile and digital mix, you can find what you're looking for with any of the plugins above.
Don't spend time wading through the thousands of EQs on the market. Check out the ones above today and find out which one works best for you!