You Should Be Using Active EQ

Almost all musical performances have some degree of dynamics, both in terms of loudness and frequency information. For example, a snare drum may have really hard hits with some ghost notes sprinkled in here and there, and a vocalist may sing in a lower and quieter part of their register before belting a chorus.

Let’s say that the same snare drum has some really overbearing low mid buildup around 200 Hz, but it’s only present when the drummer plays ghost notes. Similarly, the low end of a vocal could be overbearing during verses, but perfect during belted sections. In both of these situations, active EQ is quite a useful tool that will allow you to reign in frequencies that are only overwhelming sometimes!

What is Active EQ?

Active EQ, which is also commonly referred to as dynamic EQ, is a type of dynamic processing that allows the user to have dynamic attenuation and boosting control for a desired frequency range.

Active EQ Vs. Multi-Band Compression: Why Choose Active EQ?

A common misconception is that active EQ and multi-band compression are the same thing. While they are quite similar, they are, in fact, not the exact same thing.

MC2000 Multi-Band Compressor
Dynamically Inconsistent Waveform

The main reason this is such an important step to take is because it will help the compressor have a much easier time compressing your vocal. The less dynamic inconsistencies the compressor must deal with, the better. However, make mostly broad strokes to long sections that are a lot quieter than other sections, and only make meticulous edits to extremely dynamic parts.

Compressor 1: Overall Level Control

Although Active EQ and multi-band compression are very similar in the sense that they both allow the user to control specific frequency ranges independent from one another, an active EQ can be more precise than multi-band compression.

Active EQ Most Narrow Q Value

Multi-Band Compressor Most Narrow Q Value

For example, if a very small frequency range is resonating harshly in a guitar tone only during one section of a song, you can use a narrow Q value on a dynamic EQ to attenuate that frequency range whenever it’s harsh.

While you could probably accomplish the same thing with a multi-band compressor, you would likely end up unintentionally attenuating non-harsh frequencies surrounding the harsh frequency range. In turn, you could take away too much high end, making the signal too dark.

Active EQ Can Solve a Wide Variety of Problems

As a result of the precision offered by active EQ, this type of processing is quite a great problem-solving tool! We’ve already touched on some perfect use cases for active EQ, but here are a couple more!

Are you working on an incredibly sibilant vocal that even a de-esser can’t seem to tame? Try using dynamic EQ to attenuate sibilance instead. Does your bass guitar track have a great low end but a harsh, overly dynamic high end? Control those harsh high frequencies with active EQ, all while leaving your low end perfectly intact.

Attenuating High Frequencies with Active EQ

See For Yourself: The McDSP AE600 Active Equalizer

If we’ve piqued your interest and you’d like to try out active EQ for yourself, look no further than the McDSP AE600 Active Equalizer!

The McDSP AE600 Active Equalizer

The AE600 comes packed with 6 bands of fixed EQ, 6 bands of active EQ, and band mode controls on each fixed and active EQ band for modifying the shape of each band. Additionally, each band offers threshold, attack, release, ratio, and Q controls that allow you to get into incredible amounts of detail.

Other features include band solo buttons, parameter linking between bands, and sidechain support on a per band basis.

Want to check out the AE600 for yourself? Try out a free 14-day, fully functional AE600 Active Equalizer trial here.

As always, we hope you learned something new! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter below to stay up to date on all things McDSP. We’ll see you next time!