The Best EQs For Dance Music

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We run through a selection of our favourite hardware EQs for dance production, explaining what makes them so good and offering suggestions for similar plugins.

SSL E-series

What makes a good equaliser? It’s a question that’s almost impossible to answer without asking two or three more. What kind of sound are you looking for? What kind of signal are you processing? Do you want it to sound clean or dirty? How precise do you need to be? EQ choice is just as subjective, personal and application-specific as any other aesthetic decision in the creation of music, and producing dance music presents its own set of challenges; there are industry-standard EQs used in rock production which aren’t necessarily suitable for typical dance applications, and vice versa.

“Producing dance music presents its own set of challenges for EQs.”

Objectively, there’s no such thing as the best EQ. Can you really compare a vintage mastering EQ with the surgical filters found on a cutting-edge digital mixing console and say that one’s ‘better’ than the other? Of course not. But you can pick out a selection which should equip you for just about every equalisation task you might come across. What every producer needs is a selection of different tools for the job. In this article we’ll run through some of our favourites and explain what makes them work so well for electronic music production. We’ve also enlisted the help of a few producers and engineers to offer their insight along the way.

We’ve limited our selections to hardware models for a couple of reasons. First off, we needed to narrow down the options slightly – there are thousands of EQ plugins to pick from and a lot of them are so similar that it’s hard to separate them. Narrowing it down to hardware allows us to focus on the broader styles of EQ, from precise, surgical types through to broad, coloured models for adding character. Secondly, most of our choices are also available as software emulations, so if you’re in the market for software you can take these hardware suggestions as starting points for your search.

Thanks to Chi-Thien Nguyen, aka Chopstick, of Suol Records, Matt Colton of Alchemy Mastering, Neville Watson and Alan Braxe. Between them they’ve used pretty much any EQ you care to mention and their input was invaluable in putting together this feature.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, allow us to present our totally subjective guide to some of our favourite EQs. Furious that we didn’t include anything by Neve? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Date: 27th February 2014
  • Glen R Wrote:

    I love you all.

  • The No1 Roalnd guy Wrote:

    You missed KUSH! for higher, simply the best.

  • The No1 Roalnd guy Wrote:

    PS I dot think you acknowledged that precision cuts are a different ballgame to those beautiful wide sweeps. Different tool.s.

  • Raygun Wrote:

    for me, Pultec for bass. Cambridge for tight cuts. and natives for gentleness. If that makes sense. Either way, keep up the good work.

  • Sizzle MacDonald Wrote:

    Maag?

  • John Wrote:

    The most important Eq curve for dance music is the 24 or preferably 48 dB/Oct slope highpass filter. It allows producers with even average abilities to create low end and low mids that are complex and layered yet intelligible. Most producers I know have an Eq doing just this on good percentage of the tracks in every song. I’d say that for and EQ to truly be the EQ of dance music it would need to be able to not only do this but be available to do it on 10 or more (usually more) stereo tracks at the same time. This is where the humble native EQ in most daws shines with its low DSP rent high flexibility. It might not be the most glamorous or best sounding EQ but it might do more for the bass than even a pair of hardware pultec or even a gaggle of dsp pultecs. Add in its pre and post internal spectrum analyzer and it seems pretty amazing.

  • SugaMouth Wrote:

    I Love the IK Pulteq, it just makes most things sound better. Too easy to get carried away with it though.

  • Slee Wrote:

    Just some notes on availability of these EQs as emulations. Both the API 500 series and Sonnox Oxford have officially licenced plug-in versions from Universal Audio.

    http://www.uaudio.com/store/equalizers/api-500-series-eq-collection.html
    http://www.uaudio.com/store/equalizers/oxford-eq.html

  • Ivanrocks715 Wrote:

    KEEP up the phenomenal work guys!

  • Rasi Wrote:

    I own a clariphonic myself, and I don’t think there’s a better eq to focus and lift the highs on your 2-buss. Personally, I’m getting ready to sell my SSL E-series EQs so that I can pickup an Electra from Kush…

    He’s doing it right.

  • Xicotam Wrote:

    Awesome magazne with loads of very useful tricks and insights for the general producing general producers that just don’t have the means to approach music with real world professional knowledge. Very grateful and wish you a continuesly sucessful and quality ensured publication of such! 100% support :)

  • matt jenkins Wrote:

    Um how there is no baxendall eq here is just beyond me. The most used and useful eq of all time. Didn’t get a look in.

  • Mike Wrote:

    Kush isn’t a secret anymore, the word is out. The best, most intuitive and creative EQ and Compressor I’ve ever used. Slow to upgrade completely to AAX, but worth the wait.

  • Tushar Wrote:

    Oh .. I love SSL EQ man ! its the amazing shit u can ever get :D