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.

27th February, 2014

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