When mixing, the vocal really deserves TLC. You need to treat it right! In our Cosmic Academy bootcamp, vocal processing is one of the most common topics students ask us about.
That's why we came up with this list of our favorite EQ's to use during vocal processing.
Analog EQ emulations are always a nice choice here because they provide an extra bit of harmonic color, saturation, and "warmth" that digital EQ's won't.
However, this doesn't mean you should throw your Pro-Q3 or stock EQ away! As you can see, we still have it listed here! These digital EQs are still great for precision cuts and frequency cleanup.
Now let’s get into it!
1. Måag EQ4
This EQ is one of the most heralded equalizers for vocals out there, mostly due to its very distinctive air band (the yellow knob). The Maag’s air band is a high shelf with a very musical curve shape that goes all the way up to 40,000 hz.
“But, I thought human hearing only goes up to 20,000 hz!”
That’s true, but think about the shape of a high shelf--even if the shelf is set well above 20k, the curve gently slopes back down within the audible range and provides an awesomely musical boost to those high frequencies, adding an “airiness” to a vocal that sounds wonderful.
Just look out for sibilance after making a boost to the highs like this! We suggest a bit of gentle de-essing in your processing chain after the Maag if you’re really leaning on the air band knob.
2. Pultec EQP-1A
This tried-and-tested EQ is another go-to option for its super unique curve shape—so distinctive that the technique used to achieve it is now known as the “Pultec trick”.
What makes this curve so characteristic to the Pultec is that this EQ has only a low shelf and a high shelf, and each of them comes with both a “boost” and an “attenuate” knob. When you boost and attenuate one of these shelves at the same time, the result is a very interesting curve shape that tends to add both presence but also reduce muddiness or harshness at the same time.
Like the air band on the Maag, the high shelf on this EQ is great for adding airiness to a vocal, while also allowing you to dial in the level of attenuation to reduce some of the unwanted harshness that might be caused by the boost.
3. Neve 1073
The Neve 1073 is not known for any hidden “tricks” or features, but it’s an incredibly musical shaping tool with very flattering EQ curves and can add a very smooth quality to a vocal. Good emulations of the Neve 1073 also replicate the saturation properties of the original unit, adding a very pleasing even-order harmonic distortion that adds great warmth to the mids of any vocal.
4. Trident A-Range
The Trident A-Range plugins replicate a very rare and legendary piece of analog gear in audio history. Only 13 original A-Range analog consoles were ever produced, but these original consoles were used on records by Davie Bowie, Metallica, Elton John, Queen and many more.
Today, the A-Range is still a great musical EQ that combines the benefit of very smooth high and low shelves with very musical mid-band EQs that allow you to hone in one particular frequency.
This is a very unique EQ that combines the smoothness of shelf-based EQs like the Pultec with the added benefit of mid-frequency shaping.
5. FabFilter Pro-Q3
Okay, we all know this one! We’ve been talking about analog-modeled EQs—and while those are amazing, they’re not the only way to go with vocals!
The great thing about Pro-Q3 is how surgical and precise it is, and another massive benefit is the dynamic EQ feature, which is incredibly useful for taming frequencies that only present problems at specific moments during the vocal performance.
However, a digital EQ is not the best option for coloring the vocal, so we do suggest keeping the Pro-Q3 on cutting duties and leaving boosting for your analog-modeled plugins!
Wondering where you can find some of these plugin emulations? Many companies make them, but here are a few that have the EQ's listed:
Waves (Pultec, 1073)
Plugin Alliance Bundle (Maag, 1073)
UAD (Maag, Pultec, 1073, Trident)
Arturia (1073, Trident)
T-Racks (Pultec, 1073)
We hope this helps!