Eq Vs Filter

I read somewhere that when cutting frequences it is better to use a filter where as doing the subtle touches the EQ is preferred. Also boosting is something to stay away from.
I usually boost AND cut with the EQ only. I find if not boosting many sounds don’t get the sparkle or clarity I want, especially on leads. Maybe it’s better to only cut and increase volume on the track instead of boosting, but this may affect the mixing.
I’ll probably see whats best when I get real monitors and a decent soundcard.
So what are your experinces?

As with so many things in the world of music, there is no single golden rule that applies to every individual case, you really just have to use your ears and a bit of common sense. Checking your work through a spectrum analyser every once in a while doesn’t hurt either, and can easily help to identify problem areas that you otherwise might not hear due to inaccurate speakers, weird acoustics in your room, etc. The frequency response curve of your song will obviously vary a little bit over time, but it should typically be quite flat and evenly balanced overall. If you see any big spikes or peaks which are sticking out like a sore thumb, then it’s a good clue that something needs your attention.

The most important thing to always keep in mind here is the concept of headroom, or dynamic range. In other words, you only have so much space that all your elements have to fit into. The moment you boost any element in your song you are potentially limiting the impact of all other elements, and the more you boost something the worse it can get. When it comes to normalising your final mix and trying to get it as loud as possible without clipping/distorting, a strongly boosted frequency results in loud peaks in certain parts of the waveform, which will often dramatically reduce the overall volume of the rest of your song.

Here is a rather silly example to prove this point.

Imagine this is my final mix:

I decide that something is missing, so I boost 1,000Hz to 1,300Hz by 20dB. As you can clearly see, this results in some pretty horrible clipping, because there simply isn’t enough dynamic range available to contain the original sound + the insanely boosted frequencies.

In order to make the boosted frequencies fit without any clipping occuring, I had to reduce my entire mix by 10dB. Now everything else is too damn quiet… d’oh!

Like I said, that was just a silly example, but you get the idea. In most cases it is perfectly ok to do some quick fixes and boost some frequencies a little bit if you need to, but if you find yourself needing to boost higher than a few dB’s all the time then it may be better to choose another method to make the sound fit (or to consider using a different type of sound altogether).

As for filters vs EQs, it’s important to understand that an EQ is just a series of filters working together, with each one tuned to a specific frequency range. In the case of a dedicated filter it will usually offer a much more precise result due to its steeper curve, allowing you to really finetune very exact frequencies, while an EQ has a more broad curve which will affect a wider range of frequencies together. Which one you choose to use really just comes down to what you are trying to achieve.

If you are doing some general adjustments to the character or timbre of a sound, for example if you just want to make something “sparkle” a bit more, you will probably go for an EQ and gently boost some mid-high frequencies. If you need to absolutely make sure that one sound doesn’t interfere or overlap with another sound, for example to stop a very rich synth pad from making your bass sound “muddy”, you would probably go for a dedicated high pass filter with a very steep curve to precisely remove all frequencies below 150Hz - the response of an EQ filter in this case would probably be too broad, causing a certain amount of frequencies to leak/overlap.

But, once more, these are really only general guidelines. Ultimately it’s up to you to find a way of working that you’re comfortable with that sounds good to you. We all break the rules from time to time :)

Wow, thats some nice clear response, dblue! For the example case, I guess you can pump up the low amplitudes with a compressor isn’t it? I think EQs and compressors are often used in combination…

Yeah, I did think of mentioning this, but I decided not to since compressors/limiters can often introduce a lot of other confusing issues, so it’s usually better to take things one step at a time. But it’s true; if you bend the rules a bit you can usually manage to do a bit of extreme frequency boosting if you also apply a compressor/limiter to keep things under control. This will obviously result in a more “squashed” sound in most cases, but this might actually be what you want! Care should obviously be taken since these techniques are usually not the “correct” solution, but if you understand what is going on you can take advantage of it.

I’m not gonna lie, in many of my tracks I push the EQ pretty hard and compress the living shit out of it, haha. But it’s simply a matter of taste and I personally like to get that “pumping” effect in some of my sounds. Your mileage may vary :)


when you’re mixing on a desk, it’s pretty common to boost roughly as much as you cut

on a desk, or with a hardware-modelled EQ, you generally get some degree of colouration proportional to how much you boost - caused by little distortions in the EQ circuit - so boosting can be an important part of making a track stand out and giving it presense

with digital EQ, i think there’s been a trend for cutting more than boosting, not that there’s necessarily any mathematical difference between cutting and boosting, but because you tend to find noticable boosts in certain regions sound less pleasant - e.g. boosting around 9khz in s/w can sound harsh and synthetic, whereas on a good desk or with a focusrite green or something, you get a much brighter, smoother sound; (plus, you’ve usually got tonnes of headroom when you’re mixing on a desk)

i think it’s less of an issue with good s/w EQ’s

i tend to do ALL big adjustments with cuts and filters, and usually just add a db or two with a fairly wide band or a shelf to add presense

usually i use filters when i want to cut out fairly bigh chunk of spectrum and EQ-s when i want to slightly correct things here and there. But as mentioned earlier, in music, there are no “exact rules” so just do what you like :)

filters and eq are the same thing…eq’s just give you the freedom to do more complex “filter shapes” if you want to cut a little here, boost a little there, etc. if you just have one specific cut or boost you want to go with, then it really doesn’t make a difference if you use an eq or a filter (given they are of equal quality). eq’s are just a collection of multiple filters/bands.

i tend to use filters for sweeping effects, and, depending on the type of filter for the stranger effects (i.e. comb filters, etc). When it comes to boosting or cutting to fit an element in the mix, I’ll use a nice broad highpass filter for certain elements, or lowpass if the need arises. I use eq for more “surgical” boosts and cuts. filters for the more broad adjustments.

Some good replies here.

I could write books on filtering and EQing but it still wouldn’t be enough… Yes do get good equipment to work on: that’s the starting point to learning. The rest is persistence in learning the craft.

I tend to use Filters for cleaning up the low frequencies and high frequencies cutting down to just the mids. Sometime this is straight reduction, other times I’ll add resonance depending on the filter curve to get a bit more ‘air’ or ‘presence’.

I tend to only use EQ for mostly reductive shaping of anything in the mids, or less occasionally boosting upper sonic regions of input sounds. The problem with digital boosting is that with the higher your boost the more you are emphasising bad digital artifacts already present in the sound. It’s nearly always better to reduce the lows to just leave the high parts you want, and then getting the required ‘air’ via filters or exciters. If you have a good mastering exciter you’ll hardly ever need to touch a high EQ for boosting.

Have decent filters and EQs are important - the cheap ones have all sorts of distortion and phasing problems that are not desirable. There’s nothing perfect in digital audio of course, but there are some great plugs out there. My current EQs of choice are by DDMF, the IIEQpro and LP10. I’m a bit lazier with filters as I like to reach for the Renoise Filter2 all the time, but Tone2 probably do the nicest sounding filters I’ve heard.

If you need any help with any of your mix don’t hesitate to PM me.

This was exactly the kind of answers I wanted plus a lot more good advice as a bonus.
@Foo?: Yes, I was actually thinking of using exciters as a “booster”, should give better results whenever needed.

Thanks a lot everyone, I knew I could get some kick-ass answers here by you experienced renoisers. This forum is the best, I get amazed every time I make a post like this.

Very informative thread, has anyone tried using HW instead of SW on the mix/mastering side ?
E.g. the whole song created with SW synths but using HW eq/compressors/delays for some “coloration”.
I often find the sound of SW synths to be a bit artificial.
Not sure if it’s the SW side or sound card but I would like to hear if you guys use HW as well.
I’m thinking in going SW all the way but so far I found my external gear to have a bit more smoothnes/feel to the sound compared to SW synths.

i finally got the ddmf eqs and they are great,but i still need a decent filter,what can you guys recomend?

I can deal with everything about working native apart from softsynths…

I’ve tried using h/w multi-fx and driving them through a desk to get the presense back sometimes, but there’s just something about the sound I don’t like; something that seems lost

Powercore Virus is probably a good bet though… If I was going to move away from hardware completely, I’d probably get a Powercore, because the Sonnox plug-ins give you a colour and fullness which sounds sort of somewhere between s/w and h/w… Not sure how well it works with Renoise though - the native plug-ins are fine, (but processor hungry.) I’ll ALWAYS keep hold of my Pro One, Z1, Nord Lead, Juno, and JD990

You have to have top quality hardware before you’d even think of mastering with it. Absolutely musts are balanced I/Os and a great ADC in your card. All of it costs lots.

Soft synths sound worse than real ones because they are digital and not analogue. Same point goes for recording/mixing/mastering - if it’s all analogue you will retain a human presence and warmth you just can’t fake with digital. However, you can improve your chances with digital by upping the sample rate and making sure you’ve got plenty of bits to play with.

Good filter: Tone2.

I guess it depends on what we mean by analog as in e.g. Moog Minimoog or a VA synth.
The term I would use to describe a SW synth compared to my external gear is lack of body or precense.
Kind of a flat sound even though it doesn’t sound bad as in poor quality of the sound itself.

Yeah, body’s the term I’d use. Physicality

I like some VA’s… The Access, Clavia and Korg VA’s all have their own strengths in the mix… I think it’s a combination of factors, from having dedicated DSP’s to make sure everything’s nicely sample-processed and they’re not having to make optimizations in the filters and things, to the effects they use, the convertors, and possibly if they’re tweaking the sound further on the outputs

Whatever it is, I can dial up a sound on the Virus and know it’ll sit well in a mix without any trouble - (like with good h/w effects, you get the impression musicians and engineers have worked with the instrument extensively to get it sounding perfect for studio use) - and bring a certain colour and quality to the track which puts your ideas in their best light