Equalization helps music breathe and shimmer. And it’s crucial for anyone who craves fine-tuned audio fidelity — from teenagers cranking the low-end of their car stereo, to recording engineers smoothing the high frequencies of a pop chorus, to audiophile nerds experimenting with the intricacies of their vintage stereo equipment.
We all benefit from equalizers — even those among us who couldn’t distinguish a filter bank from a spectrum analyzer. In the simplest terms, these products help enhance audio signals: in the studio, onstage, in your family sedan, even in your basement home theater.
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For musicians, it’s an essential part of production and mixing. The best audio equalizers can be used to either repair poorly-tracked sounds or spritz up good ones. Just by adjusting EQ, studio pros “boost” or “cut” certain frequencies in order to clarify vocals or instruments, separate these elements from each other in a mix, blend them together or create unusual effects.
Electronic artists often play around with EQ to create drama and dynamics: You may hear a song drop out the higher frequencies only to roll them back in — sort of like stepping outside a nightclub for a cigarette, hearing the muted kick drum thump against the walls and then opening the door as the chorus hits. An average song can’t be rescued by outstanding equalization techniques, but a great one can become essential.
Digital EQs now come standard in most recording software, but some musicians need the analog feel of physical hardware mounted among their gear. For those looking for a solid equalizer to play around with, here are three of the best options.
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