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In this installment of the Foundations of Audio series, author Brian Lee White shows producers and audio engineers how to properly apply equalization (EQ) and improve the sound of their mixes. The course covers the use of parametric and graphic EQs—and filters such as the high/low pass filters and shelf filters—in a variety of musical settings. These principles can be applied to any digital audio workstation platform, including Logic and Pro Tools, as well as analog workflows.
The two most important controls in any equalizer are frequency and gain. Just like the two dimensions of sound waves--frequency and amplitude--the frequency and gain controls are the heart of the EQ and allow us to apply amplitude changes to specific ranges of frequencies. An EQ's frequency control tells the EQ where to increase or decrease a signal's amplitude, while the gain control tells the EQ how much.
Listen to this audio example as I increase the gain control and sweep through the range of frequencies from low to high. (music playing) An increase in gain is often referred to as a boost.
Now listen again to an audio example as I decrease the gain control and sweep through the range of frequencies. (music playing) A decrease in gain is often referred to as a cut.
An EQ's frequency and gain controls allow us to reshape a signal's amplitude across the frequency spectrum. By boosting or cutting a signal's amplitude over various frequency bands, we can work towards a more idealized frequency balance to help an instrument sit better in a mix. Many EQs show their frequency and gain relationship in an X-Y graph, with each band displayed as a breakpoint, visually representing where gain is being added or subtracted to the frequency range of the signal.
But there are plenty of EQs, including many vintage and vintage-modeled ones that have no graphic display of the affected frequencies. They simply show the gain and frequency controls as marks on a dial or knob. Many EQs are split into multiple frequency bands, or ranges, in which the frequency control can be swept. These unique bands allow multiple points of frequency cut or boost within the same EQ. While one band may be used to boost a range of higher frequencies, another may be used simultaneously to cut a range of lower frequencies.
Some EQs allow a continuous sweep of frequencies and gain controls, while others will use fixed interval frequency and gain points. For example, the famous Neve 1073 EQ offers three bands, each with fixed-interval frequency selectors. The mid-band offers six frequency points at 7.2k, 4.8k, 3.2k, 1.6k, 0.7k, and 0.36k, while the high- frequency band is fixed at 12k.
At first glance, you may be overwhelmed with the number of controls on your EQ, but ultimately it is the frequency and gain controls that lie at the heart of any EQ. If you can understand how to use these controls, you can easily use almost any EQ.
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