Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?
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Old 07-08-2016, 11:36 AM   #1
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Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I'm sure it is one of those "whatever works best for you" scenarios, but since I recently acquired my first EQ (a DBX dbx2231v Dual 31-Band) I'm still undecided which scenario works best with my gear. I'm using a Moog modular based system and drum machines that go to a reel to reel deck for master record which is also split to a digital recorder backup (on minidisc).
Currently because of the bass levels being so hot coming out of the modular I'm using a compressor + EQ before going to tape, then playing the tape back into a DAW for record without the EQ. I've also tried using only the compressor before tape master, then running the tape playback through the EQ into the DAW. I'm thinking to use the EQ before the tape master is a way of controlling sounds you want to avoid in the mix mostly for technical reasons, whereas using the EQ from the tape playback would be more for sweetening and enhancing particular sounds. I think using the EQ in both cases would probably be overkill.

Thoughts?

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Old 07-08-2016, 11:58 AM   #2
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I think you answered your own question tbh.
Use the unit whenever you think it is required.
Try to figure out a standard routing system that works best for you in most scenarios but try to be as flexible as possible and always trust your ears.
Perhaps investigate a patch bay for ease of routing options?
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Old 07-08-2016, 12:16 PM   #3
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I often use one straight after the instrument (usually to remove excessive lows) so that the compressor can do a good job, and then another one at the end of the chain. Then I use additional ones on my reverb, distortion and delay sends as well, usually in the same way. One to "tame" the signal going in, and another one to remove unnecessary bottoms and highs afterwards.

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Old 07-08-2016, 01:03 PM   #4
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I actually have a patch bay, but things are getting all used up already But that's good advice...

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Originally Posted by Somn View Post
I often use one straight after the instrument (usually to remove excessive lows) so that the compressor can do a good job, and then another one at the end of the chain. Then I use additional ones on my reverb, distortion and delay sends as well, usually in the same way. One to "tame" the signal going in, and another one to remove unnecessary bottoms and highs afterwards.
Wow, you are EQ'ing REVERB? How interesting.
Sounds like I may need to consider using the EQ for both in and out of my tape deck.
As for the "always trust your ears" advice, I'm not so sure about that. For one, I'm in my 40's and frequency range of ears diminishes considerably after 30, but another what sounds "right" is highly subjective, not to mention all of the possible methods at which the content will be played back (headphones / portables / speakers / car). It's the same complexity as mastering which is a beast that's very difficult and subjective as well.

Thanks for the tips. Just hearing what other people do is helpful.
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Old 07-08-2016, 01:06 PM   #5
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

Yeah that's true enough, I just meant use your subjective taste artistically I suppose really.
If you think things need EQing again then they probably do otherwise it'll always drive you a bit crazy.
But yeah, another set of ears are always helpful if the specific audio is available.
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Old 07-08-2016, 05:04 PM   #6
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

My rule of thumb is to avoid using EQ unless it's absolutely necessary, or unless it sounds cool. Some inaudible infrasound killing is fine, usually, but even then I worry that I'm stripping away warmth and intimacy. An EQ stripped element underneath a pure and intimate sound is fine, but things that are upfront and focussed I prefer mostly left alone.

I tend to avoid eqing the output of spatial effects if they're going to be prominent. I prefer to filter the send's input and return that to the unfiltered dry original. Unless I'm doing some specific effect like a ravetastic lowpassed reverb kick, or some barely audible ambient background sound that I might bandpass or highpass.

How does the tape colour the sound? Are you cutting the lows to balance a loss of highs? Are you recording hot? Are you sending individual tracks to tape or just the master channel? How noisy is it? Could we hear an example of what you're up to? Without hearing the effects of your gear and process it's hard to judge anything or offer any useful advice.

Also I want to know if I should bug you to do some taping for me.

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Old 07-08-2016, 05:15 PM   #7
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

everything needs eq and useally at the start of the chain or after say reverb
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Old 07-08-2016, 06:37 PM   #8
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

More good points, thank you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by brb View Post
How does the tape colour the sound? Are you cutting the lows to balance a loss of highs? Are you recording hot? Are you sending individual tracks to tape or just the master channel? How noisy is it? Could we hear an example of what you're up to? Without hearing the effects of your gear and process it's hard to judge anything or offer any useful advice.

Also I want to know if I should bug you to do some taping for me.
My initial intent was to cut off lows that were always too rumbly, but since I always was EQ'ing on the DAW side, I thought I'd get an EQ to do it closer to the source. Tape hiss is typically evident (using 1/4" tape at 7.5 ips) but actually I don't mind it as I tend to produce gritty, raw music (from ambient / dub techno to industrial / experimental).

I can't provide any links since I'm a new forum member but you're welcome to look up any of my projects on Bandcamp under the following names:

Downscope (dub/minimal techno)
Touch Of Grammaton (industrial/experimental)
Athena Code (minimal techno/experimental)
Treadset (reggae/dub techno)

The only one I started using the physical EQ was for the most recent project, Touch Of Grammaton.

As for recording services for people, I'm not sure how that would work...
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Old 07-09-2016, 10:16 PM   #9
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I mostly put EQ almost before the end of the chain, mainly before compressor, but after distortion or any other effects. Actually I tend to use less of EQ/filter, only when it's really needed.
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Old 07-10-2016, 07:41 AM   #10
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I work in the box and I put all kinds of EQs all over the place. Part of that is using an EQ when a simple HP/LP would have sufficed, but a lot of it is just that I like particular curves on different EQs, so I'll have each one adjusting just one or two bands gently.
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Old 07-10-2016, 10:05 AM   #11
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

In my opinion EQs can be put pretty much anywhere. Before effects, after effects, between effects, etc. The only place where I wouldn't put an EQ is after/before another EQ (that's just unnecessary). I like to use Patcher to make this more visual to me.

I don't use hardware but in software it's pretty much the same idea.

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Old 07-11-2016, 10:47 AM   #12
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

I don't use them much. But when I do they are normally on individual tracks at the end of the chain. Almost always, they are a high pass, or a shelf over 100-500kH to cut out mud. I don't really use them "creatively."

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Old 07-11-2016, 04:32 PM   #13
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by joem View Post
everything needs eq and useally at the start of the chain or after say reverb
Never say never. Never say always.

While the whole rolling off the lows thing is pretty standard practice, if I can make a mix work w/o doing that I prefer that sound. I look and listen and when I don't hear or see really anything going on in the low end, I keep the EQ away from that track/instrument.

I think all this EQing we are able to do in the box is actually a bad thing sometimes. Make it work with proper arrangement, gain staging and panning. Then reach for EQ etc.

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Old 07-11-2016, 05:36 PM   #14
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

It's a different animal when you're dealing with sampled and synthesized projects vs real played instruments ftmp. When you're using a synthesized, sampled etc bassline/kick/snare, you're only really going to need a hipass and maybe a few cuts here and there because it's mostly the same sound over and over, it doesn't deviate the way a person playing an instrument will play harder on one note than another or pluck the strings/hit the drum harder/softer.

i find that with my metal project where the majority of it is actually played throughout, I can't get away with not eqing some of the lower end elements with hipassing and some thin cuts to areas (like say cutting your bass where the kick sits so it cuts through). Granted metal is a bass-heavy style (and so is most electronic) it's still a very human thing whereas if you're using samples you don't really have to worry about Johnny McBassplayer hitting the strings too hard on the chorus because you're got RoboBass.dll providing basslines.

Just food for thought.
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Old 07-11-2016, 06:06 PM   #15
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Numerical View Post
It's a different animal when you're dealing with sampled and synthesized projects vs real played instruments ftmp. When you're using a synthesized, sampled etc bassline/kick/snare, you're only really going to need a hipass and maybe a few cuts here and there because it's mostly the same sound over and over, it doesn't deviate the way a person playing an instrument will play harder on one note than another or pluck the strings/hit the drum harder/softer.

i find that with my metal project where the majority of it is actually played throughout, I can't get away with not eqing some of the lower end elements with hipassing and some thin cuts to areas (like say cutting your bass where the kick sits so it cuts through). Granted metal is a bass-heavy style (and so is most electronic) it's still a very human thing whereas if you're using samples you don't really have to worry about Johnny McBassplayer hitting the strings too hard on the chorus because you're got RoboBass.dll providing basslines.

Just food for thought.

This can all be applied to compression as well. Most ITB sources arent going to be super dynamic unless someone designs them that way.

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Old 07-11-2016, 10:11 PM   #16
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

experiment.
do different tunes with the EQ in different places.

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Old 07-11-2016, 11:49 PM   #17
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by relic View Post
This can all be applied to compression as well. Most ITB sources arent going to be super dynamic unless someone designs them that way.
Yep. When I'm working with electronic sounds compression is more about the "shape" than the dynamic. . . if anything it becomes more of a timbral tool. Compare to compression on vocals, for example.

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Old 07-12-2016, 12:33 AM   #18
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

As others have already said, it really depends on the chain and on the instrument. Also, I think it's important to think of what you're trying to do with the EQ. If you're using the EQ in a corrective sense to try and get rid of a problem frequency, you''d more often than not put it earlier on (to eliminate the problem before the signal passes through any other units). That said, sometimes you might want to keep the problem frequencies in tact until the very end of your chain... it's all a case-by-case thing.

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Old 07-12-2016, 03:45 AM   #19
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

Quote:
Originally Posted by relic View Post
While the whole rolling off the lows thing is pretty standard practice, if I can make a mix work w/o doing that I prefer that sound. I look and listen and when I don't hear or see really anything going on in the low end, I keep the EQ away from that track/instrument.
Yeah but situations where you can't hear anything in the lower ranges is precisely where you absolutely should always roll a highpass over the bottom end. That way, any frequencies which are present but masked (those bits you can't hear) won't disrupt everything else.

With audio, most of the problems you'll encounter are exacerbated by what you can't hear. So if there's no audible difference when you apply a highpass filter, then you should definitely always use a highpass on that signal...

... unless you're recording some four track ambient stuff which has no percussion or bottom-end.

Quote:
Originally Posted by relic View Post
I think all this EQing we are able to do in the box is actually a bad thing sometimes. Make it work with proper arrangement, gain staging and panning. Then reach for EQ etc.
Agree that people who don't know anything about EQ or have developed bad habits can fall into this trap. Certainly agree that with some acoustic signals, EQ can be unnecessary if you record properly (nice acoustics, correct mic selection and positioning, appropriate pre-amplification, etc).

But 100% disagree that EQ is unneeded with electronic signals. If any synth maker could manufacture a device which produces signals that don't need to be stripped for parts... well they would make billions.

I'd also argue that gain staging is impossible without EQ. It's an integral piece of the puzzle. Without it, every signal is most likely occupying every band in the frequency spectrum and thus you have a whole bunch of masking and inaudible shit going on.

Like yeah, maybe you could get something sounding good without it. But it will never sound great... and you'd be lucky if it even sounds okay on a real sound system. More likely, it will sound like somebody got their shitty Beats by Dre capsule, fired up your track, threw it in a box and then kicked it down the stairs... subs don't lie...

Basically, if you don't sculpt your sound using EQ, you're at the mercy of the dynamics and harmonic produced by the speakers and listening environment.

If somebody is listening to your sounds on a shitty capsule, it will probably sound like mud. If you listen on headphones it sounds great. If you listen in the car it's too quiet. Sound system, like porridge. You can avoid this, if you properly filter your sounds and distill their best parts to produce a more or less consistent reproduction of your sound - irrespective of the environmental conditions.

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Old 07-12-2016, 03:11 PM   #20
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Re: Equalizers - where do you put them in the chain?

^My wording was a bit extreme. I guess my point is I try to do as little EQing as possible. I do all I can to help things along before I even get to EQ. I do often find the more EQing, the more sterile the mix sounds. Its all about give and take of course.

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