Best EQ Plugins For Mixing Vocals
I’ve put together a list of my best EQ plugins for mixing vocals because I’m curious about what other engineers are using to EQ vocals.
So, please do leave a comment below to let me know which EQ(s) you’re currently using the most on vocal tracks.
Depending on the situation and what I would like to achieve for a vocal performance, the EQs listed below are the ones that I gravitate towards the most.
Not all equalizers are created equal, some are great for subtractive equalizations while others sound awesome for additive purposes.
Let’s start with the one that’s usually on every mix.
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3
The interactive EQ display on the Pro-Q 3 is designed to speed up your workflow and to help you arrive at your desired destination much faster.
From creating EQ bands, mid/side processing, and dynamic EQ up to selecting and editing multiple bands at once.
Everything can be done on the fly.
I use the Pro-Q mostly for surgical purposes. So most, if not all, the subtractive EQ is done using the FabFilter Pro-Q.
I’ll only use it for boosting if the vocal needs a clean and transparent boost, but usually I use the Pro-Q for carving out space, removing unwanted frequencies, and fixing problems.
Another great thing about the Pro-Q is that it is very CPU-friendly. You can have multiple instances of the plugin without choking the CPU.
It’s a great plugin to always have in your vocal chain.
Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ
The Oxford R3 EQ is modeled after the Sony OXF-R3 console. The same team that designed the console is the same team that worked on the plugin.
This means that you can now unleash the power of the Sony OXF-R3 in your DAW. Fully parametric EQ with the exact algorithms from the legendary Sony OXF-R3 digital mixing console.
It's a great plugin for tone sculpting and surgical purposes.
The boosts on this one are awesome because they sound musical. So, sometimes I do use this one to create a boost, if necessary.
One thing to note is that the filters can only go up to 36dB/Octave. Not a big disadvantage but if you use LP and HP filters with 48dB/Octave in your mixes then this might be an issue, or not.
There are also no dynamic EQ or mid/side processing features so it's a static EQ.
Overall it’s an awesome sounding EQ plugin. Great for cleaning vocals, has ultra-low noise, and less phase distortion compared to other plugins.
Maag Audio EQ4
The Mäag Audio EQ4 is well known for its "Air Band".
Even if you don’t know this plugin, you’ve probably heard it on popular artist’s vocals such as Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Madonna, Celine Dion, Black Eyed Peas, and many others.
The Maag Audio EQ4 is not a surgical EQ. It’s a musical EQ, which makes it ideal for sweetening vocals.
The AIR BAND® interacts with the 5 bandpass EQs to tonally sculpt your vocals from top to bottom with unrivaled transparency and top-end presence.
The plugin has an exceptionally low phase shift across all EQ adjustments. So, you can enhance the presence without messing up the integrity of the original vocal sound.
Use this plugin after a surgical EQ and compressor in your chain to add some sheen and clarity to a vocal performance.
Great plugin and definitely a must-have EQ plugin for mixing vocals.
This one is not really an EQ plugin, basically, it’s a dynamic resonance suppressor. Works more like a dynamic EQ so that’s why I’m adding it to this list.
I like the fact that it’s a dynamic EQ, de-esser, and multiband compressor in one plugin. So, it helps you reduce sibilance, mud, room resonance, nasal, harshness, and other unwanted frequencies without using multiple plugins.
Soothe helps me keep supporting vocals (adlibs, backings, doubles, etc.) at the back of the mix by processing them a bit more than the lead vocal. This allows the lead vocal to come forward and shine in a mix without being overpowered by the supporting vocals.
In the past, I’ve found that de-esser plugins can miss certain sibilance and I had to manually reduce sibilance by automating the clip gain.
But Soothe makes it much easier to control unwanted frequencies without messing up the clarity of the vocals.
Another great plugin to add to your arsenal.
The Pultec EQs are great for adding warmth and shine to a vocal performance.
With other EQ plugins, you may find that boosting the high frequencies is making the vocal sound harsh or too sibilant.
However, with the Plutec EQs, that doesn’t seem to be a problem because the boosts sound really crisp and add a little bit of magic.
Understanding how the bandwidth works will give you some really great sounding curves. So, make time to study how the bandwidth parameter works.
Honestly, I don’t use the MEQ-5 (midrange EQ) on vocals. I use the EQP-1A two-band equalizer.
If a vocal is sounding too thin then I’ll create a boost in the low-end to add warmth and some weight. To add sheen, air, and presence I usually boost above 12kHz with a wide bandwidth.
You can also use the Attenuation knobs together with the boosts to reduce boominess in the low-end or harshness in the higher frequencies.
Great plugin to have in your vocal chains.
For some engineers, it was really hard for them to move ITB (in the box) and quit using their analog SSL consoles.
Most would complain that the sound of their vocals in the DAW doesn’t sound the same when compared to their previous work. This is why most people are still using the SSL console because it has a distinct sound and character.
Fortunately, great companies such as Waves, UAD, and many others have created great sounding emulations.
SSL plugins offer a smooth console workflow and rich analog sound. These are so good to a point where if you do a blind test, even experts who work with SSL boards day in and day out can’t tell the difference.
When you push these plugins hard they react like a real console, and they add some awesome analog characteristics and warmth.
So, when you’re using SSL emulations, overdrive the input on the plugin till it hits the red lights. Pushing the gain into the red gives you pleasant sonic characteristics, like a real analog console.
You have to push it because if you don't, then it will react as a digital channel strip. You'll get a clean modern sound.
SSL EQ emulations are definitely a must-have in your list of EQ plugins for mixing vocals.
F6 Floating-Band Dynamic EQ
The Waves F6 is one of my favorite EQ plugins when it comes to doing surgical equalization.
It comes packed with a lot of features such as dynamic EQ, sidechain, mid/side processing, compression/expansion controls per band, and it has very low CPU consumption.
I also love the fact that the dynamic EQ section comes with attack and release parameters which gives me much more flexibility.
This is one of my go-to-plugins for fixing problems such as room resonance, nasal, harshness, rumble, etc.
I only use the Waves F6 for subtractive EQ purposes and not for boosting because it’s too transparent. For boosting, I prefer an EQ that adds analog characteristics and some personality.
Not to say the boosts are horrible, they’re just too clean and transparent for my liking.
Overall, it’s a great EQ plugin for mixing vocals and I use it all the time.
Softube Chandler Limited® Curve Bender
Lately, I’ve been enjoying the sound of the Curve Bender plugin on lead vocals.
The Curve Bender has some really silky high-end. The low-end is warm and tight.
This plugin also allows you to unlink the left and right channels so that you can process them differently. It also comes built-in with mid/side processing for more flexibility.
It’s subtle but yet very reliable, with carefully considered curves and exceptional quality means that you can boost with confidence.
One of those EQ plugins that are perfect for sculpting your vocals without a hint of harshness or bringing up sibilance.
The plugin really sounds so musical.
I have to mention that it’s designed for mastering, sounds great on the drum bus, but lately it’s been working great on lead vocals for me.
This one is a real crown jewel in your collection.
Brainworx bx_digital V3
The Brainworx bx_digital V3 is popular for its in-depth tone shaping and powerful M/S (mid/side) processing.
It also gives you much more flexibility when it comes to mid/side processing and working with left/right channels independently.
The dynamic EQ feature gives you added flexibility way beyond traditional de-essing when it comes to dealing with sibilance or harsh frequencies.
I mostly use this for surgical purposes to get a much cleaner vocal sound. However, when boosting the top-end with the bx_digital V3 you get expansive “air” and sheen with an extended frequency range.
A great plugin for fixing problems and sweetening your vocals.
It’s an awesome plugin that’s packed with a lot of features to help you get the best sound possible in one tool.
Dangerous BAX EQ
This plugin is the modeling of the hardware by Dangerous.
Old analog EQs were mostly passive but the BAX took a different approach, the BAX EQ is smooth. It features a world-class design of Peter Baxandall's legendary 1950's tone control.
I mostly use this one when I’m struggling to get a good balance (frequency-wise) for the vocals. It’s a really great plugin for shaping the tone of a vocal to get it to blend well with the other sounds in a mix.
One thing I don’t understand is how this plugin just makes a vocal sound like a final product, once you add the BAX EQ the vocals just sound finished.
This is why I always use it as the last plugin in my lead vocal bus or the entire vocal bus (including supporting vocals).
I have to mention that I only use it to sweeten a vocal, so I never use it for subtractive EQ purposes but additive only.
It has an amazing sound and I recommend you to check it out.
There you go, that's my list of the best EQ plugins for mixing vocals.
Now, I would like to hear from you.
Leave a comment below to let me know which of these plugins you use the most or if there's one of your favorite plugin(s) that I didn't mention.
Share some of your favorite EQ plugins with us.
Happy vocal mixing.