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The Complete Guide To Graphic Equalization/EQ

My New Microphone The Complete Guide To Graphic Equalization/EQ

Graphic EQ is one of the common equalization types in audio technology and deserves a full article dedicated to its explanation.

What is graphic audio equalization? Graphic equalization is a style of EQ where predetermined bands centred around set frequencies with set Q factors that can be either boosted (amplified) or cut (attenuated). The name comes from the fact that the EQ settings of a graphic EQ unit typically look very obvious and “graphic”.

In this article, we'll discuss graphic EQ in great detail, focusing on how it works to apply equalization and the situations/applications it is best suited to serve.

Related My New Microphone articles:
Top 8 Best Graphic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 11 Best EQ/Equalization Tips For Mixing (Overall)


A Primer On EQ

Before we get to dynamic EQ in more detail (skip ahead by clicking here), let’s quickly go over the definition of EQ.

As an audio process, equalization alters the relative balance/amplitude between frequencies in an audio signal. EQ uses filters to either increase or decrease the amplitude of some frequency bands compared to other frequency bands. It is used extensively in mixing, tone shaping, crossovers, feedback control and more.

Boosting and cutting refer to the increasing and decreasing of the relative amplitude of defined frequency bands, respectively.

Electronic filters are often described as processes that eliminate frequency content below, above or between two set frequency points. In the context of EQ, a filter (such as a “bell” or “peak” filter) can also be used to produce the previously mentioned boosting/cutting without affecting all frequencies beyond a certain point.

The range in which an EQ filter will act up is typically referred to as a band. Graphic EQs, as we'll find out, have fixed bands (and often plenty of them)!

Whether graphic or otherwise, EQ is one of the most important tools for working with audio.

For more information on EQ in general, check out my Complete Guide To Audio Equalization & EQ Hardware/Software.

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What Is Graphic Equalization?

Now that we know what EQ is, let's talk more specifically about graphic EQ.

As the name would suggest, graphic EQ gives users a pretty descriptive visual representation of how it affects the audio.

Graphic EQ does so with a set number of fixed frequency bands across the audible frequency spectrum. The number of bands, of course, depends on the EQ in question.

Each band has a defined centre frequency and Q value with controllable gain via a fader. The graphic EQ, as a whole, is made up of a bank of faders.

These bell/peak-type filters can be boosted or cut. Generally speaking, the bandwidth of each band is set so that there is minimal interference and phase complications with adjacent bands, though there will always be some amount of interaction.

Increasing the number of bands in a graphic EQ will mean narrowing each band's bandwidth and offering greater control and resolution over the equalization of the signal.

Typically the 0 dB gain spot will be midway between the fader's maximum and minimum positions. Pushing the fader upward will increase the band's gain (relative amplitude), while pushing the fader downward will decrease the gain (relative amplitude) of the band.

This is a lot easier to describe visually, so let's have a look at a screenshot of the Waves GEQ Graphic Equalizer: a graphic EQ plugin.

The following image shows a single channel of graphic EQ with 30 bands and gain variation between ±6 dB:

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Waves GEQ Graphic Equalizer

The way this graphic EQ is laid out has 3 bands per octave. An octave is defined as a doubling in frequency (since frequency values are logarithmic).

The centre frequencies of the Waves GEQ are as follows:

  1. 25 Hz
  2. 31 Hz
  3. 40 Hz
  4. 50 Hz
  5. 63 Hz
  6. 80 Hz
  7. 100 Hz
  8. 125 Hz
  9. 160 Hz
  10. 200 Hz
  11. 250 Hz
  12. 315 Hz
  13. 400 Hz
  14. 500 Hz
  15. 630 Hz
  16. 800 Hz
  17. 1,000 Hz
  18. 1,250 Hz
  19. 1,600 Hz
  20. 2,000 Hz
  21. 2,500 Hz
  22. 3,150 Hz
  23. 4,000 Hz
  24. 5,000 Hz
  25. 6,300 Hz
  26. 8,000 Hz
  27. 10,000 Hz
  28. 12,500 Hz
  29. 16,000 Hz
  30. 20,000 Hz

Each band's gain control fader has 0 dB (no gain) as the midway point of the fader. By adjusting the faders and affecting the relative gain, we can easily see how the graphic EQ is affecting the signal's equalization across the bank of faders. Hence the name “graphic EQ”.

As an example, let's consider the Waves GEQ once again. As we can see, graphically, in the picture below, I've left most frequency bands alone but set up a fairly abrupt 6 dB low shelf cut below 50 Hz and a more gentle 3 dB high shelf boost above 4 kHz:

mnm Waves GEB HS Boost HPF | My New Microphone
Waves GEQ Graphic Equalizer

How Are Graphic Equalizers Used?

In audio mixing, graphic EQs are often passed over for the more flexible parametric varieties. However, that's not to say that graphic EQs are necessarily inferior. They can be used to achieve very similar results.

That being said, there are some instances where graphic EQs are commonplace:

  • Eliminating problem frequencies: noise, resonances and other nasty frequencies can be found and removed by first boosting bands to find the problem frequency and subsequently cutting those bands.
  • Feedback elimination: similar to problem frequencies. Can be used effectively in live sound situations to “tune the room”.
  • Tone shaping: shaping the tone/character of an audio signal/track by EQing it in a specific way.
  • Tuning monitors/speakers: monitors and speakers are imperfect electro-acoustic transducers that may benefit from a graphic EQ. Some stereo system amps/receivers have built-in graphic EQ (though shelving EQ is more popular in these devices)

Examples Of Graphic Equalizers

Before we wrap things up, it’s always a great idea to consider some examples. Let’s look at 5 different graphic equalizers to help solidify our understanding of this EQ type.

In this section, we’ll discuss:

BAE Audio G10

The BAE G10 is a 10-band graphic EQ designed in the 500 series form factor.

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BAE Audio G10

This simple graphic EQ has centre frequencies at 31, 62, 125, 250, 500, 1k, 2k, 4k, 8k and 16k Hertz that can each be a boost or cut of ±12 dB. In addition to the 10 bands described, the G10 also has selectable high-pass and low-pass filters, tuned at 80 Hz (10 dB/octave) and 12 kHz (6 dB/octave), respectively.

The Best 500 Series Equalizers

For the best 500 Series equalizer options, check out my article Top 11 Best 500 Series Equalizers On The Market.

BAE

BAE is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment.

dbx 231S

The dbx 231s is a rack-mounted stereo graphic equalizer with 31 bands (3 per octave) per channel.

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dbx 231S

Both stereo channels include an input gain control with ±12 dB of gain along with a selectable low-cut (high-pass) filter at 50 Hz 12 dB/octave and a switch to increase the boost/cut range between ±6 and ±12 dB.

dbx

dbx is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World.

MXR M108S

The MXR M108S Ten Band EQ is an excellent 10-band graphic EQ effect pedal.

mnm MXR M108S | My New Microphone
MXR M108S

In addition to the 10 bands (each with its own ±12 dB cut/boost fader), the M108S EQ pedal has a volume control (±12 dB) and a boost/gain (±12 dB).

The Best EQ Pedals

For the best EQ pedal options, check out my article Top 12 Best EQ Pedals For Guitar & Bass.

MXR

MXR is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.

Music Thing Modular Graphic EQ

The Music Thing Modular Graphic EQ is a Eurorack graphic EQ with 7 bands.

mnm 300x300 Music Thing Modular Graphic EQ 1 | My New Microphone
Music Thing Modular Graphic EQ

This simple graphic EQ unit is based on the revered Boss GE-7 pedal and has centre frequencies at 63, 160, 410, 1k, 2.5k, 7.7k and 16k Hertz. Each band is adjustable by ±15 dB.

Waves GEQ

The Waves GEQ Graphic Equalizer is a stereo 30-band graphic EQ plugin.

mnm Waves GEQ Plugin | My New Microphone
Waves GEQ

This EQ plugin offers three graphic bands per octave for a total of 30 bands per channel. Each band can be boost/cut by up to ±18 dB (with ±6, ±12 and ±18 settings).

The left and right channels each have an independent high-pass and low-pass filter along with a single parametric bell-curve filter and gain control.

The Best Graphic EQ Plugins

For the best graphic EQ plugin options, check out My New Microphone's Top 8 Best Graphic EQ Plugins.

Waves

Waves is featured in My New Microphone's Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.


What are the different types of EQ? When it comes to audio equalization, there are several types of EQ to be aware of. They are as follows:

Should every track be EQed in an audio mix? As a general rule, equalization should be used with intent and, therefore, only be used on every track in the case that every track would require it. More often than not, there will be certain tracks in a mix that sound perfectly fine without EQ.

Though not always necessary, EQ can be used to achieve the following (and more):

  • Correct The Response Of A Microphone
  • Adjust Perceived Depth
  • Cut Problem Frequencies
  • Filter Out Low-End Rumble
  • Accentuate Characteristic Frequencies
  • De-Essing (Dynamic EQ)

Determining the best equalizer for your audio needs takes time, knowledge and effort. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Equalizer Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next EQ purchases.


Choosing the right effects pedals for your applications and budget can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Effects Pedal Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next pedal/stompbox purchase.


Choosing the best audio plugins for your DAW can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Audio Plugins Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next audio plugin purchases.


Building out your 500 Series system can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive 500 Series Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next 500 Series purchases.


Building your Eurorack system can be overwhelming. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Eurorack Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next Eurorack purchases.

New To Mixing? Check Out My FREE In-Depth Article:

What Are The Step-By-Steps Of Mixing Music?

Make the right decisions at the right times to craft professional mixes!


Leave A Comment!

Have any thoughts, questions or concerns? I invite you to add them to the comment section at the bottom of the page! I'd love to hear your insights and inquiries and will do my best to add to the conversation. Thanks!

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.

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