Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW 2021


We’re currently living in the age of digital audio, and in-the-box mixing within a digital audio workstation is commonplace. Plugins are, therefore, invaluable assets for the modern audio engineer. Equalization is considered to be one of the most important tools in the audio engineer’s toolbox.

So then it makes sense how there are so many EQ plugins on the market. Though some EQ plugins aim to emulate analog equalizers and even specific hardware EQ, there are plenty of digital EQ options to choose from. In this article, we’ll consider what I believe to be the top 11 stand-out digital EQ plugins.

What is audio equalization? EQ is the process of adjusting the balance between frequencies within an audio signal. This process increases or decreases the relative amplitudes of some frequency bands compared to other bands with filters, boosts and cuts. EQ is used in mixing, tone shaping, crossovers, feedback control and more.

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

The top 11 best digital EQ plugins for digital audio workstations are:

  1. FabFilter Pro-Q 3
  2. Sonible smart:EQ 2
  3. Sound Radix SurferEQ 2
  4. iZotope Ozone 9 Equalizer Module
  5. Voxengo PrimeEQ
  6. Melda MAutoDynamicEq
  7. Soundtheory Gullfoss
  8. Eiosis AirEQ
  9. Tokyo Dawn Records Nova GE
  10. DMG Audio EQuilibrium
  11. Wavesfactory Spectre

It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 11 to be different than mine but hope that there would be plenty of overlap.

That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best digital EQ plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:

  • Sonic performance: how does the digital EQ plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
  • Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the digital EQ plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
  • Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the digital EQ plugin?
  • Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the digital EQ?
  • Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the digital EQ plugin and what are the system requirements?

Let’s discuss each of the top 11 best digital EQ plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.


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FabFilter Pro-Q 3

First up on this list is the fabulous FabFilter Pro-Q 3 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique). This EQ plugin is championed by professionals and amateurs alike as one of the most powerful EQ plugins ever.

FabFilter Pro-Q 3

The FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU and VST formats.

The FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Linear Phase EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW

FabFilter’s line of products may be small, but their plugins are world-class. The Pro-Q 3 digital EQ is a perfect representation of this fact.

This highly versatile EQ offers incredible sound quality and a beautiful resizable Retina user interface. Whatever you need in an EQ, this plugin has it (I’ve added links for more detailed articles on each EQ type/function):

  • Linear phase option
  • Zero-latency option
  • Natural phase option
  • Dynamic EQ capabilities
  • Per-band mono, mid-side, stereo and surround (up to Dolby Atmos 7.1.2) processing
  • Intelligent solo feature
  • Auto gain option
  • Fully customizable spectrum analyzer (Pre-EQ, Post-EQ and external spectrum visualization)

This fully parametric digital EQ offers up to 24 user-defined bands. Add bands as you wish and select between 9 different filter shapes with slopes from 6 dB/oct to 96 dB/oct. The high-pass and low-pass filters even have a “brickwall” slope setting. Quickly add and adjust bands within the spectrum analyzer to achieve the exact EQ you need.

To learn more about high-pass and low-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Audio EQ: What Is A High-Pass Filter & How Do HPFs Work?
Audio EQ: What Is A Low-Pass Filter & How Do LPFs Work?

The Pro-Q 3 also provides superb EQ match functionality. Other features include optional collision detection for external spectrum visualization, piano roll EQ quantization, various display ranges, phase inversion and output level metering.

In typical FabFilter fashion, the Pro-Q 3 comes with interactive MIDI Learn, undo/redo and A/B switches, Smart Parameter Interpolation, “Help” documentation with interactive hints, sample-accurate automation, double-click text entry of parameter values and more.

All of this power and functionality and the Pro-Q 3 uses minimal CPU and memory. Whether you need one instance or several hundred, the Pro Q-3 won’t slow you down (unless you’re using linear phase).

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 user manual.

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


Sonible smart:EQ 2

The Sonible smart:EQ 2 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique), as the name suggests, is an intelligent EQ plugin. It sounds amazing and works effectively to EQ what is appropriate for nearly all DAW situations.

Sonible smart:EQ 2

The Sonible smart:EQ 2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Sonible smart:EQ 2 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

This intelligent EQ plugin utilizes Sonible’s proprietary smart:engine learning engine and artificial intelligence to correct tonal imbalances in audio signals with incredible precision and dependability. The Sonible smart:EQ 2 effectively analyzes the audio and generates a custom EQ curve to produce a natural-sounding balance.

Though the sonic possibilities are virtually endless, the smart:EQ 2 is incredibly focused on achieving the best results with the fastest workflow. A few parameter adjustments will allow the smart:EQ 2 to augment the detail and clarity of a mix with ease.

Not only is the A.I. expedient in analyzing and producing results, but the intuitive user interface is also a blessing for improving workflow speed. With easily accessible controls and a high-definition analyzer (with pre, post and pre/post settings), we can efficiently get the results we’re after in a fraction of the time it would take with classic EQ units.

The smart:EQ 2 offers plenty of filter options and even includes mid-side processing.

The smart:EQ 2 comes with several profiles (presets) for content-aware audio processing and allows users to save their own. These profiles will provide a superb starting point for EQ and adapt to the audio signal in question to generate professional results with a simple click of a button.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the smart:EQ 2 specifications at Sonible.


Sound Radix SurferEQ 2

The Sound Radix SurferEQ 2 (link to check the price at Musician’s Friend) is a forward-thinking pitch-tracking equalizer plugin specialized for EQing monophonic instrument tracks.

Sound Radix SurferEQ 2

The Sound Radix SurferEQ 2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Th Sound Radix SurferEQ 2 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

Sound Radix defines its SurferEQ 2 as a “radically musical, creative timbre shaper”. This specialized EQ plugin works by tracking the pitch of a monophonic instrument or a vocal source and adapting its frequency bands to suit the musical pitch in real-time.

In this way, the EQ maintains the natural harmonic profile of the source material as the notes change. While standard EQs remain static and alter the timbre of note across an instrument’s range, the SurferEQ 2 follows the musical notes, ensuring the applied EQ is always relative to the harmonic content of the current note.

Any combination of the SurferEQ 2’s seven bands can be set to Surf mode (rather than static mode) to track the pitch of the monophonic audio source. The filters of these bands are based on superior algorithms, emulating asymmetrical analog filters that continue to sound natural even when pushed to the extremes.

Choose between high-pass, low-pass, shelf, bell or Sound Radix’s unique four-mode harmonic filter that controls the entire harmonic series of a given note value with a single band.

To learn more about shelving EQ, check out my article Audio Shelving EQ: What Are Low Shelf & High Shelf Filters?

In addition to following the input signal, these “surfing bands” can also be controlled via MIDI or even via a sidechain signal.

With superior pitch detection and versatile EQ functionality, the SurferEQ 2 is an excellent tool for equalizing monophonic instruments and vocals.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the SoundRadix SurferEQ 2 user manual.


iZotope Ozone 9 Equalizer Module

The iZotope Ozone 9 Equalizer Module (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is part of iZotope’s famed Ozone mastering suite.

iZotope Ozone 9 Equalizer Module

The iZotope Ozone 9 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The iZotope Ozone 9 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW

iZotope’s Ozone 9 actually contains three different EQ modules: the Equalizer, Dynamic EQ and Vintage EQ. Though all three of these EQs are excellent in their own right, in this article about standard digital-style EQ plugins, we’ll focus specifically on the Equalizer module.

The Ozone 9 Equalizer Module is a versatile EQ combining asymmetrical analog-matched filters with high-precision digital linear phase filters. Whether we’re the gentle warmth of analog-style EQ or the surgical exactness of digital-style EQ, the Ozone 9 Equalizer will deliver superior results without fail.

The Equalizer Module offers up to 8 bands, each with a variety of fully adjustable filter shapes. Choose from Baxandall bass and treble, API-inspired proportional Q, band shelf, and resonant high and low shelf filters, along with FIR (finite impulse response) filters for ultra-precise linear phase equalization.

Within the Ozone 9 mastering suite, we can use the Equalizer for the initial shaping of the master bus and follow it up with the Post-EQ later in the signal chain. Of course, the Equalizer Module can also be used on its own to EQ individual tracks or mix buses with superb results.

Use the Ozone 9 in stereo (left/right) or mid-side processing modes to ensure the stereo field is being EQed to your exact liking.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Ozone 9 specifications at iZotope.

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


Voxengo PrimeEQ

The Voxengo PrimeEQ (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a relatively simple “drag and drop” style parametric EQ plugin.

Voxengo PrimeEQ

The Voxengo PrimeEQ is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Voxengo PrimeEQ is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

Voxengo designed the PrimeEQ to be user-friendly. The user interface is optimized with a differential display to show exactly how each band affects the overall EQ curve. Up to 32 individual parametric filters can be added to and drag around the display and there are 13 filter types to choose from. All control points are adjustable on the overall EQ shape, further improving the already efficient workflow of the PrimeEQ.

This zero-latency equalizer plugin provides a real-time FFT spectrum analyzer for the processed audio. The transparent equalization can be used to shape the sound of individual tracks, stereo signals and busses, and even 5.1 surround formats.

Voxengo has also included a preset manager, undo/redo history, and A/B comparison features to streamline its superb equalization even further. If you’re ever stuck trying to figure something out in this plugin, there are also contextual hint messages to help you unlock the full potential of this powerful EQ plugin.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Voxengo PrimeEQ user manual.


Melda MAutoDynamicEq

The Melda MAutoDynamicEq (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique), as the name would suggest, is high-performance automatic EQ plugin with dynamic processing controls.

Melda MAutoDynamicEq

The Melda MAutoDynamicEq is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Melda Production MAutoDynamicEq is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW

Though I tried to stay away from dynamic EQs in this list, I couldn’t help myself with the MAutoDynamicEq from MeldaProductions. The combination of dynamic and automatic EQ functionality makes this plugin a top contender for the “best digital EQ plugin”.

The sound of the MAutoDynamicEq is unbelievably transparent and musical-sounding, and with so much functionality built into its design, the plugin is remarkably good-looking.

Within the resizable interface, the MAutoDynamicEq shows the results of your processing along with an integrated analyzer, sonogram, spectrum areas and more.

Automatic equalization is a super powerful tool in the MAutoDynamicEq plugin. This plugin does an amazing job of matching the overall EQ of an audio signal to a defined source. The source could be a predefined analysis, a separate source recording, a user-defined EQ curve or a pre-recorded mixed or mastered track. Set up the auto EQ and let the plugin do its magic, setting up the EQ bands for you.

On the dynamic side of things, the MAutoDynamicEq features expertly crafted dynamic filters complete with sidechain control. De-essing or bass drum enhancement are made easy without the need to reach for a compressor. This superb plugin can provide the necessary dynamic control whilst also offering beautiful equalization.

To learn more about sidechain signals and their role in dynamic processing, check out my article The Complete Guide To Sidechain Compression In Audio.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the MAutoDynamicEq support page at MeldaProduction.


Soundtheory Gullfoss

The Soundtheory Gullfoss (link to check the price at Soundtheory) is another standout intelligent equalizer designed to be wonderfully user-friendly.

Soundtheory Gullfoss

The Soundtheory Gullfoss is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Soundtheory programmed the Gullfoss to sound incredible and be incredibly easy to use. The super clean user interface presents users with the necessary EQ parameters, allowing for fast and effective improvement of clarity, detail, spatiality, and balance of the audio being processed.

This intelligent EQ plugin is able to analyze audio signals and apply EQ curves that enhance the most important information of the audio. Soundtheory’s proprietary computational auditory perception model effectively defines which audible elements are competing for your attention and EQs the audio signal in a way that carves out its special place in a mix.

Soundtheory takes this idea a step further, with the Gullfoss being able to balance issues within a mix bus without even accessing individual problem tracks. The internal auditory model of the Gullfoss will work to improve overall mixes with objective computations about perceived sound. As if this is too good to be true, the additional benefit of this intelligent equalization is a more consistent mix across varying listening situations.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Soundtheory Gullfoss user manual.


Eiosis AirEQ

The Eiosis AirEQ (link to check the price at Musician’s Friend) is a well-laid-out and user-friendly 7-band EQ plugin designed with musical, technical and sonic excellence.

Eiosis AirEQ

The Eiosis AirEQ is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and RTAS (32-bit only) formats.

The Eiosis AirEQ is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

Eiosis has developed the AirEQ to be simple, intuitive and fast. The plugin sounds incredible and is remarkably powerful, given its relative simplicity.

This plugin offers transparent EQ and zero-latency processing, affording users high-end equalization in real-time without demanding much CPU. It’s deeply impressive as a tracking, mixing and mastering EQ.

The Character parameter of the AirEQ alters the resonance and shape of each band “beyond analog”. Slide the control from Water through Neutral to Fire to a variety of EQ flavours.

  • Water: the smoothest sound possible, open and natural, ideal for transparency. Clear highs, compact bass and balanced mids.
  • Fire: very tight and focused sound, with punch and impact, ideal for precision. Snappy mids, sharp highs and powerful lows.
  • Neutral: the usual equalization curves, perfectly matched to their analog references.

Adjust the low-end and high-end intuitively with the Earth and Air parameters, respectively. Use the strength knob to bring in some of the original signal for easy parallel equalization.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Eiosis AirEQ user manual.


Tokyo Dawn Records Nova GE

The Tokyo Dawn Records Nova (link to check the price at PluginFox) is a highly versatile and super powerful EQ plugin with an impressive amount of functionality.

Tokyo Dawn Records Nova GE

The Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova GE is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW

Yes, I’ve done it again, adding a dynamic EQ to the list. The Nova is considered a parallel dynamic equalizer, combining parallel parametric EQ capabilities with a full-featured dynamic processing section.

Needless to say, this superb plugin has plenty of applications. It may not be the most intuitive plugin, but once you understand what’s under the hood and how to use it, it becomes a forceful plugin for many tasks.

The drag and drop display makes things easy with the Nova GE. Combine this functionality with the classic virtual knobs, and users can quickly dial in parameters in several ways.

This plugin features 4 dynamic EQ bands along with high and low-pass filters. These filters can be utilized for general parametric EQ, dynamic EQ, frequency-selective compression (i.e. de-essing), multiband compression, wideband compression and more.

To learn more about multiband compression, check out my article What Is Multiband Compression & How Do MB Compressors Work?

Use the Mix knob to attain parallel EQ and take full advantage of the preset manager, undo/redo, A/B comparison, detailed documentation, copy & paste, and other top-notch functions.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Tokyo Dawn Records Nova GE user manual.


DMG Audio EQuilibrium

The DMG Audio EQuilibrium (link to check the price at DMG Audio) is a custom-designed EQ tool for audio professionals, drawing upon 50 years of EQ heritage.

DMG Audio EQuilibrium

The DMG Audio EQuilibrium is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

The DMG Audio is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

DMG Audio’s EQuilibrium is an excellent user-adaptable EQ with an impressive feature set, capable of handling all critical equalization applications. It demands very little CPU and can be selected to work in FIR mode, Linear, Analogue, Minimum, Zero-Latency Analogue or even Free Phase control.

This plugin has 32 fully parametric bands of EQ with adjustable Q and a ±36 dB gain range. Choose between peak, high-pass, low-pass, shelf, bells or notch filters in digital or analog styles. Use it in stereo, mid-side or even surround sound.

To learn more about notch filters, check out my article Audio EQ: What Is A Band-Stop Filter & How Do BSFs Work?

Configure the user interface to benefit your specific workflow. Choose the analyzer style or spectrograph in the display and set up a piano roll for instrument equalization, among many other features.

To cover all the features of this spectacular EQ plugin, I would need an entirely separate article. For more information on this top pick, check out the user manual in the link of the following paragraph.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the DMG Audio EQuilibrium user manual.


Wavesfactory Spectre

The Wavesfactory Spectre (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a two-for-one plugin, combining the best features of graphical parametric EQ with those of a sonic enhancer. Along with outstanding EQ functionality, the Spectre offers amazing saturation to really improve the sound and clarity of audio.

Wavesfactory Spectre

The Wavesfactory Spectre is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Let’s think of the Wavesfactory Spectre as a bonus “digital EQ” plugin. Though it works in similar ways to an EQ, this special processor isn’t exactly an equalizer.

Rather, the Wavesfactory Spectre works as a sort of multi-band saturator and 5-band parallel graphic equalizer.

The plugin will analyze two distinct signals: the input signal and the EQed signal. It will then process the difference between the two signals, introducing harmonic content according to the selected high-quality saturation algorithm.

There are 10 algorithms, each based on classic analog recording hardware. The options are Tube, warm tube, solid, tape, diode, class B, bit, digital, rectify and half rectify. There are also 3 saturation modes: subtle, medium and aggressive, that will affect the overall sound of the plugin.

Though distortion is largely the purpose of this plugin, the Spectre features optional 4x and 16x oversampling modes that offer pristine audio quality with no aliasing. In other words, it produced good distortion while eliminating bad distortion.

The plugin can process mono, stereo, left, right, mid and side channels on each band independently. With the de-emphasis feature, the Spectre can even compensate for EQ boosts after the saturation stage, adding multi-band saturation to the signal without changing the overall levels of the audio signal.

Ultimately, the Spectre works like a digital graphic EQ but produces results as if an EQ and saturator were mixed together.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Wavesfactory Spectre user manual.

Arthur

Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement (hikersmovement.com) or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

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