Top 10 Best Digital Parametric 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 equalizer plugins on the market. Though some parametric EQ plugins aim to emulate analog parametric EQ and even specific hardware EQs, there are plenty of digital EQ options to choose from. In this article, we’ll consider what I believe to be the top 10 stand-out digital parametric EQ plugins.

What is parametric audio equalization? Parametric EQ offers full customization of a set number of EQ filters. Each frequency band/filter may have the choice of filter type; centre/cutoff frequency, Q factor/bandwidth, and relative gain (boost/cut). It is the most flexible type of EQ.

To learn more about parametric EQ, check out my article The Complete Guide To Parametric Equalization/EQ.

The top 10 best digital parametric EQ plugins for digital audio workstations are:

  1. FabFilter Pro-Q 3
  2. Sonible smart:EQ 2
  3. Melda MAutoDynamicEq
  4. iZotope Neutron 3
  5. iZotope Ozone EQ
  6. Voxengo PrimeEQ
  7. Eiosis AirEQ
  8. Tokyo Dawn Records Nova GE
  9. DMG Audio EQuilibrium
  10. Waves Q10

It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 10 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 parametric EQ plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:

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

Let’s discuss each of the top 10 best parametric EQ plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.


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FabFilter Pro-Q 3

The FabFilter Pro-Q 3 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is an excellent fully parametric EQ plugin with up to 24 bands of completely customizable EQ filters.

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 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Linear Phase EQ Plugins For Your DAW

FabFilter Pro-Q 3 is exemplary of the company’s world-class plugins. This highly versatile, fully parametric EQ offers incredible sound quality and a beautiful resizable Retina user interface. Whatever you need in an EQ, the Pro-Q 3 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-sidestereo 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 parametric 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 parametric EQ plugin.

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 is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

This intelligent parametric 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 Sonible smart:EQ 2 user manual.


Melda MAutoDynamicEq

Melda MAutoDynamicEq (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) as the name would suggest, is a high-performance automatic EQ plugin with dynamic processing controls. It features 7 fully parametric bands.

Melda MAutoDynamicEq

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

The Melda MAutoDynamicEq is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW

This parametric EQ combines dynamic and automatic EQ functionality, making it a super flexible and remarkably powerful plugin.

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

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.

Each of the MAutoDynamicEq’s 7 bands is fully parametric, offering frequency, Q, gain and, as mentioned, dynamic controls.

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


iZotope Neutron 3

The iZotope Neutron 3 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a fully-featured 6-module mixing tool with intelligent Mix Assistant and Track Assistant technology that suggests an overall mix automatically. This super powerful mixing plugin features all the mixing essentials and includes, of course, a superb parametric EQ.

iZotope Neutron 3

The iZotope Neutron 3 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats. In addition to the Mix Assistant and Visual Mixer, it features 6 other modules: Sculptor, Transient Shaper, Exciter, Gate, Compressor and, of course, Equalizer.

The iZotope Neutron 3 is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 11 Best Channel Strip Plugins For Your DAW

This genuinely impressive mixing suite has an equally impressive equalizer module. Though we’ll focus on the Equalizer module in this article, feel free to check out the Neutron Documentation for more information on the plugin.

This powerful parametric EQ module features 4 different displays: Spectrum analyzer, composite EQ curve, Filter response curve and meter scales. Though we should be relying mostly on our ears when EQing a signal, these visual aids can certainly help us out.

Up to 12 fully parametric bands can be easily added and removed from the EQ, including a high-pass /high-shelf and low-pass/low-shelf filter. Each band features a discrete utility menu with static and dynamic mode controls (except the pass filters), as well as access to Neutron’s powerful sidechaining capabilities.

For more information on high-pass, low-pass and shelving 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?
• Audio Shelving EQ: What Are Low Shelf & High Shelf Filters?

In dynamic mode, each parametric band has its own threshold, direction (upward or downward) and sidechain parameters in addition to the Q, frequency and gain controls. Use the internal/program signal as the sidechain or any external signal to trigger the dynamic EQ bands. As the threshold is passed (can be set above or below), the resulting EQ boost or cut will engage.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Neutron 3 specifications at iZotope.

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


iZotope Ozone EQ

The iZotope Ozone 9 Equalizer Module (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is part of iZotope’s famed Ozone mastering suite. Its Equalizer module is among the best of the best parametric EQ plugins.

iZotope Ozone EQ

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 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Multiband Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Limiter Plugins For Your DAW

iZotope’s Ozone 9 actually contains three different EQ modules: the Equalizer, Dynamic EQ and Vintage EQ.

The Ozone 9 Equalizer Module is a versatile parametric 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.

Ozone 9’s Dynamic EQ features 8 parametric bands of adjustable filters and a variety of filter shapes. Use the Equalizer for the initial shaping of your master, then take advantage of Post-EQ later in the signal chain.

Note that the Vintage EQ is based on the famous Pultec equalizers, which are not fully parametric.

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

Within the Ozone 9 mastering suite, we can use the Equalizers 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.

The Ozone 9 Dynamic EQ and Equalizer bands can also be selected as analog minimum-phase IIR filters or as digital linear-phase FIT filters, depending on the desired results. The analog filters mesh together nicely when applied gently and do not create any pre-ringing, though they do cause frequency-dependent phase shift. The digital filters cost more CPU but are much more clinical and precise and do not cause phase-shift (though they are prone to pre-ringing).

To learn more about linear phase EQ, check out my article The Complete Guide To Linear Phase Equalization/EQ.

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


Voxengo PrimeEQ

The Voxengo PrimeEQ (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is a straightforward yet powerful “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 11 Best Digital Equalizer/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 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.


Eiosis AirEQ

The Eiosis AirEQ (link to check the price at Musician’s Friend) is a well-laid-out and user-friendly 7-band parametric 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 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

Eiosis has developed the AirEQ to be simple, intuitive and fast. This parametric EQ 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 powerful and highly versatile parametric EQ plugin with an impressive amount of functionality.

Tokyo Dawn Records Nova GE

The Tokyo Dawn Records 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 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW

Combining parallel parametric EQ capabilities with a full-featured dynamic processing section, the Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova is a seriously versatile parametric EQ plugin.

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 parametric 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 EQuilibrium is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

DMG Audio’s EQuilibrium is an excellent user-adaptable parametric 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.


Waves Q10

The Waves Q10 (link to check the price at Waves Audio) is a multiband paragraphic EQ with 10 bands of customizable high-precision equalization.

Waves Q10

The Waves Q10 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Waves’ Q10 is a superb equalizer for mixing and mastering. It’s incredibly precise, easy to use and optimal for subtle colouring and surgical repairing alike.

Users can choose between the classic Legacy or the new Modern user interface to best suit their workflow. Processing control can be selected between 32-bit and double-precision 64-bit processing. Each GUI offers easy access to the well-defined controls of this awesome parametric EQ.

Each of the 10 bands offers 6 different filter types and complete control over the gain, frequency and Q. The Waves Q10 is configurable either as two independent mono equalizers or as a high-precision stereo equalizer.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves Q10 user manual.

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

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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