Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW In 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, and more specifically dynamic equalization, is an important tool in the audio engineer’s toolbox.

So then it makes sense why there are plenty of dynamic equalizer plugins on the market. In this article, we’ll consider what I believe to be the top 10 stand-out dynamic EQ plugins.

What is dynamic audio equalization? Dynamic EQ is a type of equalization where the EQ of certain frequencies is triggered dynamically as those frequencies surpass a set amplitude threshold in the audio signal. Dynamic EQ, like a compressor, will have threshold, attack and release settings to alter the EQ of a signal dynamically.

To learn more about dynamic EQ, check out my in-depth article The Complete Guide To Dynamic Equalization/EQ.

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

  1. iZotope Neutron 3
  2. iZotope Ozone 9 EQ
  3. Waves F6
  4. Wavesfactory Trackspacer
  5. Tokyo Dawn Records Nova
  6. Melda MAutoDynamicEq
  7. OEKSound Soothe2
  8. McDSP AE400
  9. Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3
  10. Sound Radix SurferEQ 2

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 dynamic EQ plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:

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

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


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iZotope Neutron 3 Equalizer

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 dynamic 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 My New Microphone’s Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

To learn more about compressors, check out my article The Complete Guide To Audio Compression & Compressors.

This deeply 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 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 band has its own threshold, direction (upward or downward) and sidechain parameters. 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 9 EQ

The iZotope Ozone 9 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is an industry-leading mastering suite containing all the necessary components of a high-end professional mastering chain. Ozone 9 actually features 3 different EQ modules, including the Equalizer, Vintage EQ and, of course, the Dynamic EQ.

iZotope Ozone 9 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 Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW

Ozone 9’s Dynamic EQ features 8 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.

The Ozone 9 Dynamic EQ bands can 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.

Each band has a fully parametric filter with frequency, Q and gain controls. The dynamic parameters include attack, release, threshold, offset and direction (upward or downward) controls. This ultimately gives the user a great deal of control over both the EQ and dynamics of the signal and that’s not including the other excellent modules of the Ozone 9 mastering suite!

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


Waves F6

The Waves F6 (link to check the price at Waves) is a surgical dynamic EQ with 6 fully adjustable parametric bands and a high and low-pass filter.

Waves F6

The Waves API 2500 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

Waves Audio is one of the best plugin designers in the world. The company’s F6 dynamic EQ plugin is fully representative of the superb programming and design that goes into its top-of-the-line plugins.

The F6 is a highly functional equalizer plugin. Each of its 6 parametric bands offers advanced EQ and compression/expansion control. From surgical cuts and de-essing to improved “breathing” in the mix, this superb dynamic EQ performs among the best.

For more information on parametric bands and EQ, check out my article The Complete Guide To Parametric Equalization/EQ.

The free-floating bands of the F6 offer superior equalization control with variable EQ shapes and Q values. Adjust the threshold and gain controls to create the ideal amount of dynamic compression or expansion within the defined range.

This plugin includes a feature-rich, FFT-based real-time frequency spectrum analyzer with adjustable resolution and reaction speed.

Dynamic EQ can be applied to mono, stereo or mid-side processed signals, and the plugin offers simple parallel compression/EQ functionality.

The sidechain can be either internal or external and can be detected by its peak or RMS values.

To learn more about peak and RMS detection in dynamic processing, check out my article Peak Vs. RMS Dynamic Range Compressors In Audio.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves F6 user manual.

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


Wavesfactory Trackspacer

The Wavesfactory Trackspacer (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is dynamic EQ designed specifically to apply inverse EQ curves to a signal relative to an external sidechain.

Wavesfactory Trackspacer

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

Though the Trackspacer may be limited in terms of functionality, as a sidechain dynamic EQ, it works incredibly well and is super easy to use. It effectively creates space in a mix by carving the frequencies that a given track needs. By reading the frequency information of an external sidechain signal, the Trackspacer applies an inverse EQ curve to the program signal, thereby boosting and cutting appropriate frequencies for improved clarity in real-time.

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

In other words, this plugin offers dynamic mirrored equalization in real-time, all with the simple turn of a knob! It utilizes an internal 32-band EQ to analyze and react to the incoming sidechain signal and uses this information to EQ the program signal. Use the Amount knob to control the intensity of the resulting gain boosts and cuts.

The transparent dynamic mirroring EQ can be frozen (made static) if the user happens upon a perfect static EQ curve. Otherwise, the plugin with continuously read the sidechain and make adjustments to the program EQ. The attack and release times of the dynamic processing can also be adjusted, just like in a typical compressor.

The program and sidechain signals can be further EQed with a high-pass and low-pass filter to improve the overall results. The Trackspacer can be applied to the full stereo field, the left or right channels only, the mid or side channels only, or anything in between.

To learn more about stereo and mid-side EQ, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
What Is Stereo Equalization/EQ In Audio & How Does It Work?
What Is Mid-Side Equalization/EQ (Audio) & How Does It Work?

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


Tokyo Dawn Records Nova

The Tokyo Dawn Records Nova (link to check the price at PluginFox) s a highly versatile and super powerful EQ plugin with an impressive dynamic equalization mode.

Tokyo Dawn Records Nova

The Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR Nova 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 Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW

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 equalizer (no dynamic EQ is overly intuitive). However, once understood, this powerful plugin becomes an effective tool in plenty of audio applications.

Each of Nova’s 6 EQ bands (4 fully parametric plus a high-pass and low-pass filter) has its own dynamic controls. The bands can be controlled by internal or external sidechain signals to compress and/or expand defined areas in the frequency spectrum as the triggering signal goes below or above a specified threshold.

The band filter can also be used without the dynamic controls for typical parametric 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?

The drag and drop display and classic virtual knobs allow users can quickly dial in the parameters necessary for the desired style of compression.

Other notable features of the TDR Nova include:

  • Mix knob for parallel compression/EQ
  • Preset manager
  • Undo/redo
  • A/B comparison
  • Detailed documentation
  • Copy & paste

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Tokyo Dawn Records Nova 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 MAutoDynamicEq is also featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW

The Melda MAutoDynamicEq combines dynamic and automatic EQ functionality in one powerful plugin. From its transparent and musical sound to its superior functionality and beautiful GUI, the MAutoDynamicEq is fully deserving of a spot on this list.

This dynamic EQ has 7 bands complete with gorgeous-sounding variable-slope dynamic filters and sidechain control. Whether the task is de-essing, ducking, compression, expansion or any other creative dynamic control, the Melda MAutoDynamicEq is capable of delivering world-class results. With flexible high-pass and low-pass filters, it’s can effectively be used as a one-stop-shop for both EQ and dynamic needs.

The MAutoDynamicEq shows the results of your processing along with an integrated analyzer, sonogram, spectrum areas and more, all packaged in a stunning resizable interface.

On top of incredible dynamic processing, the automatic equalization of the MAutoDynamic EQ is super powerful. Matching the overall EQ of an audio signal to a defined source is made easy and automatic with the press of a button. This defined 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.

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


OEKSound Soothe2

The OEKSound Soothe2 (link to check the price at OEKSound) is a dynamic resonance suppressor designed to automatically identify problematic resonances and apply the appropriate gain reduction to the resonant frequencies in real-time.

OEKSound Soothe2 EQ

The OEKSound Soothe2 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

OEKSound’s Soothe2 is perhaps more of a utility/audio repair tool than a musical EQ. However, this powerful plugin works on the same principles as dynamic EQ and deserves a shout-out in this list.

The Soothe2, as discussed, identifies problematic resonances in real-time and applies matching reduction automatically. It’s effectively a dynamic multiband notch filter. By only reducing problem frequencies when it’s absolutely crucial to do so, this surgical dynamic EQ retains the original tone and timbre of the audio signal while providing transparent treatment with minimal sonic artifacts.

This plugin can be set up with relative ease and can truly work wonders on less-than-ideal audio sources. A few applications of the Soothe2 include:

  • Removing harshness from close-miked sound sources
  • Transparently managing sibilance in vocals and dialogue
  • Treating uneven tonal balance from suboptimal recordings
  • Clearing muddiness, boominess, and proximity effect
  • Softening overly bright guitar and piano recordings
  • Taming piercing synth sounds

From the home studio to the professional movie studio, the OEKSound Soothe2 provides a superb tool for achieving the best, most transparent results in fixing audio that has particularly problematic resonances.

The soft mode is a more transparent and easy-to-use fixer-upper, while the hard mode lets you hone in on extreme resonances and energy build-ups. With dynamic controls, including attack and release time parameters, the processing of the Soothe2 can be adjusted to maintain or even enhance resonant transients for interesting results.

To learn more about dynamic processing attack and release times, check out my article Dynamic Range Compression: Attack & Release Controls.

This dynamic EQ can be set up in mid-side mode, on a per-band basis or across the entire frequency spectrum. It has external sidechain capabilities if need be and is surprisingly fast-acting with low latency, considering its involved processing.

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Soothe2 specifications at OEKSound.


McDSP AE400

The McDSP AE400 (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) is an advanced 4-band active equalizer with superb dynamic processing capabilities.

McDSP AE400

The McDSP AE400 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX DSP/Native, AU and VST formats.

McDSP’s AE400 features 4 superb bands, each with its own Q/bandwidth, gain and active/dynamic controls. It resembled a multiband compressor and is relatively easy to understand visually compared to many other dynamic EQs. If you’re comfortable with multiband compressors, then the McDSP AE400 will feel very familiar.

Of course, the AE400 is a dynamic EQ and, therefore, has a few advantages over typical multiband compressors. These benefits include boosting in addition to cutting, improved phase response without crossovers and improved control over each band.

As we’d expect, each band has its own threshold, attack and release settings. Like most multiband compressors and unlike most dynamic EQs, the AE400 features a ratio control for each of its bands, which determines input signal level sensitivity to articulate further how the active EQ will reach maximum active equalization.

To learn more about threshold and ratio controls, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Threshold Control?
Dynamic Range Compression: What Is The Ratio Control?

Of all the plugins on this list, this dynamic EQ is the most similar to a multiband compressor. Its ease of use and superb performance earn it a spot.

Other noteworthy features of the AE400 include:

  • Selectable EQ mode per fixed and active bands
  • Sidechain support
  • Double precision processing
  • Ultra-low latency
  • Mono and stereo versions
  • Individual band bypass
  • Band control linking
  • Band key signal monitoring

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the AE400 at McDSP.


Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3

The Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3 (link to check the price at PluginFox) is a powerful 6-band equalizer plugin with Hofa’s IQ dynamics capabilities (compression and expansion) on each band.

Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3

The Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.

This super powerful plugin is certainly capable of replacing most compressor and EQ combinations. It works tremendously well for both mixing and mastering and has its place on individual tracks and buses alike.

This in-depth plugin is remarkably intuitive considering its functionality.

The EQ V3 has 6 individual dynamic bands. Each band has the following features/parameters, allowing for supreme control over both the equalization and the overall dynamics of the signal:

  • Extended frequency range from 1 Hz to 40,000 Hz
  • 16 different filter types (6 shelves, 4 high cuts, 4 low cuts, peak, flat)
  • Stereo, left, right, mid or side processing
  • IQ dynamics per band (compression & expansion)
  • Solo mode

In addition to the 6 parametric bands, the IQ-Series EQ V3 also offers high and low cut with selectable 6/12/24/48 dB slopes.

The sidechain signal can be chosen as the internal/program signal or an external signal. Routing of control can be rather complex, allowing certain sidechain bands to control unrelated program bands. This opens the door to incredibly intricate dynamic design.

Other important specification of the Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3 include:

  • Up to 32x oversampling
  • Look ahead & live mode
  • Sidechain (external & internal, e.g. 100 Hz controls 10 kHz)
  • Solo mode for each IQ-Series EQ band
  • Scalable plugin window size
  • Interactive tooltips & manual
  • “Set as Default”-Preset
  • 64-bit internal processing

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Hofa IQ-Series EQ V3 user manual.


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. To function at its fullest potential, the SurferEQ 2 utilizes dynamic processing.

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.

The Sound Radix SurferEQ 2 is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW.

Sound Radix’s SurferEQ 2 is a “radically musical, creative timbre shaper”. This specialized EQ plugin effectively tracks the pitch of a monophonic instrument or a vocal source thanks, in large part, to dynamic processing and adapts its 7 frequency bands to EQ the musical pitch in real-time.

The Spectral Gate feature of the SurferEQ enables engaging any of these 7 high-quality bands only when the signal within the band surpasses the threshold (or drops below in reverse mode) set by the GTE THR (Gate Threshold) slider. Attack and Recovery times can be set via the controllers at the bottom of SurferEQ’s user interface. The Spectral Gate feature can be utilized with both internal and external sidechain signals.

The detection display shows the detected fundamental pitch and frequency or the received MIDI note when at least one band is set to surfer mode. In addition to dynamic pitch detection, the pitch threshold can be adjusted to filter out noise and bleed in a given band, thereby improving the detection.

By tracking pitch, the SurferEQ 2 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.

So perhaps the SurferEQ 2 isn’t a classic “dynamic EQ” in the typical sense. However, this EQ is certainly dynamic and relies on dynamic control to achieve its unique and impressive equalization processes.

To list out a few more noteworthy features of the Sound Radix SurferEQ 2, we have:

  • Original asymmetric, morphing EQ algorithms
  • Innovative Harmonic Filter
  • 3-mode MIDI control, including an innovative EQ Instrument mode
  • Zero-latency mode
  • Spectrum analyzer and Spectral Level Meters
  • Undo/redo
  • 64-bit internal processing

For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Sound Radix SurferEQ 2 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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