A great EQ pedal set just right can really make a guitar tone shine through a mix and claim its piece of the overall sonic landscape of the music. The same is true for bass guitar (and every other instrument).
EQ (along with compression) is one of the most-used tools in mixing and mastering. Why not bring this professional tool into the signal chain to improve your tone yourself?
In this article, we’ll discuss the top 12 best EQ pedals in the world to give you a good idea of where to start looking when choosing your own EQ pedal.
The top 12 best EQ pedals for guitar and bass are:
- MXR M108S Ten Band EQ
- Boss GE-7
- Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer
- Boss EQ-200
- Empress Effects ParaEQ
- Behringer EQ700
- Behringer BEQ700
- Source Audio SA170 Programmable EQ
- Tech 21 Q-Strip
- Mesa Boogie Five-Band
- Free The Tone PA-1QG
- Aguilar Tone Hammer Bass
It’s true that any list of this sort is going to be full of personal bias. Though these “top 12” are subjective in my opinion, I truly think they are the best choices for an EQ pedal. I completely expect your own top 12 to be different (but I hope there is a significant overlap)!
Let’s discuss each pedal on this list and the reasons why they are the best.
What Are EQ Pedals & How Do They Work?
EQ pedals are designed to provide equalization to the audio signal.
They work by altering the amplitude (boosting or cutting) at certain frequencies within the signal.
Many pedals, especially gain-based pedals (boost, overdrive, distortion, fuzz), will have bass, treble and sometimes mid-frequency control. This is a type of EQ.
Dedicated EQ pedals give us much more control than a few hard-set bass/treble controls.
There are a few different types of EQ pedals we should be aware of:
- Graphic EQ: graphic EQ pedals have set frequency points (typically octaves apart) with amplitude sliders to adjust the boost or cut of each set frequency.
- Parametric EQ: parametric EQ pedals allow us to adjust the frequency points that are to be boosted or cut along with the “Q” or “sharpness” or the boost/cut. Generally, we can set one or more frequency values for each band (lows, low-mids, high-mids, highs, etc.)
- Semi-parametric EQ: semi-parametric EQ pedals allow some of the same functionality of parametric EQs but not all. The typical “bass, mids and treble” adjustments can be classified as semi-parametric.
For more information on each of these EQ types, check out the following My New Microphone articles, respectively:
• The Complete Guide To Graphic Equalization/EQ
• The Complete Guide To Parametric Equalization/EQ
• What Is Semi-Parametric Equalization/EQ In Audio?
EQ can be put anywhere in the signal chain but is often placed near the front or immediately after a pedal that would negatively alter the signal’s frequency profile.
Related article: How To Order Guitar/Bass Pedals (Ultimate Signal Flow Guide)
With that being said, let’s talk about some EQ pedals!
For a more in-depth article on EQ pedals and EQ in general, check out the following My New Microphone articles:
• What Are EQ Pedals (Guitar/Bass) & How Do They Work?
• Complete Guide To Audio Equalization & EQ Hardware/Software
MXR M108S Ten Band EQ
First up is the MXR M108S Ten Band EQ (link to check the price on Amazon) ten-band graphic EQ pedal.
The visual nature of the MXR Ten Band EQ lets us EQ our instruments quickly. Ringing out a new venue can also be done with relative ease from the pedalboard itself although this task is typically left to the front-of-house mixing engineer.
The Ten Band EQ pedal from MXR has superb noise-reduction circuitry, true bypass switching, a lightweight aluminum housing, and bright LEDs to show the graphic EQ positioning in darker environments.
The bands can be adjusted by ±12 dB and are centred around the following frequencies:
- 31.25 Hz
- 62.5 Hz
- 125 Hz
- 250 Hz
- 500 Hz
- 1 kHz
- 2 kHz
- 4 kHz
- 8 kHz
- 16 kHz
To learn more about decibels (dB), be sure to check out my article What Are Decibels? The Ultimate dB Guide For Audio & Sound.
The pedal features a second output, allowing us to run 2 separate signal chains.
We can quickly dip problem frequencies and make up for the lack of important frequencies with the M108S. The pedal sounds great and has both input gain and output volume controls.
The Ten Band EQ is great. There’s really not much else to say!
MXR is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Second on the list in another graphic EQ called the Boss GE-7 (link to check the price on Amazon).
This pedal’s 3 fewer bands than the aforementioned MXR graphic EQ.
However, when it comes to electric guitar (and the strings, pickups, amplifiers and cabinets), we’re really only working with a frequency range of about 80 Hz to about 7 kHz on the high end (lower tunings and guitars with additional strings have extended lower ranges).
The 7 bands of the GE-7, then, work perfectly fine to cover the frequency range of guitar. The bands are:
- 100 Hz
- 200 Hz
- 400 Hz
- 800 Hz
- 1.6 kHz
- 3.2 kHz
- 6.4 kHz
Each band is adjustable by ±15 dB. The overall level is also adjustable by ±15 dB. This allows the GE-7 to double as a boost or a pad along with its EQ duties.
The Boss GE-7 is durable, small, and easy to use. It’s an excellent choice for a guitar EQ pedal.
Boss is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer
The Boss GEB-7 (link to check the price on Amazon) is the bass version of the aforementioned GE-7.
Like the GE-7, this pedal has a 7-band graphic EQ and overall boost/cut. Each band and the overall level is adjustable by ±15 dB.
The 7 bands of the GEB-7 are better suited to affect the frequency range of bass guitar (typically between 30 Hz to 5,500 Hz in 5-string basses in standard tuning).
Each of the bands is centred at a commonly EQed frequency in general practice. Here are the band frequencies (and the typical character they’re involved with):
- 50 Hz: the low-end thump and energy of the bass guitar.
- 120 Hz: the sometimes problem frequency that competes with the thud of a kick drum.
- 400 Hz: body of the bass that may cause boxiness.
- 500 Hz: body of the bass that may cause a nasal-like sound.
- 800 Hz: upper body of the bass sound.
- 4.5 kHz: the high-end clarity of the bass sound.
- 10 kHz: above the typical range. Acts more as a control of brilliance and airiness in the signal.
The Boss GEB-7 sounds great and is very easy to use. Its small footprint and durable design make it an excellent choice for a bass guitar EQ pedal.
The Boss EQ-200 (link to check the price on Amazon) is yet another graphic EQ with additional functionality including EQ recall.
The EQ-200 from Boss is one of the most flexible EQ pedals ever produced for guitar and bass guitar. This pedal is actually 2 highly-adjustable 10-band EQs in one. Use the pedal to affect two mono signals or the left and right channels of a single stereo source.
For more information on stereo EQ, check out my article What Is Stereo Equalization/EQ In Audio & How Does It Work?
Each band of the 10-band EQs is adjustable by ±15 dB. The overall output of each channel is also adjustable by ±15 dB. There are 3 options when it comes to centring the 10 bands. The bands’ range settings are:
- 30 Hz to 12.8 kHz
- 32 Hz to 16 kHz
- 28 Hz to 14 kHz
The A and B channels are selectable via a push button on the pedal. User-selectable signal flow structures can configure the channels for stereo, parallel, or series operation.
It features two wide-ranging 10-band EQ channels, plus an onboard graphic display that shows the current EQ curve at a glance. Going further, the frequency centers of all 10 bands can be set to three different types, letting you optimize the EQ-200’s performance for different instruments.
The EQ-200, like all of Boss’s 200 series, has 32-bit AD/DA, 32-bit internal processing, and 96 kHz sampling rate for high-resolution sound. It also supports additional controllers (external switches, an expression pedal, or MIDI).
128 preset EQs can be accessed from the panel, MIDI or external footswitches. A graphic display shows us the EQ of the current setting even if the physical sliders are set elsewhere. Panel Lock function disables controls to prevent unwanted changes
These external controls can jump between presets and even be set to cause pre/post tone shaping.
It also has a Micro USB port to upload free periodic software updates to the pedal. This pedal keeps getting better, even after purchase.
For a more advanced and programmable graphic EQ, the Boss EQ-200 is a fantastic choice!
Empress Effects ParaEQ
The first parametric EQ to make the list the almighty Empress Effects ParaEQ (link to check the price at Reverb).
The ParaEQ looks a bit intimidating. However, there are no hidden features. What you see (which is a lot) is what you get! That makes this pedal easy to use and understand while also being highly functional.
In addition to being an EQ, this pedal is also a boost, offering up to 30 dB of clean gain. Its 100% analog signal path and high-quality components produce a transparent and powerful output.
For more information on boost pedals, check out my article Guitar Pedals: Boost Vs. Overdrive Vs. Distortion Vs. Fuzz.
The pedal is also true bypass, so it won’t colour the signal when it’s turned off/bypassed.
This pedal offers tons of headroom. We won’t even have to worry about clipping it. On top of the 3-way pad switch (offering 0, –12 and –4 dB), the ParaEQ can also be switched to run off 9, 12 or18V power supplies (the higher the supply voltage, the higher the headroom).
Now for the actual EQ portion. The ParaEQ has 3 bands of parametric EQ.
Each band can be cut or boosted by 15 dB and there are 3 different Q settings (medium Q, narrow Q and wide Q) to affect the resonance of the cut or boost.
Each band also has a sweepable centre frequency. The ranges of the bands are as follows:
- Low frequency (lf): 35 Hz – 500 Hz
- Mid frequency (mf): 250 Hz – 5 kHz
- High frequency (hf): 1 kHz – 20 kHz
The tone shaping is incredibly versatile with this pedal. From transparent shaping to removing problem frequencies to special EQ effects, the Empress Effects ParaEQ has got you covered!
Empress Effects is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Boutique Guitar/Bass Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
The Behringer EQ700 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a superb budget option that has found itself on pedalboards around the globe.
The Behringer EQ700 is essentially a copy of the aforementioned Boss GE-7 pedal with a few modifications and a cheaper price tag.
It’s an awesome and affordable 7-band EQ for guitar.
The Danelectro Fish & Chips (link to check the price on Amazon) is another affordable copy of the Boss GE-7.
It would be silly to mention Behringer’s EQ700 without mentioning the bass version in the Behringer BEQ700 (link to check the price on Amazon).
The BEQ700 from Behringer is pretty well a clone of the aforementioned Boss BEG-7. Again, there are slight differences but the Behringer model is essentially a cheaper version of a great 7-band graphic bass guitar EQ.
Source Audio SA170 Programmable EQ
The versatile Source Audio SA170 (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent programmable digital graphic EQ with EQ recall.
The SA170 offers much more than an average EQ pedal. This programmable digital graphic EQ gives us quick access to 4 different user-programmed EQ settings with an easy-to-use stompbox design.
The pedal offers a total of 8 bands, each with a ±18 dB adjustable range. 7 bands show up at once. The additional 62 Hz band is accessible via the Octave Extend function, which is of great benefit to bass guitar signals (not so much for typical 6-string guitars).
The SA170 also provides up to 12 dB of transparent boost to the signal.
Dial in the perfect EQ setting and save it into one of four presets. Access the presets via hands-free scrolling.
MIDI connectivity allows for easier control via remote access for switching presets, controlling parameters, and engaging/bypassing the effect.
The pedal sounds awesome and can be switched between true bypass and buffered bypass to suit your board.
This brilliant programmable EQ is a perfect addition for those of us that need to quickly alter our guitar tone on the fly.
Source Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Guitar/Bass Effects Pedal Brands To Know & Use.
Tech 21 Q-Strip
The second parametric EQ to make this list is the beautifully-designed Tech 21 Q-Strip (link to check the price on Amazon).
The design of the incredible EQ pedal is based on the EQ, preamp sections and channel strips of the world’s best mixing/recording consoles. Tech 21 has successfully designed a durable and cost-effective EQ channel strip to be placed on our pedalboards and taken on the road.
The pedal is produced in a DI (direct inject) box format. The footswitch sets it apart and gets it into the pedal category. It has the following I/O:
- Input: 1/4-inch, 4.7 MΩ instrument level input.
- Parallel Output: 1/4-inch unbalanced (TS) direct/unaffected output.
- Balanced XLR Output: balanced XLR to drive a low Z input. A –20dB pad is available if driving a mic input.
- Output: 1/4-inch unbalanced (TS) 1 kΩ affected output. A +10dB boost is available if driving a mic input.
The pedal has 100% analog MOSFET circuitry that mimcs the warm, larger-than-life tones of vintage consoles.
Let’s move on to the EQ section. The EQ circuit is rather involved. Let’s discuss this portion in the same order as the signal flow. The signal will follow this path through the EQ, from input to output:
- High-pass filter: preset point at 45 Hz with –12 dB/octave attenuation.
- Mid 1: cut or boost ±18dB with a Q of 1. Sweep the centre frequency between 40 Hz – 700 Hz.
- Mid 2: cut or boost ±18dB with a Q of 1. Sweep the centre frequency between 300 Hz – 6 kHz.
- Level: active level control that allows a cut or boost of ±20dB.
- Low & High shelves: cut or boost ±18dB from unity gain at 12 o’clock, with the pivot point at 1 kHz (high shelf boosts above 1k, low shelf boosts below 1k).
- Low-pass filter: preset point at 453 kHz with –12 dB/octave attenuation.
This pedal sounds incredible; is highly functional, and is built to last. What else is there to want from an EQ pedal?
Mesa Boogie Five-Band
At number 10 we have the Mesa Boogie Five-Band (link to check the price on Amazon) graphic EQ.
This pedal is the standalone version of Boogie’s superb Five-Band Graphic EQ found in their high-end amplifiers. The EQ within this pedal has been cherished since the 1970s!
This pedal sounds incredible regardless of its position in the pedal chain. Its simplicity makes it that much better.
Both the input and output level controls are fitted to ensure optimal matching between levels. They each offer a range from +6dB boost to –40dB cut.
Each of the 5 bands offers +/- 12dB of boost/cut. The bands’ centre frequencies are set at:
- 80 Hz
- 240 Hz
- 750 Hz
- 2.2 kHz
- 6.6 kHz
This pedal sounds great and has true bypass.
Free The Tone PA-1QG
The Free The Tone PA-1QG (link to check the price at Free The Tone) is an all-analog graphic EQ signal path with a programmable digital brain.
The PA-1QG is a superb programmable 10-band graphic EQ that gives us rich analog sound with the ease and versatility of digital control. While the signal path remains analog, the effect is adjustable via digital means.
Though we’ll discuss the PA-1QG in this article, be sure check out the other PA-1Q equalizers from Free The Tone:
- PA-1QB for bass guitar
- PA-1QA for electro-acoustic guitar
The pedal has onboard controls and can also be controlled remotely via MIDI. It works well with instrument and line levels, so it can have a guitar plug directly into it or be used as an insert in a mixing console.
Each of the 10 bands allows for ±12 dB level adjustments. The centre frequencies vary in the 3 different PA-1Q pedal. The guitar version of the pedal has the following centre frequencies:
- 50 Hz
- 100 Hz
- 200 Hz
- 400 Hz
- 800 Hz
- 1,500 Hz
- 2,500 Hz
- 3,500 Hz
- 7 kHz
- 10 kHz
Rather than having physical sliders, adjustments to this graphic EQ are made with a knob and scroll buttons. This makes it a bit slower to dial everything in but makes the pedal more durable with fewer moving parts and slots for dust to collect.
The graphic representation of the EQ is shown on a digital screen. The level of the selected band and the current preset are show on separate screens.
Speaking of presets, there are 99 user-defined presets available on these pedals. These presets can be accessed directly from the pedal or remotely via a MIDI controller.
Periodic firmware updates are made available by Free The Tone. This means the pedal continues to improve after its original purchase if we choose to update it.
Aguilar Tone Hammer Bass
To wrap things up, let’s talk about the awesome bass EQ pedal known as the Aguilar Tone Hammer Bass (link to check the price on Amazon).
The Tone Hammer is another borderline EQ pedal. It’s marketed as a preamp/DI. However, its EQ section is worth noting.
Sure, the EQ’s only got a bass, treble and sweepable mid-frequency control. However, on bass guitar, this 3-band EQ really hits the mark. The EQ section is defined by the following specs:
- Treble: ±18 dB @ 4 kHz
- Bass: ±18 dB @ 40 Hz
- Mid Freq: sweepable from 180 Hz to 1 kHz
- Mid: ±17 dB
18-volt operation gives this pedal plenty of headroom and the proprietary Adaptive Gain Shaping (AGS) circuitry, when engaged, produces a “vintage voiced” EQ that adapts as you adjust the gain knob.
We pretty much get two EQs in one with the added benefit of two gain structures and DI functionality. That makes the Aguilar Tone Hammer one of the best “EQ pedal” for bass guitars you ask me!