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 graphic equalization, is an important tool in the audio engineer’s toolbox.
So then it makes sense why there are plenty of graphic equalizer plugins on the market. In this article, we’ll consider what I believe to be the top 8 stand-out graphic EQ plugins.
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”.
For more information on graphic EQ, check out my in-depth article The Complete Guide To Graphic Equalization/EQ.
The top 8 best graphic EQ plugins for digital audio workstations are:
- Waves GEQ
- Waves API 560
- Newfangled Audio/Eventide EQuivocate
- Voxengo Marvel GEQ
- Red Rock EQ560
- Synthescince 10 Band Graphic EQ
- kiloHearts Carve EQ
- Nomad Factory E-Graphic EQ
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person’s top 8 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 graphic EQ plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:
- Sonic performance: how does the graphic EQ plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
- Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the graphic EQ plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
- Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the graphic EQ plugin?
- Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the graphic EQ?
- Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the graphic EQ plugin and what are the system requirements?
Let’s discuss each of the top 8 best graphic EQ plugins in greater detail to learn why they made this list.
The Waves GEQ (link to check the price at Waves) is a full-feature 30-band graphic equalizer with additional high and low-pass filters. It’s a two-for-one plugin that comes with a classic version and a modern version.
The Waves GEQ is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
Waves’ GEQ is perhaps the greatest graphic EQ plugin on the market today. This zero-latency 30-ISO-band graphic equalizer offers mono and stereo functionality with Classic and Modern modes.
To learn more about stereo EQ, check out my article What Is Stereo Equalization/EQ In Audio & How Does It Work?
The Classic version of the GEQ utilizes traditional “proportional Q filters” that narrow as the band is boosted or cut. This is directly inspired by the design of Klark Teknik’s renowned (though discontinued) DN series graphic EQs with 1/3-octave bands (common in live sound reinforcement systems). Each band selectable 6, 12 & 18 dB scales.
The Modern version of the GEQ utilizes intricate flat-top filters that virtually eliminate the artifacts that would otherwise arise from band interaction. These filters provide perfect stair-stepped responses in the overall EQ curve.
In addition to the two superb graphic EQ plots, each version also boasts a low-pass and high-pass filter along with a high-precision floating parametric bell filter EQ.
To learn more about high-pass and low-pass filters, check out the following My New Microphone articles, respectively:
• 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 bands of the Waves GEQ can be set individually, one at a time, or through drawing the curve by dragging the cursor across the plugin. The integrated analyzer shows the resulting EQ curve and the audio signal frequency response in real-time. It even allows users to distinguish the difference between two audio sources to help users understand how their audio signals relate to others.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves GEQ user manual.
Waves Audio is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
Waves API 560
The Waves API 560 (link to check the price at Waves) is a 10-band graphic equalizer based on the classic 1967 API 560 EQ.
The Waves API 560 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
API’s 560 graphic equalizer has been used to great effect on numerous studio records throughout the years. Waves Audio, naturally, has modelled a near-perfect recreation of this legendary vintage EQ in its software plugin of the same name. In fact, the plugin has been developed in association with API, ensuring both parties were satisfied with the result before the Waves API 560 ever reached the market.
This graphic EQ features 10 high-precision filters/bands and high headroom. Like the original, it’s a go-to tool for room tuning and signal enhancement. Each band offers up to ±12 dB of boost/cut.
There’s beauty in simplicity. Though there are “only” 10 bands, the 560’s EQ curve shaping is sonically superior to many EQs that are more “functional”. The classic proportional Q design intuitively narrows the bandwidth of each filter at higher boosts/cuts and widens the bandwidth at lower boosts/cuts.
The 10 bands of the 560 are centred at important yet intuitive frequencies, separated by octaves. This allows users to quickly and effectively dial in musical EQ without the hassle of additional parameters.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves API 560 user manual.
API is featured in the following My New Microphone articles:
• Top 11 Best Audio Equalizer Brands In The World
• Top 13 Best Microphone Preamplifier Brands In The World
• Top 10 Best Studio Recording/Mixing Console Brands
• Top 11 Best Audio Compressor Brands In The World
• Top 11 Best Audio Brands For 500 Series Modules/Equipment
Newfangled Audio/Eventide EQuivocate
The Newfangled Audio/Eventide EQuivocate (link to check the price at Sweetwater) is a 26-band graphic EQ with linear phase auditory filters.
The Newfangled Audio/Eventide EQuivocate is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
This superb collaborative EQ plugin, like many of the best graphic equalizers, is powerful yet user-friendly. The EQuivocate is very natural-sounding due, in large part, to its use of filters modelled on the human ear.
The 26 bands are spread out and centred at critical frequency bands for the inner ear. The designers at Newfangled Audio and Eventide have distributed these bands along the Mel Spectrum to produce a delightfully natural-sounding graphic EQ.
Each of the EQuivocate filters is designed as an FIR (finite impulse response) linear phase filter. This eliminates phase issues and pre-echo, further improving upon the transparency of the plugin’s sound.
To learn more about linear phase EQ, check out my article The Complete Guide To Linear Phase Equalization/EQ.
The entire EQ curve of the Newfangled Audio/Eventide EQuivocate can be adjusted by clicking and dragging the cursor across the slider field in Draw Curve mode. Fine-tuning is made possible on a per band basis when Draw Curve mode is off.
Though the band centres of the EQivocate are set to specific frequencies by default, these frequencies can be adjusted by the user. Bands can also be removed for even more customization. Each band can also be soloed to help users find problem frequencies in the audio signal.
This plugin also features Match EQ, which can be set up to EQ the signal to match or complement the audio sent to the plugin sidechain. The Match EQ works tremendously well to match the tonality of reference tracks and to adjust microphone responses post-recording. The complementary mode can really help a track find its home in a dense mix.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Newfangled Audio/Eventide EQuivocate user manual.
Eventide is featured in My New Microphone’s Top 11 Best Audio Plugin (VST/AU/AAX) Brands In The World.
Voxengo Marvel GEQ
The Voxengo Marvel GEQ (link to check the price at Splice) is a linear-phase 16-band graphic equalizer.
The Voxengo Marvel GEQ is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
Voxengo has developed a seriously impressive graphic EQ with the Marvel GEQ. This linear phase graphic equalizer plugin supports multi-channel operation (up to 8 input and output channels) with flexible routing capability. It is capable of 5.1 Surround, stereo and even mid-side processing.
To learn more about mid-side EQ, check out my article What Is Mid-Side Equalization/EQ (Audio) & How Does It Work?
The 16 linear phase filters allow for a transparent yet effective EQ curve. Each of the 16 bands has a ±12 dB gain range. The graphic nature of these filters allows for fast EQ adjustments and intricate fine-tuning alike.
Whether the application is tracking, streaming, live performance or mastering, the Voxengo Marvel GEQ delivers superb equalization.
With Retina and HighDPI support, a resizable user interface, and various colour schemes, this graphic EQ plugin also looks as great as it sounds.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Voxengo Marvel GEQ user manual.
Red Rock EQ560
The Red Rock EQ560 (link to check the price at Red Rock Sound) is another 10-band graphic EQ based on the beloved API 560 hardware EQ from 1967.
The Red Rock EQ560 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AU and VST formats.
Red Rock’s EQ560 is a free plugin emulation of the excellent API 560. Like the aforementioned Waves API 560, the Red Rock EQ560 has 10 bands with proportional Q, spaced at one-octave centres with ±12 dB of gain.
This EQ is super user-friendly and sounds great. Did I mention it’s absolutely free? Download it and hear for yourself how great graphic EQ doesn’t have to come with a hefty price tag!
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the EQ560 product page at Red Rock.
Synthescince 10 Band Graphic EQ
The Synthescince 10 Band Graphic EQ (link to check the price at KVR Audio), as the name would suggest, is a 10-band graphic EQ.
The Synthescince 10 Band Graphic EQ is compatible with Windows OS and is in VST format.
This is another superb free plugin, though it’s not compatible with Mac OS or Pro Tools. If you happen to be using a Windows computer with a DAW that runs VSTs, this sonically impressive freebie could be the graphic EQ plugin for you!
The Synthescince 10 Band Graphic EQ bands are spaced at octaves, and each band has a ±6 dB gain range.
The mix fader allows users to mix the direct and effected signals together at the output for additional functionality. Though phase shifting will be present in doing so, mixing the two signals can lead to preferred results in some circumstances.
Speaking of phase, the 10 Band Graphic EQ also has a phase switch, adding extra utility to the plugin overall.
Sure, it’s not the most flashy, but this free graphic equalizer plugin sounds great and makes the cut on this list.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Synthescience 10 Band Graphic EQ product page at KVR Audio.
kiloHearts Carve EQ
The kiloHearts Carve EQ (link to check the price at Plugin Boutique) a 31-band graphic equalizer with a rather advanced filtering system.
The kiloHearts Carve EQ is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU and VST formats.
kiloHearts’ Carve EQ is an innovative “graphic EQ” with advanced filtering and deeply intuitive controls and analyzer window. It can process both stereo and mid-side signals.
Adjusting the bands will produce a continuous EQ curve across the frequency spectrum. This can be seen in the feature-rich analyzer window. The analyzer will also show all real-time audio, including left and right channels in stereo mode, mid and side channels in mid-side mode, and sidechain and program when using the match functionality.
Like many great plugins (and many on this list), the Carve EQ features plenty of excellent presets to choose from. kiloHearts goes a step further to include EQ profiles from famous songs to quickly help users get to their desired results.
This plugin, like other kiloHearts Snapin-compatible plugins, works efficiently, taking up little CPU. Its GUI is fully resizable, and it works perfectly with the kiloHearts Snap Head Snapin host (link to check it out at kiloHearts).
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the kiloHearts Carve EQ user manual.
Nomad Factory E-Graphic EQ
The Nomad Factory E-Graphic EQ (link to check the price at PluginFox) is a relatively simple yet highly effective 15-band graphic EQ.
The Nomad Factory E-Graphic EQ is compatible with Mac OS and Windows OS and comes in AAX, AU, VST and RTAS formats.
Nomad Factory’s E Graphic EQ is yet another super user-friendly graphic EQ plugin. It’s a perfect sculpting tool for tracking, mixing and mastering in digital audio workstations.
This simple plugin features 15 bands with adjustable bandwidth and ±24 dB of gain. It also offers a brickwall limiter for limiting of each channel.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the E Graphic EQ product page at Nomad Factory.