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.
There are plenty of plugins that aim to emulate analog hardware in an attempt to make digital audio sound more like its [arguably] nicer-sounding analog counterpart.
There are plenty of excellent analog parametric equalizers and plugin emulations of such EQs. With so many options to choose from, I've compiled what I consider to be the 9 best parametric EQ emulation 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.
Some of the plugins we'll mention here are emulations of vintage models with semi-parametric designs (they're without one or more of the typical parametric parameter controls—often adjustable Q control).
The Top 9 Best Parametric EQ Emulation Plugins Are:
- Waves SSL G-Equalizer
- Waves API 550
- Waves Scheps 73
- Softube Trident A-Range
- IK Multimedia T-RackS EQ 81
- Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ
- Universal Audio Manley Massive Passive
- Softube Curve Bender
- Universal Audio Harrison 32C
It should go without saying that any “top X” article is subject to bias. I would expect the next person's top 9 to be different from mine, but I hope there would be plenty of overlap.
That being said, I believe these plugins to be the best parametric EQ emulation plugin options today. The criteria I used to judge these plugins include the following:
- Sonic performance: how does the parametric EQ emulation plugin sound subjectively/objectively?
- Graphic user interface (GUI): how does the parametric EQ emulation plugin look when loaded in the DAW?
- Ease-of-use: how user-friendly is the parametric EQ emulation plugin?
- Functionality: how many different functions does it serve and/or how many parameters are available for the parametric EQ emulation?
- Accessibility/compatibility: how easy is it to acquire the parametric EQ emulation plugin, and what are the system requirements?
To learn why they made this list, let's discuss each of the top 9 best parametric EQ emulation plugins in greater detail.
For my best advice on using EQ, check out my article Top 11 Best EQ/Equalization Tips For Mixing (Overall).
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Waves SSL G-Equalizer
The Waves SSL G-Equalizer is a 4-band parametric EQ modelled after the great rack-mounted version of the SSL G Series EQ292.
Though modelled after the EQ292, Waves' SSL G-Equalizer offers greater gain change than the E-Series EQ and a slightly different curve.
In enhancing the original hardware design, Waves has also included a pre-boost dip, a pre-cut rise and a broader Q for more extreme equalization.
That being said, the legendary SSL character is spot-on (the plugin is even developed under license from Solid State Logic), and the plugin works great for mixing and mastering. The additional features make it even more powerful, affording more precise problem-solving control.
In addition to the 4 parametric bands, the G-Equalizer offers a frequency-variable high-pass filter (16 Hz – 350 Hz) with an 18 dB/octave roll-off slope.
Along with the marvellous EQ, this Waves plugin also features a phase reverse switch, master output control, trim button and analogue on/off switch.
When turned on, the Analog setting emulates the noise and subtle harmonic distortion of the classic analog hardware.
All in all, this plugin is a superb emulation of a hardware parametric EQ, giving it a spot on this list.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves SSL 4000 Collection user manual.
Waves API 550
Since I couldn't decide which emulation is better, I decided to offer both the 550A and 550B as their own list item in this article.
Each of these 500 Series parametric EQs is legendary in its own right. Of course, Waves has, as usual, done an amazing job programming each of their sonic characters into its audio plugins.
Waves API 550A is a 3-band parametric equalizer with 5 fixed frequency points per band. Since the late 1960s, the API 550A has been making a name for itself as a high-end studio staple.
Each of the 550A's 3 overlapping bands has 5 frequency options and 11 points of gain. Its high and low-frequency ranges are individually selectable as either peaking or shelving, and a band-pass filter can be inserted independently of all other settings.
Waves API 550B is a 4-band parametric equalizer with 7 fixed frequency points per band, furthering the technology found in the earlier 550A.
Each of the 4 overlapping bands of the 550B offers 7 frequency options spanning 5 octaves per band and 11 points of gain. Waves' 550B also emulates the 550B's “Proportional Q,” which automatically widens the filter bandwidth at minimal settings and narrows it at higher settings.
Both equalizers offer a vast range of tonal possibilities, and Waves does a superb job at recreating this pair of versatile EQs and the one-of-a-kind API sound.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves API 550 user manual.
Other noteworthy API 550A & 550B plugin emulations include:
- Slate Digital FG-A (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
- Bee-Happy 550 (link to check the price at Bee-Happy)
- Sly-Fi Axis (link to check the price at Sly-Fi Digital)
Waves Scheps 73
The Waves Scheps 73 is a 3-band semi-parametric EQ modelled on the classic Neve 1073 console's EQ.
This colourful parametric EQ emulation plugin features 3 interrelated bands based on the 1073's original specs and precisely mimics the original hardware. From the EQ and preamps to the acclaimed Marinair transformer, Waves has precisely recreated the sonic characteristics of the 1073.
Use the fixed 12kHz high-shelf band, parametric mid-range and low-shelf band, and the frequency-variable 8dB/octave high-pass filter to shape the tone of the signal.
The warm, fat, and rich sound of the Waves Scheps 73 works perfectly for tracking/recording, mixing and mastering alike. This EQ plugin truly brings the “analog sound” to the digital audio workstation.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Waves Scheps 73 user manual.
AMS Neve is featured in top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Other noteworthy Neve 1073 plugin emulations include:
Softube Trident A-Range
The Softube Trident A-Range is a very specific semi-parametric EQ emulation, modelled exactly after channel 15 of the Trident A-Range at Sweet Silence Studio' B' in Denmark.
Though only 13 A-Range consoles were ever created, the console has become a legendary piece of audio equipment.
With modern technology, Softube brings this rare legend to DAWs around the world with the Trident A-Range EQ. Created together with original designer Professor Malcolm Toft, this plugin is as close to the real deal as you'll get.
This musical EQ has 4 frequency bands that have a way of interacting in rather unpredictable ways. Of course, the EQ wouldn't be so beloved if its unpredictability sounded awful. Rather, with this EQ (and Softube's emulation of it), the results are often greater than what could be expected.
In addition to equalization, Softube has featured a separate Saturation control that provides that vintage analog warmth.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Trident A-Range at Softube.
IK Multimedia T-RackS EQ 81
The IK Multimedia T-RackS EQ 81 is an emulation of the legendary Neve 1081 parametric EQ unit.
IK Multimedia has done an excellent job of capturing the legendary British warmth and tone of the classic Neve 1081 EQ with its T-RackS EQ 81 plugin.
This plugin pushes the functionality even further and can be thought of as an evolution of the original rather than a perfect recreation.
The T-RackS EQ 81 features four independent bands (high/low shelving plus two midrange peaking filters) rounded out by high and low pass filters.
The plugin's tonality is remarkably analog-like, but more surgical equalization is made available compared to the original. This way, users get the best of the analog and digital worlds with this IK equalizer.
Arguably semi-parametric (with continuously variable Q controls), the EQ 81 features 2 mid-range bands with switchable “High Q” and 2 outer shelving bands with switchable peaking mode for more articulate tone shaping.
The musical interaction between the preamp and equalizer has been recreated with this EQ plugin, making it a go-to choice in tracking/recording and mixing. This EQ plugin sounds great and works tremendously well.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the EQ 81 system requirements at IK Multimedia.
Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ
The Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ is an emulation of the superb Sony OXF-R3 digital console parametric EQ.
Sonnox's Oxford R3 is the company's flagship EQ. It's wildly powerful, and unlike the other emulations on this list, the R3 models a digital parametric equalizer (from the million-dollar Sony OXF-R3 digital console) rather than an analog EQ.
The user-friendly interface of the Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ makes it a joy to use. Its 5-band parametric EQ is easily adjustable and includes variable-slope HP/LP filters.
Each of the 5 parametric EQ bands can be set to its own distinct filter type, of which there are 4 options:
- Clinical EQ similar to the SSL4000 E series
- Tighter ‘cut’ for removing problem frequencies
- Classic EQ similar to Neve and SSL G series curves
- Wide and gentle curves, perfect for mastering
A 5th filter type (an exact emulation of the highly regarded GML-8200 EQ hardware unit) is available as a paid upgrade.
Whether we're mixing or mastering, getting surgical or being gentle, the Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ is a parametric EQ plugin that will get the job done in a simple, straightforward manner.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Sonnox Oxford R3 EQ user manual.
Universal Audio Manley Massive Passive
The UAD Manley Massive Passive is the plugin version of the world-class Manley Laboratories Massive Passive passive parametric stereo equalizer.
The UAD Manley Massive Passive is also featured in My New Microphone's Top 8 Best Passive EQ Emulation Plugins For Your DAW.
UAD's Manley Massive Passive has been officially licensed and endorsed by Manley Labs. If the Universal Audio branding didn't sell this plugin as world-class, this endorsement surely will!
The incredible performance of the hardware Manley Massive Passive has made it a legendary passive equalizer sought after by studio owners worldwide.
In typical fashion, UAD has expertly packaged the sound and performance of this superior hardware unit into an easily navigated (and relatively inexpensive) audio plugin.
From the unusual filter curves and multiple band interdependencies to the tube amplifier distortion and characteristic transformer/inductor hysteresis, this UAD plugin mimics its model with pristine accuracy.
The plugin comes in standard and mastering versions.
Access 2 stereo channels, each with 4 parametric bands of passive filtering. Dial-in punch, air, sizzle, and clarity without adding harshness in the equalization section and follow it up with the analog character in this top-of-the-line plugin.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the UAD Plug-Ins Manual.
Softube Curve Bender
The Softube Curve Bender is a parametric EQ emulation modelled after the Chandler Limited Curve Bender, which was itself modelled after the legendary EMI TG12345 console of Abbey Road Studio fame.
Softube's Curve Bender has been fully endorsed by the creator of the original hardware, Wade Goeke.
With presets from Joe Chicarelli, Tony Maserati, Howard Willing, Kevin Kadish, and Maor Appelbaum, this plugin has been blessed not only by expert programmers but also by expert audio engineers. It's that good.
With component-level modelling of the original germanium and inductor circuits, Softube has achieved the controllability and superior sound quality of this monumental EQ in a plugin. Legendary tone-shaping capabilities are now available in DAWs around the world.
The EQ of the Curve Bender is delightfully gentle and musical, and its sonic character helps to improve the sound of tracks before any of the bands are even touched. It's particularly effective for mastering but also works exceedingly well during the mixing stages.
This plugin offers two more bands than the original for a total of 4 incredible parametric filter bands. There are 51 fixed frequency points, various Q values and superb gain control. There are also low and high pass filters to truly enhance the equalizer's design.
In addition to superb stereo equalization, the Curve Bender also offers mid-side processing. It's fully reminiscent of the superb character of the EMI TG12345, with all the functionality one could expect from a top plugin.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the Softube Chandler Limited user manual.
Universal Audio Harrison 32C
The Universal Audio Harrison 32C is a plugin emulation of the Harrison four-band 32C channel EQ from Bruce Swedien's own Harrison 32 Series console.
UAD has partnered with Harrison Consoles Ltd. and engineer Bruce Swedien to develop a plugin recreation of the classic Harrison 32C Channel EQ. If any plugin developer can replicate a piece of legendary hardware, it's Universal Audio.
This colourful, rich semi-parametric EQ features 4 overlapping parametric bands, a 12 dB/octave high-pass and low-pass filter, and output gain control.
Each of the bands has fully sweepable frequency and gain parameters, and the low band can even be switched from a peak to a shelf filter.
Though there's no Q control, the modelled circuitry of the 32C automatically adjusts the effective bandwidth as the gain is varied, which is a large part of the EQ's distinct sonic flavour.
When it comes to mixing, the Harrison 32C Channel EQ is a top performer. The UAD plugin emulation of this channel EQ is also a fantastic choice; plus, it costs less and can be used on pretty much every channel of a DAW session.
For more information on system requirements and authorization instructions, check out the UAD Plug-Ins Manual.
Noteworthy Channel Strip Plugins With Superb Parametric EQ
As a sort of “honourable mentions” section, I'd like to point out a few channel strip plugins that emulate real hardware and feature top-of-the-line parametric EQ. Though the following plugins aren't strictly “parametric EQ plugins” or “semi-parametric EQ plugins”, they do offer these equalizer types as part of their overall functionality.
A few notable channel strip plugins with superb parametric EQ are:
- UAD SSL 4000 E Channel Strip
- Waves SSL E-Channel Strip
- Waves SSL G-Channel Strip
- UAD API Vision Channel Strip
- UAD Neve 1073 Preamp & EQ
- Solid State Logic SSL Native Channel Strip
Former Top Parametric EQ Plugin Picks
Here are plugins that used to be on this list and the reasons they are no longer. Currently, there is only one plugin on this list.
Unique Recording Software URS N-MIX EQ (Discontinued)
The Unique Recording Software URS N Series (discontinued) is a parametric EQ plugin modelled after Neve's 1084 vintage Five Band Equalizer.
This digital recreation of the Neve 1084 vintage equalizer is among the best of the best parametric EQ plugins, giving it a definite place in this list. It's a very broad-banded and musical equalizer (no surgery here) and, like the hardware unit it's modelled after, makes a great choice for shaping the tone of practically any source.
Unique Recording Software's URS N-MIX EQ is extremely well laid out, making it easy to dial in the perfect EQ from the very first use. The plugin offers the following filters:
- High-pass filter (selectable 45Hz, 70Hz, 160Hz and 360Hz cutoff frequency)
- Low-shelf filter (35 Hz, 60 Hz, 110 Hz and 220 Hz)
- LMF, MF and HMF peak filters (350 Hz, 700 Hz, 1.6 kHz, 3.2 kHz, 4.8 kHz and 7 kHz)
- High-shelf (10kHz, 12kHz and 16kHz)
- Low-pass filter (6kHz, 8kHz, 10kHz, 14kHz and 18kHz cutoff frequency)
Each filter has its own adjustable Q, variable gain between ±12dB and 12 dB/octave slope. The “Hi-Q” button on the mid-band selects a narrower bandwidth.
The beautifully musical equalizer is a fantastic choice on pretty much anything that doesn't need surgical subtractive EQ.
Choosing the best audio plugins for your DAW can be a challenging task. For this reason, I've created My New Microphone's Comprehensive Audio Plugins Buyer's Guide. Check it out for help in determining your next audio plugin purchases.
Other Top Audio Plugin Articles
Here are additional My New Microphone articles regarding the best audio plugins by type:
• Top 11 Best Distortion Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Saturation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Digital Equalizer/EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Parametric EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Dynamic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 8 Best Graphic EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Linear Phase EQ Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 8 Best Passive EQ Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Digital Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best FET Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Optical Compressor Emulation Plugins
• Top 10 Best Multiband Compressor Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Variable-Mu Compressor Emulation Plugins
• Top 11 Best VCA Compressor Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Limiter Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Channel Strip Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Chorus Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Flanger Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 9 Best Phaser Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Tremolo Modulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Analog Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Digital Delay Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 10 Best Tape Delay Emulation Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 12 Best Reverb Plugins (Spring, Plate, Algorithmic, Convolution)
• Top 9 Best Stereo Imaging Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 11 Best Guitar Amp Simulator Plugins For Your DAW
• Top 7 Best Noise Reduction Plugins For Your DAW