When it comes to equalisation in the modern digital era, we are presented with an absolutely enormous amount of EQ plugins to pick and choose from.

In the past 20+ years, we've seen heaps of emulations of some of the most highly sought-after and antiquated hardware equalisers ever that introduce all sorts of sonic phenomena that keep audio engineers coming back for more, and each one purports to be better than the last.

Conversely, we have also been introduced to large quantities of "sterile" equalizers that have been built specifically and solely to keep the integrity of the original audio intact, whose sole remit is a "clean" curve.

The community members of Gearslutz have voiced their opinions on the best EQ plug in. Some have stood the test of time, having been around since the beginnings of the "digital revolution," and others which are relative newcomers, but have a promising foothold in the market already.

The list is very diverse, with each plug in equaliser offering either a slightly or massively different workflow than the last. Without any further waiting, let’s get straight to the top ten, buyers guide, of the most popular equalisers, as voted for by the Gearslutz community members!


 Pro-Q 2

FabFilter Pro-Q 2

Pro-Q2, the newest update to the famous Pro-Q, is a modern marvel in digital processing. Coming from Fabfilter, any knowledgeable mixer would expect absolutely no less, as Fabfilter is noted for creating some of the most comprehensive plugins available and designing them in the most intuitive ways possible. Pro-Q2 is the ‘end-all’ EQ plugin that has virtually every single feature you could want from any EQ. It's a clean, digital, and sterile EQ so it doesn’t colour your tracks in any other ways outside of the EQ changes specified by the operator. Just a few of the features include: 24 bands of EQ (each one highly tweakable), EQ band soloing, EQ matching, zero latency/linear phase modes, frequency analyser, spectrum grabber, piano roll (for frequency specific adjustments) and tonnes more. This small list of highlights does not even start to justify how incredibly flexible this plugin is. Fabfilter are also known for their extremely tight coding, so while Pro-Q2 is contorting and changing the frequency response of your audio in highly intelligent ways, it is never taxing on your CPU. You can run extremely high counts of Pro-Q2 and your system will never break a sweat! One of the best advantages to owning Pro-Q2 is it has the classic Fabfilter design. It's super clean, intuitive, and never is presented in an overwhelming way. A worthy number one!



DMG Audio EQuilibrium

EQuilibrium represents everything DMG Audio stands for: flexibility, depth, and quality. We're not sure there is any other plugin manufacturer out there that travels as ‘far down the rabbit hole’ as DMG Audio does. Any member of the community will tell you that Dave Gamble’s plugins cater to absolutely every want you could imagine, then add dozens more features that you never knew you needed but suddenly can't live without. EQuilibrium gives you access to massive amounts of flexibility - loads of setup options, configurable user interface modes, multiple metering options with variable ballistics, different phase options (including minimum, analog, linear), a highly detailed graph, tonnes of filter types, and lots more. EQuilibrium is equally suited to both mastering and mixing engineers as it can be as entirely clean and sterile as it can be colourful. EQuilibrium offers not only one digital mode, but a second digital mode that claims to be even more accurate in its frequency response, which makes it even more enticing for mastering engineers. Finally, DMG Audio not only make great plugins, but they are extremely fast to fix issues and implement new features, which is an additional bonus when purchasing anything from them.


 VMR (Virtual Mix Rack)

Slate Digital VMR (Virtual Mix Rack)

If you spend any time on Gearslutz at all then you'll be aware that Slate Digital has built a cult-like following in the past five years in the pro audio industry. The Virtual Mix Rack was heavily anticipated, as Slate’s team had really pushed the boundaries in analog modeling in all of their previous releases - this was to be no different. VMR boasts four emulations of highly sought after analog hardware units: the FG-116 (a model of Universal Audio’s 1176 compressor), the FG-401 (based loosely around multiple VCA compressors), the FG-N (a take on Neve’s 1073 EQ), and the FG-S (their version of SSL’s 4000-series Console EQ). One of the main goals of VMR is bringing multiple processing units into one plugin - a “virtual rack” - in order to make creation, saving, and recall of custom channel strips faster than ever. The rack unit itself is well-designed, allowing users to 'drag and drop' to bring new modules into the rack or to reorganise the modules as they see fit. Modules can also be dragged from one rack interface to another, which is actually a handy feature if you are working across multiple channels. Modules can also be individually bypassed and soloed which is helpful when it comes to zeroing in on your sound. As VMR was voted third place in the EQ category, we'll focus on the EQ modules - the FG-N, based on the Neve 1073, is an excellent EQ. Slate decided to modify the plugin, giving it an extra mid-range band and removing the stepped values to give the frequency knobs full range. The EQ sports a saturation control labeled “LINE” that emulates the sonic characteristics of driving the unit's preamp section. Next, the FG-S - it's based around the SSL 4000 console EQ, a legendary EQ derived from the famous SSL 4000 console channel equaliser, known worldwide for having recorded thousands of top selling albums at many famous studios since its inception. With two parametric and fully sweepable bells, a high shelf, a low shelf, a high pass filter, and all the analogue saturation inherent to the original design, the FG-S is a seriously capable EQ.

4. Tokyo Dawn Labs Slick EQ/Slick EQ GE

 TDR VOS SlickEQ – Gentleman’s Edition

Tokyo Dawn Labs TDR VOS SlickEQ – Gentleman’s Edition

Created by a deadly combination of talented developers (Vladislav Goncharov, Herbert Goldberg, and Fabien Schivre), SlickEQ is a fast yet simple digital EQ. TDL/VOS seems to be aiming towards having the most accurate digital EQ on the market (though it doesn’t have to be - you can engage various saturation modes to give it some subtle colour). Every aspect of the plugin seems to have been carefully addressed to keep the audio passing through as optimised as possible. Their 64-bit multi-rate processing scheme "eliminates frequency-warping, quantization distortion and aliasing.” The user can choose from multiple EQ modes that affect the band’s shapes. All of the bands are smooth, and users note that the high band is particularly excellent with a sweet sound. The "Gentlemen’s Edition" offers a bit more flexibility over its free younger brother by adding a low-pass filter, a 'tilt' EQ, a frequency magnitude display, and a few other useful options. When it comes to reducing and simplifying your EQ moves, SlickEQ GE is a workhorse that is entirely more capable than it looks. Currently, TDL only have three plugins, but each plugin offers a very capable entry-level free version that stands on its own. Because of these very user-friendly business practices, TDL has been very successful at gaining new fans of their products and building a strong user base.

5. Universal Audio UAD Pultec Passive EQ Collection

 Pultec Passive EQ Collection

Universal Audio Pultec Passive EQ Collection

The classic Pultec EQ is enormously well-known in the audio community and has been emulated by a host of different companies over the years, but possibly none more successfully so far than Universal Audio. The UAD Pultec Passive EQ Collection contains the original EQP-1A Program Equalizer, which sports both a low shelf and a high shelf band, each capable of boosting or cutting via their independent knobs. It’s from this equaliser that the famous "Pultec EQ trick," the “boost/cut,” which involves boosting and cutting a frequency simultaneously, originally came from. With a standard digital EQ, the cut and boost would null out, but with the EQP-1A, the boosting and cutting result in deeper lows and reduced low mids, which is an effect that's been been used enormously successfully on kick drums, amongst other things. This is due to the 'parallel' nature of the EQ versus an EQ that runs its bands 'in series.' The bundle also includes the MEQ-5 Mid-Range Equalizer, which gives you control over the midrange by presenting a low-mid boost-only bell, a mid-range dip-only bell, and a high-mid boost-only bell. Last but not least, there is the HLF-3C Pultec Filter, which adds both a high-pass and low-pass filter. This unit is filled with colour and doesn’t impart anything resembling 'clean' tonal changes, which is much of the reason it is so heavily loved!

6. Sonnox Oxford EQ

 Oxford EQ

Sonnox Oxford EQ

The Sonnox Oxford EQ is another one of those "everlasting" plugins that has stood the test of time, managing somehow to escape obsolescence in the unforgiving progression of time simply due the large amount of individuals who still swear by it. The Oxford EQ was modeled against the Sony OXF-R3 console EQ and went on to become an extremely popular option for professional mix engineers in a time when most didn’t believe that "in the box" digital mixing would ever truly take off. The Oxford EQ has five parametric bell filters, high- and low-pass filters, and a “Type” menu, which allows you to cycle through various options that effectively change the how the band’s Q and gain parameters interact. Two of the parametric bell bands can be changed from bells to shelves, if the user so desires. While the plugin has been available for many years now in various forms, it continually gets mentioned on Gearslutz in all manner of EQ threads. The Oxford EQ is really a go-to in many mix engineers’ workflows.

7. Eiosis AirEQ

 AirEQ Premium

Eiosis AirEQ Premium

AirEQ is the creation of the mastermind behind the Slate Digital algorithms, Fabrice Gabriel. With AirEQ, Fabrice tried to build a plugin that would be optimal for almost any use you could think of - a "one-stop shop" equaliser. It could be used for mixing and mastering equally, without have to engage modes or features that would make the plugin any more taxing on your CPU than would be expected. AirEQ is simply optimised and tweaked to make it work in any situation you could possibly think of. The EQ’s signature 'Fire' and 'Water' curves add a new dimension to the tonal possibilities in your DAW. These mode options will sharpen or flatten the peaks of your boosts respectively, to either add or remove emphasis on the resonance of the selected band, but without effecting the 'Q' value (the range of frequencies that are affected). AirEQ is a tightly coded EQ plugin with many great features. Some say that if you own this EQ, you likely don’t even need any others.

8. Waves Audio SSL 4000

 SSL 4000 Collection

Waves Audio SSL 4000 Collection

If there’s one EQ that almost every single mix engineer seems to have in their arsenal, it’s the SSL G-Series EQ. The hardware counterpart of this plugin has been strapped across piles of rock & pop hits produced by the world’s greatest mix engineers (Bob Clearmountain and Chris Lord-Alge, to name just a couple!) This plug-in emulation captures the not-so-subtle nuances and character of the original piece that make it such a highly sought after sonic signature. The EQ can be pushed hard before it starts to feel 'harsh' or 'overly EQed,' but at the same time, it has some serious bite. Dialing in any high-mid-range frequencies can cause an element to instantly pierce through a mix, which is why the SSL EQ is a great choice on vocals. Complete with some simulated analog saturation, running different sources through this plugin will give your tracks a bit of a classic tone that will also help to mitigate any digital sterility.

9. Massenburg DesignWorks MDW Parametric Equalizer

 (MDW) Hi-Res Parametric EQ

Massenburg DesignWorks (MDW) Hi-Res Parametric EQ

The MDW EQ is another one of those historical 'staples' in the digital mixing realm. If you don't know of George Massenburg, he was essentially the inventor of the parametric EQ back in 1969, and without his work we wouldn't have nearly the amount of precision and flexibility that we do in shaping our signals. Massenburg revolutionized the way in which we still work today, so it only makes sense that the Gearslutz community pay tribute to his work by including his classic EQ plugin in our top 10 list. To this day users still hold this EQ in high regard and it is still mentioned in EQ shootouts all over the forums. This is a true testament to its quality, as it was introduced well over a decade ago, which proves that some things never go out of fashion! The EQ is mostly known for its smooth ability to shape sources, to add definition, and to add clarity without overly colouring the signal. The EQ is now into its 5th version and UAD support is available, so you can purchase it and run it on your UAD card in addition to standard DAW support.

10. Plugin Alliance Maag EQ4

 EQ4 Native Plugin

Maag Audio EQ4 Native Plugin

When you need to add sparkle, sheen, and air, it becomes second nature to reach for Maag’s 'EQ4' plugin. Known for having an ultra-smooth high shelf that reaches up into a dog-injuring 40 kHz, the EQ4 can instantly inject life and brilliance into any dull track. Of course, the EQ4 features more bands than just that famous “Air Band,” - five other fixed bands of EQ, to be precise. Each fixed frequency seems to have been picked intelligently, as they all seem to be extremely useful in mix situations. Many users agree that having fixed-frequency bands keeps the engineer from going into a “tweak overload mode” and keeps you focused on the bigger picture. The EQ4 is not intended to be a surgical EQ at all - in fact, its' wide bands all interact with one another, which means that the EQ is definitely meant for 'broad strokes' and general 'tonal shifting.' Experimenting with how these bands interact can lead to some very cool, and even unexpected results. The Maag EQ4 works on a wide variety of material and doesn’t seem to be geared towards anything specific, but mixers have been using its hardware counterpart on the vocals of top-charting artists for years, so it really seems to shine in this area.


The results for the 2016 Gearslutz Top 10 Best Equalisers have been extremely diverse and well-rounded. Some of the earliest digital EQ plugins ever designed have stood the test of time, such as the MDW Parametric EQ and the Sonnox Oxford EQ, and they have both made it into the top 10 EQs. We can see that the everlasting trend of emulated analogue modeled EQs is still on the rise too, with the additions of the Slate Virtual Mix Rack, Maag EQ 4, the Waves SSL 4000 Console EQ, and the Universal Audio Pultec Passive EQ Collection. Lastly, despite having a love for these analog emulations, we can also see that the community still finds a place for extremely surgical and precise EQ tools, such as the Pro Q2 and the AirEQ, for when ultra-transparent and delicate application are the order of the day. Amongst this list live some of the finest digital EQs ever crafted, as voiced by the community members of Gearslutz, but if the the cycle of the inevitable progression of technology remains exponential and continues to follow Moore’s law, we are bound to see even more magnificent digital recreations of equalisers and plugins in general as time goes on.

Thanks to everyone who voted for their most-used and best-loved EQs!