EQ: Before or After Compression?

This is a widely argued subject within music production, so I feel it necessary to show the different ways in which EQ post/prior to compression can affect your mix. It is such an opinionated subject because really, there is no right or wrong position to put your EQ, and often changing the position of your EQ will only have a subtle audible difference to your mix anyway.

Pre-Compression EQ

Many producers/mix engineers believe it makes no sense to use pre-compression Equalisers as any boost or cut to frequencies will alter the signal level entering the compressor. Boosting frequencies prior to compression will cause the compressor to respond to the increased signal and most likely turn down the frequencies you have just tried to accentuate. So why use pre-compression EQ? Well, some producers boost frequencies prior to compression as it can create a musical effect on their mix and others use it correctively to cut noises and resonance, so they aren’t emphasised by the compressor. Personally I would be cautious when using pre-compression EQ and:

• Don’t boost too much signal as it will make your compressor work much harder than it should be which could then result in an over-compressed mix.
• Remember to alter your original compression settings if you decide to boost/cut frequencies as the new signal entering the compressor may completely change the sound of your mix.

Post-Compression EQ

EQ’ing signal post-compression is probably the most common way to use EQ with compression, especially for shaping and colouring the sound. In a mastering situation I usually like to boost certain frequencies to bring them out in the mix, post-compression EQ allows me to do this effectively as I am EQ’ing the compressed signal rather than compressing my EQ’d signal.

2 Mastering Situations

Problem: The kick drum is killing the low-end; the sub is far too much for the mix and is overpowering all other low-end instruments.

EQ Solution: Pre-Compression EQ: Use a notch EQ to cut the sub on the kick so the problematic frequency isn’t being fed into the compressor.

Problem: Vocal is too low in the mix

EQ Solution: Post-Compression EQ: Use a low Q boost around 800-5KHz to clarify the vocals and make them appear more defined in the mix.


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