EQ before compression or compression before EQ?
That’s the big question isn’t it?
It’s a never ending debate of preference that doesn’t have a right answer.
But there are some general guidelines you can take into consideration. Depending on whether you’re recording, mixing or mastering, this argument has a few different sides.
Recording - When you’re tracking instruments, use your microphone as the EQ. The frequency response changes as you move the mic.
It’s like tweaking knobs without the knobs. And if you have access to an outboard, on-the-way-in compressor, by all means use it if you want.
Mixing - This is going to be the big “it depends” answer. If you don’t need to EQ that much, but you need to compress a lot, then insert your EQ before the compressor.
Or, if you really need to EQ your instrument to make it sound better, then insert the compressor before the EQ. But you will see all kinds. Compression before and after, as well as in parallel.
Mastering - In mastering, I recommend that you EQ first. I compressed first for a long time, but I was shown the error of my ways.
The thing is, when you’re mastering, EQ is THE MOST important processor. You want the song to sound great frequency wise before you start compressing it.
A compressor before might skew your perception, making you EQ differently than you should.
So depending on which part of the audio production process you’re on, the approach to EQ and compression becomes different.
For an in-depth look at both recording and mixing, check out the Audio Issues Strategies bundle: