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Try the Double Whammy Trick of EQ’ing and Compressing


EQ before compression or compression before EQ? That’s the big question isn’t it?

It’s endlessly debated which processor you should insert first. Do you tweak your signal with EQ before you add some compression to it, or do you get it nice and punchy before you enhance it with EQ?

Two Simple Tips to Guide you Through

1. EQ before compression if you need to compress drastically – If you don’t need to EQ that much, but you need to compress a lot, then insert your EQ before the compressor.

2. Compression before EQ if you need to EQ heavily– This is the opposite. If you really need to EQ your instrument to make it sound better, then insert the compressor before the EQ.

Why?

If you insert the EQ before the compressor the compressor will compress your EQ fixes more than the rest of the signal.

Think about it, you’re boosting certain frequencies to make them louder, and then you go ahead and compress them down again. Seems redundant doesn’t it?

Therefore, if you want your EQs to make a bigger impact, inserting them after the compressor makes more sense. At that point you’ve already compressed the signal so the EQ isn’t affected.

Double-Whammy Processing

Another trick you could try is to chain two EQs and two compressors together.

1. First EQ – Use the first EQ only for cuts and repairs. Use your filters to take out any unnecessary low or high-end, and cut out any annoying frequencies.

2. First Compressor – Insert this compressor after the EQ and only use it to tame the peaks. Just have it compress lightly, with only a -0.5 dB of gain reduction and a low ratio.

3. Second EQ – Think of this EQ as make-up. Whereas your first EQ was reconstructive surgery, this one really makes your signal shine. Do all of your boosts here to make your signal really stand out.

4. Second Compressor – If you need to compress heavily to bring out all the little intricacies and nuances of your signal, do it here. If you want to add punch to your drums, or need an extra in-your-face sound to your vocals, use some heavy-handed compression here.

Also, if you have CPU heavy processors you can use the native EQ and compressor for the first round. After that you can switch to better sounding plug-ins for the make-up.

How do you do it?

Everybody approaches compression differently. I’d love to hear what your technique is. Have you tried the above-mentioned technique or do you think it’s a waste of processing power? Let us know your tips in the comments.

For more mixing tips like these, as well as an in-depth guide on planning the perfect mix, check out Mixing Strategies right here.

Image by: HSmade


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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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LEAVE A COMMENT

  • Glen Stephan

    This is a fine article on a oft-asked subject, B.B. I’d like to share another perspective to add to the conversation, which I like to give the shorthand name of “FixEQ > Compression > TweakEQ”

    The idea here is to first apply EQ to clean up and “fix” the sound of the instrument to get the actual uncompressed instrument sound you would have liked to have recorded without requiring EQ. This would include using EQ sweep with narrow cuts to remove “honky”  resonant frequencies and mic/room “bumps”. This would also include EQing any other low-amplitude mud, noise or other junk that might otherwise be adversely boosted and made more audible by the upcoming compression.

    Then apply compression to taste.

    Finally, once the compression is in place, you can – if necessary – tweak the results with a little more polishing EQ just to finish off the final sound as desired.

    Of course there is no such thing as a definitive, hard rule to the order of operation in either the recording or post-processing chain. Both your fine explanation and my perspective here IMHO should be used as guideline to help us all understand how these things tend to work. That is, the understanding of WHY we make these recommendations and WHY the gear works the way it does when used in that order is far more important IMHO than just selecting the equipment order by rote or on faith.

    Once one has that understanding, they can more easily create their own signal processing game plan for a given track, and perhaps even come up with some great creative original ideas for what sound they want to try to acheive. 🙂

    Glen Stephan,
    Independent Recording Network
    http://www.independentrecording.net

    • Thank you Glen,

      Wow what a great comment. Yeah, there are certainly similarities to both techniques. and I would say that yours really adds to mine explanation-wise. 

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Björgvin

  • Alex Burleson

    I always put the eq before compression and if I ever need to re-eq it, I’ll bypass the compressor and eq it. Then I’ll turn the compressor back on. Sometimes I’ll have to adjust the compressor again but not by much. I like having the compressor after because it will add it’s own color to the sound. I have done the technique you talked about before though. Each technique is effective in its own respect.

    • Yeah absolutely. Whatever works for your ears is good enough for me 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  • Marcin M.

    and if I’m EQing lightly and compressing lightly?

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