EQ Before or After Compression? |249

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Which occurs first when using DIY with DHI? Which comes first, EQ or compression?

Since EQ and compression are the most fundamental and often utilized instruments in an audio engineer’s toolbox, working with the two of them simultaneously frequently causes confusion.Egg or Chicken? Similar to the “chicken and egg” controversy, there are differing opinions on whether to apply an equalizer (EQ) before or after compression. I’m here to explain the distinctions for you whether you’ve pondered about them yourself or not.

Prior to compression:

Perhaps you’ve noticed that even the standard EQ plugins for Pro Tools have a “output” meter that displays how each change in frequency (plus or minus) vs dB impacts the total signal level. For example, if you turn on 100Hz Your signal is probably clipping now if you increase the bass guitar signal by +12dB. Aside from the side matter of doing your best to avoid having to substantially EQ a source, you will hear the compressor responding to the bass increase in a slightly “uneven” way if you position it after the EQ in the signal path. Similar results would be obtained if you abruptly high passed a frequency on the same track. On the same bass guitar, try applying a high pass filter at, let’s say, 400 Hz. If you left your compressor’s settings unchanged from the prior low end boost, you’ll notice that it responds quite differently. In reality, given that you significantly reduced your input level or threshold signal by eliminating any frequencies below 400Hz.

EQ Following Compression:

Instead, your compressor won’t be the first processor to respond to the incoming signal because it is placed before your EQ in the signal path. Continue to use the bass guitar track. Often, you’ll be able to make more accurate EQ judgments by first allowing the full frequency range to be compressed. A recording might seem flat after applying compression before the EQ, which is why the phrase “EQ Artifacts” is used to characterize that “EQ’d sound” and to explain why. Since we applied the compression in this case before the EQ, adding 4dB of 80Hz to the bass guitar actually produces a more realistic low end frequency gain because there isn’t anything limiting it.

after EQ’ing, that frequency.

If you’re just getting started, compression is a difficult thing to hear on its own. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what “that sound” was. In reality, there are still nuances that I learn about when I speak with or listen to a more seasoned engineer or producer and their work. The secret is to keep practicing and creating music, and above all, keep in mind that this is intended to be enjoyable.

Enjoy your recording!

Instituto del Dark Horse de Sean RogersSean Rogers is a seasoned producer and audio engineer in addition to serving as the director of student services at Dark Horse Institute. He has nearly seven years of expertise in career advising, and his work on large-scale label initiatives for performers like Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, and others.

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