Best EQ Plugins in 2022 (Free & Paid)

by Alex.   Last Updated On September 5th, 2022.
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Equalization is an essential part of music production. Owning a flexible and powerful EQ plugin is super important for any level of producer.

EQs are used to control the frequency balance of your music. They are mostly used in the mixing stage but are also central to sound design and general production. It’s widely known that EQ vst plugins tend to sound better than stock EQ plugins.

Many types of EQ plugins are available, so this guide is here to recommend the best versions on the market to help you clean and perfect your frequency ranges!

Table of Contents
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Comparison of the Best EQ Plugins

Best EQ plugins for mixing engineers and producers seeking a clean, precise EQ for detailed frequency-related tasks.See On Amazon
photo of the Sonnox Oxford EQSonnox
Oxford EQ
Best EQ plugins for people who need a transparent, powerful, and modern EQ plugin that gives you all the features you need to craft perfect mixes.See On Amazon
photo of the Softube Weiss EQSoftube
Weiss EQ
Best EQ plugins for advanced producers who need a high-quality, colorful, but simple EQ plugin. See On Amazon
photo of the SSL Fusion Violet EQSSL
Fusion Violet EQ
Best EQ plugins for artists looking to quickly bring some crunch and saturation to their mixes, with deep tone shaping possibilities.See On Amazon
photo of the Sound Toys DecapitatorSound Toys
Decapitator
Best EQ plugins for those looking for a modern EQ with intelligent and unique features, the Smooth Operator is a strong choice and will quickly enhance the sound of your productions. See On Amazon
photo of the Baby Audio Smooth OperatorBaby Audio
Smooth Operator
Best EQ plugins for producers looking for a new type of EQ with powerful dynamic EQ features, and the ability to individually shape the transient and sustain components of sounds.See On Amazon
photo of the Eventide Split EQEventide
Split EQ

Reviews of the Best EQ Plugins

The Oxford EQ is an industry standard across studios worldwide. Known for super clean and artifact-free processing this EQ is perfect for corrective and creative uses.

See On Amazon

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a serious studio that didn’t have the Sonnox Oxford EQ in their arsenal. This is one of the cleanest, most precise parametric EQ vst plugins going, yet still has a distinctly satisfying sound. It’s a six-band EQ, including a low and high shelf, paired with four configurable resonant EQ nodes with variable q control.

Despite its somewhat older-looking interface, it’s still highly flexible and forward thinking, and lets you easily blend in the perfect amount of boost and cut. The high and low end are really impressive, with pure, crisp detail, and thick rich highs, which are hard to beat with other EQ plugins. It sounds top-quality no matter what type of sound or instrument you process.

Some of the notable features include the Overshoot function, which applies a small dip, just below the high boosted frequencies to increase the clarity and perceived detail of the boosted sounds. It includes a trim function for dialing back the overall settings, and a useful EQ graph to see which frequencies you are editing (albeit without a spectrum analyzer).

The sound of the EQ is incredibly nice. It feels a lot more ‘solid’ than other digital EQ plugins, and can easily deceive the ears that it’s coming from a high-quality analog unit rather than a VST. That said, it doesn’t have the warmth or saturation of an analog emulation plugin, so it gives you cleaner results.

Its interface encourages thoughtful and restrained EQ processing and doesn’t tempt you to smack as many parametric EQ nodes on as possible and create an ugly sound. This is truly an industry standard, and if you are looking for a high-powered, professional EQ plugin then this is one of the better ones available.

What We Like

Pristine, transparent EQ processing.

Multiple EQ types.

Configurable control and EQ curve.

Useful EQ visualizer.

This EQ sounds super clean.

Know Before Buying

Simple in functionality.

Relatively high CPU use.

See On Amazon

A modern EQ plugin, the Softube Weiss is a software emulation of the minimum phase Weiss EQ1 hardware unit. This 7 Band EQ offers a huge range of precision and detail.

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The Weiss EQ1 is one of the pinnacles of digital EQs in hardware. This EQ is a reference point when it comes to mastering hardware, and is found in some of the most prestigious mixing and mastering studios worldwide. Original hardware units of the Weiss EQ1 will set you back around $9000! So it’s a miracle that you can pick this plugin up for around $200.

Softube’s Weiss EQ vst is a 1:1 recreation of the original algorithm used in the hardware. The original parametric EQ is known for its exceptionally precise and transparent processing with super high fidelity, and this plugin captures that magic. If you’ve ever had the joy of listening to one of these EQs in person, then you will instantly be able to recognize the super clean tone and powerful EQ processing.

This plugin gives you seven configurable bands of EQ control, that can be run in any type of EQ mode, from notch, bell, low pass filters, high pass filter, and many more. The interface gives you a detailed spectrum analyzer so you can see exactly how the sound changes as it runs through the processing. The scalable interface lets you enlarge or shrink the plugin to fit on your screen, which is a useful feature if you run it on multiple channels at once and want to sculpt multiple sounds at the same time.

Softube is known to be an expert in capturing and emulating analog devices into the analog realm, and the Weiss EQ vst is a perfect example of why they are so renowned in the analog simulation scene. It’s pristine, and accurate, with a modern interface and all the original features you’d expect from the hardware. It sounds fantastic working as a subtractive or additive EQ.

A sweet feature of this plugin is that it comes with a dark mode, so you don’t have to be blinded by the white interface every time you open it. Besides that, we were really impressed with this EQ’s flexibility and power.

What We Like

Extremely precise, high fidelity EQ processing.

Fantastic optimization with low CPU usage and near zero latency (despite high-quality processing.)

Super customizable controls with deep settings.

7 EQ bands per plugin with four EQ modes each.

Know Before Buying

Limited to -39 to +18 dB cut and boost.

Interfaces can get cluttered with full node usage.

See On Amazon

Solid State Logic (SSL) is a British audio company that is known to be one of the leaders in the industry, for several decades. While they came from a background in hardware and mixing desks, they’ve recently transitioned to the digital realm, offering a range of extremely well-made and high-quality sounding plugins.

Their Fusion Violet EQ vst is a recreation of the analog EQs in their SSL 2-band Fusion hardware processors and SSL consoles, and has a close sound to their iconic ‘Air Band´. The hardware units alone cost around $2000 new, so this plugin at 1/10th of the cost can’t be a bad investment. It has a more simple style than most of the EQs on this list, only offering a high and low band, paired with an HPF and in/out trims. It’s limited compared to full parametric EQs, but it has an unbeatable sound that adds a super satisfying bump to the highs and lows.

Sure, the low band only reaches 90Hz, and the highs only go as low as 8kHz, but for some tasks, this is all you need. If you are just looking for something to quickly add some color and analog flavor to your tracks then this is a strong choice. It’s not going to give you full flexible, corrective EQ, but it creates such a satisfying sound that it’s hard not to stick it on every song you make. The FAT mode adds some extra low boost, and the ECO switch uses less CPU power for heavier mix projects.

Despite bringing analog color to your mixes, it doesn’t add too much saturation or crunch, so it still has a smooth and natural sound. It’s not a one-size-fits-all EQ, so don’t pick this if you don’t have a range of EQs in your plugin box already. But if you need anything from a subtle boost to a drastic cut, this will sound amazing.

What We Like

Simple, effective interface.

Satisfying analog sound.

Extra FAT button for low-end boost.

ECO mode for reduced CPU usage.

Know Before Buying

Not fully parametric (limited to banding).

Limited features.

See On Amazon

A saturation/EQ plugin designed to add color and tone to your sounds with minimal effort and maximum satisfaction. This isn’t a traditional EQ plugin, but it definitely fits on this list.

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OK, I know this isn’t strictly an ‘EQ’ plugin, but it’s certainly a master of frequency control and coloration. It’s more of an EQ/saturator, but it still has a huge range of functionality and features, and if you already own a clean/corrective EQ then this is a perfect pairing.

The Soundtoys Decapitator is a frequency-based saturation plugin that gives you all the controls you need to tune the tone of your sound. It doesn’t use traditional Hz-based controls, but it gives you a high and low cut, a dark/bright tone control, and drive and gain staging. This is more useful for broader tone coloring rather than specific frequencies and is definitely more of a creative tool than a corrective one.

The five different EQ modes are based on a bunch of hardware modules, each with a unique feeling and level of grit, and the Punish mode pushes it to the extreme. If you want to heat sounds up and add some more excitement without fiddling with specific frequencies then this is one of the quickest and best-sounding EQ plugins you can pick. I know the EQ purists might turn their noses, but if you want to make killer mixes, sometimes you need some dirt.

What We Like

A rich, warm tone for filling out the frequencies of your sounds.

Easy to use and intuitive.

5 different tone styles.

Low CPU use.

Know Before Buying

Not a standard EQ – won’t work for corrective tasks.

Too analog/crunchy when you need something clean.

See On Amazon

The Smooth Operator is an intelligent yet intuitive plugin that helps you achieve the perfect balance of frequencies in your tracks. Even more attractive are the dynamic EQ features, letting it work similarly to a multiband compressor or auto-eq.

Each of the five EQ nodes is parametric, so you can dial in the processing from broad to surgical for any frequency band. The additional Focus slider changes the performance of the algorithm, blending the differences between each EQ node for a smoother, more natural sounding process. Every node also has an intelligent Solo feature, letting you zone in on the specific frequencies and problem areas you need to monitor.

A neat feature is the Side-Chain, which lets you automatically duck the input based on information from external sources. This is more common in compressors than EQs, so it’s a powerful feature and enables a new dimension of coloration and mixing possibilities. Furthermore, it offers two algorithm modes, one high quality, and one optimized for performance. The interface is also resizable and comes with 3 switchable background colors.

What We Like

Useful ‘Focus’ slider for smoothing out processing.

Dynamic EQ features.

Includes a range of helpful presets.

Sidechain mode to control dynamics against other audio and MIDI tracks.

Know Before Buying

Limited to 5 EQ nodes.

No input gain.

See On Amazon

More than just an EQ’ Eventide Split is an advanced corrective and creative frequency-based tool. It offers users unique features including a structural split engine that separates audio into transients and tones, giving you a deeper level of control over your sound.

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The Eventide Split EQ is a modern plugin with a unique approach to equalization. The USP of this plugin is its ability to split the EQ processing between transients and sustain (or Tonal as the plugin calls it.) This gives you a new level of control over your frequencies that I haven’t seen in any other EQ plugin. It’s similar to a multiband compressor, although still very different in what it can achieve.

By giving users the ability to split the processing, you have more shaping power over your sounds. You can tweak the punch of a kick to be heavier and fatter, without muddying up the tail. Or you can Enhance the transients of instruments like acoustic guitars and keyboards without blurring or over exaggerating the rest of their frequencies.

Besides this revolutionary split, it has 8 bands of dynamic EQ processing with configurable types, a Mid-Side processing mode for controlling stereo image information and widening sounds with variable stereo placement accross the frequency spectrum. A super accurate built-in spectrum analyzer gives you a clear view of how the frequencies of your mix are performing. Each band also has a useful solo mode to hear its processing in isolation.

This is an incredibly powerful corrective EQ tool that can repair sounds with ease. Despite the relatively lower cost of Eventide Split, it is a highly competitive plugin with a wealth of features and a detailed and high-quality sound.

What We Like

Unique structural split feature – control transient and sustain EQ independently.

Intuitive controls with 8 EQ bands.

Over 150 factory presets.

Super detailed spectrum visualizer.

Mid-Side Mode.

Optional dynamic EQ mode.

Know Before Buying

The interface can get cluttered.

More complex than standard EQ plugins.

See On Amazon

Bonus Free EQ Plugin

PTEq-X Pultec Style EQ – Free

Anybody who knows their studio gear will have heard of the legendary PulTec EQ. A colorful, iconic classic, this Pultec style EQ brings a smooth workflow and tone to your hands, free of charge.

It’s designed like all the best Pultec analog EQ plugins and includes both the Pultec EQP 1A and 5M models combined in one. So you get control across the whole frequency range.

This is capable of simultaneously cutting and boosting the same frequency bands, allowing for unique effects. The high and low bands are known to be some of the most classic sounding EQ curves in the game. If you don’t already have a Pultec style EQ in your plugin kit then you can’t go wrong with this. Whilst it isn’t as accurate as more expensive models like the Universal Audio or Waves plugins, it’s faithful enough a free plugin!

Buyers Guide for the Best EQ Plugins

There are a lot of different EQ plugins out there, so it can be hard to know what is the best pick for your needs. This section gives you some advice, helping you to choose a great EQ!

Type – Corrective/Creative/Both?

The first thing to consider is whether you need a corrective or creative EQ. The difference here is in terms of color, saturation, and transparency.

Creative EQs are better used to enhance and saturate sounds, shaping their tone with (generally) broader strokes. These help to get more interesting sonic characteristics out of your sounds.

The other type, corrective, is the best choice if you are looking to do technical mixing tasks, often ‘fixing’ sounds. In this case, you want an EQ plugin that is super clean and doesn’t add color or saturation to the sound when you remove unwanted frequencies. It should leave the processed sound with a natural tone, almost as if you couldn’t tell that any work had been done to it.

Functions

Despite the standard features and functionality of EQs, you’ll find many plugins that offer extra built-in tools. These can speed up your workflow and give you more detailed control over the production of your record. For most people, a standard EQ will do the job. But if you want ‘smart features’ or other workflow hacks, then it can be worth splashing out the extra cash. Also certain types like a graphic equalizer have a different approach to fully parametric ones. Or even a linear phase EQ which is a special clean type for mastering.

CPU usage

This is only a minor consideration, but some EQ plugins can be extremely heavy on the CPU. This might not be an issue if you have a powerful computer, but make sure you are actually able to use the plugin you buy, particulary if you plan on using multiple instances. This is why I would recommend downloading a demo before hitting the buy button, just to make sure your PC is up to scratch.

Budget

This is also subjective, but make sure you only spend a reasonable amount of your budget on EQ plugins to start with. It depends on the size of your wallet, and level of interest in music production, but you can find some super expensive EQ plugins that probably aren’t worth the expense for beginners in music production. If you’re still new to EQs, then buying a $300+ plugin won’t make your music sound better unless you know what you are doing.

FAQs

What is the best EQ plugin for vocals?

It’s hard to say whether there is one best EQ for vocals, as there is a range of great choices out there. It also depends on whether you are looking for something clean and corrective, or something with more color. If you’re looking for a colorful plugin, then I’d suggest looking at something that emulates a Pultec style EQ, as these have a smooth top end and beautiful mids.

For cleaner tasks, I’d recommend something like the Sonnox Oxford EQ, or the Softube Weiss. These are both precise and accurate, making sure you perform the cleanest cuts and boosts possible. This lets you shape your vocals without adding unwanted coloration or artifacts.

Is FabFilter the best EQ?

Fabfilter Pro Q 3 is widely known as one of the best EQs on the market. Ultimately, there isn’t a single answer because there are a lot of great EQ plugins out there, some more suited to certain tasks than others.

FabFilter is a popular choice because it offers a huge level of flexibility and functionality at a reasonable price. It definitely isn’t the most expensive EQ plugin out there, but it offers an extremely clean processing and functional interface. I didn’t include FabFilter Pro Q on this list because everybody has heard of it, and it already comes at the top of most other lists. Check out my full review above for my top recommended EQ plugins.

Do different EQ plugins sound different?

Yes, different EQ plugins definitely sound different, even if you use them with the same settings and parameters. There are several reasons for this. The main reason is due to the type of algorithm used by the plugin. Most plugins use a unique, custom algorithm that the software developers programmed specifically for that VST (see also the best pitch shift VST plugins here), so they aren’t going to sound the same. Another reason is that some plugins are designed to be colorful, or creative, while others are built clean and transparent for corrective functions. (Some can even be switched between the two.)

Final thoughts!

Best EQ plugins for mixing engineers and producers seeking a clean, precise EQ for detailed frequency-related tasks.
Best EQ plugins for people who need a transparent, powerful, and modern EQ plugin that gives you all the features you need to craft perfect mixes.
Best EQ plugins for advanced producers who need a high-quality, colorful, but simple EQ plugin. 

It’s time to upgrade those dusty old stock plugins (see also best hip hop VST plugins here) that came with your DAW and get a professional sound design tool to clean your signal chain. You really can’t go wrong with a high quality EQ, and if you use it properly it can make a huge amount of difference to the sound quality of your mixes.