Understanding E.q. Part I - Graphic E.q.
Todd Simpson
Feb 25 2020, 06:32 PM
Posts: 19.946
Joined: 23-December 09
From: Atlanta, Georgia, USA
E.Q. (Short for Equalization) is a bit of a mystery to many home recordists as they get their first audio interface and first daw. E.Q. can make or break a good mix. More than that, it can make or break a good guitar tone. Let's talk about it just a bit here to give folks an overview of what it is and what it's for.

BACKGROUND: The human ear can hear roughly from 20HZ to 20GHZ. What the heck does that even mean? Good question. You may have heard this before and not known exactly what it portends. In rough terms, it means the human ear can hear a range of sound from BASS (called low frequencies) to TREBLE (called high frequencies) and everything in between called MID-RANGE (called mid frequencies).

When you see 20HZ listed on some spec sheet, it just means a low/bass sound. Sound is talked about in terms of "Frequency". This sounds technical but it's not. It can be understood as how "frequently" a given audio signal oscillates (E.G. how often the audio wave form hits it's peak/valley. Audio is a wave, and just like a wave each audio signal has a peak and trough or high point and low point.) Here is a chart showing a representation of a sound wave (also known as a wave form). It's also discussed in the following video.

Attached Image

So, the more "Frequently" a given waveform goes up and down (oscillates), the HIGHER the FREQUENCY of that waveform, so the more high pitched it sounds. Conversely, the less "Frequently" a given waveform goes up and down (oscillates), the LOWER the FREQUENCY of that waveform, so the lower pitched it sounds. That's what people mean typically when they are talking about "Frequency" in terms of audio.


You are likely to find two main types of E.Q. in your work with music. One type is called "Graphic" E.Q. and the other type is "Parametric" E.Q. Typically, Graphic E.Q. works by having a set of sliders that are fixed at certain frequencies. The user can set these sliders at the zero/middle position, or push them up for boost (increase) or push them down for cut (decrease) of a given frequency. As an example, here is a common E.Q. Pedal that you may have seen in the wild. It's mean for guitar which is considered a Mid Range Instrument so the Max Frequency is 16khz.

You may also have scene Graphic E.Q. Units in a recording studio. These are often "Stereo" units (one unit for left one unit for right but in the same housing/rack unit). Typically studio Graphic E.Q. will have more bands/sliders and approach the full range of human hearing as they are meant to work on an entire mix, not just a guitar. There are hardware versions of E.Q. and Software/Plugin Versions of E.Q. For recording work, Plugin E.Q. has become very popular since the settings can be saved with a given mix which is very handy. Here is a vid about using a plugin E.Q. on your mix.

In the next article in this series. We will look at "Parametric" E.Q. and discuss it's uses as both a tool for guitarists, such as a stomp box, and it's use in Recording/Mixing Music. Parametric E.Q. is a bit more complicated than Graphic E.Q. but it's worth learning since it is a LOT more flexible in terms of what it can do for your overall sound.


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This post has been edited by Todd Simpson: Feb 25 2020, 06:33 PM
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