In audio, an equalizer is an audio effect plugin that functions like a volume fader but is designed to affect the volume of frequencies. In Ableton, there are 2 native EQs; the EQ Three and today’s tutorial, the EQ Eight.
Why You Should Equalize
There are 2 main reasons to use an equalizer while mixing:
- Clean-up – remove unwanted noise, tame frequencies, or a frequency band that muddies or harshen your sound. This will polish your track and make it sound cleaner.
- Creating space – you can use an equalizer to create space in your mix—for example, the relationship between a kick and bass. You can create a high-pass filter up to 80Hz to create room for your sub-bass. This can and should be done with vocals and other harmonic instruments, kicks and toms, pads and synths etc.
Theories of Equalization
There are 2 main philosophies of equalization. You may have been using them without even knowing them but they are:
This method is intended for the removal or control of unwanted, unnecessary and resonant frequencies by cutting their volume in the frequency spectrum. This process is done usually after recording and effects and typically before compression depending on the playback sample’s nature.
This is the opposite of subtractive equalization which normally comes after compression to add volume to certain frequencies and frequency bands. This is because compression does control the dynamism of an audio sample, and you may end up with a sample that sounds duller after compressing, losing some of its character and grit.
EQ Three vs EQ Eight
These are the 2 native equalizers in Ableton and this is how they differ:
This is the simplest equaliser in Ableton and is named EQ Three because it can only affect 3 frequency bands simply called Low, Mid and High. Each is controllable by gain. You can set the specific frequency in the low and high range, and select between 2 different Qs – 24 and 48 for low and high Q.
This is the big brother of the EQ Three, allowing you more equalization options and parameters, along with a visual spectrometer to see the frequencies of the audio source you are affecting.
EQ Eight In-depth
EQ Eight has 8 frequency bands you can use to affect your audio playback.
The bottom Panel
In the bottom panel, the button next to the EQ band toggles the on/off function of the band, and above this toggle, you can access the different types of EQ curve types from, a wide low-pass, to shelves, bell curves and narrow high pass curves
The Left Panel
On the left panel, you will get the specific frequency and general range of the frequency that is affected. The volume gain of this selected frequency and the Q. The Q affects the width of the EQ node selected. A high Q reduces the frequency range of the EQ node for precision, while a low Q increases the frequency range affected.
Tip! When dealing with a low Q, I advise you to be subtle with your gain changes because too much or too little, may bring up the resonance and unwanted frequencies.
The Right Panel
This panel allows you a lot of utility. Firstly, the top of this panel has the headphones (enabling you to listen to the frequency node in solo), the spectrograph on/off toggle, the playback effect toggle between stereo, L/R, and M/S for surround or stereo mixing, the Adaptive Q function that when turned on, allows the different node curves to blend into each other smoothly, the scale affects all bands’ gain, and gain which affects the overall output of the signal from this plugin.
The EQ Eight is a powerful equalizer. The simple look is deceptive because the resulting power is unmatched. The toggle between stereo and surround mixing options is something not found in some of the most expensive 3rd party equalizer plugins without the CPU load on your computer. Use this EQ and you will get incredible results. Have fun!