EQ is one of the primary tools in the engineer’s arsenal. While there are fantastic paid EQ plugins like the ProQ series from FabFilter, and the Waves Audio and UA stuff, it is also a category with a rich freeware inventory.
So, whether you need something surgical for removing unwanted resonances, or something with some mojo for additive EQ, here are 7 of the best free EQ plugins.
This 3-band (but really 5 with the cut filtering) EQ truly features some of the best elements of different types of equalizers to achieve its unique and musical tone. The high/low bands are shelving filters with four frequency points. The mid-band is sweep-able from 150Hz to 4kHz and utilizes a bell curve. A useful drive control can add in more harmonic color, and the output gain section has a clipping LED. The VU meter just displays the amount of drive, not the overall compressed signal – which can be confusing at first. SonEQ is a really unique EQ that comes in a variety of 64/32-bit formats for both Windows and Mac.
Analog Obsession Rare
Rare might be the rarest of all things – a superbly accurately-modeled plugin take on the Pultec EQP-1A. It features two bands over low and high frequencies, with a global bandwidth control. The bypass switch circumvents the EQ and harmonic generation aspects of the “circuit”. Rare is available in 64/32-bit VST and AU plugin formats.
Ignite Amps PTEq-X
Ignite Amps went all-in on painstakingly recreating one of the most beloved types of equalizer – the Pultec. This freeware features three different models that include emulations of the MQ5 and EPQ-1A models. The adjustable tube function is a welcome addition to the EPQ-1A emulation that adds additional harmonics. You can oversample it as well a use it in mono or stereo modes. Each unit has individual power switches so you are free choose which ones are in or out of the signal.
Audio Teknikk Equilibre
This is pretty much as close to the popular FabFilter ProQ as you’ll find in freeware. It uses a double precision EQ and oversampling modality to achieve its filtering. It has an easy-to-navigate, vibrant interface. There are eight fixed bands with high/low pass and shelf and four peak bands for the midrange. Each band has mid, side, or stereo processing options, opening it up to be used on channels, busses, or even the master! Perhaps the coolest feature is the saturation slider. This helps to introduce a little analog color for more tonal variety. It displays peak and RMS values and has an input gain so you can nail the gain staging.
TDR Nova EQ
This is one of the most unique free EQ plugins – a parallel dynamic EQ! The GUI is laid out just like a standard parametric, but each band also has a dynamics section. This means there is a compressor on each band with controls over threshold, ratio, and attack/release. Four bands and high/low pass filtering. It has a great visual display to help you make even more precise adjustments. You can use it in a variety of ways. From a standard parametric EQ to multi-band compressor and everything in between, Nova is a free EQ plugin that is absolutely worth a look.
One of the strongest free EQ plugins comes from Cockos, creators of the Reaper DAW. It doesn’t have a flashy GUI, but don’t let that fool you. You can create as many bands as you’d like, with frequency, gain, and bandwidth controls for each. It provides a visual representation of the entire spectrum, as well as phase correlation. It includes all types of filtering, including: shelves, high/low pass, band, bandpass, and notch. What’s more, it comes in a bundle with all the other ReaPlugs in 64/32-bit VST format.
Ignite Labs PTEq-1A
This is one of the few free emulations of the unique Pultec equalizer and the second on this list from Ignite Labs. Works just like a real Pultec, as it can add that special sweetness to your sounds by boosting and cutting frequencies simultaneously. It offers controls over the low, midrange, and high end. The tube circuit models ECC88 and 6DJ8 vacuum tubes. Ignite Labs modeled every element of the analog signal path of the hardware unit to give the plugin the response and articulation. 64-bit floating processing gives you the highest amount of headroom as well as mono and stereo processing. It runs on Windows and Mac in VST and AU.
TDR VOS Slick EQ
This semi-parametric EQ might be the most versatile on this entire list. It has four bands including the high-pass filter, as well as different EQ models: British, American, German, and Soviet that all have optional linearity. The high and low bands can be used as bell or cut filters. Output stages are also selectable via: linear, silky, mellow, deep, and toasted settings. Output gain can also be automated within the plugin to always maintain a consistent level. Perfect for mono or stereo applications, Slick comes in VST, AU, and AAX formats.
If surgical is what you’re looking for, this linear phase EQ features 12 bands that can work in stereo, mid/side, and left and right across each band. Each band has options for peak, cut filter, or shelving. The cut filters have an adjustable curve of 12/24/48 dB per octave. The frequency analyzer has pre and post-EQ options and the GUI is scalable. You can also adjust the analyzer’s range and latency modes.