My Favourite Plugin EQs & Compressors
There are many (perhaps too many) EQ and compressor plugins on the market. How are you supposed to know which one should you use, and why?
There is a valid argument that states that most EQ plugins are essentially the same. Mathematically you should be able to approximate the function of any EQ plugin using a stock EQ in your DAW. The reason, however, for different types is that they get to the desired result quicker and in a predictable manner.
Do you want some mid-range punch on bass guitar? Use an API 550a
Need some airy high-end shine? Use a Pultec EQP-1A
Are you after smooth gain-reduction for vocals? Use an LA-2A or CL-1B
I often get asked why I use a certain EQ or Dynamics processor for certain tasks. So here is a list of some of my current favourites and the reasons why I like to reach for them.
API 2500 – Drum bus compressor par excellence! Watch the input as it might get too squishy too quickly so maybe a gain plugin before helps – instant drum smasher.
CLA-76 (blue) – great for bass, snare, kick and vox. VERY quick attack and controls work backwards so 1=slow, 7=quick. Try all ratio buttons in for room mics. Threshold increases as the ratio does so you compensate with more input and less output.
CLA-2A – Very smooth vocal compression with some added valve tubbiness. Good on bass too. Set the amount of peak reduction required and then make up the gain – easy!
CLA-3A – One of my favourites. Cleaner version of the LA-2A. Great on guitars, vox etc.
SSL Bus – great on busses and main output – set to 2:1 and auto and off you go!
Kramer PIE – OMG – new fave! Instant squooshy fatness yum!
Puigchild – valve goodness – put this on your mix bus WITHOUT doing anything and it sounds better! This is great as a drums squisher too. Emulation of the Fairchild series used extensively at Abbey Road on the Beatles contains 14 transformers and 20 valves and costs £30,000……go figure how it sounds……
L2 – great crunchy limiter. Great on BV bus for added bite and control.
C4/6 – excellent multi-band compressor. Pop Vocal preset is a win.
C1 Comp-SC – THE best De-Esser IMO.
Softube Tube-Tech CL-1B – THE vocal compressor in LA – you can pin 20dB gain reduction and not even hear it working. Excellent smooth dynamics control.
Softube FET – SO much more than the 1176 it emulates. A VERY nice compressor.
1176/LA-2a/LA-3A/Fairchild – choices are as per above except the UAD card takes processing away from the computer so I favour these during larger mix sessions.
Inflator/Dynamics/Limiter/ – ALWAYS on my mastering channel
API 550a/b – awesome for midrange especially on vox/guitars/snare or anything else in the mids. Boost gets narrower with more gain so watch out! 2dB often sounds a LOT more than 2dB! Check out 0.8kHz boosted to 12 on a bass guitar………
SSL Channel/G-Series EQ – great all-rounder and the channel also has gates and compression so they are very versatile. There are great presets as well – instant LA drum sound.
Renaissance EQ – smooth!
VEQ3/4 – both based on Neve EQs so think smooth top end and big bottom. Try 10/12K boost on old guitar strings/drum heads……
Puigtec EQP1A/UAD Pultec Pro – based on Pultec EQP-1A. Great top end 15kHz boost on main output. Great on just about anything. Famous (not so secret) secret is to boost and cut at the same frequency – eg boost and cut bass at 30Hz on kick for solid thump without any wooliness. Generally cut slightly more than boost but experiment…….
Maag EQ – Air Band. Air Band. Air Band. This is designed for vocals. Did I mention the Air Band?
So there you have it – a look at why I might lean in one direction or the other depending on the sound I am aiming to achieve. And remember – you might not always see me use them when in the digital domain as I have several of the hardware units and like to use them on the way in…
If you’re interested in finding out how these plugins can aid your workflow then why not enquire about our tuition?