Ordering of EQ and Compression

The order in which you use EQ and compression will depend on the sound, what you want to do with the sound, and the rest of the mix. By using EQ first, followed by compression (sound->EQ->Compression), you are adjusting the frequency spectrum of the sound, then applying compression to the adjusted sound. You might think of this as “compressing the EQ”. This is useful because the compressor will respond in a natural and predictable way because it is operating on what you hear. You can use the EQ to remove problems and shape the sound for the mix, and the compressor will respond to the “fixed” sound instead of the “raw” sound. The downside is that sometimes a compressor will adjust the percieved frequency response of a sound (usually by reducing the low end or the high end), and it’s not as easy to compensate for it with pre-EQ. 

Conversely, by using compression first, followed by EQ (sound->Compression->EQ), you are adjusting the dynamics of the sound, and then adjusting the frequency spectrum. You might think of this as “EQing the compression”. This can be useful if your compressor is reducing the percieved high end or low end of the sound frequency spectrum – the EQ can compensate for any “funk” the compressor is adding. The downside is that the compressor is not responding to the sound you hear, which means it might not sound as natural or predictable. As an extreme example, your sound might have some significant low end rumble or resonance – if you compress before EQing, the compression will respond to the rumble or resonance even if you greatly reduce it with post-EQ. 

A hybrid approach might look like EQ->compression->EQ, where the first EQ (before compression) is used to address any problems in the sound and shape it in the mix, and the second EQ (after compression) is used to add any final touches or compensate for compression “funk”. 

Which approach you use entirely depends on your sound and your mix. It’s important to understand how it works though, so you can make an informed artistic judgement. 

-Kim.

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  1. May 30th, 2009
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