EQ on the mix bus

As I’ve written previously, there are compelling reasons for and against using processing on the mix bus. What I recommend against, however, is using static EQ on the mix bus. The reason for this is that pure EQ (discounting EQ with added saturation) has the same effect regardless of whether it is processing single tracks or groups.

For example, if you apply a +6dB boost at 100Hz on your mix bus, this is no different to applying the same +6dB@100Hz on every single track in your mix. This is a blunt instrument! If you are applying EQ like this, it is usually to bring out a particular character in certain instruments (such as the kick and bass in this example). If you’re mixing, however, you already have access to the individual tracks and can apply EQ in a much more targeted and specific manner. In this example, a better approach might be to simply raise the level of the kick and bass, or apply a low-end boost to the kick OR the bass. Avoiding mix bus EQ would also avoid boosting any mud or rumble in the other tracks, helping you achieve a cleaner sound.

There are a couple of scenarios when applying EQ to groups of instruments may be appropriate: Group EQ and automated EQ.

Group EQ is useful when you have several tracks that sound very similar (such as several takes of a single instrument) and you wish to apply the same EQ curve to all those tracks. I often do this when I have guitar or vocal stacks – multiple takes of the same instrument layered for a thicker sound. Applying EQ to the group saves time because I don’t have to set the EQ on each track, and it saves CPU/DSP because there’s only one instance of the EQ (instead of several).

Automated EQ might also be useful on the mix bus as a special effect – you might have dramatic changes in your song which include a build-up with the whole mix high-passed or low-passed. Applying this automated EQ on the mix bus is easier and more dramatic than applying it to individual tracks.


  1. October 7th, 2009
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