Keith Everette Smith

Producer, Songwriter, Multi-Instrumentalist

Filtering by Tag: EQ

EQ... pre or post compression

When engineers get together we talk about silly recording stuff. It’s goofy and silly and if I pretend I’m listening in on the conversation rather than participating in it, I find myself laughing hysterically at how much of a total dork I am. But, that’s what happens when you love what you do… you don’t care how much of a dork you are. In fact, being a dork about your craft will make you better at it. Because you care!

In those geeky conversations we’ll often talk about our techniques for EQ and COMPRESSION. One frequent topic is whether or not to EQ pre or post compression. Meaning, whether or not we choose to EQ before a compressor (pre) or after (post). Everyone has their techniques and no one is wrong. I have a very basic way of approaching this. Hopefully these guidelines will help you. Feel free to reply with your techniques for this is in no way a holistic approach. I am still developing my ear too.

WHAT COMPRESSION DOES…

We all know that compression controls dynamics but what you may not be clued into is how it affects the sound. In addition to dynamic control compression also does 2 things…

emphasizes dominant frequencies and rolls off the top end.

1) It’s important to note that compression is going to overemphasize the dominant frequencies in the instrument you are compressing. The more extreme the compression the more extreme the result. This is important to know because if there is an odd frequency in your bass guitar and you’re really smashing it with a limiter, you may end up with a very odd sounding instrument. You may have guessed what you should do… PRE EQ.

If the compressor is doing odd things to the sound of the instrument, do some PRE EQ carving to shape the instrument so the compressor has a more even sound to compress. (TIP, always compare what it sounded like before you tweaked it.)

2) You are almost always going to lose some top end fidelity when compressing. For this reason (and others) many people choose to EQ post compression to try and make up some of the sound lost in the high frequency range caused by compression. Some people compress post EQ almost all the time to try and make up for compression. Not a bad idea.

This topic came up when I was discussing Chris Lord Alge’s techniques for mixing. He has a very over-the-top compression sound and he is also known to HEAVILY EQ things. Well, you’ll notice if you have the CLA Waves SSL Bundle that all of his presets use EQ before compression. The presets boast a lot of EQ and a lot of compression.

Now, the SSL EQ’s are extremely aggressive. They have a bite that is coveted by many engineers. What I’ve noticed is that you can use this aggressive EQ and the compressor will take off some of the bite. You would also need to add a lot of HF EQ because of how much the compressor is affecting the sound. I guess what I’m getting at… CLA can heavily EQ because he runs the EQ in PRE and then compresses so heavily (dulling the EQ and making it not so extreme). This is part of CLA’s massive sound.

Now I don’t subscribe to this all the time. I think I’m a bit less extreme than CLA is… and he’s a freakin’ beast and makes amazing music. To draw a comparison feels pretentious at the least… so I don’t :) I do find it useful to use both techniques for different situations.

As you are learning, try being aggressive with compressors and EQ in order to learn the sound of your gear BUT I would encourage you that LESS is definitely more. Your more natural sounding mixes will be loved… I promise. You can slowly work your way into more aggressive mixing as you learn where “too far” is. You’ve gotta learn what real instruments sound like and how to finesse them into musical submission. It takes a long time. I’m still working at it!!

Hope this stuff helps!!

If I could only have 2 plug-in bundles!



I am a talker… especially when it comes to recording. I could go on for hours about new toys, techniques and music. What I don’t want to do is make you salivate over all the stuff you can’t afford. No one’s spouse likes us spending money we don’t have. BUT if you are mixing your own music there are a few plug-ins that I believe every musician should own. At this point, I literally could not mix a song without these tools. Take a look.

#1 WAVES SSL 4000 Bundle – These plug-ins are modeled after the famed SSL recording consoles. Before the industry got on board with in-the-box mixing, the vast majority of hit singles and platinum albums were mixed on these boards. Still today, tons of engineers won’t mix a record without one. They have a fantastic sound. The EQ is especially aggressive and has a very recognizable quality that it adds to the sound.
Waves’ did a great job of cloning this console. The SSL E-channel plug-in models a single channel of the E Series Console. It has EQ, compression/gating (dynamics) and all the other routing functions of the original E series console. The 4-band equalizer is similar to the EQ on the channel strip except it mimics the sound of the G series console, which sounds slightly different than the E series. The bus compressor is modeled after the master bus compressor of the console. This compressor is most often used on the entire mix, adding “glue” to the sound and giving everything a little aggressive edge.
OK, this bundle is a little expensive but well worth the price in my opinion. I literally think I could sell almost all my other plug-ins and mix exclusively. (Thus, the reason for this blog.) At this point, I wouldn’t think of mixing drums without it.

#2 WAVES MUSICIANS II Bundle – Another great bundle from WAVES. These plug-ins are not models. They are original plug-ins and they sound great. At a price point of a little over $200, this bundle is well worth the price.
R-Compressor – Is a really nice sounding compressor. It can handle standard compression or even venture into optical compression (useful on vocals, bass or anything else you’d want processed with transparency).
R-Vox – Here is a good reason to buy the musicians II bundle. R-Vox is a compressor limiter, expander specifically tailored for vocals. This thing is magic and adds presence and excitement to a vocal.
R-Axx – This is another compressor tailored for guitars. I really don’t know what it does but it does it well! Adds beef and excitement to guitar tracks.
R-EQ – I absolutely love this eq! It’s not particularly colorful but it allows you to easily pinpoint EQ points for adjustment. It treats the high end very nicely and things don’t get overly harsh.
SuperTap Delay – Another reason to buy this bundle. This delay does everything from U2-type delays, simple analog mono delays and lush reverb type complex delays. It’s a “do it all” delay unit.
Doubler – This plug comes in handy when you wanna create a pseudo-doubled vocal effect on the chorus or thicken background vocals to fill up a bit of the mix.

You know, I really didn’t mean for this to be a WAVES advertisement. I really don’t care who makes the plugs I use. I just care about the result. These bundles help me do my job. I use many other plugs but if I had to, I could do everything I need with these guys.

Other plug-ins I use regularly:
Massey CT4 Compressor, Massey TD5 Delay, TL Space, Digi ReVibe, Drawmer Dynamics, Massey L2000 limiter, SoundToys EchoBoy, Digi Echo Farm, Waves MaxxBass, McDSP Filter Bank Bank, BombFactory 1176