Dynamic EQ

Dynamic EQ Definition

A dynamic equalizer is a combination of an EQ and a compressor. With it, you can compress audio in a frequency-dependent way. A dynamic EQ can take a frequency band, give it a threshold, and compress that area of frequencies when they go over a threshold.

Why Use Dynamic EQ?

Every genre of music I can think of sounds best when all the audible frequencies are present in proportion. Some frequencies result in clarity, some in sizzle, some in warmth and some in a thicker, beefier sound.

But if warmth is out of proportion to the plus side, you just get muddiness. If the frequencies that represent clarity are too loud, you'll get harshness. It's all about proportion.

We use dynamic EQ as a tool to get us a smoother and more consistent frequency response.

Tukan Studios Green Dynamic EQ

Tukan Studios Green Dynamic EQ

Dynamic EQ -- When To Use It

Dynamic EQ is useful whenever there are problem frequencies, but they're inconsistent.

  • Sibilance on a vocal is a good example. The voice might make hissy 'ess' sounds that are too loud. You want to take those sounds down in level, but those same frequencies sound good on other words and phrases. You can use a dynamic EQ to reduce those frequencies only when they are a problem.
  • An acoustic guitar that sounds warm and full in some sections, and muddy in others. You can find the offending frequencies and compress them when they go over the threshold.
  • A guitar that lacks low end in some parts of the song, but is fine in others. You can use a dynamic EQ to home in on those low frequencies and compress them, then use the output gain to bring the peaks back up to where they were previously. That way, the low goodness will be the same on the parts that were previously good, but the parts in which low end was lacking will have more heft.
  • You can use a dynamic EQ on a mix, to smooth out your frequency response.

How Is A Dynamic Equalizer Different Than A Multiband Compressor?

Dynamic EQs and multiband compressors have very similar functions. They both compress in a frequency-dependent way. The main difference is the look. A dynamic EQ tends to look more like an EQ. Multiband compressors tend tend to look like compressors.

TDR Nova Dynamic EQ

TDR Nova Dynamic EQ

Notice how the TDR Nova Dynamic EQ from Tokyo Dawn Labs, looks like an EQ? You can drag frequencies and bands around just like many EQs. However, in the knob section, you can also find threshold, attack, release and ratio controls, like a compressor.

How To Use A Dynamic EQ

  1. 1
    Solo up a band and look for the problem frequency area.
  2. 2
    Set the threshold so that the louder parts in that area trigger the threshold, but the quieter parts don't.
  3. 3
    Adjust the ratio, attack and release time to your taste.
  4. 4
    If it's frequencies sticking out when you don't want them to, you might leave the output level alone. If it's missing frequencies you want to boost, boost the output gain, or makeup gain up to where the louder parts ride nicely, and check that the quieter parts are good.
  5. 5
    Listen in the context of the mix, and adjust.

Dynamic EQ Conclusion

Dynamic EQ is one way to help ensure that your audio productions are smooth, frequency-wise and tickle the listener's ears in all the right places.


Rea (Reaper) Plugins: ReaEQ, ReaComp, ReaXcomp, ReaDelay, ReaFIR and others come with Reaper. If you don’t have Reaper, you can download the VST versions of ReaEQ, and these other useful plugins here. If you want to follow along with my tutorials, it will be good to have these. VST/VST3 versions available for separate download (Windows & Mac).

TDR Nova: Dynamic EQ. The version I used here, is free. A paid version with more features, is available.

Tukan Studios Plug-ins from John Matthews feature lots of great emulations and original plugins. They are Reaper-only.


About the author

Keith Livingston

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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