When I was skimming through the latest issue of Music Tech Magazine, I stumbled over an old question I have been asked a thousand times while doing personal trainings with imaging guys, sound designers or webinars. EQ, before or after compression? It’s a tricky question, which is dividing the production community since years. Everyone got his own opinion. Here at Benztown, we never use compression before EQing, but over the years, I’ve seen many producers, with quiet big names in the industry, who use the EQ after compression and they swear that’s the only way to do it. Others do both, EQ, then compressor, then a second EQ. I think it is personal taste and depends strongly on the goal you want to achive.

So here’s my question for you guys: How do you do it? Which way do you EQ and compress your audio (f.e. your VO)?

Vote in the poll below or tell of your experiences with compression and EQing in the comments.

  1. Adam says:

    I have always done EQ after compression. I think it’s due to my years of playing guitar, as compression is usually 1st in the fx chain.

  2. Chris Fonte says:

    I left the poll blank, as I do BOTH. Or NEITHER, depending on what I’m doing.

    Many times I’ll RECORD VO with compression on the way in, EQ on the audio track, compress on the audio track, send to a bus and aux track with other VO and compress more… Sometimes I won’t do any of that. The key is MODERATION and CHAINING. Or, it’s not, it’s the opposite. The thing to understand is, every project has it’s own sound, and you gotta do whatever it needs to get it to get it to the sound you’re looking for.

    GENERALLY, though, I’d say I tend to EQ THEN compress. Or EQ, then limit, then compress (limiting destroys transients, compression puts them back…in a controlled way).

    It really depends on WHY I EQ. Am I trying to ditch unwanted frequencies? Then I’ll compress, then EQ. Because I’ll use the EQ for the final sound, even after the compression has changed the EQ. On the other hand, am I using the EQ for some sort of signature sound or filter? THEN I’ll EQ then compress. Because, in that case, The EQ could be spiking weird frequencies that then stand out too much and stick out in a mix, rather than sitting in a mix. Compression will help tame those spikes and make the VO sit better.

    Although, sometimes, if I’m feeling minimalist, I’ll ONLY EQ, and let the mastering chain take care of gluing everything together (spikes of everything in the mix will be handled by my final compressor). I would only do this when it’s a mix without a ton of dynamic range, though, as I generally like to keep dynamic range in tact as much as possible. However, this technique can work well, for example, for VO over a bed and nothing else going on. That’s why sometimes I’ll buss different passages of a production together and use this method for my sub-mixes.

    I hope all this wasn’t confusing….


  3. Steve Martin says:

    Depends what effect you want but for main v/o I favour filtering first, then compression/limiting.

    If you do it the other way round the compressor can be be driven in sympathy to frequencies you can no longer hear (pumping), and the peak control is poor.

  4. rdrean says:

    I place Comp after EQ (Gate before EQ) mainly because I let it act as my “security blanket” on the track. NOT because I am some audio genius…Of course I master differently. That I usually keep clean