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Should I EQ Before or After Compression?

Do you put EQ before the compressor or the compressor in front of the EQ? Life’s eternal question. The short answer is there isn’t a definitive answer. It’s all program dependent and it’s all about what you are going for. So both work and both are correct. However, there are many instances where it makes more sense to put one in front of the other.

Personally I tend to EQ after compression, but its a preference and also depends on what I am working on and what fits the music best. I find that when you compress first the compressor isn’t colored and thereby allowing the EQ to reign free. If you EQ first the compressor can get triggered when you don’t want it too.

Using EQ Before The Compressor

If you have an instrument that has a lot of build up of a large group of focused frequencies, like a kick drum or a bass guitar you’ll want to compress first. Some compressors notoriously make things sound thinner if they’re pushed too hard, so to avoid over compressing, try a high-pass filter in the 150-500 Hz range before applying any compression.

KICK

Comp -> EQ

EQ -> Comp

 

Using A Compressor Before The EQ

If the source material has intense transients that need taming, using a compressor first will be helpful. Something like a snare drum or tambourine, for example, can be perceived as harsh at times before EQ and compression. So in this circumstance I would place a compressor first with a moderately slow-ish attack to allow a portion of the transient through, and then the EQ after if there’s still something lacking.

SNARE

Comp -> EQ

EQ -> Comp

 

Using An EQ Then A Compressor And Another EQ After

Again, there are no rules. So, why not! I use this method often when mixing vocals or guitars. I’ll first use a high-pass filter if there are any nasty low end rumble or plosive, and perhaps some lower-mids to make sure that the compressor isn’t getting triggered too early, then I’ll apply compression a la carte and then with another EQ, perhaps boost around 10-15k to add some sexy air.

So while there are methodologies that work, there are no hard and fast rules. Try something. Experiment. You can’t go wrong. And if you do go wrong, try again!