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Compression and EQ

When applying both EQ and compression to a track, should the compressor go first, or should the equalizer? There are no hard and fast rules for the order of processing — except to use your ears to decide what sounds best. But there are some basic guidelines that can help you find the right combination for your situation.

  • If you’re boosting high and mid frequencies, insert the compressor after the EQ.
  • If you are boosting lower frequencies, or cutting the high or mid frequencies, insert the compression first, and then EQ.

Typically, you want to compress the signal at the point where there is the least amount of bass energy present. Bass frequencies have a lot of energy, and a compressor responding to changes in the level of bass-energy can cause the high-frequency instruments to seem to jump out in front of the mix. Applying compression where there is the least amount of bass can keep the compressor from “pumping,” eliminating the sudden rise in volume of treble instruments.

Of course, feel free to experiment with the order of effects and find what works best for you. Sometimes things that are against the “rules” can conjure cool sounds. And even if you follow these guidelines, it’s never a bad idea to do an A/B comparison to see which one fits the mix better.

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