What is equalization? Do you need to use it?
Equalizing (EQing) your audio is key to making a professional grade podcast. When you first open up the equalizer it can look a little bit confusing, but once you know what it does, and how to use it, you’ll be able to raise the quality of your audio!
What is EQ?
All audio has an array of frequencies within it, you can manipulate those frequencies with the equalizer. It’s basically turning the volume up or down on specific frequencies. Usually there are a set number of “bands” that allow you to move through the array of frequencies, and you can either raise or lower those bands, to increase, or attenuate (decrease) those frequencies. You can set the “width” of the bands (referred to as “Q” sometimes) by adjusting that parameter and affecting more frequencies.
Should You Be Using It?
You don’t have to use EQ at any point if you don’t want to. If you have a good microphone, and a good recording environment, anything you record will sound better than a bad recording with perfect EQ. But, if you want to sound more professional and give the listener an easier listening experience, you should learn a little bit about how you can best use the EQ. Which is what I will cover now!
How to Best Use Your EQ
Everyone's voice is different, and there’s a lot of microphones out there, that all have a different sound to them. Finding the right balance of frequencies is difficult with all the different variables, it’s going to be different for every situation. There are a few things that will help you apply a base to every piece of audio you come across, and then we can go a bit deeper on how to best use your EQ!
For almost every microphone, and almost every voice, if you’re editing pure dialogue, there’s almost never a reason to keep any frequency below 80 - 90Hz. You can generally take care of that with what’s called a high pass filter. A little bit of a confusing name, but it basically means that only the “high” frequencies will “pass” through it’s “filter”. Just apply that filter until it cuts out everything below 80 - 90Hz. The same principle for the highest frequencies, generally there’s no useful information from 14 - 15kHz and up. So you can apply the low pass filter, the same filter but on the other side.
One last adjustment for a “base line” of EQ, generally around 300 - 600Hz is where you can get some of those nasally tones. For this cut you want to keep the width a little wide to get an array of frequencies, it’s usually best to attenuate those a few db.
You don’t usually want to attenuate (cut) the entire volume of a frequency, only by a few db.
How to Pinpoint Bad Frequencies
Like I said before, it can be really difficult to tell where all the bad frequencies are with your set up. There are a lot of things that can change from situation to situation. You can locate bad frequencies with a technique where you sweep through and find them. You first make one of your bands really narrow, and raise the volume really high, and sweep left and right to find frequencies that are really unpleasant to your ear, when you find one, just attenuate at that specific range. Keep doing that until you find all the frequencies that have been a problem for you.
Don’t Go Too Far
When you’re using your EQ try to use it sparingly. Remember, your end goal is to get your audio to sound better. You can sometimes get caught in a tailspin, trying to get every frequency perfect. You end up causing more harm than good when you start doing too much. Just keep your EQ’s fairly light and they should end up really great!