EQ pedals are looked down upon by many guitar and bass players, especially newbies. Many people still don’t know the different capabilities of an EQ pedal and also can’t decide whether to spend their money on an EQ pedal for their guitar or bass rig.
So after a few hours of research, here is everything you need to know about EQ pedals and if they are worth the money.
In short, yes. EQ pedals are worth it. The ability to dial in many different guitar or bass tones with an EQ pedal, shape your amp’s tone, and also use it as a boost pedal makes an EQ pedal versatile and definitely worth getting for your rig.
Before we talk all about the different things you can do with an EQ pedal, let’s first talk about one important subject — is an eq pedal even necessary, or can you do away with them.
Is an EQ Pedal Necessary?
Although you can do away with an EQ pedal, they are a necessary pedal for every guitar or bass rig. That’s because it allows you to shape your guitar’s tone in many different ways and help you clean out your tone by cutting and boosting some frequencies
Most guitarists have no idea about the world of good an EQ pedal can do for their sound. A lot of people believe that having a good guitar amp to go with your guitar is enough as a guitarist.
This belief is shaped by the fact that most guitars have basic EQ. This EQ comes as low, mid, and high pots and tends to be quite blunt. This means the EQ section of amps is just not enough to shape your sound.
On the other hand, an EQ pedal gives you precise control over your sound. This is because, instead of just having one knob for bass, mid or treble, EQ pedals give you more control within each frequency range. This means, even if your guitar amplifier sounds great, an EQ pedal can make it sound even better.
Hence, adding an EQ pedal to your pedal chain is one of the best additions you can ever make to your pedalboard.
Why EQ Pedals Are Worth the Money
Of all the guitar pedals to add to your pedalboard, EQ pedals are considered to be one of the least exciting ones to be acquired. This mindset can be attributed to the fact that EQ pedals are not used to generate cool effects like reverb, modulation, or time-based pedals.
Looking at the pricey nature of some of the EQ pedals on the market, this mindset has led some musicians to wonder whether it’s prudent to shell out money acquiring EQ pedals.
Despite what some people may think, EQ pedals are worth every penny you spend on them. EQ pedals are tone-shaping devices that can be used to improve the sound of your guitar and influence how your guitar sounds in a band mix.
Let’s look at why EQ pedals are worth every penny you spend on them.
EQ Pedals Can Be Used as a Boost Pedal
Most of the EQ pedals on the market have a Volume control fader. This volume control fader allows you to increase the output of the pedal without modifying the EQ of the signal. And that is exactly what a boost pedal does. This means if you purchase an EQ pedal, you may not need to buy a boost pedal.
If you put the EQ pedal before your amp in the signal chain, it will act as a clean boost. This means if you are not using a powerful amp and you boost the guitar’s signal with the EQ pedal’s volume, it can actually lead to an overdriven or distorted tone. In essence, you can use an EQ pedal to switch a clean tone and an overdriven or distorted tone. Pretty cool, huh.
If you put the EQ pedal in the effects loop section, it can be used as a simple volume boost. When turned on, it will boost your guitar’s volume for when you need to solo. And then you switch it off to return to your default volume. This makes them great to push your lead tone to make sure it cuts through the mix.
Even if the EQ pedal doesn’t have a volume control fader, you can still use it as a boost pedal. You can do this by increasing all the frequency bands by the same dB. For instance, you want to boost your guitar’s volume by 3dB using an EQ pedal, and the pedal has no volume control.
EQ Amps Can Be Used to Shape Your Amp’s Tone
EQ pedals offer more degree of tone control than the default EQ on most amps. Firstly, most amps usually have a 3-band EQ or loudness control — Bass, Mids, and Treble. A three-band EQ is simply not enough to dial in the exact tone you need, and you are quite limited.
Most industry-standard EQ pedals are at least 6-bands. Meaning you have more bands to dial in the right amp tone you need. And if the EQ pedal doesn’t have that many bands of EQ, the chances are that they will have a Q switch or knob for narrowing or broadening the frequency band.
Secondly, the EQ on most amps is passive. This means they can only cut out frequencies but cannot boost or amplify frequencies. Therefore, if there is an excess frequency, you can cut it to your preference. However, in a situation where your tone lacks some frequency, you cannot boost them.
This is where the main difference between EQ pedals and amp EQs is clearly seen. EQ pedals are active; hence they can add a certain frequency to your tone whilst cutting off another at the same time.
EQ Pedal Can Be Use for Tone Adjustment and Shaping
An EQ pedal can provide you with different tones depending on which part of the signal chain you fix it and the EQ settings you tune it to. Let me give you some examples.
Put an EQ pedal after the amplifier, lower the highs and lows, and you’ve got a radio effect. EQ pedals can even be put after your overdrive pedal to adjust your guitar tone to sound like its original state. And I bet most people don’t know this.
You can run your EQ pedal in front of your amp, in the effects loop of your amp, or anywhere in your pedal chain. Running your EQ pedal right after your guitar lets you fine-tune the tone before the signal hits the amp.
An advantage of an EQ is that it can make minute, subtle changes that can perfect your tone or expand the range of sounds that you are already obtaining from your other pedals.
EQ pedals correct the tone and sound of your guitars, pedals, and even your amplifier. If you notice that your amp or guitar sound lacks bass or mids, you can easily add them to the sound. You can even adjust all the frequencies at the same time and in any way you want them.
Little EQ tweaks can really make your tones shine and sound with a dimension and clarity that you would find hard to believe. I suggest you experiment with your EQ pedal until you settle on a combo that works or sounds good to you.
EQ Pedals Can be Used to Cut Out Unwanted Frequencies
EQ pedals can be used to subtract certain frequencies from the sound. Cutting out unwanted frequencies is the opposite of boosting. This is done by removing or reducing the frequencies you do not want, leaving the ones you prefer. This means you can decrease the frequencies inherent in your guitar tone.
By doing this, the frequency that remains untouched appears to be boosted. Though subtracting frequencies seems similar to adding or boosting frequencies, there is less risk of producing noise when subtracting or cutting out certain frequencies from your sound. This is because noise is more prone or likely to occur at higher frequencies.
Cutting out unwanted frequencies will mold your sound by increasing clarity and reducing guitar feedback.
Best EQ Pedals
There are many EQ pedals available today, all with unique features and workflow. However, here are the three EQ pedals that are widely used and have become the industry standard for many years.
MXR 10 Band EQ Pedal
The MXR 10-Band EQ Pedal (on Amazon) is undoubtedly one of the best EQ pedals on the market. It offers you powerful and versatile tonal control. It is known for its versatility and can be placed anywhere in your pedal chain.
This EQ gives you total control over your sound. It has ten EQ sliders for controlling a wide range of frequencies. The ten EQ sliders allow you to boost or cut certain frequencies with a +/- 12Db range.
This MXR 10-Band EQ also has dual output as well as volume and gain sliders. These volumes and gain sliders can be used to make sure your volume sounds consistent when you activate the pedal. They can also be used as a straightforward boost to raise the volume across all frequencies.
As mentioned earlier, this pedal features dual outputs, so you can use it with a stereo rig and uses 18-volt power for plenty of headroom.
MXR 10 Band EQ pedal is a heavy-duty pedal and is robust enough to withstand heavy usage and stomping. Hence, though very pricey, they can be relied upon during gigs without worrying about them getting damaged.
Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer Pedal
The Boss GE-7 (also on Amazon) is small, durable, and easy to use. It is a great choice for a guitar EQ pedal. This is an equalizer with seven bands of equalization, which can shape your sound and eliminate feedback. It has a controllable frequency range from 100Hz to 6.4Hz with a powerful 15Db boost/cut per band.
You can count on the BOSS GE-7 to add some bass and fullness to your tone. It can really change the tone of your sound. It is very helpful if you play in multiple bands that have different sounds.
It is also a very effective pedal for removing mids from your signal to produce a nice clean sound and can be used as a plain volume boost. It is worth noting that the BOSS GE-7 does not add any noise or hiss to your sound but rather a clean signal boost when you start pushing the sliders.
This pedal is very solid and sturdy and can withstand the rigors of heavy usage. Despite the relatively pricey nature of the BOSS GE-7, you are assured of an EQ pedal that can last a very long time. Due to this, it is preferred by top rock ‘n’ roll touring pros.
BOSS has a bass guitar version of this pedal known as the BOSS GEB-7 (also on Amazon). The main difference between this one and the GE-7 is the frequency range. This version has a frequency range of 50Hz-10kHz. So that’s something worth noting if you need an EQ pedal for a bass guitar.
Behringer EQ700 Pedal
The Behringer EQ700 (Amazon) is a cheaper alternative to the BOSS GE-7 and MXR 10 EQ Pedals. Despite its relatively low price, this product has been designed to compete with the best products on the market. I find it incredible that for the amount the EQ700 sells at, it offers more features than anything in its price range.
This is also a 7-band graphic equalizer like the BOSS GE-7 and has all of its features. Meaning, it also boasts of a wide frequency range from 100Hz to 6.4 kHz, allowing you to cut or boost frequencies to help bring focus to your sound. It also comes with a powerful 15dB of available boost/cut per band as well.
The Behringer EQ700 works great with electric and acoustic-electric instruments.
The only downside with this pedal and the many other Behringer pedals I talked about in this article is that they have poor build quality. It sounds great and transparent. However, it can easily break because it is made of plastic. So you can get this pedal for practice purposes and if you’re a beginner. But I wouldn’t count on it for a gig.
Should You Buy an EQ Pedal?
Personally, I believe every guitarist should own an EQ pedal. It can help take your tone to the next level. If you are looking forward to having control over your tone and the versatility of sounds generated from your guitar, you can’t do away with an EQ pedal.
An EQ pedal is a tool to help shape, define and mold your sound. It is a very valuable addition to your pedalboard as a guitarist or bass player. It can be used to boost or cut certain frequencies from your sound. Basically, this pedal gives guitarists and bassists more control and influence over their final sound output.