EQ (part 5)
If you are working on a tape made by another engineer who isnt quite as fastidious as you, then you may find yourself faced with problems that EQ can help with. Unwanted sounds have a knack of finding their way onto recordings, particularly live recordings. If you have a 50Hz mains hum then a graphic will be able to help at only a little loss to the musical sounds on the recording. You can also use a parametric equaliser set to high Q to home in on the unwanted frequency. Some equalisers have special notch filters to cope with such situations. 50Hz hum may be solvable to a reasonable extent, but the buzz caused by lighting dimmers may be impossible to get rid of. If the buzz isnt too harsh then you can try cutting the 50Hz fundamental and its harmonics at 100Hz, 150Hz etc. I cant promise anything, but it may make the recording just listenable. Apart from hum or dimmer noise, if a recording is too noisy then very often the noise is most noticeable at high frequencies, here you can use your EQ to strike the best compromise between cutting as much of the offending component of the noise as possible while still retaining some brightness in the sound. You may be able to apply a little boost at high mid frequencies, although the result will remain a compromise. Even if the recording has no hum, buzz or noise, it may previously have been over-EQed. It is quite difficult to ameliorate the results of over zealous EQing, particularly if some frequencies have been cut to a large extent. Trying to boost these frequencies back up again may result in an unacceptable amount of noise becoming apparent. Once again, compromise is necessary, although if you are dealing with one instrument from a multitrack mix you may be able to patch in a noise gate to help.
The Future of EQ
There is no doubt that the designers of EQ both in mixing consoles and as outboard equipment are going to pay far more attention to the sound of the EQ rather than the simple specs. Some manufacturers have started to drop the conventional low, mid and high legends and describe their controls with names such as bottom, sheen and glow. I dont think this is a bad idea since it will focus our energies less on the technicalities and more on the sound the EQ produces. I wouldnt be at all surprised to see EQ being combined - not just in series in the same box but fully integrated - with compression or distortion far more often than it has been up to now.
Whatever the future may offer, EQ will always be one of the most powerful tools in your recording toolkit. Happy EQing!