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EQ before compression, or compression before EQ?

An RP visitor asks whether bass guitar should be EQed before compression, or the other way round.

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Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

When mixing a bass guitar instrument. (a real one if it makes any difference) do you EQ before compression or the other way round?

I've taken advice on this, which one says its got to be this way and the other says the opposite.

Both these advice suggestions were from Computer Music mag which has just left me confused. What would you advise. If you could answer this would be a big, big help. Many thanks.

Dave Connor

David Mellor responds...

There is an easy answer to this question... try it both ways and see which you like best.

There are few rights and wrongs in recording, it's all down to the way you perceive what you hear, and whether whoever you are selling your recordings to agrees with you.

But listen to some unprocessed bass guitar and ask yourself this question... is there anything wrong with the sound?

If the answer is no, then compress it and see if you can make the sound better. Then EQ it to see if you can make it better still.

If the answer is yes there is something wrong with the sound, then apply EQ carefully to eliminate the problem. Perhaps there is some hiss from the amplifier, or too much plectrum click.

If you have done everything at the source to get the sound as good as it can be, or the recording is already committed and you are stuck with it, then apply EQ to get rid of the problems as much as you can.

At this point, you can compress. Compressing a bad sound never works; in fact it will make the problem worse.

You can apply more EQ after compression if you like.

There is something else to consider... how perfect does a bass guitar have to be? Sometimes it's best to consider the overall mix. Minor problems commonly don't matter and might indeed add to the texture and originality of the mix as a whole.

By David Mellor Monday June 5, 2006
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