Digital Mastering EQs Shootout Review Part 3

We had a lot of interest, interaction and unsurprisingly, requests over our last comparison/review of digital EQs that you can use for mastering. So we figured we would make it a mini series to cover all your requests and fulfill our interest to find out the how and why of digital EQs you can use if you wanted to master some tracks either in the box, or in alongside some fancy pants outboard EQs.   It also doubles as a useful reference if you are stuck for ideas on what EQ to use for what but don’t have the time to load them all up, calibrate them and listen.
Check out part one here


Check out part two here


In this review showcase we will be comparing a whopping twelve more popular options for digital mastering equalizers: Figured we would cram in a tonne more since it is the last part in this series (at least for now).
If there are any EQs you feel like we missed check if they are in the other shootouts or add them in yourself in the preset players you can find in the menu.   Remember you can also do a Blind Shootout to really test your ears - check this video for instructions

The EQs we have included in this part are; Acustica Ivory, bx_Digital V3, Cakewalk L Phase, Eventide Ultrachannel, iZotope Ozone 6, Lindell Audio TE-100, Metric Halo Channel Strip, Slate Custom series EQ, Sonoris Mastering EQ, UAD Massive Passive, UAD MDWEQ5.


Here’s what they look like -  If you want to go direct to the SHOOTOUTS CLICK HERE


EQ1 - Acustica Ivory

EQ2 - bx_Digital V3

EQ3 - Cakewalk L Phase

EQ4 - Eventide Ultrachannel

EQ5 - Izotope Ozone 7

EQ6 - Lindell TE-100

EQ7 - Logic Channel EQ

EQ8- MH Channel Strip

EQ9 - Slate Custom series EQ

EQ10 - Sonoris Mastering EQ

EQ11 - UAD Massive Passive



We’ve used the same tracks and settings for this shootout as we have in Part 1 and Part 2, with the aim that you can get a good comparison, and that ultimately you can have a mega list of all the EQs we shootout in this series to see which one, in a controlled comparative environment you like the most.   [Then perhaps go buy some of them, and support the people who do such tireless hours making them for us all].



Low End - Soul Song

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In the low end test the Acustica Ivory IAE 2 is a warm sounding EQ. It brings up a nice bit of harmonics and a bit more brightness than some of the other EQs in the player - It does sound like it has quite a resonant peak to its boost - especially with comparing it to the bx_Digital V3. The Brainworx bx_Digital V3 in comparison sounds a lot cleaner and doesn't brighten up the source as much. It actually sounds like it has a touch more width than the Acustica Ivory. The Cakewalk L Phase EQ has is a very nice even spread and sounds real smooth, however it does seem to have some phase/pre ringing problems which softens the low end somewhat as it is a linear phase EQ. It is quite similar to the Acustica but brighter and wider without the slight resonance we hear.   Next up is the Eventide Ultrachannel.   The Eventide Ultrachannel sounds very clean and smooth - when comparing this to the Cakewalk L Phase you can clearly hear the pre ringing in the low end as a side effect of the EQ being linear phase.   The Eventide Ultrachannel does not extend as much into the mid range (in boost or harmonics) and does not have as much width as some of the other EQs such as the next one in the list.   The Ozone 7 EQ is smooth and does not sound like it has any noticeable phase issues, the bass notes stay nice and lush. That is really all there is too say. It is quite similar to the Brainworx but seems to be a bit smoother in the low mids and not as much of a push in the lower mid range or ‘boxy’ region, for this track at least. The Lindell TE-100 has some crunch and a really wide low end boost (being a shelf in this case) - and from what we can hear a little bit of top end smoothing and rolling off even when just doing a low end boost - Maybe that is a bit of boxtone of the unit… The TE-100 brings in some real warm crunchy lows extending down into the sub lows. The Logic channel EQ is cleanish but has nowhere near as open as the bx_Digital, the low end seems less defined and ‘engaging’ than, for example the iZotope, listen to how the snare and hats change even through they are far from the frequency being targeted, especially compared to the iZotope or Massive Passive. With the Metric Halo Channel strip the lows are clean but it is not a real open sounding EQ. When comparing this EQ to something like the Cakewalk the Metric Halo sounds like it has some form of transient smearing in the mid/upper mid range. Even though we are only doing low boosts - listen to the crack of the snare in the samples and the cymbals. The Metric Halo does not retain this as well as EQs like the bx Digital or Cakewalk L Phase.   The Slate Custom Series sounds similar in some ways to the Metric Halo, but also gives more of a ‘lift’ or enhancement feel in the upper mids, do a comparison to the Acustica as well to get that sense. The Slate Custom Series sounds like it has slightly less width than the Metric Halo too. The Sonoris Mastering Equaliser sounds every similar to the Slate Custom Series and Metric Halo but maybe with a touch more harmonics. The UAD Manley Massive Passive is ‘softer’ on the low end than many of the other EQs in this shootout . It lacks the bold punch of some of the other EQs but it is very smooth and has a nice clear warmth to it, it sounds expensive, enriching the track, do a quick comparison to the Logic Channel EQ to see what we mean. The UAD MDWEQ3 is a really clean defined sounding EQ, compare it to the Slate for example which adds more harmonics, or the Massive Passive which ‘enhances’ the mid-range feel.   It seems to add a little more body to the snare and kick as well.


Mid Range - Rock Song

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A good thing to note in this shootout is not only listening to how the frequencies and harmonics change in the guitars, snare and lower end of the cymbals. But also how their placements in this mix change. For example, where the guitars or snares are brought forward or widened out.
To start alphabetically, the first comparison the Acustica Ivory IAE 2 is quite a peaky or edgy  sounding EQ with a bit more of a resonance at the peak and more ‘bite’ than many of the other EQs. It is a nice sounding harmonic EQ but you could maybe consider being wary of the type of curve this EQ has with large boosts (no problem in a mastering situation of course, and if you did have to use that much boost you would be wise to go back to the mix).   It does great things to the snare. With the Acustica the cymbals sound nice and wide, most likely because of the extra harmonics that this EQ introduces. The bx_Digital V3 sounds a lot cleaner and more contained than the Acoustica. The EQ extends more down into the low mids, providing extra body, and it does not have so much effect on the cymbals. This can be good or bad; it is cleaner without the harmonics but without these harmonics the bx Digital does not sound as wide as some of the other EQs in this test, but the low end that comes out of it is nice. The Cakewalk L Phase is bright and wide, it sounds quite similar to the Acustica but with a bit less low mid energy in the guitars and also slightly less definition than the Acustica. The Eventide Ultrachannel sounds quite scooped and clean. It has less extension into the low mids compared to some of the other EQs so it sound really tight and defined on this boost, it provides a nice bit of extra click to the kick, compare that to the Cakewalk L Phase.   There is a slight phasing effect on the guitars that becomes more prominent with this EQ. On the Ozone 7 EQ this boost sounds a little thinner and not as warm as some of the other EQs. This could be because of a different slope type on the EQ or because it is cleaner and has less harmonics than some of the other EQs, it does some really nice things to the punch of the snare though, and seems to widen the image compared to some of the other EQs. But if you want a super full lush mid range boost - maybe avoid the Ozone 7 because it is a clean one. Over to the Lindell TE-100 - this is quite a harmonic EQ. The harmonics coupled with slope pushes up on this give it a bit of a lower mid range ‘boxy region’ push, slight softness in the upper mids, but this could be really useful when applied to a less aggressive style of music that really focuses on a smoother sound. Listen to the cymbals pull back and mull out a bit. As in the last test the Logic Channel EQ is similar to the other clean EQs in this test but without as much openness and not as nice top end, there is a loss of definition in upper mids and the high end. The Metric Halo Channel Strip sounds like a brighter wider slightly ‘bitey’ version of the bx Digital and Cakewalk L Phase, and you can really hear the extra top end definition and width it provides compared to the Logic Channel EQ. We find we prefer the mid range on the Slate Custom Series EQ far more than the low end, and it does a great job here (possibly a favorite EQ in the rock EQ test according to the engineer of this track). It is nice and smooth on the guitars and doesn't harshen up the cymbals at all, its bright but smooth, a partial aspect of that of course could be that this EQ has a 2kHz setting rather than the 2.5kHz for the other EQs.   It is also great on the kick, adding extra punch, snap and power. The Sonoris Mastering Equalizer sounds like the Slate but with a bit more smoothness and low mid guts to it that brings forward the chunk on the guitars more, but it doesn’t do what the Slate manages to on the kick. This is interesting because the boost on the Sonoris is at a higher frequency (2.5kHz) as opposed to the Slate (2kHz). The UAD Manley Massive Passive is one of the widest smoothest EQs of the bunch, and you can hear how wide the curves are and why people love wide curves. Listen to how it lifts and brightens the cymbals as well as the push it gives to the gives to the guitars, it sounds expensive and shiny. The UAD MDWEQ is smooooth, it keeps the kick clean and tight quite a different feel to the Brainworx EQ so check that out, a real stand out (in a subtle way).   The lack of extra coloration is a definite bonus if you are doing surgery on a master, or if you don’t want or need to be adding in extra harmonics to the track, it is a really nice smooth EQ.

High Frequencies - Orchestral Song

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In this test the Acustica Ivory really stands out for what it does in the high end. Its got a nice smooth top end that really places everything nicely, and that gives a bit of a lift to the track without bite. Listen to how the backing synths move forward a touch.   It sounds pretty special in the top end to our ears and is definitely something to consider when working in that range.   The bx_Digital V3 does not have as much shine as the Ivory and is a bit more subtle sounding but still does a great job, retaining the instrument placement of the original mix in the mid range slightly better than the Ivory you could possibly argue, and it seems to be more transparent. The Cakewalk L Phase sounds like a halfway point between the Acustica and the Brainworx. The Cakewalk L Phase being linear phase has a nice smooth top end - just without the extra harmonic lift and smooth solidity or to put in more technical terms ‘magic’ of the Acustica Ivory. The Cakewalk adds a nice bit of width to the signal that some of the other EQs do not - Maybe this is due to being a Linear Phase EQ, check out and compare the hihat on this EQ vs the Acustica and Brainworx. The Eventide Ultrachannel is a bit more subdued than some of the other EQs but has a nice sense of clarity to it, it doesn't extend down into the high mids as much so it sounds very clean and does not harshen. The Ozone 7 is similar to as in the other tests. Very clean sounding and maybe a bit of the mids are being sucked out with this curve, not bad as it does give it more apparent space. The Lindell TE-100 again has a nice slight harmonic feel to it and good range of effect on the spectrum.   It doesn’t seem to extend as much into the top end as the Massive Passive, but does work more (and very nicely) in the upper mid range frequencies - check the the piano).    Listen to how in the one the tapping closed hi hats are brought forward and sound a bit crunchier. The Metric Halo is nice and wide - Synths come up and move out. Compare the Metric Halo to the TE-100 to hear how the width and placement changes of the Backing synths and how they sit with the keys. The Slate Custom Series sounds like it adds more harmonics to the mid range over many of the other EQs which is nice, it doesn’t seem to have the super highs that some of the other EQs bring to the party (and maybe you could remedy that by turning the highs up a bit more). It sounds like the Curve on this extends down quite a lot further than on the other EQs and it sounds a bit more pronounced in the lower mid range area (Compare to Metric Halo, Cakewalk, iZotope), it really does great things overall we think. The Sonoris seems to add some extra width to the top end, no real harmonics introduced with the boost and very very transparent. The Massive Passive really shines in the top end. It is a great sounding EQ up in this range - gives the track and nice lift and widen to the track without any harshening. The MDWEQ3 is the same as it was in the last two tests, smooth and well defined, especially on the hihats. Similar to the Slate and Sonoris but not as harmonic.


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Handy Links -

Check out the Acustica Ivory

Check out the bx_Digital V3

Check out the Cakewalk L Phase

Check out the Eventide Ultrachannel

Check out the MH Channel Strip

Check out the Slate Custom Series EQ

Check out the UAD Massive Passive

Check out the UAD MDWEQ5

Check out the Sonoris Mastering EQ

Check out the Lindell Audio TE-100

Check out the Logic Channel EQ

Extra info for those interested in how we make our calls on what stuff sounds like -

Listening tests and assumptions are determined, double checked or signed off at Gearshoot HQ on ATC110ASL Pro monitors.   We reckon that they give us a pretty good chance at getting it pretty well in the ballpark of what it is going to sound like on most other people’s monitors.  We also headphone check on Extreme Isolation EX-29’s to hear what is going on in that spectrum and to hear what the world of headphones can show us.


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