Equalizers are a type of effect often overlooked by musicians. They are comprised of normally between 2 and 6 frequency filters configured in one way or another – you can read our guide to the different types of filters here. Since frequencies are the foundation of any tone, EQ can be extremely useful both as a utility and a creative tool.
Many of the most fun effects in synths, wah-wah pedals, and even some modulation units are heavily based on the addiction and subtraction of frequencies provided by filters and EQs.
Most synths heavily leverage subtractive filters like Low and High Pass ones, but some of the standalone EQ and filter units covered in this article can add a level or detail or deliver creative options rarely found in synthesizers, including (depending on the model):
- Multiple Filter/EQ options (Empress ParaEQ, Source Audio EQ2, BOSS EQ-200, GFI Enieqma)
- Creative, hand-on outboard low-pass filtering (EQD Spacial Delivery, Dreadbox Kinematic, OBNE Float)
- Stereo and Dual L/R Channel EQ/Filtering capabilities (BOSS EQ-200 GFI Enieqma, Source Audio EQ2, OBNE Float)
- Precise frequency sculpting through Parametric Peak/Notch filters including Q (aka “Bell”) controls (Empress ParaEQ, GFI Enieqma, Source Audio EQ2, BOSS EQ-200)
- Intuitive, hands-on Graphic EQ control (BOSS EQ-200)
- Flexible routing capabilities (GFI Enieqma, OBNE Float, BOSS EQ-200)
- Clean Boost Footswitch (Empress ParaEQ, GFI Enieqma)
- Easily switchable Presets (Source Audio EQ2, BOSS EQ-200, GFI Enieqma)
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the seven pedals we considered for this article.
The Best EQ & Filter Pedals for Synths
The only analog EQ pedal of the 3 covered in this article, the Empress Effects ParaEQ Deluxe is a compact and great sounding stompbox that gives you a console-style 3-band +/-15dB parametric EQ with an extra 30dB of boost activated through a separate footswitch. Not only each channel is parametric, but three 3-way toggles let you choose the bell curve of the EQ’s boost/cut. There’s also a more affordable non-Deluxe version that lacks the high/low cut and shelving filters and features switches instead of knobs to control the EQ’s Q values. The only downsides are that it’s mono and has no Midi integration.
The BOSS EQ-200 is an advanced, graphic-style, digital stereo/dual EQ pedal delivering studio-grade performance thanks to its 32-bit floating point processing and 96 kHz sampling rate. It features 2 channels of 10 EQ bands with 15db boost/cut, with tweakable frequency centers (3 options per fader). The resulting curve is visualized on a small black-and-white LCD screen. The routing capabilities are vast: it can be run in stereo, parallel, or series, and also allows patching in external pedals via the FX loop for pre and/or post tone shaping. Fully Midi-compatible, it has a 128 presets-system, configurable footswitches, and panel buttons that allow, among other things, to recall consecutive memories plus real-time panel settings.
The Dreadbox Kinematic is a 2-mode circuit offering an envelope low pass filter (Env FIlter mode) and a compressor + frequency booster made for funky, plucky, chunky sounds (Color Comp mode). The VCA compressor can go to extreme ratios, while both modes can push your sounds into saturation territory via the Drive knob. It’s the only pedal in this list to feature 3 CV patch points for modular synth users.
This is an interactive gallery of the remaining four pedals. As usual, a mouseover or a first tap will unveil a description, while a click or a second tap will open the video segment about that pedal.
- GFI System Enieqma
A 3-mode EQ + Boost with graphic display, presets and deep functionality that can operate in stereo or dual mono. The 3 modes are 5-band parametric, Simple EQ (with 7 different types available), and a Pultec mode. Combination mode lets you use Parametric along with one of the other modes.
A Prototype EQ library lets you craft wahs, cab-sims, and more.
- Source Audio EQ2
A pedal that offers a combination graphic and parametric equalizer with 10 fully adjustable frequency bands, stereo output and an eight-preset system. Up to 12dB of boost. Additionally, EQs can be different for left and right channels, and there’s also a hidden tuner function! MIDI control provides up to 128 presets. The Neuro Desktop Editor & Mobile App gives players in-depth access to more parameters.
- Old Blood Noise Float Dual Filter
An effect sporting two moving filters in a dual in/out configuration. Each filter has cutoff, sensitivity, resonance, rate, and volume controls as well as 6 waveshapes! The filters can also be switched between LP, HP, and BP modes and can be optionally synced together and run in stereo, parallel mono, or series mono configuration.
- EarthQuaker Spatial Delivery
A vocaloid-sounding envelope filter with range, resonance, and filter controls. Resonance will effect both attack and sensitivity of the filter while the filter knob will shift between LP, BP and HP filters. Runs the gamut from vintage funky or completely spaced out and weird. Comes with env up and down modes as well as a sample & hold mode.
- GFI System Enieqma
Check out the other articles of the Best Pedals for Synths Series.