Unless you have a pro audio background, there’s a good chance that you’ve been overlooking the importance of an EQ pedal for years.

EQ pedals provide you total control over the different frequencies that combine to make up the sound of your guitar. Granted, between your amplifier’s controls, and the controls on your various pedals, you may feel like you already have a good feel for your guitar’s EQ and how it sits in the mix.

But, are you truly happy with how your guitar is sitting in the mix? Are you confident that you’re putting your best foot forward with regards to all your different guitar tones? If you’re like me, the answer is probably no. If you’re looking to get a better handle on the tonal shaping of your guitar and how it sits in the mix, this guide is for you.

Today, we’ll cover everything you need to know about EQ, and how it can have a dramatic effect on how your guitar cuts through the mix. We’ll also take a closer look at some of the best EQ pedals on the market to help you achieve the most dynamic tone possible.

What is the Best EQ Pedal?

What exactly is an EQ Pedal and what does it do?

An EQ pedal provides guitar players with a level of tonal shaping that they’re unable to get from their guitar, amp, or pedals. The importance of a graphic EQ pedal is often overlooked by guitar players, as they don’t fully grasp how an EQ pedal can impact their overall sound.

Guitarists with an engineering background are already well-versed on the importance of EQ. But, for those of you who are a bit murky when it comes to the purpose of an EQ pedal, here’s the jist: An EQ will allow you to tailor your tonal signature in a way that you’re unable to do with your amp or guitar.

Guitarists are used to dealing with knobs for bass, mids, and treble. But, within those three frequency ranges lurks a broad range of different frequencies that you’ll never be able to fully control with a simple 3-band EQ.

With an EQ pedal, guitarists have full control over the frequencies that exist “between the dials,” and an EQ allows them to shape their tone to the conditions of the room and the characteristics of the band.

If your guitar is having trouble cutting through the mix, or if you’re unhappy with the level of tonal control you have with your current setup, an EQ pedal may allow you to correct any deficiencies to ensure that your guitar sits right where it’s supposed to in the mix.

What makes a great EQ Pedal?

Since an EQ is looked at as a utility; nice to have but not exactly a necessity, it’s hard to nail down the criteria by which you should evaluate different EQ pedals. With that in mind, four factors come to mind that you should use to evaluate every EQ pedal you consider as you strive to find the best EQ pedal for your sound.

  1. Seven or more frequency bands
  2. Road-ready construction
  3. True bypass wiring
  4. Easy to use interface

Seven or More Frequency Bands

When it comes to EQ pedals, each slider on the pedal corresponds to a frequency band. Most high-end EQ pedals allow you to control and tailor at least five frequency bands.

The number of frequency bands you have at your disposal becomes especially essential whenever you’re playing with a band, particularly if the band plays modern rock or heavy metal.

Since many of the frequencies that the guitar produces are also associated with other instruments, like the drums, bass, or guitar, being able to control these frequencies ranges helps ensure that your guitar will always cut through the mix.

A quality EQ pedal will allow you to control at least five to seven bands of EQ; these bands usually correspond to the low, low mid, mid, high mid, and high frequencies. But, many EQ pedals take it a step further, allowing you to control even more of the frequencies that your guitar produces.

When you’re shopping for an EQ pedal, the more bands you have at your disposal, the more opportunities you have to shape your signature tone.

You should also ensure that each fader provides at least ±12dB of cut and boost for each frequency to provide you with the most headroom to shape individual frequencies.

Road-Ready Construction

As a guitarist, you already know how rough we are on our gear. From our guitars to amps to pedals, everything we own gets put through the wringer. So, it’s vital that all our gear is built to stand up to the test of time.

Build quality is especially important when it comes to EQ because EQ pedals are especially fragile. The sliders that allow you to control your settings are usually made from plastic, and they’re inherently breakable.

Any guitarist or bassist who has ever worked with an EQ pedal can tell you how fragile these pedals are, which makes it all the more important that the pedal you’re selecting can stand up to the rigors of the road.

When shopping for an EQ pedal, look for options that are built with the rigors of gigging and touring in mind. This will help ensure that the pedal you select will be able to handle the various dings and dents it’s sure to encounter during a life of gigging and traveling.

True Bypass Wiring

An often overlooked yet critical consideration when it comes to effects pedals is how the pedals are made. There are two ways to make an effects pedal: buffered bypass or true bypass.

Buffered bypass pedals function as sort of a pre-amp; they amplify the signal before it’s sent through the effects circuit. While the effect itself may sound great, the buffering can subtract from your tone, and add unwanted color to your sound.

With a true bypass pedal, the pedal’s circuitry is completely bypassed when the pedal isn’t on. This allows the pure signal of your guitar to travel through the pedal on its way to your amp completely unimpeded.

For the weekend warriors among us, this isn’t that important of a concern. But, if you’ve shelled out serious money for your guitar, amp, and accessories, a pedal that’s true bypass helps to ensure that the tone of your guitar is the tone that makes it through to your amplifier.

True bypass pedals provide the purest expression of your music to make it through to your amplifier. If you’re serious about your gear and your sound, you’ll want a true bypass EQ pedal.

Easy to Use Interface

Unless you have a background in audio engineering, the concept of an EQ pedal may be foreign to you.

The truth is, most guitar players are out on a limb when it comes to managing a graphic EQ pedal. Just because we care about our tone doesn’t mean we know how to handle a multi-band EQ as a sound engineer would.

For this reason, it’s important that the pedal you select is easy to use, and that the controls make sense to guitar players. While it may seem intimidating at first, most quality EQ pedals are especially easy to understand and use.

When shopping for an EQ pedal, look for a pedal that’s easy to understand and allows you to get to the business of shaping your tone within a few seconds of plugging it in. While shaping your sound is a science, being able to understand and manipulate your EQ pedal should be easy enough that a toddler could grasp it.

EQ Pedal Reviews – Our Top 5 Recommendations

MXR M108S Ten Band Graphic EQ Pedal

Best Overall

What Makes It Special?

This ten band EQ from MXR allows you to take complete control of your guitar’s tone. LED fader indicators and independent level and gain controls allow you to further shape your tone, and true bypass construction ensures that your tone remains unaltered as it travels through your signal chain.

  • LED fader indicators
  • Independent level and gain controls
  • True bypass construction
  • Up to  ±12dB of boost or cut for each frequency

If you’re looking for an EQ that provides comprehensive control over your tone, look no further than this ten band model from MXR. Each frequency band provides up to ±12dB cut or boost for precision control of each EQ band. The frequencies each fader corresponds to were carefully chosen by MXR to be useful for electric or acoustic guitar, and even bass.

Controls for level and gain allow you to further shape your tone and ensure that it sits properly in the mix. Each fader has an LED indicator, so you’ll be able to see exactly what your settings are even on dark stages or outdoors in direct sunlight.

This pedal runs on 18 volts and includes a power supply. But, it can’t run on batteries.

What Customers Like

  • LED position indicators
  • True bypass construction
  • Built to last

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t run on batteries
  • Larger than a stompbox – may not be a good fit for cramped pedalboards

Caline CP-24 Ten Band Graphic EQ

Best For the Price

What Makes It Special?

If you need a powerful tone shaping tool that won’t cost an arm and a leg, this ten-band graphic EQ from Caline should be right up your alley. This pedal delivers high-end features at an affordable price, and it allows you to tailor your EQ with ten individual frequency bands. Each frequency band provides an impressive ±12dB of boost or cut.

  • Ten frequency bands with ±12dB boost or cut for each band
  • Protective caps help protect the pedal and faders from damage
  • True bypass construction
  • Gain control

The CP-24 from Caline delivers everything guitarists need from a graphic EQ. With this pedal, you’ll be able to adjust ten individual frequency ranges with a powerful ±12dB range to cut or boost frequencies. A gain control allows you to control your headroom once you’ve finished EQing your instrument.

This pedal features true bypass construction, and while it doesn’t run on batteries, it’s compatible with most 9V power supplies, including the One Spot. Four protective caps are also included to protect the pedal and faders from damage. A sturdy aluminum alloy case ensures that this pedal can stand up to anything you’ll be dishing out.

What Customers Like

  • True bypass construction
  • ±12dB boost or cut for each frequency
  • Great price

What Customers Dislike

  • Can’t run on batteries
  • A bit noisier than high-end options

Boss GE-7 Graphic EQ Pedal

What Makes It Special?

The GE-7 from Boss provides seven independent frequency bands in a convenient stompbox housing which features the road-ready build quality Boss is famous for. With a broad ±15dB range to boost or cut frequencies, this pedal allows you to take precise control over your tone.

  • ±15dB of boost or cut
  • Durable housing and heavy-duty faders
  • Convenient stompbox design is perfect for pedalboards
  • Runs off batteries or AC power

While the GE-7 doesn’t provide quite as much room to tailor your tone, it’s still the most popular EQ among guitar players thanks to its near-perfect design. Perfectly sized for use on busy pedalboards, this tiny EQ pedal provides a broad range to cut and boost frequencies and an independent level control for perfectly setting your output volume.

This pedal is also built like a tank, and it features heavy-duty rubber caps on each fader to help safeguard them from damage. Unlike many EQs which require an independent power supply, the GE-7 can also run off of batteries, which provides an added layer of versatility.

What Customers Like

  • Heavy-duty build quality
  • Broad range to cut or boost frequencies
  • Stompbox housing is perfect for busy pedalboards

What Customers Dislike

  • Not true bypass
  • A bit noisy

Donner Five Band Equalizer

Best for Beginners & Students

What Makes It Special?

Simple and easy to use, this pint-sized stomp from Donner provides five bands of EQ with an impressive ±18dB of boost or cut for each frequency. A volume knob allows you to set your overall output level, and true bypass construction ensures that your tone remains uncolored as it travels through your signal path.

  • ±18dB of boost or cut for each band
  • True bypass construction
  • Nano housing is perfect for busy pedalboards and traveling
  • Durable build quality

Beginner guitarists are always looking for affordable ways to take control of their tone, and this five-band EQ from Donner is perfect for doing just that. Despite its tiny size, this powerful pedal provides ±18dB of boost or cut on each frequency band and a volume knob for setting your output.

This pedal also features true bypass construction to ensure that your tone is unaffected as it runs through your signal path, and a durable metal housing to keep this pedal ticking no matter what you dish out at it. Its nano housing makes this pedal a perfect addition to cramped pedalboards, and it’s small enough to toss into the pocket of a gig bag when you’re on the road.

What Customers Like

  • True bypass construction
  • Industry-leading boost/cut range
  • Affordable

What Customers Dislike

  • Doesn’t run on batteries
  • Doesn’t include a power supply

Behringer EQ700 Seven Band EQ Pedal

Best on a Budget

What Makes It Special?

A tiny price tag and Behringer’s legendary pro-audio performance help elevate this little stomp into territory usually only occupied by pedals that cost two or three times as much as the EQ700. With ±15dB cut or boost for each frequency, you’ll be able to take full tonal control over your guitar’s tone.

  • ±15dB cut or boost on each band
  • Runs on battery or AC power

The EQ700 delivers similar functionality to the Boss GE-7 at a much friendlier price point. This pedal provides control of seven frequency bands with a powerful ±15dB cut or boost on each band. An independent level control allows you to set the output of the pedal.

Housed in a classic stompbox, this pedal is ideal for cramped pedalboards, and it can be run on batteries or a 9V power supply. The housing itself is made from durable aluminum, and the heavy-duty faders can stand up to abuse much more readily than many of their competitors, who use thin, highly breakable frequency sliders.

What Customers Like

  • Affordable
  • Built like a tank

What Customers Dislike

  • Mediocre quality jacks and components
  • Noisy

6 More Really Good EQ Pedals

MXR KFK1 Ten Band EQ

For the metalheads among us, the KFK1 EQ is a pedal to take a closer look at. This pedal was specially designed for Kerry King of Slayer to provide an EQ solution that’s tailored for modern metal guitar players.

This pedal provides ±12dB boost or cut on each frequency band, a gain control, and an output level control. Dual outputs are perfect for running the pedal out in stereo. Compared to MXR’s other EQ pedals, this one is built especially tough and features a durable coating that’s reminiscent of a cargo bed liner on a pickup truck.

Like other ten band MXR EQ pedals, this one runs at 18 volts and includes a power supply. True bypass wiring ensures that your tone is uncolored as it travels through your signal path.

If you primarily play metal and you’ve been frustrated by other EQs which aren’t necessarily designed for the demands of heavier music, this pedal should be right up your alley.

J. Rockett Audio I.Q. Graphic EQ and Compressor

This pedal is a bit different than the others we’ve covered as it functions as both a six-band graphic EQ and a compressor.

This pedal provides six bands of pre-compression EQ, a level control, and a mix control for dialing in your wet and dry signal mix. Depending on how you EQ the pedal, certain frequencies are compressed harder than others to provide a fuller and more even tone. Each fader carries an impressive ±18dB of cut and boost for each frequency.

This pedal is built to last, and the housing is made from high gauge steel. Illuminated sliders allow you to see your settings on dark stages and in outdoor environments, and true bypass construction ensures that no additional color will be added to your raw tone.

Compared to other EQ pedals, this one is particularly quiet, making it an excellent option for players who have been frustrated by EQ noise in the past. While it’s certainly on the expensive side, few EQ pedals offer as much in the way of tonal shaping as the I.Q. from J. Rockett Audio.

Ammoon ENO EX EQ7 Seven Band EQ Pedal

This tiny seven band EQ is another viable option for guitarists looking for a budget solution that won’t take up a ton of space on their pedalboards.

The ENO EX EQ7 features seven frequency bands, each with ±15dB cut or boost for each frequency. A level control allows you to tailor the output level of the pedal. The full metal shell keeps the pedal protected from the dings and dents that it will surely endure during its lifespan.

Like most of the pedals we’ve covered, this one also features true bypass construction, so it’s tone junkie approved. This pedal doesn’t run on batteries, nor does it include a power supply, but it should be compatible with any power supply you’re currently using to power your pedals.

Whirlwind Perfect 10 Ten Band EQ Pedal

For guitarists who spare no expense in the quest for the perfect tone, the Whirlwind Perfect 10 may be the ideal EQ pedal.

This pedal was designed by Tony Gambacurta, who is referred to as the guru of modern EQ. This American made true bypass EQ pedal delivers high-end features that are missing from other popular EQs.

Most notably, it features a constant Q design, which means that the width of each frequency remains uniform through both small and large adjustments. This feature allows you to dial in EQ settings with a level of precision that’s unseen in competing pedals.

Bright LED indicators let you know precisely where your sliders are positioned, even in exceptionally dark or bright environments.

While it’s considerably more expensive than other high-end EQs, it does provide a level of precision you can’t get elsewhere, and it’s also arguably the quietest EQ pedal on the market.

MXR M109S Six Band EQ

For players who are looking for an EQ from an industry-leading brand, but are unable to sacrifice the pedalboard space necessary for one of MXR’s larger ten band units, the M109S may be the perfect option for you.

Essentially, this pedal is identical to the MXR M108S, which is our favorite overall EQ pedal. However, it provides six EQ bands instead of ten, and it doesn’t include level or gain controls. Outside of that, it features the same heavy-duty aluminum chassis, LED indicators, and true bypass construction.

One of the significant benefits of this pedal is that it runs on 9V power, so you’ll be able to power this one the same way you power the other pedals on your board, without the need for a larger 18V power supply.

The M109S is also considerably smaller than it’s bigger brother, so its an excellent choice for cramped pedalboards.

Biyang EQ-7 Seven Band EQ

Another strong option for players looking to add a powerful tone shaping tool to their rig without spending a ton of money is this seven band EQ from Biyang.

This pedal features seven frequency bands with ±15dB cut or boost on each band and an output level control. True bypass construction ensures your tone can travel through your signal path unaltered.

While the sides and back of this pedal are made of plastic, it does feature an attractive stainless steel face. But, we’d imagine all that plastic compromises its durability, so this is a pedal you may want to baby if you decide it’s the best option for you.

5 FAQ’s about EQ Pedals

How do you use an EQ Pedal?

Most guitar players use an EQ at all times to help them better shape the tone of their instrument to the environment that they are in.

While most stompboxes have a tried and true set of processes you can tap into to ensure you’re getting the best tone possible, EQ pedals are a bit different.

The EQ of your guitar is affected by many factors, including whether or not you’re playing in a band, and the room you’re playing in. A quality EQ pedal will allow you to account for all those factors while ensuring that your tone can cut through the mix.

While many guitar players keep their EQ on at all times, there are also ways to incorporate your EQ pedal sporadically to help add additional color and emotion to your music.

Many guitarists use an EQ pedal to provide them with a level of tonal shaping that their amplifier lacks. In this case, they’ll zero out the EQ controls on their amp and use an EQ pedal to manage the different frequencies that make up their sound, leaving the pedal on at all times.

Other guitarists will use their EQ specifically for solos and leads, to provide their guitar with the boost that’s necessary to cut through a busy mix. In this scenario, the guitarist will usually boost the mids and highs to provide a tone that can easily soar over the top of the mix. Many of the best EQ pedals also provide an output level or gain control which provides an additional boost.

You can also use an EQ to create a unique tonal profile that suits a specific passage or song.

Some guitarists even go as far as including multiple EQ pedals in their rig so that they can capture more than one of the methods we described above in their playing.

Where do you place an EQ Pedal (in the chain)?

One of the most common issues guitarists who use pedals complain about is noise, muddiness, or other unpleasantries creeping into their sound. This is often caused by an effects chain that isn’t set up correctly.

When setting up your pedalboard, you should start with any dynamic effects you have, such as a compressor. From there, any filters you have, such as a wah or envelope filter would go next. Next comes any gain effects like distortion or overdrive, followed by any modulation effects you have, such as chorus, phaser, or flanger. Lastly, place any time-based effects like reverb or delay.

Some guitarists will use their effects loop to run any time-based effects while leaving their other pedals up front. Adding these effects to the amp’s effects loop may provide a slightly cleaner tone with less noise.

An EQ pedal can be placed at multiple points in your chain, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish. Most players will place an EQ at the beginning of their chain so they can tailor the tone that’s entering their effects pedals. You can also achieve a slightly different sound by placing an EQ after any modulation effects you have but before time-based effects.

What are the top EQ Pedal brands?

Most of the top manufacturers of effects pedals also make EQ pedals, here are a few of the top brands:

Boss has carved out a reputation for producing some of the most well-regarded and road-ready stompboxes on the market, and their EQ pedal is one of the most popular options out there. Like all their other pedals, Boss’ EQ pedal provides plenty of opportunities to shape your tone, and it can stand up to anything you dish out.

MXR, which is a brand of the Jim Dunlop company, produces several EQ pedals that are exceptionally popular. Available in six and ten band versions, their EQ pedals are heavy-duty and allow guitarists to take total control of their tone.

Behringer is another brand to consider. While they do make a full line of guitar accessories, Behringer is perhaps best known in the pro-audio world, where they produce tons of different graphic EQ options from classic stompboxes to rack-mountable units with 15 or more frequency bands.

Beyond these three popular brands, there are also a ton of other producers who make quality EQ pedals you may want to take a closer look at before choosing a pedal.

How much does a good EQ pedal typically cost?

Depending on the number of frequency bands you can shape, and any additional features the pedal has, an excellent EQ typically costs somewhere in the $30-100 range. Rackmount EQ devices, which provide the most room for adjustment, are more expensive, and can often run north of $200.

Since EQ pedals don’t alter your signal so much as they shape your tone, this is one area where you can consider opting for an affordable option. A 10-band graphic EQ pedal that costs $30 will mostly bring the same functionality to the table as one that costs $100.

Granted, there’s something to be said for the high-end pedals that offer more precise tone shaping and less noise than their lower-priced competitors. But, most players find they’re willing to make some concessions with regard to their EQ pedal if it means they can save some money.

Where can I learn more about EQ Pedals?

While they’re relatively straightforward in design, EQ pedals have long mystified guitar players. Fortunately, there are some great resources online to make them easier to understand.

Audio Master Class has a great crash course on how to use EQ in the context of a live sound environment, and they provide some useful tips and tricks you can incorporate into the way you adjust your EQ pedal.

Guitarplayer.com has long been a popular resource for everything guitar related. From interviews with top players to gear reviews and helpful editorials, guitarplayer.com is a site that every guitarist should have bookmarked. The link above has plenty of jewels to help you EQ your guitar so that it sits properly in the mix.

Premier Guitar also provides plenty of resources for guitar players ranging from gear tips to reviews to interviews and more. They also have some beneficial info about how to EQ your guitar.

Familiarize yourself with these three resources above, and you should have a much better handle on how to properly EQ your guitar for any situation.

Conclusion

EQing your guitar properly is an often overlooked step that many guitar players fail to understand. However, how you EQ your instrument can be critically important, especially when you’re playing with a band.

The EQ pedals we’ve covered today are all great options to help you take control of your tone and ensure that your guitar is correctly seated in the mix.

What are your thoughts on EQ pedals? Do you have questions or recommendations? Sound off in the comments below!

When guitarists are shopping for a graphic EQ, they often check out these effects as well;

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