Equalize your amplifier I - Thermion

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Equalize your amplifier I

Equalizing is, apart from playing, the most common routine that an electric guitarist has to perform and probably, the one in which he feels most helpless when it comes to looking for a method in which to base himself.

There are many guitarists who, even possessing an enormous knowledge in technique and harmony, can’t find their tone, get lost in a chaotic live mix or end up using digital solutions because they are more immediate than 'physical' amplifiers, even though the last ones have many more possibilities. And all this, motivated by the fact that equalizing routines are really unknown.

Keep in mind that you need to equalize in a different way to play at low volumes and to play at live or rehearsal volumes. Speakers behave in a radically way at different volumes and it is very likely that you need different 'setting' for each situation.

 

Types of equalizers


 

For the study of equalization, we will divide equalizers in three groups:

The standard ‘low-mid-high’ equalizers are almost always passive, if they do not have a point in the middle in which the knob becomes 'hooked'. A passive equalizer means that it does not 'add' anything to your tone; it only subtracts certain frequencies when we lower the controls from the maximum.

'Presence' and 'resonance' controls are almost always feedback equalizers and add frequencies to your tone while they are not set at its minimum.

Band EQs, in the style of the Mesa Boogie Mark series, are always active. They add frequencies when they are above the midpoint and subtract them below it. They will not be objective of this blog.

 

Pre-adjustment of a passive EQ with feedback controls


Probably one of the most common types of EQ in a guitar amp. If your amplifier does not have feedback controls or some passive EQ bands, simply omit them in the process.
Let's start from the basis that the three ‘high-mid-low’ band EQ, only subtract frequencies. Therefore we will start with them at maximum value to listen to 'all frequencies' that the amplifier can give us.

Similarly, presence-resonance bands only add frequencies. We will begin with presence at a low value since it is usually very effective. In the same way, resonance is not usually as effective and because of it, we will start with it at an intermediate value.

We will first look for a starting point where the sound convinces us 'roughly', and then make fine adjustments.

If we like the result, we will move on to 'Fine adjustment of the passive bands'. If we find the tone aggressive or strident, we will try the following option:

If we like the result, we will move on to 'Fine adjustment of the passive bands'. If we find the tone aggressive or strident, we will try the following option:

If we like the result, we will move on to 'Fine adjustment of the passive bands'. If we find the tone aggressive or strident, we will try the following option:

If we like the result, we will move on to 'Fine adjustment of the passive bands'. If we find the tone aggressive or strident, we will try the following option:

If we like the result, we will move on to 'Fine adjustment of the passive bands'. If we find the tone aggressive or strident, we will try the following option:

If at this point we did not like any option, because of the tone being too sharp or aggressive, I would do the following, if you have feedback controls. It is a way to get a more classic sound from modern and aggressive amplifiers such as Mesa Boogie Rectifiers or any of EVH series amp (5150, 6505, EVHIII...).

From this point, I would decrease the ‘presence-mid-bass’ controls with the same routine described above, replacing the treble control with the presence control, until finding the tone that suits you best.

If you do not like the overall sound of your amplifier in any of these settings, I have bad news. You don’t like your amplifier at all.

 

Fine adjustment of the passive bands


Now we should have a good start point and we will increase or decrease the controls according to the following criteria:

Treble: Increase it to have a sharper sound. Decrease them if the tone is too strident or sharp.

Mid: Increase it to have a closer and more present sound in the mix. Decrease it to keep the sound away or 'not to mask' to another possible guitarist.

Bass: Increase it to have a thicker sound, perfect for open chords that 'fill' in a mix. Decrease it to have a more tight tone, good for fast or distorted palm-mute passages.

 

Fine adjustment of feedback bands


Feedback bands have a radically different behavior than passive ones. While passive bands behave more like a 'bell' equalizer, acting on a specific range of frequencies and very few on the surrounding ones; feedback bands behave more like 'shelving' EQ and they act on a wider frequency range.

Presence: Increase it to have a more aggressive sound without getting ‘strident’, as a passive treble control would. Decrease it to have a ‘softer’ sound.

Resonance: Increase it to have deeper bass and more 'vibration' in your speakers when attacking your guitar. Decrease it to contain the punch and to get more definition.

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