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Best EQ pedals 2022: 8 must-have EQ pedals to tame your tone

Source Audio EQ2 pedal on a grey background
(Image credit: Future)

EQ pedals, like power supplies, aren't exactly an exciting topic. However, just like power supplies, they can have a transformative effect on your rig. The reality is that amp EQs, however intuitive, are a blunt instrument. Meanwhile, studio and live sound engineers alike know that much more fine-grained EQ control results in a better sound. Hence this guide to the best EQ pedals.

The brilliant news is that there have never been more EQ pedal options on the market. Not only that, but studio grade functionality is now available in pedal form, with the addition of modern affordances like MIDI.

Here we'll take a look at the best options and provide you with some buying advice to help you fine-tune your choices.

Best EQ pedals: Our top picks

For those seeking an uncomplicated, basic EQ pedal to help tame unruly frequencies - that won't cost more than your prized boutique overdrive pedal -  it's hard not to recommend the MXR M109S. This compact pedal is as simple as they come and is built like a tank for a very reasonable price.

For the player looking to get creative with equalization, then the Boss EQ-200 would be our go-to option. This 10-band graphic EQ pedal comes with a memory function that allows you to recall different settings at the stomp of a switch. 

Best EQ pedals: Product guide

Best EQ pedals: Chase Bliss Audio Automatone Preamp Mk II

(Image credit: Chase Bliss Audio)

1. Chase Bliss Audio Automatone Preamp Mk II

The best of the best EQ pedals

Specifications
Launch price: $749/£749
Controls: Volume, Treble, Mids, Freq, Bass, Gain, Jump, Mids, Q, Diode, Fuzz
Sockets: Input, Output, MIDI in, MIDI thru, Expression, Power
Bypass: True
Reasons to buy
+Awesome preamp +Powerful EQ section 
Reasons to avoid
-May be overkill for some players 

The Automatone is the pinnacle not only of boutique EQ options, but also of preamps more generally. It's a collaboration between Chase Bliss and Benson Amps, so comes with an impressive pedigree. It takes its inspiration from Benson Amps' excellent Chimera preamp - a version of their 30W Chimera amp, with the tubes replaced by FETs.

This preamp design is then married to an EQ based on the semi-parametric design found on Chase Bliss' Condor pedal. Consequently there's three different mids resonance options and a variable Q control. Not only that, but the mid frequency itself is fully variable, controlled by a dedicated slider.

It's got volume and gain sliders too, for level control. While it's got enough gain on tap to kick a guitar amp into saturation, that wasn't quite enough. Chase Bliss rounded off the Preamp with the ability to deliver full blown fuzz, with silicon and asymmetric germanium diode clipping available. The fuzz is also switchable from from an 'open' to a 'gated' bias setting.

Did we mention it has motorized sliders? Oh, well, it does, and they're really cool.

Best EQ pedals: Boss EQ-200

(Image credit: Boss)

2. Boss EQ-200

The mothership

Specifications
Launch price: $256/£219
Controls: 10 band sliders, 1 master level, Channel, Memory
Sockets: Stereo In, Stereo Out, Expression, USB, MIDI in/out, Power
Bypass: Buffered
Reasons to buy
+Fine-gained control of nearly every parameter+Everything accessible via the pedal
Reasons to avoid
-Requires menu-diving

The Boss EQ-200 is nothing less than a studio rack EQ in pedal format. In fact, in terms of its functionality it even goes beyond a graphic EQ and closer to a DAW graphic EQ, complete with visual curves. Once you factor in the insert, it reveals itself in a similar space to the Chase Bliss in terms of tone-shaping before your amp, albeit without a dedicated pre.

It's got dual 10-band EQs that can be run in stereo, parallel or series, meaning it can accommodate wet-dry rigs and complex setups in a single pedal, with full MIDI control over parameters. Each band is active, with 15dB of boost or cut on tap, and the overall range covered by the range of the bands is customisable as well.

Finally, for all its horsepower, it has some additional ergonomic features. There's customizable footswitches, and the ability to disable the front-panel controls to avoid any live mistakes.

Best EQ pedals: Hamstead Zenith

(Image credit: Hamstead )

The amp extender

Specifications
Launch price: $349/£279
Controls: Comp, Blend, Level, Bass, Middle, Treble, Q, Freq
Sockets: Input, Output, Power
Bypass: GigRig OptoKick
Reasons to buy
+EQ, pre and compressor in one+Additional operation modes via optical switch
Reasons to avoid
-Limited control over compressor parameters

The Zenith combines a boost, EQ and compression into a full-featured preamp option. The boost has up to 20dB of transparent gain on tap, but the EQ is a bit more subtle. The amp-like 3-band EQ controls are active, but have a relatively restrained boost and cut range. The middle control has additional controls to help it gel with other pedals. There's a three-way switch for Q, and a frequency selector that spans from low mids (500Hz) to more conventional mid frequencies (800Hz and 1.2kHz).

Hamstead took an opinionated approach to the compression, as it's fixed, with a fast attack and medium decay. The compression knob simply controls the amount of compression, while the blend control allows you to mix the wet and dry. While it might not replace a dedicated compressor pedal in some rigs, for most players, it's intuitive enough and sounds good enough to be an 'always on' tone shaping tool.

Finally, there's also a circuit order control, like that found on other Hamstead pedals. In this case, it allows you to place the EQ before, after, or in parallel with the compression circuit for added flexibility.

Read our full Hamstead Soundworks Zenith Amplitude review

Best EQ pedals: Mesa Boogie Five-Band Graphic EQ

(Image credit: Mesa Boogie )

4. Mesa Boogie Five-Band Graphic EQ

When amp-like means 'actually from an amp'

Specifications
Launch price: $279/£289
Controls: Input level, Output level, 5 band sliders
Sockets: In, Out, Power
Bypass: True
Reasons to buy
+Intuitive, powerful EQ+Amp-like in the most literal sense
Reasons to avoid
-Quite large-Quite expensive for its feature set

The Mesa Mark series is famous for its 5-band graphic EQ. This flexible and intuitive EQ control saw the Mark series become a staple of studio session players.

The core of the pedal is simple - it's literally the same components as a Mesa Mark amp, with 5 bands of active EQ offering 12dB of boost or cut. At the input and output there's an active level control with an additional 6dB of boost or 40dB of attenuation available.

While there aren't as many bells-and-whistles as some other options, the Mesa Five-Band does exactly what it should. It's an amp-like EQ, with a bombproof build, perfect for live or studio use.

Best EQ pedals: Source Audio EQ2

(Image credit: Source Audio )

Size doesn't matter

Specifications
Launch price: $269/£269
Controls: Rotary encoder, Select/Save
Sockets: Input 1/2, Output 1/2, MIDI in, MIDI thru, USB, Control In, Power
Bypass: True
Reasons to buy
+Powerful EQ with control over band frequencies+Full MIDI control in a small footprint
Reasons to avoid
-Needs software to get the most from it

For those that want the flexibility of the Boss unit but don't have the pedalboard real-estate, there's the EQ2, which Source Audio claim is the most powerful EQ on the planet. Given it's the choice of David Gilmour and John Mayer, obviously others agree.

Like the EQ-200, it has ten bands, and stereo in and out. Each band can be fully customized between 20Hz and 20kHz, offering 18dB of boost or cut. There's also the option of adding a noise gate or limiter, to control the dynamics of the signal even further.

The EQ2 can store 128 presets, with 4 accessible via the quick selection on the front panel. It's possible to program the EQ2 using the single rotary encoder on the pedal. However, due to its complexity, It's easiest to work with via Source Audio's desktop or mobile applications, or via MIDI.

Read our full Source Audio EQ2 review

Best EQ pedals: ThorpyFX Team Medic

(Image credit: ThorpyFX )

6. ThorpyFX Team Medic

Fix up your tone

Specifications
Launch price: $299/£329
Controls: Gain, Volume, Treble, Mids, Bass
Sockets: In, Out, Power
Bypass: Switchable
Reasons to buy
+Excellent sounds+Bombproof construction
Reasons to avoid
-There are more versatile EQ and pre options

The Team Medic is Thorpy's tone multi-tool, designed to patch up any issues with your signal chain. Although it's switchable to true bypass, an important feature of the pedal is a class A buffer. This will beef up your guitar signal and eliminate any high-end loss in long guitar cable runs.

Besides the buffer, there's an active 3-band EQ with a decent range and amp-like voicing. Paired with the buffer and active boost, the Team Medic has something of the feel of a premium treble booster with all the knobs at noon. Obviously, this quickly changes once you start exploring different settings.

Finally there's a stacked boost circuit, which has enough gain on tap for simple solo boosts or a more substantial kick to push a tube amp into saturation.

Best EQ pedals: MXR M109S Six Band EQ Pedal

(Image credit: MXR)

7. MXR M109S Six Band EQ Pedal

Sometimes less is more

Specifications
Launch price: $89/£89
Controls: 6 band sliders
Sockets: In, Out, Power
Bypass: True
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Sounds good
Reasons to avoid
-No master volume-No master gain

Sometimes simpler is better. The newest versions of the MXR 6B are lower noise, and sport true bypass switching and LEDs on the sliders for live use on a darkened stage.

Each active band offers a whopping 18dB of boost or cut, although there's no master level control. The bands start at 100Hz and go up to 3.2kHz, meaning there's no high treble control. However most amps likely have a shelving EQ that can add some additional brightness there if required.

Although most will run it in front of an amp, there's also the option of running it in the effects loop. Here it can be used like the graphic EQ on a Mesa amp to radically reshape a distortion tone for lead or rhythm use.

Best EQ pedals: J.Rockett Designs Melody

(Image credit: J.Rockett Designs )

8. J.Rockett Designs Melody

Music to our ears

Specifications
Launch price: $199/£159
Controls: Vol, Gain, 6 band sliders
Sockets: In, Out, Power
Bypass: True
Reasons to buy
+Solid 6-band EQ+Functions as an overdrive as well
Reasons to avoid
-No description of EQ bands on front panel

The Melody is an EQ and drive pedal that is almost - if you squint - a boutique take on the 6B.

Like the 6B, it has 6 bands of 18dB active boost and cut, with stage-ready LED lit sliders. However, unlike the 6B it also has a master level, which allows for more subtle EQ shaping. Finally, it's also got a gain control to add saturation, making it even more flexible. With the gain down, it's a characterful EQ, while with the gain up it's a flexible and uniquely-voiced overdrive for either rhythm or lead use.

It's the signature pedal of guitarist Mark Lettieri, so naturally it's aimed at lower gain material, but it can span a range all the way from jazz to rock.

Best EQ pedals: Buying advice

Hamstead Zenith EQ pedal on wooden floor

(Image credit: Future)

What to look for in the best EQ pedals

There are three main things to look for when choosing an EQ pedal:

The first is what type it is - parametric, or graphic. The vast majority of guitar EQs are graphic, which means they have fixed bands of audio that are boosted or attenuated. Some advanced pedals allow you to set these bands yourself, and some have a single parametric band, usually mids.

The second is how many bands you have control over. On guitar EQs, which are normally graphic EQs, you typically have between 6 and 10 bands. These tend to correspond to octaves above a fundamental. This results in tighter control over different parts of the guitar signal than your typical amp or overdrive EQ.

The third is quite prosaic - whether there are other features, and what the signal order is. Of particular interest is a master gain control. If this is before the EQ bands, then it allows for more subtle setups. For example, using the master gain as a boost, and then using the following EQ bands to attenuate certain frequencies. This has quite a different timbre from simply scooping - or attenuating - parts of the signal, or boosting them selectively to get a similar EQ curve.

Let's talk preamps

These days, a lot of EQs, especially at the mid and higher end, are contained within a preamp. Some of these are designed to be used for recording, or directly into the effect return of a tube head, but most are happy sitting in front of any decent amp.

These preamps throw additional variables into the equation. For example, whether they're FET or op-amp based, and whether or not they can also function as overdrives in their own right. Chase Bliss Audio, Hamstead and ThorpyFX all make preamp-style options, while the J.Rockett Melody covers overdrive and EQ territory rather than EQ and preamp.

Chances are, if you're looking to get greater control over your tone through the use of EQ, then you might also benefit from the tone-shaping a decent preamp can offer.

Alex Lynham

Alex Lynham is a gear obsessive who's been collecting and building modern and vintage equipment since he got his first Saturday job. Besides reviewing countless pedals for Total Guitar, he's written guides on how to build your first pedal, how to build a tube amp from a kit, and briefly went viral when he released a glitch delay pedal, the Atom Smasher.