An EQ (short for Equalizer) pedal is an underrated effect. An equalizer pedal has the critical role of shaping your sound.
If playing together with other instruments, it is helpful to understand that every instrument in a mix takes up space in the sonic spectrum. Think of the available sonic space as a box, where only so much bass is available, only so many mid-range frequencies are available, and only so much treble’s available before you run into the top of the box. If too many instruments compete for a certain frequency range, things just won’t sound as good and tight as they need to be. An EQ pedal can help sculpt your sound to sit better in the mix.
Is your guitar too bassy and competing with the actual bass guitar? Use your EQ pedal to roll off the bass. Can the piano not be heard as clearly because of your chunky rhythm playing? Use your EQ pedal to roll off those mid and high frequencies. Is your Fender Strat sounding too harsh? Mellow out those mid-range frequencies. Ultimately, if you have multiple instruments competing for the same space in the sonic spectrum, it will sound washed out.
10 Best EQ Pedals for Guitar
Danelectro Fish & Chips
» Quiet, hiss-free, functional, and very affordable.
The Danelectro DJ-14C Fish & Chips 7 Band EQ Mini Effects Pedal is slightly funny looking, has a slightly funny name, and a ridiculously good price. It features 7 sliders to adjust frequencies from 100Hz all the way up to 6.4KHz.
The value for the money, and the effectiveness of this thing are fantastic. The Fish & Chips also warrants praise for how quiet and hiss-free it is.
Our next recommendation comes in two different form factors. There is the MXR 6 Band Graphic EQ Pedal, and the MXR 10 Band Graphic EQ. These are practically the same pedal, the difference being the number of bands and their physical size. You’ll pay slightly more for the big brother.
These two spartan-looking pedals are quite simply very well loved by guitarists. Aside from some noise and hiss issues (which tend to plague most Equalizer pedals), not much bad can be said about them. Their price-point is very fair, and you get the rock-solid MXR reliability and build quality.
Whether you go for the 6 or 10-band version comes down completely to your needs and preference.
» This boutique pedal is quiet, reliable, and is very easily tweakable.
The EarthQuaker Devices Tone Job is beautiful. Luckily, this one has performance to match its looks.
In terms of hiss, it is not quite as quiet as the Empress, but quieter than the other EQ pedals on this list. The Tone Job is popular among players who prefer the easily tweakable treble, mid, and bass knobs as opposed to sliders to dial in their desired settings.
The Tone Job is a boutique pedal with killer looks, minimal noise, and makes dialing in your EQ setting super easy.
» The ability to have presets and an autoscroll mode set this pedal apart.
The Source Audio Programmable EQ is a compelling option for players that perform live due to the ability to have presets that are all hands free accessible. The Source Audio EQ allows you to save 4 presets that are you can access by holding down the footswitch. This will scroll through your presets. To select the preset, just release the footswitch.
There is even a Auto Scroll mode which scrolls through all your presets at an adjustable rate. This enables you to create your own tremolo style effect, and can be really interesting to play with.
The Source Audio gives you 18dB of cut or boost over seven frequency bands, plus an additional frequency band at 62Hz, accessible via the Octave Extend function. It also has MIDI input and the cast aluminum pedal has a relatively small footprint for everything it offers.
The L.R. Baggs Align Series Equalizer is purpose built for acoustic guitar players. The company based this EQ on the successful Para Acoustic DI. The Equalizer has a FET gain stage and a 6 band EQ with a very wide band.
This pedal also features a variable high-pass filter and phase inversion. The Garret Null notch filter helps control resonant feedback.
If you are looking for an EQ for your acoustic guitar from a brand that is trusted and focused on acoustics, take a look at this pedal.
The Boss EQ-200 is one of the most flexible compact EQs available. It has 10 bands with 15 dB cut and boost capability and a real time graphic display screen that shows the frequency curve. Further, each channel has an overall level control.
The EQ-200 works with external switches, expression pedals, or MIDI. Boss really made this EQ flexible with all the options they crammed in this pedal.
Selectable signal flow structures configure the channels for stereo, parallel, or series operation, and it’s even possible to patch in external pedals for deep pre/post tone shaping. Going further, the frequency centers of all 10 bands can be set to three different types, letting you optimize the EQ-200’s performance for different instruments.
The Boss EQ-200 is an amazing ten band EQ in a relatively compact format with four presets and a high degree of flexibility.
» With components from Mesa amps, this premium EQ is quiet and reliable.
Boogie originally popularized graphic EQ by placing them onboard their amps, and the Mesa Boogie Five-Band Graphic EQ carries on that legacy in pedal form. In fact, the pedal shares the same circuits as the EQs in Mesa amps.
The Five-Band EQ uses full size components, so it will take up a little more pedalboard real estate than your average EQ. However, it is quiet as a mouse and works like a charm. Each band lets you cut or boost 12 dB, and it is true bypass so it doesn't affect your tone when not engaged.
While this pedal may not have as many features as other options, it is a premium pedal and the build quality and low noise level cement it as a great EQ option, especially if you are chasing that Mesa Boogie amp voicing.
The JHS Pedals Haunting Mids is a pedal focused on changing the character of your tone by altering midrange frequencies. This pedal started as a Halloween joke, but due to popular demand JHS added it to its permanent lineup.
The Mids knob controls how much the mids are cut or boosted, with the 12 o’clock position being the neutral position, and giving you 15 dB of cut or boost on either side.
The Sweep knob determines which mid frequencies are boosted or cut, between 250Hz–7.5kHz. Less than the 12 o’clock cuts lower mids, and greater than 12 o’clock cuts upper mids. The Hi/Lo toggle is a simple Q control, with Hi being a narrow frequency range and the Lo being a wider curve for a more mellow effect.
JHS maintains that mids are the most important aspect of the sonic spectrum for how we perceive our drive pedals, so this pedal may be more versatile than you might initially think.
In fact the Haunting Mids makes some really scooped rhythm tones, and some mid-humped punchy lead tones with this little pedal. Check out Josh from JHS Pedals demonstrating some of his favorite uses of this EQ.
While this EQ is different than a traditional EQ, that’s exactly what we like about it. Ultimately, it is fun and, surprisingly, quite useful.
Tweakability (number of bands): You’ll see EQs often separated into the number of “bands” you can tweak. This is essentially the number of more-or-less even vertical slices that the spectrum is split up into. The more bands you have, the more tweakable the EQ is. The equalizer pedals we recommend in this guide start at 3 bands (low mid and high), and go up to as many as 10. One is not better than the other. It comes down to personal preference and how much fine tuned control you think you need.
Ease of use (knobs vs sliders): Some EQ pedals for guitar have knobs to adjust the frequencies, and some have sliders. The more controls there are, typically the smaller the spacing between them. If the spacing gets very small, it can be more difficult to dial in the right settings precisely (this could be a problem if you have a crowded pedalboard, or you play in dimly lit venues, or your fingers are large).
Size of the pedal: The physical size of a pedal is a consideration when shopping for most guitar pedals, but it’s particularly important with an EQ pedal. You might not care about pedals with more “active usage” like distortion or delay. However, it’s possible that you set your EQ pedal to a single setting and let it stay like that for the duration of your playing. In that case, you might want the pedal to be smaller to save precious room on your pedalboard.
Durability: Again, durability matters for most of the gear you buy. However, while you might own several delay or reverb pedals, there’s a good chance you’ll only need one EQ pedal. For this reason, you need to make sure it’s durable!
Noise/hiss: Some pedals you leave on all the time, some not. As you might leave your EQ pedal on throughout your playing sessions, we’ll need to make sure to pick one that doesn’t introduce any extra noise or hum into your signal chain.
How EQ Works
EQ works by adjusting the volume of various frequency ranges to affect your sound. Most guitar equalizer pedals will adjust certain bands of frequencies, although the amount of bands and the width of the frequency band vary from one EQ pedal to the next.
Parametric EQ versus Graphic EQ
Parametric EQ and Graphic EQ both ultimately shape your frequncy curve and tone, although they do so in different ways.
Parametric EQ allows you to choose the frequency you would like to adjust and choose how big the range of frequencies you are cutting or boosting is. This spectrum of frequencies is called the Q, with a narrow Q affecting a smaller frequency range and a wider Q affecting a larger frequency range. This ability allows more customization in a mix.
Graphic EQ does not give you the ability to control the width of the frequency spectrum, but generally has sliders that let you boost or cut specified ranges of frequencies.
Michael bought his first guitar, a Fender California Series Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, in 1998. He likes rock of all types, from classic to punk to metal. Michael co-founded Equipboard to satisfy his curiosity around what gear his guitar heroes use. Read more