Photo by Victor
- What to look for in an EQ Pedal
- 5 best EQ pedals for guitar
- Honorable Mentions
An EQ (short for Equalizer) pedal is tricky to shop for. It also generally takes a bit of a backseat to other pedals in terms of fun factor when shopping for one. Why is that? Well, we’ve heard guitarists say EQ is not really an effect. We think that’s a very unfair and incorrect assessment. It is very much an effect, and a massively important one! An Equalizer pedal shapes the very essence of your sound.
To understand why an EQ pedal is so important for guitarists, it partially depends whether you’re playing in the context of a band where other instruments are present, or you’re simply playing by yourself.
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.
When playing solo, you’re the only one in the space - it’s all about you! Therefore an EQ pedal is not so much necessary to play nice with other instruments, but this is truly where it can be used as an effect. Playing with the frequency bands can really turn your sounds into things you might not have expected. It should also be noted that depending on whether you put it before or after certain effects (delay, overdrive, etc) can yield very different results.
If you only have space or budget for a handful of effect pedals, after your tuner, an EQ pedal is quite the essential tool!
What to look for in an EQ pedal
Now that you’re convinced that you need one, here are the things that matter when shopping for one:
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.
5 Best EQ Pedals for Guitar
Our goal is to make buying an EQ pedal easy for you, so you can do it online and rest assured you made a great choice. It's not exactly a pedal that's as fun to try out in-store as a fuzz, reverb, or delay, so save your precious trips to the music store for those. We did the EQ pedal research, so you don't have to!
Danelectro DJ-14C Fish & Chips 7 Band EQ
The most recommended EQ pedal out there for guitar is slightly funny looking, has a slightly funny name, and a ridiculously good price. It’s the Danelectro DJ-14C Fish & Chips 7 Band EQ Mini Effects Pedal. It features 7 sliders to adjust frequencies from 100Hz all the way up to 6.4KHz. Recommendations for this guy (or gal) popped up everywhere, from the guitarist communities on reddit to forums, and it sports a good number of reviews on Amazon - around 80 last we checked.
So, what’s great and what’s bad?
The value for the money, and the effectiveness of this thing seems to be why it’s so highly recommended. On the value side, people generally feel they don’t have to spend a ton on an EQ pedal. On the downside, the build quality and reliability seem to be in question. But honestly, for this low of a price, what would one expect? One reddit user says:
The danelectro fish n chips is a very surprisingly choice eq. More quiet and effective than most of the midrange options. Shaky reliability,though. For that money, I'd opt for a modded Boss GE-7.
Another user comment:
[it has] a reputation for being better than pedals twice its price.
A few owners of this pedal praised this pedal for how quiet and hiss-free it is (one owner said it had a fraction of the hiss of his GE-7). Of course, the same user also commented on the build quality, saying, “The major downfall is enclosure/switch, so even better if you plan to leave it be and in so doing kinda baby it.”
So there you have it, the Danelectro DJ-14C Fish & Chips, the most popular girl in school. The low price of this thing fluctuates a bit, so check Amazon frequently if you’re thinking of picking it up.
Quite the departure from the very inexpensive Danelectro Fish & Chips is the Empress ParaEQ pedal, featuring true bypass, 30dB of boost, and a 3-band parametric EQ.
For what it costs, you can get about eight - yes, eight - Danelectro Fish & Chips. So why might you opt for the beautiful blue Empress ParaEQ? For starters, it is the second-most recommended and loved EQ pedal in our list. It’s clear that many users think it is well worth the money. You won’t hear complaints about build quality with this one. It is also praised for being very tweakable. As one redditor puts it, “it gives you so much to tweak and fine tune.”
True bypass and no hiss are two great reasons why the Empress ParaEQ should be in your signal chain. When you read the Amazon reviews, you’ll get a very clear sense that this pedal will last you forever. The Empress is the well-built luxury car of EQ pedals - performs great and lasts a very long time.
It’s hard to find a “best of” guitar pedal list that Boss doesn’t make an appearance on. The Boss GE-7 7-Band EQ Pedal was the third-most recommended pedal we found.
Interestingly, this is the pedal we found the least user options and comments on. Perhaps this is a testament to Boss’s dominance in the guitar and bass pedal market. Need a [something] pedal? Not sure what to get? Go with Boss, it’ll be a good option!
The comments we were able to find mentioned it introduces a slight bit of a hissing sound to your signal. On the plus side, it works well and is built like a brick, which is something Boss pedals are known for. It has 7 rather small adjustable sliders, from 100Hz up to 6.4KHz.
Here’s a super pro tip about this Boss GE-7 EQ pedal: Buy it new at a good price, and then do a sniper mod on it. What’s a sniper mod, you ask? Basically certain “cheap” parts get replaced with higher quality parts. This results in a superior Boss pedal with less hiss/noise and more clarity. Here’s the description:
...replace the cheaper noisy op-amp chips with low noise higher quality chips. Lower quality capacitors are also replaced reducing noise even more and also adding a more focused Hi-Fi tone to the circuit. Noise is substantially reduced and the signal is passed through preserving the original tone of your guitar.
Step 1: Buy the pedal at a low price from Amazon
Step 2: Buy the Sniper Mod Kit from eBay
MXR 6-Band & MXR 10-Band
The fourth-most recommended pedals we came across are 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 roughly $30 more for the big brother. These two pedals are quite popular in terms of usage by the pros, found in such rigs as Matt Bellamy’s of Muse and Alex Trimble’s of Two Door Cinema Club.
These two spartan-looking pedals are quite simply very well loved by guitarists. Aside from some noise and hiss issues (which honestly 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. One comment we found particularly helpful:
I quite like my MXR 10-band EQ pedal. Has volume and gain, too. It's pretty quiet. It has a permanent place on the board! 10 band is enough to properly "sculpt" the emphasis in frequencies that sounds good. It doesn't mess with tone (harmonics) much.
Whether you go for the 6 or 10-band version comes down completely to your needs and preference. If you can spare the few extra dollars and room on your pedalboard, the MXR 10-Band offers more control.
MXR 6 Band Graphic EQ Pedal
MXR 10 Band Graphic EQ Pedal
Earthquaker Devices Tone Job
While this was the fifth-most recommended pedal on our list, keep this in mind:
- Don’t fret that this is the 5th one in the list. After all, this is a list of all the BEST equalizer pedals for guitar.
- If you care about the way your pedals look - and let’s face it, many of us guitarists do - this is by far the winner!
But, we hear you, you probably shouldn’t buy a pedal simply because of its looks. Luckily, this one has performance to match. Considering Earthquaker Devices makes boutique, hand-made pedals, the price on it is great. Check often to see when Amazon drops the price on it.
In terms of hiss, the consensus seems to be that it is not quite as quiet as the Empress, but quieter than the other EQ pedals on this list. By far the most loved feature of the Tone Job are the easily tweakable treble, mid, and bass knobs. Some users tend to find sliders too small and annoying to dial in the desired setting. As a reddit user of this pedal puts it:
it's so much easier for me to dial in a tone now since I don't have to deal with tiny frequency sliders. The tone job also comes with a level control, I leave it on max most of the time so I get some nice break up (:
So there you have it - a boutique pedal with killer looks, minimal noise, and makes dialing in your EQ setting super easy.
It would be remiss of us to leave out a couple of pedals that got some attention and praise from guitarists around the internet. They both come at an amazing price, so definitely check these out and read some reviews on them before making your final choice.
...it is fantastic. Cost me about $30, and works as advertised. I don't see any reason to spend more.
I like the Biyang EQ. I had the boss one and the joyo one, but the biyang one is easier to dial in than the boss one because the sliders are spaced more and the joyo one doesn't have a master volume slider. So the biyang it is, and for only $50 or so. The only downside is that it's bigger than the others so it takes up more pedalboard space.