Transparent EQ vs Colored EQ

Ever heard producers talking about Transparent EQ or Colored EQ in a music studio? In this post, we’ll precisely understand each of these EQs and see how Transparent EQ differs from Colored EQ. Overall, we can’t say one is better than the other because they both have their own purpose. But there are instances where you’d want to prefer one over the other. Now let’s understand and differentiate Transparent EQ vs Colored EQ.

Transparent EQ vs Colored EQ:

Transparent EQ

Transparent EQ is a simple form of EQ that just boosts or attenuates the amplitude of selected frequencies. It doesn’t introduce new harmonics/character/color. Audio engineers prefer Transparent EQs to filter out or attenuate unwanted frequencies.

When to use Transparent EQ?

When you want to boost/attenuate certain frequencies “without altering the sound”, use Transparent EQs.

Almost every DAW in the market comes with good Transparent EQs. If you want to get more surgical, 3rd party plugins such as Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 will offer more control and better GUI.

Colored EQ

Colored EQ or Coloring EQ makes use of harmonics to add character to the sound. This type of EQ is mostly used while boosting a signal to get a nice warm tone. Unlike Transparent EQ, Colored EQ sounds different from plugin-to-plugin and hardware-to-hardware. All colored EQs have their own distinct character. You may prefer one over the other, it comes down to personal preference.

When to use Colored EQ?

When you’re using EQ as an effect, Colored EQs perform really well. For example, adding a warm tonal character to the high frequencies on your vocals will require a Colored EQ such as Pultec EQP-1A. Usually, audio engineers drive the input signal of such EQs much higher to introduce the effect/color. Then they’ll reduce the output level to bring the amplitude down to the desired level.

Note that such EQs are not so good at making surgical tweaks. Also, avoid using Colored EQs during the process of subtractive equalization.

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Ishaan Sarna

Founder of AUDEMPIRE (Pro Audio Equipment Store), SOUNDELICIT (Music Industry & Pro Audio Blog), TECHNOISER (Tech blog), and ISOLAPSE (Motion Industry & Photography Gear Blog). Music Producer by profession and also a Tech Enthusiast.