Equalization (aka EQ) is at the very heart of guitar tone, yet it is one of the most underutilized and misunderstood “effects” among guitar players.
Since you are reading this article you must be at the very least curious as to what EQ can do for your guitar signal.
Whatever your reason for researching the best EQ pedal may be, we are here to help you with our top picks in 2021.
Snapshot: Top 9 EQ Pedals in 2021
- Boss Equalizer GE-7
- JOYO R-12 10 Band EQ – Best Budget Option
- Source Audio EQ-2 – Best High End Option
- Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer – Best for Bass
- EarthQuaker Devices Tone Job V2 – Best Parametric
- J. Rockett Audio Designs Melody Overdrive
- JHS Haunting Mids
- Xotic Effects XW-1 Wah
- Boss EQ200 Graphic Equalizer – Best Overall
Picking a Great EQ Pedal to Shape Your Sound
Everyone should have an EQ pedal on their pedal board for its powerful tone shaping capability. Thankfully, picking out the best EQ pedal for your needs is one of the easiest choices to make (compared to other effects anyway), because they essentially all do the same thing.
That’s right. Basically, all EQ pedals sound the same because they are transparent effects. What separates EQ pedals apart from one another is their features. These can range from the frequency ranges and number of bands, to more modern features such as the addition of tuners, presets, and even routing options.
While compiling this list, I kept in mind the features that really made each pedal stand out from one another, as well as the price range. No two EQ pedals on this list have the same features available.
Graphic and Parametric EQ’s were both up for consideration as they are the most common EQ’s found in pedal form.
I also included some pedals you might not associate with EQ, such as overdrives and boosts with powerful EQ sections, as well as a wah pedal with some special EQ capabilities. As long as the pedal allowed you to manipulate frequencies, it could have ended up on this list.
The Best EQ Pedals in 2021
1. Boss Equalizer GE-7
There is no better place to start when it comes to graphic EQ pedals than the GE-7 from Boss. This pedal is a tried and true staple among guitarists for its modest price point, improved functionality, and reliable build quality.
Boss has expanded upon their original GE-6 graphic equalizer to now include seven bands up from the original six. This gives you even more control over the frequency ranges you wish to boost or cut. The GE-7 comes in a traditional Boss enclosure, measuring in at 5.83 x 3.58 x 2.39”.
It runs on 9V DC power and features buffered bypass, making this a great option for a built in buffer pedal for your board.
This is a great EQ pedal for beginners because it has a simple control interface. It has seven frequency bands for you to boos or cut up to 15 db. These frequencies include 100hz, 200hz, 400hz, 800hz, 1.6khz, 3.2kz, and 6.4kz.
There is also a Master Volume control on the far right so that you can adjust your overall volume after boosting or cutting frequencies. That’s it! This is a super simple pedal.
This is the ideal pedal for guitarists because these frequency ranges are the ones where the guitar primarily sits in the mix. Even if you are new to EQ or if you are intimidated by the numbers and frequency ranges, just messing around with the controls lets you get a good understanding of how this kind of pedal works.
The master volume is super useful too, because it can turn your GE-7 into a clean boost with all the EQ setting set flat. It also has Boss’ high quality buffer, so the GE-7 will help combat long cable runs.
- Pedal Type: Graphic EQ
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V
- Dimensions: 5.83 x 3.58 x 2.39”
- Features: Buffered Bypass, 7 Band EQ, Volume Control
Final Thoughts on the Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer
This is the best pedal to start with if you are new to EQ. It is powerful, but user friendly. There are other EQ pedals that share similar qualities such as the Behringer EQ700 (an exact clone of the GE-7 for half the price) and the MXR M109S. Any of these will deliver similar experiences, but I think Boss has the build quality and functionality that makes it the best among entry level EQ pedals.
2. JOYO R-12 Ten Band EQ – Best Budget Option
- JOYO Band Controller, this 10 band EQ pedal is suitable for both Bass and Guitar, the frequency band ranges from 31.25Hz to 16kHz, including 4-string, 5-string Bass and 6-string, 7-string Guitar. On...
While not the cheapest pedal on this list, I still consider the JOYO R-12 to be the best budget option for its wide frequency range and backlit controls. You’ll be hard pressed to find a ten-band EQ with equal functionality for less.
I initially thought about recommending the JOYO 6- Band Equalizer for this award, as it is an Amazon Choice award and it costs under $40, but I realized that the R-12 is a much more useful pedal and it is still under $100 (that makes it still cheaper than the Boss GE-7 too).
It has 10 frequency ranges to control, as well as a Volume control that was missing on the JOYO-6. The pedal is made from an aluminum alloy, features true bypass, and has light up controls.
As I mentioned before, the controls on this pedal light up, as well as the perimeter. The 10 frequency faders are all lit up green, and the Level control is lit red. I found this to be a good touch for use on dark stage where you can’t tell which switch is which.
There are dials for 31.25, 62.5, 125, 250, 500, 1K, 2K, 4K, 8K, and 16K bands. Other than that there isn’t much to this pedal. It is also an easy to use pedal that beginners could get a grasp of quickly.
The JOYO R-12 is so versatile due to its wide frequency range and ample controls in between. Because the pedal expands from 32.25 Hz all the way up to 16K, the pedal can be used for any stringed instrument including bass and acoustic guitars.
Guitarists may even want to completely shelf off the highest frequencies as these are outside of the guitar’s optimum frequencies. With 12 db of gain for each band and the master volume, the R-12 isn’t the loudest EQ pedal, but in my experience 12 db is more than enough in most applications.
- Pedal Type: Graphic EQ
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V DC (30mA)
- Dimensions: 5.9 x 4.4 x 2.4”
- Features: True Bypass, Light Up Controls, 10 Band EQ
Final Thoughts on the JOYO R-12 Ten Band EQ
The JOYO R-12 is an all-encompassing ten band EQ that is suitable for all stringed instruments and beyond. The fact that it can achieve this under $100 clearly makes it the best budget EQ pedal available on the market today.
3. Source Audio EQ-2 – Best High End Option
- 10-b EQ Effects Pedal with Stereo I/O
I’ll admit that when I began researching for this article that I thought all these pedals were going to be the same and that EQ pedals had come as far as they were ever going to go. The EQ-2 proved me wrong.
The EQ-2 is a programmable, 10 band, stereo graphic EQ with some added features under the hood. Though its primary function is as a graphic EQ, the EQ-2 has menus for parametric settings as well, giving you the ability to fine tune frequency curves.
This pedal allows up to eight presets onboard, with up to 120 available via MIDI and the Source Audio cloud/Neuro Mobile app. It has stereo In/Out, expression pedal compatibility, and even has a built in chromatic tuner.
Upon powering up, the EQ-2 defaults to its 10 band graphic setting. By touching the center dial once, you can quickly access the parametric settings, from which you can further adjust the pedal to tune any frequency and the Q around it.
As opposed to physical faders like most traditional EQ pedals, this pedal has LED lights that reflect your boosted/cut frequencies. It has the option for a split output for quick A/B switching on the fly, as well as expression pedal controls for seamless transitions between different presets.
There is much more functionality beyond this, but for all of those controls you can check out this video.
While the EQ-2 can simply be used as a traditional 10-band EQ or as a 12db clean boost, it is capable of pulling off much more. The Neuro app has hundreds of presets available from the Neuro community, giving you a plethora of great tones for specific applications.
The sounds that most impressed me were when the pedal was hooked up to an expression pedal and used as a custom wah. With all those presets and dual channel routing, you can even send separate EQ’s to different amplifiers.
- Pedal Type: Graphic & Parametric EQ
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: DC 9V
- Dimensions: 4.5 x 2.75 x 2
- Features: Tuner, Stereo In/Out, Presets, MIDI control, Neuro Mobile App
Final Thoughts on the Source Audio EQ-2
It’s inspiring to see companies like Source Audio pushing fundamental effects pedals like EQ forward when it seems like there is nothing left to do. The EQ-2 is a powerhouse pedal that, while possibly overloaded for the novice, is fully capable of replacing more than a couple of pedals on a pro’s board.
4. Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer – Best for Bass
- 50Hz to 10kHz frequency range specifically designed for Bass
Because the frequencies that are most naturally accentuated by bass guitars differ from acoustic and electric guitars, EQ pedals that are specifically designed for bassists are much more useful. The GEB-7 from Boss is a time test classic that will shape any bass however you’d like.
The Boss GEB-7 is nearly identical in its build to the original Boss GE-7 equalizer, with the exception that the frequency ranges are specifically tailored for Bass guitar. It is a graphic EQ with 7 bands to control as well as an overall level.
It has buffered bypass, giving you a great onboard buffer to combat those long cable runs on stage, and is made with Boss’ impeccable build quality.
As the name suggests, there are seven faders that control specific frequencies (50, 120, 400, 500, 800, 4.5K, 10K) as well as a master volume control. Each fader offers up to 15db of cut or boost to any frequency selected.
The 10K control is especially important for cutting out large string rattle. Beyond that this is a seriously simple pedal with a buffered bypass switch.
Even though the controls are simple, the power and tonal flexibility that this pedal can create is rich and complex. Revoice any guitar pedal into a bass pedal by placing this after it. By dialing in some added gain in the 4.5K range you can add some tonal clarity to humbucker style pickups.
Flat sounding pickups can turn into round, funky sounding one by scooping the mids and boosting low end and high end frequencies. The GEB-7 can even be used as a clean boost to push the front of your amp just by keeping all settings flat and bumping the volume control.
- Pedal Type: Graphic EQ
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V
- Dimensions: 5.83 x 3.58 x 2.39”
- Features: Buffered Bypass, Master Volume, Tailored for Bass
Final Thoughts on the Boss GEB-7 Bass Equalizer
The GEB-7 is an industry standard and an Amazon Choice pedal because it works as advertised, comes in at a modest price, and is built like a tank. There are plenty of other great bass equalizers, as well as customizable guitar equalizers that would be appropriate, but Boss has already given you everything you’ll need with the GEB-7.
5. EarthQuaker Devices Tone Job V2 – Best Parametric
- A compact Boost & EQ is based on the tone-shaping options available in old audiophile-grade stereo preamps
Some may find graphic equalizers to be too convoluted and prefer the simplicity of a parametric EQ. The Tone Job V2 from EarthQuaker Devices utilizes the highest quality components and perfectly dials frequency sweeps to give you the ideal parametric EQ at your feet.
EarthQuaker Devices used audiophile grade stereo preamps as the inspiration for their Tone Job V2 pedal. It is both a parametric equalizer and boost pedal combined into one. It was primarily designed to interact with single knob pedals or guitars without a tone knob (yes, the exist) for added tonal flexibility. You can power the pedal with either 9V or 18V power supplies for added headroom.
The controls on the Tone Job V2 are simple and that’s just the way we like our parametric equalizers. There are knobs for each of the three bands: Bass, Middle, and Treble. There is also a knob for Level that works as a post EQ volume control.
Be careful, as this can increase your volume over five times unity gain (set at 10:00). Each of the band controls are set to unity at noon, with turning to the left resulting in cutting frequencies and turning to the right boosting these frequencies.
The fact that EQD based this pedal off the highest quality stereo EQ’s is apparent as this is one of the most transparent and hi-fidelity pedals I’ve ever heard. It is perfect as a support pedal that doesn’t color your sound, but rather reshapes the voice of your signal exactly how you want it to.
It is such a clear pedal that it can even function as a buffer with all settings set to noon.
- Pedal Type: Boost/EQ
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9-18V (10mA)
- Dimensions: 4.75 x 2.50 x 2.25”
- Features: True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the EarthQuaker Devices Tone Job V2
Though a parametric equalizer like the Tone Job V2 doesn’t give you anywhere near the precision of a graphic equalizer, sometimes you can get by with a simple “treble” boost, “mid” boost, or “bass” cut and that’s all you need. Even then you need a pedal that is made with high quality parts and that is versatile. The Tone Job V2 is that pedal.
6. J. Rockett Audio Designs Melody Overdrive
- An EQ and Overdrive pedal with a post-overdrive EQ
A great sounding overdrive pedal that has its own graphic EQ? Darn right. The Melody Overdrive will have you wondering why we don’t see more EQ/Overdrive combo pedals out there.
While most overdrive pedals include some kind of tone knob or even parametric equalizers, the Melody Overdrive is unique in that it is an overdrive pedal with a built in graphic equalizer.
It has six bands to control, which is more than enough for customizing an overdrive sound and it features true bypass. The overdrive section of the pedal is known as the Mark Lettieri Signature Drive.
Like many overdrives the Melody is broken up into three sections: Volume, Gain, and EQ. Volume and Gain have their own red, metal dials and the EQ is split up into 6 bands. Though unlisted on the pedal itself, the manual reveals that they correspond as follows: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1.5K, 3.2K.
A cool feature of this pedal is that the dials light up with little red LED’s whenever the EQ pedal is activated, making it easier to see on stage. J.Rockett recommends that it is best to cut frequencies using this pedal than to add gain to frequencies.
Having a graphic equalizer married with an overdrive wouldn’t be very useful unless the drive sounds killer, and thankfully this pedal sounds SO good. It is a mid-gain overdrive (when maxed) with a smooth voice that is perfect for fusion jazz or classic rock music. If you don’t like the sound of the overdrive or you already have a favorite on your board, it can be used as a traditional graphic EQ if you set the Gain to zero.
One of my favorite applications is to boost the mid frequencies to gives this an almost cocked-wah like sound. This is a truly versatile overdrive that would work in a wide array of applications and genres.
- Pedal Type: Overdrive/EQ
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V DC
- Dimensions: 4 x 2.3”
- Features: True Bypass, Overdrive, LED Controls
Final Thoughts on the J. Rockett Audio Designs Melody Overdrive
Maybe there is a certain amount of character that comes with overdrives and their tone controls as most are presented, but with guitarists becoming more and more picky about their tone I’m wondering why there aren’t more pedals like this available. It sounds good with all the settings flat (as it should) and then it’s up to you to tailor the pedal to your guitar and amp. Well done J. Rockett. Well done.
7. JHS Haunting Mids
- A simple yet effective tool to boost/cut the perfect amount of midrange frequencies
Some of our favorite overdrive pedals and amplifiers really only differ from one another in how their midrange frequencies are designed. JHS pedals knows this secret of tone and delivered an EQ pedal that focuses solely on the midrange for use in conjunction with other overdrives.
The Haunting Mids came about as a bit of a trolling opportunity for Josh Scott during the Halloween season. He took the buzz word “haunting mids” that so many used to describe their favorite overdrive and applied it to a mid-frequency Boost/EQ/Preamplifier.
To learn more about how the pedal was created, check out its JHS Pedals video, as Josh explains in detail how the pedal was created from scratch. It’s like a parametric EQ that only has the “Mid” knob on it. This is a standard size pedal, runs on 9V DC power, and has true bypass.
While the Haunting Mids was almost released with controls such as Scream, Terror, and Fright, but after some level headed thinking Josh Scott realized this was too confusing and now the controls are simply Level, Mids, and Sweep. The Level control adjusts the overall volume as you would expect from a boost or EQ.
The Mids control either boosts or cuts the midrange frequencies, with setting at noon resulting in a flat equalization. The Sweep control interacts with the Mids control and ranges between 250Hz to 7.5KHZ. Finally there is a switch for Hi and Lo that lets you toggle between a more focused or broader Q.
The Haunting Mids can sound like anything from a completely transparent boost to a midrange reshaping machine. Placing this after a transparent overdrive and boosting the midrange can turn your favorite pedal into a tube screamer. You could also place it in front of a Marshall amplifier, scoop the mids out, and you have a modern, saturated, scooped tone.
The Haunting Mids can even act like a Wah pedal that’s set into one position if you boost the mids but keep the Volume at zero. The midrange of the guitar is a powerful section of frequencies and the Haunting Mids can reshape all of them.
- Pedal Type: Midrange EQ, Preamp and Boost
- Signal: Analog
- Power Requirements: 9V (13mA)
- Dimensions: 2.6″x4.8″x1.6″
- Features: True Bypass
Final Thoughts on the JHS Pedals Haunting Mids
I think JHS exploited (in a good way) an aspect of EQ and overdrive that demystifies guitar pedals and amps alike. It shows that by having control over your midrange frequencies can completely reshape the sound of your favorite (or not so favorite) pedals to make them more useful and versatile. It also achieves this in a fun and simple design.
8. Xotic Effects Wah XW-1
Wait… isn’t this an article about EQ pedals? Why is there a Wah? Wah pedals are essentially just variable mid frequency equalizers and are a powerful tone shaping tool. The XW-1 is a particularly powerful one with additional EQ parameters.
The XW-1 is a fantastic, small wah pedal with EQ parameters that allow you to custom create your wah tone. It is 20% smaller than traditional wah pedals, allowing it to fit on small boards without losing stability under your foot. It also has a fuzz friendly buffer circuit, so this can be used to EQ your favorite fuzz pedals that won’t poke through a mix properly.
It even has an LED indicator light (an often overlooked feature on wah-wahs). The XW-1 is loosely based off the 1967 Italian Clyde McCoy wah that many consider to be the holy grail of wahs.
In addition to the rocking foot switch to turn the pedal on and off, the XW-1 has additional controls on its side for EQ. There are controls for Bias, Wah-Q, Treble, and Bass. The Bias works on a transistor so that lower settings produce a cleaner tone and higher settings add a bit of crunch.
The Wah-Q adjusts the hump that slides through the midrange, with lower settings sounding more broad and higher settings creating a more focused, pin pointed sound boost to the frequency. The Treble and Bass are parametric EQ controls to adjust high and low end.
There are also dipswitches inside the XW1 for further EQ control and gain controls.
As I mentioned before, wah pedals allow you to boost midrange frequencies and then move them from one group of frequencies to another. This creates a very vocal and expressive effect. However, another way of utilizing a wah as an EQ pedal is by leaving the rocker in one position.
Stationary wah positions essentially create a Mid boost, so if you are looking to stand out in a mix, this is a great way to achieve that. The XW-1 is even more powerful because you can use the EQ controls on the side to further pinpoint and voice the pedal as if it were a parametric EQ pedal with an expression pedal attached.
Final Thoughts on the Xotic Effects XW-1
I included the XW1 on this list because it not only emulates one of the most vocal and legendary wah pedals ever created, but also because it’s the best example of how a wah can be used as an EQ. If you already have a wah, try using it in the ways I explained above, but if you want even more control over the frequencies, you can’t do much better than the XW-1.
9. Boss EQ-200 Graphic Equalizer – Best Overall
- Class-leading sound quality with 32-bit AD/DA, 32-bit floating point processing, and 96 kHz sampling rate
Boss has been doing EQ pedals for a long time (they made it onto this list three times as a result) and all the knowledge has come to fruition with the EQ-200. This is possibly the most powerful EQ pedal there is, but it is also familiar enough that it could work for you without cracking open a manual.
Though the EQ-200 looks like a monster, it is at its core just a stereo, 10-band graphic equalizer pedal. It is made as part of Boss’ 200 series, of which the MD-200 made it onto the best modulation pedal list from The Sound Junky. Just like the other 200 series pedals, the EQ-200 takes the best qualities of traditional effects and then pushes them as far as they can go.
This is a digital EQ that works on 32-bit, 96K processing, can store up to 128 presets, and it comes with a small LED screen. The pedal can be further controlled using MIDI or an expression pedal.
Even though the pedal is digital, it feels like an analog pedal with its faders. I really think this is what separates the EQ-200 from other modern EQ pedals that just use rotary knobs and screens. The 10-band EQ includes 30, 60, 120, 200, 400, 800, 1.6K, 3,2K, 6.4K, 12.8K frequencies, as well as a Level control.
It has a channel selection button, allowing you to route the EQ pre and post gain stages in your rig. The onboard memory controls allow for quick access to 4 memory banks, but the other 124 can be accessed via MIDI.
The EQ-200 is digital, but runs at such a high processing rate that it sounds as clear as an analog equalizer would. It has such a wide frequency range that it can completely reshape any guitar rig and it has presets that allow you to shift frequency ranges for Bass and Acoustic guitars. It has up to 15 db of boost or cut, which is more than enough power on tap for most applications.
The routing capabilities really make this a powerful tool, giving you the ability to EQ your guitar and your amplifier simultaneously. When it comes to equalizing, Boss has thought of everything with this pedal.
- Pedal Type: Graphic EQ
- Signal: Digital
- Power Requirements: Boss PSA – AC Adaptor (170mA)
- Dimensions: 4 x 5.5 x 2.5”
- Features: Just about everything
Final Thoughts on the Boss EQ-200 Graphic Equalizer
My favorite kinds of pedals are the ones that push the limit for what effects have been known to do, yet don’t lose sight of why basic effects have been used for all these years. The Boss EQ-200 successfully does this for the world of graphic equalization in that it is as powerful as any other modern EQ pedal out there, but it doesn’t alienate users that want something that feels like a vintage EQ. This could be used by studio pros or beginners alike and it would be a useful tool.
EQ is an Underrated, Powerhouse Effect for Guitarists
Despite the fact that guitarists, more so than just about any other kind of musicians in the world, are so fascinated with gear and tone, I rarely hear about guitarists boasting about EQ pedals. One exception I can think of off the top of my head is good ol’ Tom Bucovac, who explains how the Boss GE-7 is his favorite pedal ever (though he does mod his pedals a little bit).
The fact is that most overdrive pedals and amplifiers can be emulated with proper equalization and there are a wide array of pedals that can help you achieve this, from 10-band graphic EQ pedals, to simpler, parametric EQ, even wah pedals.
If you’re still a little intimidated by graphic EQ, I wouldn’t worry about having to pick out what others consider to be the best EQ pedal. Just pick one up for cheap (it’ll do the job, I promise) and get to know the pedal. EQ pedals are great teachers, and your ears are the students. The more you use an EQ pedal the more you will learn about how it effects your signal.
As for the professionals out there, maybe it’s time for us to dig out our old EQ pedals and put them back onto our boards. Or it could be time to consider the new modern pedals. Believe it or not, EQ has evolved to become even more powerful and integral to our rigs.
Whether you play electric guitar, bass, or acoustic you can benefit from picking up a great EQ pedal. It is by far the most underrated and powerful tone shaping tool you can have.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.