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Boosting vs. Cutting Frequencies

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by DWD Bass, Apr 4, 2016.

  1. DWD Bass

    DWD Bass

    Jan 20, 2016
    When setting up the EQ on your amp, how do you go about deciding which knobs to boost vs. cut?

    My first inclination when setting EQ is to use boost to correct tone and even out deficiencies (e.g., boost bass to add bottom, boost mids or treble to cut through) - but are there circumstances where cutting would be a better tactic (e.g., cut treble to emphasize bass, etc.)?
  2. Yes, because sound level costs power. To get a 3db boost, you need twice the available power. If your amp is already being taxed by playing at a given level, boosting one of those frequencies may put your amp into clipping. For example if your amp is maxed, but you need more bass, instead of boosting low's that eat up power, it may be better/more efficient to cut some mids. This applies to all frequencies. Usually you can get away with boosting highs because we generally have more headroom in that spectrum.
    DWD Bass and derg like this.
  3. But if you only cut you reduce your available headroom. Cut and boost.
    Sartori likes this.
  4. My approach when mixing is usually to favour cutting what I don't want rather than boosting what I do want, this will keep the gain structure happy and available headroom at the maximum. I use the same approach when EQ'ing a bass amp, if you have a mid peak then get rid of it on the EQ and turn the volume up a little rather than cut the mid and boost the low and high end.

    It isn't some kind of 'set in stone' rule; boost something if it really helps get the sound you want but I generally find a better approach is to cut problem areas and increase the overall gain where possible. :)
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
    peter-j, DWD Bass and BasturdBlaster like this.
  5. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    The rule of thumb I was taught by an audio engineer I knew who did live arena and large venue sound for a living was: "Cut if you can - boost if you must."

    My own experience has been that boosting seldom corrected or minimized a sound problem. Cutting almost always did. YMMV.
    peter-j, bassomane, Steve23 and 4 others like this.
  6. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    Boosting comes right out of your headroom. If you have 20dB of headroom & boost a freq. band by +6dB, you'll only have 14dB of headroom left in that band.

    If you boost a freq. band that has any noise in it, you'll boost the noise.
    peter-j and DWD Bass like this.
  7. If you cut too much you need makeup gain which boosts the noise of EVERYTHING.
  8. XLunacy


    Nov 28, 2013
    I cut to fix, and I boost to color / add flavor. You generally don't want to be too drastic in your EQ as to avoid either issue :
    - cutting too much somewhere and then boosting everything to make-up for the loss of volume, adding noise in the process
    - boosting too much somewhere, adding noise and having to dim your gain on the amp to avoid clipping, bringing everything down
    bigtone23 and DWD Bass like this.
  9. That's actually a great way of putting it, wish I'd have said it that well in my earlier reply! :)
  10. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I do both as I need. If I were running sound, I'd be slightly concerned about boosting. I am not, though, and if boosting gets me the sound I want, I couldn't care less about the "rules."
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    If I have to EQ multiple frequencies I try to split the difference.
    For example I'd rather boost lows and highs by 3db and cut mids by 3db to get the curve I want than use all cut or all boost.
    That way I'm not doing too much to any one frequency band, and it tends to effect the overall volume level less.
    peter-j and agedhorse like this.
  12. chicken dinner.
    Sartori likes this.
  13. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    ^^^This^^^Is what i do and tastes right to me.
    peter-j and Korladis like this.
  14. J.Wolf

    J.Wolf Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2003
    Asheville, NC
    Contributor- Bass Musician Magazine
    Thats pretty much how I look at it too. 'cut to fix, boost to color / add flavor'. I typically use a ParaEq to find and fix room nodes, ganky upper mids/treble, etc... It has a really nice narrow Q setting that lets you notch out problematic areas for the room and/or the rig. The EQ on my amp sounds better for adding warmth and presence.
    peter-j likes this.
  15. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Boosting and cutting both have their place. If there's a dip in the response you are needing to correct then boosting that area might be a better approach. If you are taming peaks, then cutting might be better.

    Regarding headroom, cutting plus makeup gain versus boosting without makeup gain yields almost identical headroom overall.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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