A. Classifying the Frequency Spectrum
Many guitarists fail to see their tone's EQ in terms of specific frequencies, instead defining it by the cookie-cutter names "bass", "mid", "presence", and "treble", due to such controls being built into most amps. Sure, these names work well when speaking in generalities. But when you want to dial in a specific tone, those amp knobs usually don't cut it. You may want to tweak "between" the knobs, or "narrower" or "fatter" than the knobs allow. Also, the precise frequencies these knobs control vary from amp to amp, forcing you to learn the nuances of the controls on each individual amp. Moreover, these controls don't necessarily adjust only EQ, especially if you are getting some power amp compression/distortion. Sometimes the knobs are gain-staged a certain way, so turning all the controls up to 100% affects tone differently than keeping them all at 50%. I still use those controls; I just don't rely on them exclusively.
When it comes to describing the frequency spectrum, I instead classify the frequency range using many more words. I use
These names and frequencies are just a guideline. You may want to alter frequencies that span many of these sections, that peak "off-center", or that only affect a small part of one section.
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B. How to EQ a Hard Rock Tone
In general the tone should be relatively flat - if you try to deviate too far from this, especially with narrow boosts or cuts, the tone will simply sound "off". It might sound good at low-volume or outside a mix, but when cranked it will sound weird, plastic, harsh, or get buried in the mix.
The slight deviations from "flat" will define what kind of tone you have: cold, warm, punchy, crisp, etc. Emphasizing mostly punch will give you a very metalcore chug-a-chug sound. Emphasizing cold djent and dialing back the warmth gives you that cold Meshuggah tone. Hot djent is the key to the older Metallica tone - kind of harsh and very crisp, add lots of bass to make it extremely heavy - the classic scooped thrash tone. Warmth gets you the creamy lead tone, and it can make a sterile-sounding rhythm tone come to life. Honk sounds like really vintage tone - I find it sounds a bit awkward in a modern metal tone but works for classic rock.
You can emphasize combinations of these to dial in what you like best, but don't go too extreme. If your tone's frequency response looks like a saw when viewed through a frequency spectrum analyzer, it's likely to sound goofy. If you want to dial a spot down, it's generally a good idea to do so mildly. If you cut too much, the tone just feels like part of it is missing - it isn't loud or "full" enough. It might sound good at a low volume, but when you crank the volume, you'll find the tone is very harsh or fake-sounding. If I'm cutting I only do so until that spot blends into the rest of the tone, not so that it completely disappears. Yes, even the "fizz".
When I emphasize some frequency range, I'll often boost it with a wide Q, so I'm also boosting the frequencies around it, just not as much. This keeps the tone "in balance".
Neither thump (and boom) nor sizzle should dominate a good guitar tone. It will sound odd to completely dial them out, but they generally get buried in a full mix anyway. I like to de-emphasize them; however, they are often de-emphasized to begin with - guitar speakers (as well as the Pod's cab/mic sims) tend to roll off the ultra-highs and lows. For many of the Pod's cab/mic combinations, the sizzle is actually too weak; so I turn it up.
If you have any "broken glass" in your tone, you should dial it out. It will be harsh and annoying. Only the Mid-Focus EQ will allow you to do so. See down the page for how it works. If it's just a little; however, you might not even be able to hear it in a mix. Still, it will interfere with the tone of the cymbals and will taint a recording or live performance.
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C. The Pod HD's EQ Effects
I mainly use the Parametric and Mid-Focus EQ's, and occasionally use the Studio and Graphic EQ effects. It's a bit more difficult to tell exactly what the 4 Band Shift EQ is doing, but it seems to mildly duplicate the bass/mids/treble/presence controls on the amp. Making things more difficult, many parameters are expressed in terms of "%" rather than db, HZ, or normal Q coefficients like octave ranges. NO THANKS TO LINE 6, some community members have researched these EQ's and provided documentation of how they are actually operating, which I present below. Here are links to this stuff: EQ analysis video by Matt Mayfield and Thread on Parametric EQ Frequencies. Here's a new thread by pfSmith0 on the new Line 6 forum, who most graciously allowed me to host his beautiful images here. Check them out below (and click to magnify them). They're absolutely amazing.
With the EQ tools on the Pod, you can't really fine-tune the higher frequencies. You can boost or cut them as a whole, but not dial in or out small frequency ranges. The Parametric EQ's "highs" parameter is a shelf EQ starting at about 1.5kHZ. Setting its frequency parameter at 100% will only get you up to about 4.7 kHZ. The Studio EQ has 3, 5, and 8 kHZ settings for the high frequencies, but it does not have an adjustable Q. The Mid-Focus EQ's low-pass does extend almost all the way to 20 kHZ, but is very sensitive to the frequency control as shown below. Also, you can only cut, not boost. You'll likely have to do a combination the amp model's presence and treble controls, along with some combination of controls just mentioned to fine-tune your high end. Starting with a good cab/mic choice and cab DEP settings is absolutely essential.
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i. Graphic EQ
This is the most straightforward of all the EQ's. You just adjust the gain on the 5 fixed bands, which are clearly denoted in HZ. One thing to be aware of is that this EQ is not tone-neutral at default settings - it seems to add a slight bright boost even when everything is at 0 db.
I like this mostly for pre-EQ'ing my tone before it hits the amp. I have good control over whether I want more upper or lower mids and can also balance the amount of thump vs. punch, which allows me to thicken the tone without making it muddy. It would also work well to provide final EQ to a clean tone; however, I usually don't use it post-amp on my high gain patches, because I don't have enough bands to fine-tune how I want, at least not for the brighter half of the spectrum. Sometimes I use it to balance the upper and lower mids and punch, though.
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ii. Parametric EQ
The best effect on the Pod HD IMO is the parametric EQ. My only regret is that Line 6 doesn't make a dual parametric EQ, that ditches the Lows/Highs parameters and instead gives you another set of Freq, Q, and Gain controls; so you'd get two EQ's in one effect block (and you use less DSP). Its biggest problem is that it measures frequency in terms of percentage, instead of HZ. Here is the best translation I've seen, done by community member alpernar. His results seem to agree with the video Matt made which I linked above. The results I got seem to be a little higher than them, but I trust their results over mine. 2 beats 1.
The gain seems to provide +12/-15db for the parametric band. As for the shelves, the low shelf has around +/-15 db of gain, with everything below 100 HZ flat and a slope from 100 HZ to 200 HZ. The high shelf has around +/-12 db of gain, with everything above 2 kHZ flat and a slope from 1 kHZ to 2 kHZ.
I'll almost always use 1-3 Parametric EQ's on all my patches. No other EQ controls allows you pinpoint exactly a certain frequency range to boost/cut. This can be useful to make the entire signal brighter or darker, add a slight or dramatic mids cut/boost, add a touch of presence, suck out a boomy or fizzy spot, etc.
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iii. Studio EQ
The other EQ effect I like to use is the Studio EQ. It gives you two peak/valley controls, each with configurable center frequency and gain, both with a fairly wide Q (~4-6 octaves). I used to like to use it to adjust the very high and low end, but I have discovered the mid-focus actually does this better once you learn how to use it. The main advantage of this EQ is that it has two bands, so for general boost/cuts you can use it and take up less DSP than two Parametric EQs.
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iv. 4 Band Shift EQ
Honestly, I never use this EQ. It's not that it's unusable; it's just that you never really know what you're going to get. Read the description below and see if you could say, "Oh that's exactly what my patch needs!"
It provides 4 peak/dip band EQ's with gain denoted in db's already.
- Lo freq - centered around 90 HZ with shift at 50%, about 2 octaves wide. Use to boost/cut thump.
- Low mid - centered around 180 HZ with shift at 50%, about 2 octaves wide. Use to boost/cut punch.
- Hi mid - centered around 1 kHZ with shift at 50%, about 6 octaves wide. Use make the tone more or less midsy across the whole tone.
- High - centered around 4 kHZ with shift at 50%, about 5 octaves wide. Use like a treble control.
- Shift - causes the low and low mids bands to shift from higher to lower center frequencies, while causing the high and high mids bands to shift from lower to higher center frequencies, as shift moves from 0 to 100%. Shift move the center frequency of each band about 1 octave from its min
to max setting.
This could potentially be used in conjunction with or to replace the amp EQ controls. Or maybe if you're not using an amp, it would make a good replacement for those. For messing with shift, set it towards 0% if you want the bands to affect the frequencies closer to the mids, 100% if you want them further away. I wouldn't really touch Shift until you've set the other bands, then see if it makes a bit of an improvement. Good Luck!
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v. Mid-Focus EQ
As the name implies, this EQ boosts the mid frequencies by means of a high pass and a low pass filter. Its default settings are for a heavy mid boost, which can immediately turn people off. To make the EQ neutral, set hp freq 0%, lp freq 100%, both Q's at around 55% and turn gain down to almost 0%. I like to start here and gradually improve the tone.
This EQ has the only high-pass and low-pass filters, other than the Vintage Mic Pre effect. Also, the low pass frequency goes almost all the way to 20 kHZ, so it provides an excellent way to trim the high end. The cab DEP's include a high-pass filter now, which reduces the need for this EQ, but you get more control over it here because of the variable Q.
The Q settings affect the slope the rolloff, and when higher than around 60%, they actually form a resonance peak that slightly boosts the signal before rolling off above or below that point. At 100%, the boost is quite strong - around 10 db. Below are the frequencies of these resonant peaks with 100% Q.
|HP %||HP Freq (HZ)|
|LP %||LP Freq (HZ)|
I recommend starting with Q around 55% and changing frequency to find the spot where you want to trim the high or low end. Then adjust Q and fine-tune frequency. 0% is a very wide, gradual roll-off, whereas 55% is relatively abrupt.
With Q higher than that and you're actually getting a resonant peak, boosting at that spot before dropping off. This can possibly create the opposite effect that you want, but for extreme highs and lows it's not as noticeable. It's also quite useful to fine tune the signal before the amp. You can filter the lows and highs as well as give a mild to extreme boost where you want to focus the amp's distortion on.
Also, notice how quickly the frequency moves from ~4 kHZ to ~18 kHZ for the low-pass. It's very sensitive, so be wary of that when you're trying to trim the high end - IE don't just adjust 5% at a time, move 1% at a time.
I typically use the SM 57 mic, which is very bright. To compensate, I need to use the low-pass on this EQ to roll-off those highs to get a more natural-sounding amp tone. I find the frequency around 60-75% works, and I use very low Q values (0-20%).
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vi. Q Filter
The Q Filter is actually found under the "Filter" category of effects, not "EQ". But...it's pretty much an EQ. You have 3 main options, whether it operates as a high-pass, low-pass, or band-pass filter. You have the usual Frequency and Q parameters, but additionally Gain and Mix.
Note: Certain Mix/Gain values cause a very steep, narrow band-stop at approximately the point where the "hump" from the Q-Filter's boost levels off on the high frequency side. So with Q at 0% and Frequency around 50%, the hump levels off around 5 kHZ. Here are some values where I noticed the drop-off was steep. Veering one parameter off of these values, while holding the other constant reduces the severity of it or causes it to go away completely.
The interesting thing here is how this effect kind of bridges the gap between EQ and Distortion effects. It provides the transparency and tweakability of an EQ, but the Gain control allows you to compress the tone and really focus on the selected frequencies. It doesn't get dirty like a Distortion but it definitely has big impact on the dynamic response and tone. I find this works well for a couple things when used as a boost. It causes the selected frequencies you want to peak for your amp distortion to be ever-prominent, whether you're chugging on mutes, playing single notes, playing big chords, sustaining notes, or have your guitar volume knob turned down. This is great to make sure your palm mutes get the same saturated chugging tone as your power chords, but if you use too much Gain all your playing sounds kind of stuck inside that one tone - I liken the effect to be similar to active pickups. It also helps from your guitar getting too dark when you turn the guitar volume knob down. I generally keep this setting low or totally down.
Mix works like Gain on an EQ, but it is a more appropriate term here, because you're not just filtering but adjusting compression on the selected frequencies. So mix is useful to blend in the right amount of Q Filter.
I like to use this to pre-EQ amp models. I'll use it as a band-pass and use a wide range of Mix, from 10 - 75% depending on how subtle or strong I want the effect to be. Q I set to 0% at least to start to get wide hump, not dramatically boosting any section of the tone over others. I'll tighten this up if I need a more focused tone later, but the higher you go the more of that cocked wah tone you'll get, especially with higher Mix settings. Frequency depends on the amp. For something like the Uber, where I need a nice bright boost to tighten up the amp and dial in more djent, I may go as high as 75%. For the Recto, I find it just needs a mild mids boost between 45-55%. For the ENGL and J800 models, I find they can get a little thin with a bright boost - I may use the Q Filter as a low pass (LP) or combine the band pass with some EQ to boost bass, or I'll use higher Gain to make sure my band pass is saturating the amp even during mutes. For Gain, I tend to remain in the 0-15% range. Many times I want it 0%, so the affect is more transparent, but other times I like it off 0% to get a little compression and feel like there's a little juice to the effect. But going too high can make the boosted frequencies too compressed, which makes the tone kind of stuck in the boosted sound, which sounds kind of fake, or similar to active pickups.
There's a wide range of tone in this relatively simple tool, and it's best to experiment. The more I use it, the more I feel like I need to add here. From a subtle presence boost to a midrange compression to an extreme almost-wah-wah filter, you can get a lot of mileage.
D. EQ'ing your Patch
When I'm trying to dial in a tone, I start by picking the appropriate cab/mic. If that particular cab has bold EQ problems, I'll start by using a parametric EQ to try to fix it. Once the tone is in the ballpark, I'll try to fine-tune it with the amp's bass/mid/treble/presence controls. If it's still missing that spark, then I'll add another EQ or two to really dial it in, usually a cold or hot djent boost or a small honk cut. Then, if necessary, I'll use a Mid-Focus EQ to mess with the very low and high ends of the spectrum. If I don't need to trim the high-end, I can use the cab DEP low cut to trim the low end instead. I almost always cut a bit from the bottom. High frequency is a mixed bag. Sometimes I'll cut a little, but sometimes I'll boost there. Sometimes I'll boost some presence or even the fizzy range. Finally, I'll determine if there's an ugly-sounding fizzy spot or two that I need to cut using Parametric EQ's.
Again, keep in mind that not every EQ alteration falls neatly into my classification of the frequency spectrum. As I described in the "fizzy spots" section, sometimes you want to dial out a very, very narrow frequency range. Sometimes you want a peak that spans over several sections. When I feel the tone is missing some frequencies or has too many, I'll start with the approach described in the "fizzy spots" section. Once I've found the offensive or missing frequency, I'll start lowering the Q until I feel like I've found the extent of how much I want to boost/cut. Then I adjust the gain to determine how much to boost or cut.
Once you've added at least one parametric EQ in the chain, you can compare using the "lows" and "highs" parameters on this effect versus adjusting the amp model's bass and presence/treble controls without needing to take up another effect block or DSP. If you don't have one, you may want to add one just to use those parameters, if you have the open effect block and the amp model's built-in controls aren't working like you want. They provide a more consistent means of dialing in bass/treble than using the amp model's bass and treble knobs. Or you could use a Studio EQ. One of these effects may be preferable to the amp's built-in controls, depending on the amp.
The reason I prioritize EQ'ing as described above is in case I run out of effects blocks. If you do run out, you have to start making sacrifices. Rather than cut the ultra low-end, maybe I can just turn down the entire bass range. Maybe the fizzy spot isn't "killing" the tone. This varies tone by tone, but in general I find the fizzy spots are the least noticeable, followed by the ultra high and low end. The most noticeable is if the tone is simply out of balance - with too much presence or too much boominess or honk, etc. Also, try to minimize the number of EQ's you use by making smart choices on which one to use - don't use two Parametric EQ's where one Studio EQ works just as well. Don't use two Studio EQ's where one Graphic EQ works just as well. Using less EQ's usually means more work - it's up to you to determine if the results are worth it.
You've probably also noticed that certain cabs and mics have their own effect on the tone's frequency response. If you run out of EQ blocks or just can't get the desired tone, you may want to try switching these as an alternative method to trying to tweak further. I recommend picking cabs and mics that give you the tonal nuances you desire that likely cannot be dialed with EQ controls, then using EQ controls to give them the general frequency response you desire; however, in some cases this is just not practical. You'll have to make trade-offs. See "cab and mic selection" section.
Always compare your tone to a sample target, such as a cd, preferably using the same monitoring device (see "monitors" section). This will really tell you if your tone is lacking something. Then you can experiment boosting or cutting different frequency ranges to see if you can get closer. You'll eventually start to identify how certain frequencies alter the feel of a tone and notice if a tone is missing this or that before even comparing it directly.
And don't fall into the trap of thinking that EQ will get you everywhere. Amp, cab, and mic selection is just as important. I recommend figuring out which of those have the nuances necessary to get the desired tone before trying to EQ the tone. You'll have to use your imagination, as some of the amps, cabs, and mics have frequency responses FAR from your desired tone. With a little experience, you'll be able to determine what can and cannot be dialed in/out.
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E. Fizzy Spots
As with most amp modeling, the Pod HD isn't perfect. This is most noticeable in that it unnaturally boosts certain upper-mid frequencies dramatically, which can make the tone sound "fizzy". These are emphasized most on high-gain patches. Sometimes these spots are pure noise - as you play different notes or chords, the fizz doesn't change sound at all.
You can dial these spots out using a Parametric EQ effect for each frequency. To find them, set the effect's Q to 100% and gain to 85%. Keep playing a palm muted open string than a ringing open string with your right hand, and use your left hand to slowly turn the knob controlling the EQ's frequency. If you can tune to drop D, it might be even easier to notice the problem spots. I tend to start at 70% and go upwards slowly. You'll hit one or two spots that sound louder and more noticeably annoying than others. I generally find them at 80% and 89%, but it depends on the amp. 95% and 100% can sometimes stand out as well.
You can also use this technique to find boomy spots, in the 12%-33% range. I also use to find if I want to cut some mids in the 40-50% range. Or if I want to boost mids (generally from 50 - 70%). This method works as a great way to "find" a particular frequency you want to target for cutting or boosting.
Once you've found the spot(s) you want to cut, turn the gain knob back to 50% and slowly start lowering it. You don't want to completely remove the frequency from the sound, but to have it fade into the overall tone. I find sometimes I'll only go down to ~44% before that frequency no longer stands out. I don't think I ever go below 35%.
Usually Q at 85-100% works for the fizzy spots. For the boomy spots, you may have to widen (lower) the Q a bit to cover the whole frequency range you want to cut.
I used to think dialing out fizzy spots was a game-changer for the Pod HD, but lately I've found it only offers mild improvements. I instead focus on dual cabs and more aggressive EQ shifts, to dial out nastiness in cab sims and/or otherwise shape the general feel of the frequency response. Now I only apply them if I have "surplus" effects blocks.
Note that some mics are fizzier than others. I find the SM57's are good at not having fizz, whereas the dynamics and condensers are much worse. Also, some amps are worse than others.
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