The Top 10 Best EQ Effect Pedals for Guitar in 2021 [Buying Guide]

When guitarists think about effects pedal options, the first ones that come to mind are usually the showpiece pedals like overdrive, chorus, delay, and wah. But there’s an unsung hero on every smart guitarist’s pedalboard, and that’s an EQ. 

EQ can dramatically shape your sound, ensure your guitar is front and center in the mix, and help your solos and leads cut through to your audience. Still, many guitar players are confused about applying an EQ pedal to their sound and whether or not they need one in the first place. 

Today, we’re going to answer all your burning questions about equalizers and share with you the ten best models on the market. Whether you’re into rock, blues, metal, or anything in between, you’ll be able to find an EQ pedal that will take your sound to the next level. 

best eq pedals for guitar

What is the Equalizer (EQ) Effect?

The first step in understanding what an EQ is and how it affects your sound is knowing what it does. EQ stands for equalization or equalizer, and it’s a term for the frequency spectrum of the sounds your guitar produces. How your amp is equalized defines where your frequencies sit on the sound spectrum. 

You’re already at least loosely familiar with the concept of EQ because you’ve been using EQ bands for years, either on your guitar amp, car stereo, or mixer. These devices usually provide basic controls for treble, mids, and bass. Those parameters control frequencies that correspond with the highs, mids, and lows of your music. 

In pro audio and EQ pedals, a range of controls is provided to help you equalize your sound. Each control is a linear filter that corresponds to a particular frequency range. Each of these linear filters can dramatically alter your guitar tone. 

The easiest way to see how equalization works in real-time is to sit in your car and put on one of your favorite songs. Head to the audio menu on your stereo and find the EQ settings. Pick one of the frequencies you can control, and turn it all the way down, then slowly turn it up. You should hear a dramatic shift in the song’s tone as you move through the frequency band. 

This concept applies to your guitar sound in the same way. Adjusting the frequency bands on your EQ pedal will change your guitar’s tone, and it can mean the difference between your guitar cutting through the mix and getting lost in the muck.  

How Does EQ Affect Guitar Tone?

Every instrument in the mix has a sonic footprint that’s comprised of many different frequencies. How these frequencies are arranged determines the way things sound when they reach your ear. 

This concept illustrates the art of sound engineering and mixing. Sound engineers work tirelessly to make sure that each instrument in a mix occupies its own sonic space. When the instruments are correctly equalized, every instrument will nestle into its spot, correctly seated within the mix. The result is a balanced and pleasing sound for the listener. 

Equalizing the guitar is incredibly challenging because guitars are mid-range heavy instruments. They occupy a similar frequency range as other common band instruments, such as vocals, other guitars, saxophone, and your drummer’s toms. 

Since the guitar occupies a similar frequency range, a properly equalized guitar sound is critical if you want your guitar to cut through the clutter and sound great in the mix. 

How To Use an EQ Pedal

There are tons of different ways to use EQ pedals in your playing. Some players use it sparingly, like any other effects pedal. In this way, you can shape your tone in wacky ways to create a distinct tone. For example, you can use an EQ to produce the “transistor radio” type of effect common with indie bands like The Strokes or Modest Mouse. 

Lead guitarists often zero out their EQ and raise the pedal’s gain so that it provides a volume boost during solos without affecting your sound otherwise. 

The most popular way to use EQ pedals is to keep it on at all times and use it to shape your tone. Most EQ pedals provide several additional bands beyond what you can control with the parametric three-band EQ included on most amplifiers. Players will use the EQ pedal to add or subtract specific frequencies to ensure their guitar sits in a nice spot in the mix. 

One thing you’ll never want to do is to set your EQ by yourself in your home studio and then expect that same sound you’ve crafted to carry over when you’re playing with your band. You’ll quickly learn that the fantastic tone you’ve created doesn’t sound how you expect it when you’re playing with the other instruments in your band. 

As you get more familiar with how equalization works, you’ll realize that the sound you craft when you’re playing with your band might not be the same way you’d want your guitar to sound if you were playing alone. The key is you want your guitar to sound great in the mix, even if it’s not perfect to your ears when you’re playing by yourself.  

EQ Pedal Signal Chain Location

Where you arrange your pedals in the signal chain is mostly a matter of preference, but there are some rules of thumb that most guitarists follow. 

A typical signal chain arrangement would be compression, EQ, filters (such as a wah), and pitch shifters at the front of the chain. Next, come your boost and gain effects like overdrive or distortion. Typically, a noise gate, volume pedal, and tuner would go next, followed by modulation effects like chorus, phaser, or flanger. Finally, any time-based effects such as delay and reverb come at the end of the chain. 

Most players like to place their EQ towards the front of the chain. That way, each effect that comes after the EQ is altered by the tone shaping you’ve done in the equalization stage. You can achieve different tones by placing your EQ in different positions and changing how other effects interact with your EQ. Changing where your EQ is in the chain will also affect how you EQ guitar tones.  


When it comes to EQ pedals, there are tons of different ways you can use them to create a broad range of sounds. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite ways to use an EQ pedal

  • Zero out the EQ controls on your amp and use the EQ pedal to completely control your sound.
  • Cut bass while boosting mids and highs to create a “transistor radio” type of effect for specific song sections.
  • Boost treble and mids on the pedal and kick it on during solos and lead parts that need help cutting through the mix. 
  • Boost mid-range to create a chunkier and fuller sound for rhythm playing. 

What Are Features To Look for in the Best EQ Pedals?

When shopping for guitar pedals, it can be challenging to decide because manufacturers advertise a dizzying array of features. How can you tell what’s a feature you need and what’s window dressing? Whichever pedal you select, you’ll want to make sure it offers these critical features below before you add it to your board.

Frequency Range

When shopping for EQ pedals, you’ll want to ensure that the frequencies you’ll have control of will apply to your instrument. The guitar typically occupies a frequency range between 80-1,200Hz. Some EQ pedals provide controls for frequencies far outside of the scope of what’s useful for guitar. 

When shopping, ensure the pedal you choose provides bands that apply to guitar frequencies because they’ll be most useful in shaping your tone. 

Build Quality

An EQ pedal is one you should only need to buy once in your lifetime. Wear and tear is the leading killer of guitar pedals, and you’ll be able to extend the life of any pedal by treating it with care. Still, there are bound to be drops, accidents, and dings and dents that occur when you’re transporting your pedals to and from the studio or the stage. 

Choose pedals that feature cast metal housing and heavy-duty sliders, as they’ll be able to stand up to the road much better than plastic pedals will. 

Illuminated Sliders

In the studio, it’s easy to see where your sliders are positioned so you can make necessary adjustments. On a dark stage, it’s much more difficult to see how your EQ is set up. Illuminated sliders are a helpful feature because they make it easy to make adjustments on the fly in darkness and low lighting. 

Versatile Power Options

Some guitarists choose to power their pedals with batteries, while others prefer power supplies. The best EQ pedals allow you to power the pedal with either batteries or a power supply, so you’ll have the versatility you need to power your pedals whichever way you choose. 

Level Control

A level control is a handy feature to have on guitar pedals of this variety. When you EQ guitar to sit perfectly in the mix during your rhythm playing, you may find that your leads don’t have quite the same cutting effect in the mix. Having a level control so you can boost your output for solo sections is ideal, and it’s a feature every guitarist should look for in an equalizer pedal.  

The Best EQ Pedal Options For Guitar

Now that you have all the knowledge you need to select the perfect EQ pedal for you; let’s take a closer look at our list of the ten of the best options on today’s market.

MXR M108S Ten Band EQ

Best graphic EQ Pedal

The MXR M108S ten band EQ is a tried and true option you’ll find on the pedalboards of some of the most prominent guitarists on the planet, and it tops our list as the best EQ pedal for guitar. This EQ is loaded with features that gigging guitarists need to get the most from their gear. 

This recently redesigned EQ has been upgraded with circuitry that reduces noise, true bypass construction that won’t color your sound, and a rebuilt lightweight aluminum frame that keeps your pedal protected. 

This EQ features ten carefully selected bands from 31.25-16K that allow you to cut or boost each frequency by 12 decibels. The frequency bands are all lit with LEDs, and they’re visible whether you’re in direct sunlight or a pitch-black stage. 

Lead guitarists are sure to love the independent controls for gain and volume, so you can effectively boost your guitar in the mix for solos and leads without coloring your tone at all. 

Features & Specs

  • Boost or cut by ±12dB
  • Gain and level controls
  • High visibility LED sliders
  • 18V power for added headroom
  • True bypass 
  • Low noise
  • Dual outputs allow you to run two signal chains from one pedal

Who Should Use This?

The MXR M108S EQ is ideal for all gigging guitarists who need a rock-solid and reliable EQ. This pedal is our choice as the best guitar EQ pedal. The independent gain and volume controls make this a strong choice for lead guitarists. Hard rock and metal players are sure to appreciate the 18v operation, which provides plenty of extra headroom.  

Boss GE-7

Best EQ for small pedalboards

The Boss GE-7 is a true workhorse that thousands of guitarists worldwide rely upon to sculpt their sound to perfection. This pedal provides all the bulletproof reliability Boss is known for, and they back it up with an industry-leading five-year warranty. 

The Boss GE-7 is a 7-band graphic EQ that allows you to control frequencies between 100Hz to 6.4kHz. Each slider provides an impressive ±15dB of cut or boost for each frequency, exceeding most pedals, which typically offer ±12dB. 

This 7-band EQ is compact and occupies the space of a single stompbox, so it’s ideal for guitarists who don’t have much real estate left on their pedalboards. The Boss GE-7 runs on either 9V batteries or a 9V power supply. However, you’ll need to purchase a power supply separately to run the GE-7 without batteries. 

Features & Specs

  • Boost or cut by ±15dB
  • Powered by batteries or optional power supply
  • Rugged stompbox construction
  • Five-year warranty
  • Buffered bypass 

Who Should Use This?

The Boss GE-7 is an ideal pedal for any guitarist who needs a capable 7-band EQ with a compact form. This Boss EQ is also a wise choice for guitar players who want extra control over each frequency since this pedal offers ±15dB of cut or boost for each EQ band. 

EarthQuaker Devices Tone Job V2

Best three-band EQ pedal

The Earthquaker Devices Tone Job V2 is an easy to use and interactive sound shaper that can dramatically alter your sound to provide the legendary sound you’re after. Unlike most EQs, which provide tons of frequency bands for you to adjust, the Earthquaker Devices Tone Job V2 is simple to use and is just as effective as most graphic equalizer pedals. 

Like all Earthquaker pedals, the Tone Job V2 offers true bypass switching that’s relay-based for ultra-quiet operation, and the pedal is entirely analog. Compared to other pedals, this stompbox has a liveliness that’s almost impossible to stop. 

As for controls, this pedal offers control over bass, middle, treble, and level. This pedal is ideal to use as a boost, and it can be positioned at the beginning of your signal chain like a traditional EQ or at the end of your chain to provide a necessary boost for players who rely on long cables. 

While this pedal doesn’t offer the precision of an EQ with multiple bands, it’s still handy for shaping your tone, and the level control delivers an incredible boost of up to five times your initial signal volume.

Features & Specs

  • Silent relay-based true bypass switching 
  • Boosts signal by up to 5x
  • 9V or 18V operation for plenty of headroom
  • All analog construction
  • Handmade in the USA

Who Should Use This?

The Earthquaker Devices Tone Job V2 is an ideal guitar EQ pedal for guitarists who need a simple and compact solution to their sonic needs. It’s also suitable for lead guitarists looking for a dramatic boost for leads and solo sections. 

MXR M109S 6-Band EQ

Best affordable graphic EQ pedal

The MXR M109S 6-band EQ is a powerful and effective pedal that provides precision shaping over your tone. Similar to our favorite ten band EQ from MXR, the M109S delivers many of the same outstanding features as its big brother at a more affordable price point. 

This MXR 6-band EQ provides control over six of the most useful bands for guitarists, and each slider offers LED lighting, which is visible in the brightest light or the darkest stage. While the M109S doesn’t provide quite as much control as the M108S, it does offer some additional headroom, with up to ±18dB of boost or cut per frequency. 

This mini EQ pedal also offers true bypass construction and a compact aluminum housing that’s both durable and lightweight. For the price, there’s a lot to like about this equalizer pedal.

Features & Specs

  • ±18dB boost/cut per frequency
  • True bypass construction 
  • LED frequency sliders
  • 9V batteries or power supply

Who Should Use This?

The M109S 6-band EQ is ideal for any guitarist looking for an EQ at an excellent price that offers plenty of headroom to cut and boost frequencies. Since there’s no level or gain controls, this pedal is better suited to rhythm guitarists and any player who doesn’t need a signal boost in their playing. 

Wampler EQuator

Best parametric EQ pedal

Guitarists in the market for a parametric option are sure to love the EQuator from Wampler, which offers a four-band active EQ section and two parametric frequency controls for the mids to provide precise tonal control. No list would be complete without mention of this powerful and easy to use pedal.

The EQuator offers controls for low, low-mid, high-mid, and high, as well as level control and parametric frequency controls that allow you to tailor the mid-response to your needs. This pedal also offers tons of headroom, thanks to its versatile power options. This guitar EQ pedal can run at 9V or 18V and can use batteries or a power supply. 

This pedal is handmade in the USA, and it offers an impressive five-year warranty, which exceeds the warranty provided by most manufacturers, except for Boss. 

Overall, the EQuator is one of the most unique tone-shaping tools on this list, and it delivers every bit of the tone and quality that Wampler effects have become notorious for. 

Features & Specs

  • Active 4-band EQ
  • Parametric mid controls
  • 9V or 18V power 
  • Top-mounted I/O controls 
  • Five-year warranty

Who Should Use This?

The EQuator is an ideal option for guitarists looking for a simple and easy to use parametric EQ to shape their tone. This pedal is also suitable for guitarists with cramped pedalboards, thanks to the top-mounted input and output. 

Boss EQ-200 Equalization Effects Pedal

Best programmable EQ

Demanding guitarists who need the most from their EQ pedal are sure to love Boss’ programmable EQ, the EQ-200. This Boss EQ provides players with an incredible level of control over their sound, and it’s included on every best EQ list. 

This programmable EQ provides two separate 10-band EQ options with a four-bank user memory, so you can recall past EQ settings on the fly to use for different songs or passages. Each EQ band provides ±15dB cut or boost per frequency, and there’s a screen that allows you to visualize the current EQ curve, which is helpful on dark stages with limited floor lighting. 

This versatile pedal can be configured for mono, stereo, parallel, or series operation. The two separate 10-band graphic EQs can be linked together or used independently so you can switch between the two depending on what the song calls for, and 32-bit AD/DA provides legendary sound quality.

Out of the box, the two footswitches allow you to toggle the pedal on or off and recall settings from memory. These switches can also be configured to your liking to switch between the two 10-band EQ options, select between specific memories, and more. You can also connect this pedal to an expression pedal to use it as a stand-in for controlling overall volume. 

Perhaps the most novel feature of the EQ-200 is its lock function, which bypasses the EQ sliders so you won’t have to worry about your settings getting thrown out of whack when you’re transporting the pedal.

Features & Specs

  • 32-bit AD/DA for unbeatable sound quality
  • Dual 10-band graphic EQ
  • Can be used mono, stereo, parallel, or series
  • Three selectable frequency ranges
  • ±15dB boost/cut
  • Operate both EQs together or independently
  • On-board memory
  • Panel lock disables EQ sliders
  • Full MIDI I/O
  • Runs on three AA batteries or PSA-series power adapter 

Who Should Use This?

The EQ-200 from Boss is the perfect stereo EQ pedal for players who need two independent, footswitchable EQs for their setup. Gearheads and studio musicians are also partial to this pedal, as it provides more stringent control than any EQ on our list.

LR Baggs Align Acoustic EQ Pedal

Best EQ pedal for acoustic guitarists

The high-quality Align EQ from LR Baggs is specially made for acoustic guitar players, and it offers all the control you’ll need to make your acoustic guitar sing at your next gig. For acoustic guitarists, the list begins and ends with the Align EQ from LR Baggs.

This guitar EQ pedal combined studio-quality signal processing, a hi-fi preamp, and a six-band EQ to help you shape your tone perfectly to your liking. But, LR Baggs doesn’t stop there; this pedal also provides LR Baggs proprietary reverb effect and an active DI. If you can’t coax the perfect tone for your acoustic with this pedal, you may be hard of hearing. 

The Align pedal is modeled around the circuitry for LR Baggs’ storied Para Acoustic DI, which is well-loved by acoustic guitarists worldwide. The six-band EQ is a godsend for tone shaping, and it allows you to compensate for the room you’re in or for a mediocre acoustic guitar pickup. There’s also a notch filter to help suppress feedback and a variable high-pass filter to suppress unwanted bass frequencies.

Switches on the front of the pedal allow you to control the high-pass filter and select the gain level. There’s also a phase-shift toggle button to ensure your guitar is in phase at any venue.

Features & Specs

  • 6-band graphic EQ 
  • High-pass filter
  • Phase inversion switch
  • Garret Null notch filter
  • 3-position gain control

Who Should Use This?

The Align EQ from LR Baggs is perfect for a gigging acoustic musician or sound engineer, and it’s a staple on every best-of list. Regardless of the room you’re in or the conditions of the soundsystem, the Align EQ will have you sounding your best everywhere you play. 

Carl Martin 3-Band Parametric EQ

Best parametric EQ for acoustic guitarists

This incredibly easy to use 3-band parametric EQ is ideal for acoustic musicians who need to maintain a consistent tone across a broad range of different venues. This pedal offers a 3-band EQ with parametric knobs to control the frequency range of each EQ band. There’s also an independent level control to tailor your volume to the room you’re in. 

This pedal provides a broad range of control over each frequency band. The bass frequency band controls sub bass and bass frequencies from 20-500Hz, the mid-band controls 220-5,100kHz, and the high band manages 1.5k-16kHz. Each EQ band provides ±15dB cut or boost, which provides players with a wide range for controlling their tone.

Each pedal is hand-built by East Sound Denmark, so you can rest assured that this pedal was built to exacting specifications, and it’s built to stand up to years of abuse. 

Features & Specs

  • 3 band parametric EQ 
  • ±15dB cut or boost
  • Integrated power supply
  • XLR and ¼” I/O

Who Should Use This?

This EQ from Carl Martin is ideal for acoustic guitarists looking for a parametric EQ that provides the versatility of ¼” or XLR connections. 

MXR KFK-1 Kerry King 10-Band EQ

Best EQ pedal for metal guitarists

Made to the exacting specifications of shred legend Kerry King, this powerhouse from MXR delivers all of the tone-shaping control that metal guitarists need to punish their audience. 

This pedal is a ten band graphic equalizer that also provides independent level and gain controls. The level control is handy for lead sections and solos, as it can give players the boost they need to cut through a crowded mix. 

Top-mounted controls make it easy to add the KFK-1 to any pedalboard, and there’s also a second output for sending your tone out to a secondary amplifier. 

The KFK-1 is practically identical to MXR’s wildly popular M108S 10-band EQ pedal, but with a serious dose of attitude. The KFK-1 has blood red illuminated LED sliders and glow in the dark tribal graphics inspired by Kerry King’s iconic tattoos. 

Features & Specs

  • 10 band graphic EQ
  • Includes power supply
  • ±12dB cut or boost
  • Red LED sliders
  • Dual outputs for driving two amps

Who Should Use This?

The KFK-1 from MXR is ideal for metal guitarists looking for a graphic equalizer that provides the healthy dose of attitude this type of music requires.

Electro-Harmonix XO Knockout

Best sonic maximizer EQ pedal

The XO Knockout from Electro-Harmonix is a set-it-and-forget-it powerhouse that’s perfect for guitarists and bass guitar players looking to send their tone to the next level without having to fiddle with tons of frequency bands. 

The secret to this pedal is its dual-filter operation and simple controls. The top of the pedal offers controls for the high-pass and low-pass filters and a mix control to dial in how much of the effect comes through in the mix. 

The two filters work in concert to provide guitarists with a world of tonal flavors they’d never be able to access without the help of the XO Knockout. This pedal can make a Strat sound like a Les Paul, a Les Paul sound like a Telecaster and everything in between. 

The functionality of this pedal is more closely related to a sonic maximizer than it is to a graphic EQ, and it doesn’t take the place of an equalizer pedal. That said, it’s still a powerful sonic tool that will find a welcomed home on your pedalboard. 

Features & Specs

  • High-pass and low-pass filters
  • Mix knob controls how present the effect is in the mix
  • 9V battery or power supply operation
  • LED indicator light

Who Should Use This?

The XO Knockout is perfect for guitarists who don’t feel like messing with an array of frequency sliders to dial in a high-quality tone. With only three knobs, this pedal from Electro Harmonix is arguably the most simple and effective guitar pedals on our list. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When shopping for a new EQ pedal, most players have some common questions. We’ve compiled the answers below to make sure you can find all the information you need in one spot.

Which EQ Pedals Are Best for a Bass Player?

The best EQ pedals work as well for bass as they do for guitar, so you’ll have no trouble applying any EQ pedal to the bass as well. Some models, like Boss’ GEB-7, have frequency ranges that are tailored especially to bass guitar. If you compare this pedal to one that isn’t marketed for bass, you’ll notice very similar controls. 

For bass, any EQ that provides five or more bands to work with is more than sufficient to achieve a great tone. 

What is Subtractive EQ?

Subtractive EQ is an equalization technique where you remove frequencies instead of boosting them. The idea behind subtractive EQ is that by removing unwanted frequencies, the frequencies you do want in the mix are accentuated. This technique is beneficial if you don’t have much headroom available, as subtractive EQ increases headroom while additive EQ reduces it. 

What’s The Difference Between Multiple Band EQ Pedals?

Depending on the manufacturer, an EQ pedal can have three, five, seven, nine, or more frequency bands for you to work with. How many bands you’ll want is mostly a matter of personal preference. Many guitarists prefer working with a five or seven-band EQ, but if you’re looking for control over the broadest range of frequencies, you’ll be better served by an EQ pedal with nine or more bands. 

Should I Use an EQ Pedal If My Amp Has An Equalizer?

A typical guitar amp offers basic control over highs, lows, and mids. Some players feel these three controls provide more than enough control over their tone. Still, most guitar players prefer to add an EQ to their setup to provide more precise control over the EQ of their sound. 

What’s The Difference Between Parametric and Graphic Equalizers?

When it comes to EQ, the two most common guitar pedals are parametric or graphic

Graphic EQ is the most common, and it allows you to boost or cut pre-defined frequencies. Most guitarists find that a graphic equalizer provides the control they need to perfect their tone. 

Parametric EQ is a bit more surgical in its approach, and the frequencies aren’t fixed. With a parametric EQ, you can select exactly which frequency you want to control, and you can also set the range of operation for each EQ band. 

Parametric EQ is typically reserved for mixing in the studio, but some guitarists prefer a parametric EQ over a graphic EQ because it allows for more precise control. 

Are EQ Pedals Worth It?

As long as the electric guitar has existed, guitar players have been creating unique tones without the help of additional EQ. 

Does that mean that guitar EQ pedals aren’t worth it? 

Absolutely not. 

Any time a guitar player has access to a tool that can improve their sound, it’s a good thing. The best EQ pedals for guitar might not be as sexy as other effects, but they’re still one of the most useful. 

When your instrument is well equalized, you’ll ensure that your guitar sits perfectly in the mix. You won’t be too loud or too soft, your riffs will cut through with precision, and your audience will love the balance of tones they are hearing from the different members of the band. 

So, while you can certainly get by without an EQ pedal, having one can dramatically impact your tone for the better. 

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