Match EQ Plugin – How to Use One

I’ve talked at length on here about the importance of using reference tracks in your mix to keep perspective and your ears trained on the goal as you mix. Match EQ plugins take this concept one step further and can be used to get your mix to sound more like the reference tracks you’re chasing. Let’s talk the best match EQ plugin and how to use it.

What is Match EQ

match eq

First let’s identify what is match EQ in the context of audio mixing.

Match EQ is a type of plugin which analyzes the frequency profile of one track or entire mix, then applies it to another track.

Specifically it creates an EQ curve from whether that reference track is more bottom heavy, top heavy, etc. or has specific frequencies which are more prominent than others.

It then applies this EQ curve to our track, pulling each frequency range up or down as necessary to more closely align with the reference.

It’s important to note that you can use match EQ on a micro or macro level regarding your mix.

For instance, I’ve used it to capture and roughly recreate the tone of specific instruments from my favorite commercial mixes and bring them into my mix.

I also frequently use it as part of my master bus processing to nudge my otherwise finished mix to sound a bit more like the commercial mix I’m basing mine on. It doesn’t ALWAYS add to the mix, but it’s always worth a try.

Now let’s talk about how to use a match EQ plugin to get the best results for both a micro track based level as well as an entire mix.

How to Use a Match EQ Plugin

My favorite match EQ plugin is Izotope’s Match EQ. Not only do I feel it does the best job at capturing the snapshot of the frequency profile of a mix, but it has additional features for tailoring how I apply that profile to my mix.

Here’s a snapshot of its interface:

match eq

There aren’t many features here, but it has everything you need to capture a frequency profile, save it, then apply it to your own audio and tweak it to taste. Let’s go step by step in how to use a match EQ plugin.

Step 1 – Capture Your Reference Track

First, you need the audio you want to capture and match.

It should go without saying, but you should absolutely have the cleanest and most high fidelity and original instance of the audio you want to capture.

In other words, don’t rip some low resolution and quality version of the song you want off of YouTube. Even if you think you’re ripping the best instance of the song, oftentimes whatever you use to rip it compresses and lowers the quality to some extent oftentimes without telling you. Ideally you can purchase the song you want from BandCamp, the iTunes store, etc.

In the same vein, don’t use an AI based software to isolate and pull out a specific instrument, the vocals, etc. from a mix as they’re rarely never of a decent or usable quality. There are a lot of sites which have the actual samples from hundreds of thousands of commercial mixes which you can get.

Once you have quality audio for what you want to capture, drop it in your mix.

Make sure you put the match EQ plugin directly on the track itself and that it’s devoid of any other processing.

Let the track play and click “Capture” in the Ozone Match EQ plugin to immediately begin building the frequency profile for that track.

If it’s a specific instrument sample, like a snare hit, just loop that snare hit a few times on repeat.

For an entire song, you can just capture a specific part like the chorus or you can play the entire track. Generally the profile won’t change drastically after 20 seconds or so, so capture 20-30 seconds, stop it, then save that with a relevant title.

Saving frequency profiles allows you to apply them to other tracks later so you don’t need to re-capture the same reference track later.

Step 2 – Apply it To Your Track, Bus, or Mix

Next we move the plugin to whatever we want to apply that frequency profile to.

If it’s a specific instrument like a snare then drop it on the snare. If you’re applying it to your entire mix drop it on the master bus.

Once it’s in the right spot, click capture. I typically like to capture a similar part of the reference track as what I’m going to apply it to.

In other words, I’m not capturing a heavier chorus in my reference then applying it to a lighter verse in my mix.

It makes sense, but you’ll get the best results from matching similar sounding tracks.

Like with step 1, we only need to let this run for 20-30 seconds before we stop it so that the plugin gets a detailed idea of our track’s frequency profile.

Step 3 – Adjust Accordingly

Now we have three settings to adjust: filters, smoothing, and amount.


The plugin comes with high and low pass filters which will omit everything on the left or right of them, respectively. Everything on the outside of these filters will not be affected by the EQ curve of our reference track.

So if, for example, you have your low end exactly how you want it, simply drag the high pass filter to whatever point you want left alone to keep the low end to that point unaffected.

These filters really are for using to taste, so if you don’t like what the plugin is doing to a certain section(s) of your mix, roll the effect off with these.


“Smoothing” dictates how sharp the minute detail is adhered to.

For instance, if the reference track recorded a lot of tiny specific peaks in the 100-500Hz range, leaving the smoothing at 0% will keep these intact.

Conversely, the higher you move the meter up to 100, the flatter the boost in the 100-500Hz range becomes to where it’s more a general boost in this range rather than a small sharp boost at 200Hz, another at 300Hz, etc.

I always preach that gentler and smoother Q settings yield more natural and transparent results, so I like to work in a healthy amount of smoothing on match EQ, typically setting this around 50%.


The “Amount” is how much of that frequency profile from our reference track we’re actually applying to our track/bus/mix.

If you set this to 100%, it will basically replace your track’s EQ curve with the reference’s altogether. For a laugh, if you set the Amount to 100% and the Smoothing to 0%, you’ll actually be able to faintly hear the reference track.

Less is generally more when it comes to match EQ. I’m not using this to save my mix, I’m using it to gently nudge my mix in the direction of my reference with the utmost of subtlety.

As such, I’m typically keeping the “Amount” setting for match EQ at around 30% or less.

It may take some tweaking between the “Amount” and “Smoothing” settings together to find the perfect blend as they work together to achieve the sound.

Also, the more macro the level I’m using match EQ on, the less I’ll be using.

While I’ll keep it at 30% or less with a lot more smoothing on my master bus, if I’m applying it to a specific instrument like my snare, I’m going to be more aggressive, using a higher amount and probably less smoothing as I’m chasing a really specific sound on that instrument.

Final Thoughts on Match EQ Plugins

Match EQ can be sneaky good for capturing a near exact tone for a specific isolated instrument. For instance, I used it on some isolated Fall Out Boy guitar samples and, after getting the sound as close as I could on my own, the match EQ was the missing piece in making my tone nearly identical to theirs.

Used on the master bus, it’s best used in moderation and never to be the saving grace for your mix. Instead it’s that last minute flavor to nudge your mix which in turn can be the missing piece to getting your entire mix sitting just how you want it.

Like the guitar example, it’s best to use match EQ once you have the rest of your mix more or less how you want it as you’ll get appreciably better results than applying it to a half finished mix when you still have a lot more work to do.

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