Best Equalizer Settings for Speech – In-Depth Instructions, FAQs, Tips & More

Equalization (or EQ) is one of the most important steps to take when you clean up your audio and make it suitable for online courses. 

If you incorrectly apply EQ, it can lead to disastrous consequences such as your voice sounding unclear or even downright unintelligible. 

In this post, we’ll go over the fundamentals of EQ application so you can correctly apply it depending on the type of voice recording(s) you have. 

Before You Get Started… 

Before we actually start to talk about parametric EQ and how to apply it, we need to ensure that you have the right mindset going in. 

The tone, aesthetic, and character of your voice recording are set in stone long before you actually start to play with parametric EQ. If you want your voice to sound a certain way, you need to take steps to ensure that during the voice recording phase.

For example, if you want your voice to sound warm, you’ll need to take the appropriate steps to make it sound warm during the recording stage (such as by reducing the treble and increasing the bass, etc.). 
EQ will not change the character of your recording. It cannot create new frequencies. The only thing it can do is amplify or downplay what is already there in your recording. 

Avoid the “I’ll fix it in the post” mentality and try to get your tone as right as you possibly can during the recording phase. 

Using an Equalizer 

As mentioned earlier, an equalizer can only enhance the pleasant aspects of your recording and lower (or remove) the unpleasant sounding aspects. It can only be used to improve a voice recording if it’s a decent recording in the first place. 

Now, let’s get into how to EQ vocals: 

Once you start to become more familiar with how parametric EQ works, you can start to experiment with different techniques.

However, when you’re first starting out, you should approach EQ in one of two ways: 

  1. Use narrow cuts to cut out background noise and undesirable sounds that may come up in your recording. 
  2. Use wide boosts to amplify the pleasant aspects within your voice recording. 

Now, let’s get into the different types of techniques you can use within EQ settings: 

Single-Band Bell Curves

Single-Band Bell Curves are single points that you can make at any point on the frequency spectrum to either amplify or downplay the frequency at that specific point. 

center speaker watching tv center channel audio engineer kick drum enough bass overall volume

When working Single-Band Bell Curves, there are two rules of thumb that you should keep in mind every time you’re performing vocal EQ: 

  • Subtractive EQ: This refers to always trying to use more cuts instead of boosts. For example: If you want your recording to have more bass, consider cutting out the highs instead of boosting the lows.
  • Be conservative: During cutting or boosting, avoid doing it more than 5 dB. If you do it more than that, your voice recording will start to sound unnatural and/or robotic.


Shelves are powerful tools that are able to either boost or cut (downplay) anything above or below a certain frequency. 

The two types of shelves are low shelves and high shelves. 

As their names imply, a low shelf boosts or cuts anything below it whereas a high shelf boosts or cuts everything above it. 

Important Note: The two rules of thumb we talked about for single-band bell curves (Subtractive EQ and being conservative) also apply to shelves. 

best equalizer settings for speech

In the screenshot shown above, the shelf EQ is cutting everything below 100 Hz by 4 dB.

High-Pass Filter and Low-Pass Filter

Filters are incredible tools that cut out everything either below or above a certain frequency. 

There are mainly two types of filters: high-pass filters and low-pass filters. 

A high-pass filter cuts everything below it, thus, letting the highs pass. 
A low-pass filter cuts everything above it, thus, letting the lows pass.

As you can probably already tell, the two rules of thumb we talked about for single-band bell curves and shelves (subtractive EQ and being conservative) don’t apply to filters. 

This is because filters don’t boost and you can’t limit filters to 5 dB since they cut everything out. 

best equalizer settings for speech
best equalizer settings for speech

These are the three types of EQ that you can remember. Just keep these in your mind when performing vocal EQ and you’ll be able to properly EQ any type of voice-overs

Performing Vocal EQ on Voice Recordings 

When you start to apply equalizer settings to voice recording, you need to apply the general guidelines that we talked about above. 

  1. Start by moving the EQ bands around until you find undesirable sounds such as room noise and cut them by 3 – 5 dB. This will improve clarity and you’ll find that your recording won’t sound harsh now.
  2. Next, move the bands around until you find desirable and pleasant aspects of your voice and boost them by 3 – 5 dB. 

Always remember that the human voice is different for everyone. Thus, warmth, for example, will be at different frequencies for different people. So, when you EQ vocals, keep this in consideration. 

The difference is very clear when you look at the difference in where the warmth is between male voices and female voices. 

Males have a frequency range of 80 – 180 Hz whereas females have a frequency range of 160 – 260 Hz. 

It’s important to understand that EQ-ing is not a precise art. We’re just giving you guidelines to get you started with editing sound recordings but it’s definitely important for you to experiment. That way, you’ll be able to find the perfect EQ settings for the way your particular voice sounds.

Now that we have the fundamentals down, let’s get into voice equalization: 

1. Use a High-Pass Filter to Cut Bass Frequencies 

This is something that is very commonly done when performing EQ. As we mentioned above, male voices start at around 80 Hz. 

Hence, it’s good practice to cut everything below 80 Hz in order to add more clarity. Anything below 80 Hz is not part of your voice and thus, is just background noise and rumble. 

Once you remove it through a high-pass filter, you’ll find that your recording sounds clear and much more intelligible. 

If you’re editing a female voice-over, you can even cut low frequencies up to 140 or 150 Hz. 

2. Cut down on the Bass

This is similar to the tip above but this time, you’ll cut along the part where your voice is. This would be in the 100 – 300 Hz frequency range. 

Using equalizer settings to cut down frequencies in this range will help your recording sound much more clear. 

This is because a lot of unnecessary basses will be removed. 

On the other hand, if you’re recording sounds tinny or thin, then you can try to boost along with these frequencies rather than cut. Just a gentle boost can be enough to make your voice sound much more full and crisp. 

3. Cut at the 300 – 400 Hz Frequency Range to Address “Muddy” Sound Recordings

This is particularly done when you edit music or sound effects, with no voice-overs. 

However, if your sound recording has the issue of sounding muddy, then you can play with the voice equalization at this range by cutting it by 3 -5 dB. 

Play around with it here and then playback your sound recording. Does it sound better or worse? Keep checking and playing around with it until you get the sound you want. 

4. Boosting the High Frequencies (2000 – 6000 Hz) 

This will make your recording sound brighter and add a lot more clarity to it. 

Again, voice equalization is not an exact science. Hence, if your recording ends up sounding tinny or unnatural after you apply a boost to these frequencies, you can lower the boost amount by 1 or 2 dB. 

5. Cutting between 3000 – 5000 Hz 

If you apply a gentle boost to your high frequencies, this can result in your voice sounding too sizzle (meaning your “S” sounds are too harsh). If this happens, you can cut around the 3000 – 5000 Hz frequency range (mid-range frequencies). 

You’ll have to experiment a little when it comes to steps 4 and 5 to see which EQ setting sounds the best. 

Finding the right microphone to record audio narration for your online courses is actually a lot harder than it seems. We have compiled a guide for you to follow which will make this process easier.

best equalizer settings for speech

Additional Tips to EQ Vocals Professionally 

The human voice can differ heavily from person to person which is why it can be a challenge to EQ vocals when you start out.

However, experimenting with EQ and constantly playing back the sound coming from your speakers can be a great starting point. 

It will help you understand what a certain action of yours does and will enable you to make better decisions related to EQ in the future. 

The sound system you work with when performing EQ can make a huge difference. Be sure to invest in good headphones with a high-frequency response that will enable you to hear every sound and frequency properly. 

The Significance of Vowels and Consonants 

Within human speech, vowels and consonants are placed at different frequencies. 

Thus, you can either choose to amplify or downplay vowels or consonants depending on the tone of your voice and the type of character you go for within your sound recording. 

Vowels are responsible for most of the commands within your voice. Thus, if your sound recording sounds too weak, it’s a good idea to boost frequencies that contain vowels. 
In most cases, vowels are present in the 350 – 2000 Hz frequency range when it comes to the human voice.  

Consonants are responsible for intelligibility within the human voice. As you can probably tell, it’s super important that this range sounds clear since no one will want to listen to your audio narration if they can’t understand what you’re saying. 
Consonants are present in the 1500 – 4000 Hz range and you can try to boost these frequencies to see if that makes your sound recording more intelligible or not. 

Employing the Use of Auto-EQ

Automatic equalizers are present within a lot of digital audio workstations and audio editing tools. 

They work by examining your sound recording’s frequency range and then, applying a graphic EQ curve according to what it thinks would be best. 

While this can definitely sometimes result in good sound and a clear voice the fact of the matter is that you should use automatic tools such as these as starting points. 

This means that while they do a good job of presenting you with a basic EQ curve for your vocals, you should play around with the lower and higher frequencies to further refine your sound recording. 

Using Different Speakers 

Your students will listen to your online course lectures on a number of different devices. 

Thus, it’s in your best interests to listen to your voice recording on as many different speakers as possible to ensure it sounds clear and intelligible on all of them. 

We already talked about how you should invest in headphones with wide-frequency responses. 

Other than that, if you have external speakers, you should check your recording out on those as well. If you have a television, you can listen to it on TV speakers too. 

If your voice sounds clear, commanding, and intelligible on all channels, you’ll know that you’ve taken full advantage of the frequency spectrum through EQ and that your sound recordings are ready to go. 

The Importance of Experimentation 

We’ve already mentioned this time and time again throughout this post but it definitely needs its own section to really nail the point home: experimentation is the key to successful EQ. 

All any instructional articles on EQ online can give you some general guidelines. At the end of the day, you’ll notice that a default setting or equalizer settings you found off the internet may not work best for your particular voice. 

Hence, it’s highly important that you mess around with different bands and frequencies to find the settings that work best for you. 

Important EQ-Related Terms You Should Know 

Finally, we’ll talk about all of the different terms you may come across within your digital audio workstation or when you read instructional articles online. 

It’s important for you to know what different terms mean in order to understand what their significance is in relation to the clarity and quality of your vocals. 

It will help you make better decisions and ensure your narration sounds as perfect as it can be. 

So, let’s get into it: 

Fully Parametric EQ

Fully parametric EQ refers to the type of EQ that we’ve gone over within this post. 

It gives you full and continuous control over every parameter of your audio’s frequency content (usually divided into a number of bands). 

A fully parametric equalizer usually has frequencies divided into 4 to 7 different bands. 

Semi-Parametric EQ 

Within a semi-parametric equalizer, the number of bands is usually fewer (typically 3) and only the gain and frequency are adjustable. 

The Q and bandwidth are usually fixed. 

Harmonic Frequencies 

You won’t really have to deal with these since it’s mostly related to musical instruments and not voice narrations. 

Basically, pitched musical instruments cause harmonic frequencies (frequencies within the same scale) to sum together and inharmonic frequencies (frequencies not in the same scale) to cancel each other out. 

Fundamental Frequency

Fundamental frequencies refer to the lowest frequency within a certain sound waveform. 

When certain frequencies such as mid frequencies coming from different sources have the same fundamental frequencies, they can produce harmony and sound musical. 

Again, the fundamental frequency is not something you have to be concerned about if you’re just doing the audio narration for your online course. However, it can definitely come in handy if you plan to add background music to your online course videos

Resonant Frequency 

Resonant frequencies refer to room resonance or frequencies that come from room noise or background rumble. 

These are, of course, undesirable and the very first step when you perform EQ is to get these frequencies removed. 

You can do this easily by moving EQ bands around until you find undesirable room resonance and then, simply cutting it. 

The process of creating, selling, and managing online courses can be very intimidating, especially when you know nothing and have to start from scratch. We have the perfect guide for you to help you through the process.

Wrapping Things Up…

You may find many instructional articles online that claim to give you the “Best EQ settings for all types of vocals” but they’ll be very misleading. 

EQ can only be effectively used when your initial recording is decently produced and you know what to do with the different frequency ranges within the EQ curve. 

We hope you feel more confident performing EQ on your audio narrations after you went through this post. Let us know in the comments if you have any questions.