In the graphic equalizer, the input signal is sent to a bank of filters. Each filter passes the portion of the signal present in its own frequency range or band. The amplitude passed by each filter is adjusted using a slide control to boost or cut frequency components passed by that filter. The vertical position of each slider thus indicates the gain applied at that frequency band, so that the knobs resemble a graph of the equalizer's response plotted versus frequency.
Parametric equalizers are multi-band variable equalizers which allow users to control the three primary parameters: amplitude, center frequency and bandwidth. The amplitude of each band can be controlled, and the center frequency can be shifted, and bandwidth ("Q") can be widened or narrowed. Parametric equalizers are capable of making much more precise adjustments to sound than other equalizers, and are commonly used in sound recording and live sound reinforcement. Parametric equalizers are also sold as standalone outboard gear units.
A variant of the parametric equalizer is the semi-parametric equalizer, also known as a sweepable filter. It allows users to control the amplitude and frequency, but uses a pre-set bandwidth of the center frequency. In some cases, semi-parametric equalizers allow the user to select between a wide and a narrow preset bandwidth.