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Free Vocal Chain vs. Pro Chain

  • Free Channev De-esser
  • Weiss De-esser
  • Free Channev Equalizer
  • Eventide SplitEQ
  • Free Channev Compressor
  • FabFilter Pro-C2
  • Free Voxengo Tube Amp
  • Arturia Dist Tube Culture
  • Free Stone Voices DReverb
  • Eventide SP2016 Reverb

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Free Channev De-esser

For this video, I want to go back and forth between the free chain and the pro or paid-for chain with each insert. Also, I’ve kept the chains simple, to give us more time to compare the two.

Starting with the free chain, I’m going to use this Channev channel strip, first, bypass the mic preamp, and then introduce some high-frequency compression, or de-essing. I used a softer knee, a quick release of 6ms, and got at most 4dB of attenuation.

We’ll use this same channel strip for EQ and compression, but we’ll cover that in future chapters. For now, let’s listen to a full A and B of our Free and Paid-for or Pro chains, and switch back and forth a few times to see if we prefer one over the other.

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Weiss De-esser

Moving to the Pro chain, we’ll use this Weiss de-esser and combine a band and shelf filter for our high-frequency attenuation. I’ll achieve similar amounts of attenuation, and use a similar release time for the band filter, but a quicker one for my high shelf.

Let’s take a listen to it, and notice how the effect on the highs is pretty transparent.

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Free Channev Equalizer

Next, I’ll go back to this channel strip plugin, and with the EQ, attenuate up to 90Hz with a high-pass filter, dip around 250-300Hz by a few dB to reduce high-frequency masking, amplify roughly 3kHz to bring the vocal forward, and amplify 8kHz. to increase clarity.

Let’s take a listen and keep in my I’ll leave the de-esser enabled, but keep the compressor off for now.

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Eventide SplitEQ

Back to the pro chain, I’m going to use this SplitEQ to affect the vocal’s tone and transients differently. Like last chapter, I’ll use a high-pass to attenuate unnecessary lows - then, I’ll dip some of 200-300Hz to reduce masking, but decrease the tone more to leave some transients in.

I boosted a little above 3kHz and then amplified around 8kHz, emphasizing transients, and being more precise with the amplified tone.

Let’s listen and notice how this clarifies the vocal, and helps it sound more intelligible.

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Free Channev Compressor

Last up for this Channev channel strip, I’m going to use the compressor to attenuate the vocal and then amplify it after the attenuation. This should bring quieter details forward, as well as control the vocal’s dynamics - I got about 4dB of attenuation and stuck with a 100ms release.

Then I blended the effect in with the wet/dry until it sounded right to my ears. Let’s take a listen and note that unreleased processing like the preamp, the limiter, and the output drive are all disabled.

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FabFilter Pro-C2

With this plugin I used one of my favorite presets, and adjusted it as needed - it includes a softer knee, a vocal detection algorithm, fixed ratio, quick attack and release, and importantly, 2ms of lookahead. This when combined with the auto-make-up gain, captures and amplifies the full vocal.

I found I only needed a few dB of attenuation, and I also isolated the detection to the lows to high mids. Let’s listen to how this brings forward quieter details.

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Free Voxengo Tube Amp

This free saturation and tube emulation plugin is going to help the vocal sound fuller, slightly more aggressive, and upfront. With it I’ll leave saturation off to avoid additional compression, then turn on 8x oversampling to reduce aliasing distortion - then I’ll dial in a moderate amount of drive.

With the bias, I’ll vary the harmonic formation until I find a good spot, and also use Mode 2 for a more aggressive sound.

Let’s listen to how this fills out the vocal.

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Arturia Dist Tube Culture

Next for the paid-for or pro chain, I’ll use this Tube-Culture plugin to emulate tube distortion and saturation. I set the drive to 5, the bias a little higher for a slightly thicker sound, and ended up using the pentode 1 setting which has a sharper, odd harmonic formation.

I also turned on the air function to brighten the sound and used a mild tilt filter in the advanced section to do the same.

Let’s take a listen.

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Free Stone Voices DReverb

Last up, let’s introduce some reverb - for the free chain, I’m using the DReverb plugin with a 2.5-second decay, 7ms of pre-delay, some of the lows and highs cut, and a moderate amount of modulation. The signal is mainly dry but has a good amount of reverb.

Let’s listen to it and notice how it gives the vocal a distinct sound, and how these settings work well for a lead vocal.

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Eventide SP2016 Reverb

Last up for the pro chain I used the SP2016 reverb by Eventide and started with the lead vocal preset before making some adjustments. I lowered the pre-delay to 7ms, changed the decay to 2.5 seconds, increased the diffusion, and emphasized higher frequencies.

This should give us a good comparison to the free chain’s reverb, and also sound nice with the vocal we’re working on.

Let’s take one final listen to the full AB of our free and paid-for chains, and let me know in the comments if you think one works better than the other.

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