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Top 10 Vocal Plugins


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Lifeline Expanse - Excite Audio

For this video let’s look at some more unique, lesser-discussed plugins that work great on vocals, and also let me know some of your favorites in the comments.

First up we have the Lifeline Expanse, which offers 5 different modules that can be easily rearranged - they include saturation, speaker emulation, reverb, stereo imaging, and digital format emulation. If we open up the advanced section, we can determine how of the effect is included on each Hz. range.

I find this works well for creative effects after the vocal has been equalized and compressed to control the response and dynamics.

Let’s listen to the plugin, and cycle through some of the vocal presets since it’s a quicker way of seeing what the plugin can do.

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Dual Delay X - UVI

This is a great delay plugin for multiple instrument types, but I find it particularly useful for vocals since it has a delay ducker built in. In other words, I can compress the delay whenever the vocal’s transient is present, ensuring the effect doesn’t make the vocals washed out.

The various effects included like the timing, modulation, delay rotation, frequency shaping and more make it really versatile, but the ducker makes it a great option for vocals.

Let’s take a listen.

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PSP InfiniStrip - PSP Audioware

This plugin lets you stack multiple forms of processing but with zero latency, meaning it won’t negatively impact the vocal’s transients. Another reason I like this plugin for vocals is that I can cycle through various modules - like preamps from various eras, without changing my settings.

This way I can quickly find which type of compression, EQ, or emulation works best for the vocal I’m processing.

Let’s listen to a strip being enabled.

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Wires - Audio Thing

I included this plugin because it creates a sound like no other plugin that I’ve come across; by emulating the first iteration of reel-to-reel recorders, we can achieve a truly unique sound. Additionally, I like that the effect can be subtle with the wet/dry.

Also, whereas most emulations include things like noise, wow and flutter, and so on, I think it’s great that we also get impulse responses from the device’s microphone and speaker.

Let’s listen, and let me know if this is a plugin you’d try for a unique effect on your vocals.

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CLA Vocals - Waves Audio

I used to really not like this plugin if I’m being honest, but then I realized that to use it properly, it really needs to stand alone and not be combined with other effects. If used by itself, I think it’s a perfect plugin for new engineers due to how simple it makes processing.

With the 6 dials, and the 3 modes respective to each dial, it’s pretty easy to create a vocal that gets close to a finished sound - so if you want a quick way to mix vocals, I’d recommend checking this one out.

Let’s listen to it.

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Oxford Reverb - Sonnox Oxford

This plugin doesn’t get too much attention, but in my opinion, it’s the best reverb plugin for achieving both huge vocal sounds, and emulations of classic reverb hardware. It’s incredibly versatile, giving you a lot of control over the early reflections and the reverb tail.

The EQ section is definitely helpful, and I particularly like the graphic representation of each delay tap, its amplitude, and positioning time-wise.

Let’s listen to some huge vocal reverb effects and check out some hardware emulation.

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Soothe 2 - Oeksound

I talk about this plugin a lot, but it really is one of my favorites - it dynamically attenuates resonances, resulting in a much more balanced vocal. The EQ occurs before the effect, so we can use it to drive specific frequencies into the multi-band compression.

For example, I could de-ess by driving sibilance into the processor, or use a more broadband approach and balance the entire performance.

The side-chain option is great too if you want to balance the signal you’re affecting based on the signal of another track or instrument group.

Let’s take a listen to how the vocal sounds more balanced and slightly clearer.

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Boost - UrsaDSP

Boost is a comprehensive maximizer that lets you increase a vocal’s detail by emphasizing quieter aspects of the signal. Whereas most upward processors or maximizers have limited functionality, I like how I can introduce lookahead to capture even more detail and introduce either drive or transient expansion.

Being able to affect the attack and release of the upward processing is also unique and helps to minimize distortion, or include it if that’s the sound you’re going for.

Let’s listen and notice how the vocal is pushed closer.

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Weiss De-ess - Softube

This is by far my favorite de-esser since I can barely hear it working, even when attenuating a fair amount. The front display makes it easy to quickly attenuate sibilance, but if you want to fine-tune the compression, you can do so in the settings.

Most of these functions you won’t find in a de-esser, so that makes it both versatile and incredibly transparent.

Let’s listen with higher levels of attenuation and notice that we don’t hear unwanted artifacts or coloration.

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Vocal Bender - Waves Audio

This plugin works great for BGVs or any vocal you want to have a creative sound. We can control the pitch and formant in a way that introduces little artifacts or phase cancellation - then we can flatten the vocal to a specific note for a cool effect.

Modulation, sequencing, amplitude, control of the attack and release, and pitch smoothing add to its versatility.

Let’s listen to it with the vocal flattened to E, and then shift the semitones to change the flattened note.

Watch video example


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The #1 Audio Engineering Membership That Makes Your Mixes Sound Like
Professional Songs Even If You Have No Previous Experience