For this video let’s look at some vocal effect presets you can use at the start of a vocal chain, or to accomplish certain effects within a chain. Also, we should be releasing these presets for download in the future, or please feel free to recreate them.
First off I want to start with this Shade EQ, which the more I learn about, the more I see how it can be used for really complex and useful processing. This preset in particular is a vocal de-esser - it’s made up of 2 bands and 2 envelope followers.
The first band is a resonant peak filter, and I attached a follower to its gain and Q value, then set the trigger to the frequency range being affected.
Within the follower, I controlled the attack and release to quickly attenuate and return it to unity. I did the same for my second band but used a new follower so that I could set the trigger to the respective frequency range.
You could recreate this with a different dynamic EQ, but being able to control the attack, release, and threshold, as well as make the Q value dynamically narrow or widen creates very unique de-essing.
Let’s take a listen to the effect.
I’m going to use the same Shade EQ again, but this time introduce something not too common - randomization. I’ve created 1 filter above the vocal’s presence and the other over the fundamental - then used randomization filters to alter the band’s frequency, amplitude, and Q value.
For the lower band, I limited the randomization of the frequency to a range of 100Hz to keep it near the fundamental. For the higher one though, I set it to a range of 5kHz to add more variation.
You may be wondering why I’d even want to do this, but when you hear it, you realize it adds needed variation to a vocal and creates a subtle complexity that’s enjoyable to have.
Let’s listen and notice has subtle randomization makes the vocal more interesting.
Next up let’s look at PSP’s infinistrip - with it I created this classic-sounding vocal chain starting with a gate, 60s emulated preamp gain to shape the tone, an optical compressor, and then smooth dynamic tube distortion. Last up I added a classic EQ emulation to add some clarity.
With the EQ I also attenuated some of the low mids and boosted the fundamental. Collectively these processors add a vintage sound to the vocal - let’s take a listen and let me know in the comments if you think this chain is closer to an older sound.
Let’s take a look at some EQ presets I made a little while back, starting with these 4 capsule frequency response emulations. The CK12 capsule is used in classic AKG microphones as well as the Sony C-800G, whereas the K47 was developed for the Neumann U47.
As you’d imagine this emulation creates a slightly classic vocal sound. The K67 is slightly more modern and was used in the U67 and U87, and is probably the most popular capsule used when recording vocals.
Lastly, the M7 is a lesser used capsule, again developed by Neumann, that sounds slightly vintage, but really just has a unique characteristic.
When using these, I’d recommend first trying to get the vocal’s response as flat as possible - then inserting one of these presets.
Let’s listen to the same vocal, but with an EQ included that flattens the response prior to cycling through these 4 presets.
This next preset focuses on important vocal frequency ranges - I found it works great for dialogue or any vocal in which you want clarity and clear pronunciation. The high pass and low Hz. cut clean up the vocal, and de-mask higher frequencies - the bell at 500Hz improves vowel articulation.
The bell around 700Hz. reduces nasally tones, but this can be shifted from 700Hz to 1.2kHz depending on the singer.
Lastly, a bell at 3kHz adds presence and a high shelf adds some air and clarity.
Let’s take a listen and notice how the vocal pronunciation and clarity improve.
Earlier we covered various microphone capsules, but a microphone’s circuit combined with the capsule creates the final frequency response. We’ll notice that a U87’s circuit attenuates some of the lows and highs of the U67 capsule, while also introducing a subtle 500Hz bump with mild resonance attenuation on both sides.
The Sony C-800G on the other hand retains a lot of the highs created from its Ck12 capsule, which is why this microphone works well for RnB as well as rap, where vocal clarity and crispness are important.
Let’s again use our first EQ to flatten the response, and then listen to both of these response emulations.
Last up for frequency response emulations, let’s cover the subtle changes made by various microphone preamps - first a Neve 1073, then an API 512c. We’ll notice the 1073 attenuates some lows very mildly and well as dips a little above 12kHz before boosting air very gradually.
The 512c amplifies some sub frequencies, before acting almost like a very subtle tilt filter before exponentially amplifying 10kHz and above.
Let’s take a listen to these preamp emulations, but first, use the EQ we’ve been using to flatten the response, and then use the U87 emulation covered in the last chapter.
This next preset is something I made to add a lot of character to a vocal quickly - with the FabFilter Saturn 2 I created 3 bands of saturation with the mid-frequency band having the most saturation. Then with a follower, I modulated the amount of distortion.
Lastly, I linked this follower to the frequency crossovers, and used a positive value - by this, I mean that whenever there was an incoming signal, this more heavily distorted mid-range got shifted up in frequency - this way more distortion occurs to the high range during the transient.
The more subtle distortion occurs to the mids and lows after the transient. Let’s take a listen and adjust the mix slider to blend the effect in.
For this preset, I wanted to make a vocal reverb that sounded realistic, but also augmented the vocal in a way that would be hard to find in a real space. This reverb is short but includes a good mix of bright and dark reflections to fill the vocal.
I used lower modulation and a low pre-delay to make it sound realistic, but then augmented some presence frequencies in the high mids to help it cut through.
Let’s take a listen to the reverb used in parallel, and then blend the effect in.
I wanted to include a preset based on a stock plugin, so here’s one using Logic’s stereo delay. With it I’ll delay the left channel by 1/16th and the right by a dotted 1/16th before isolating the reflections to the low and high mids.
The feedback was kept low enough to avoid a metallic sound, but high enough to actually hear the effect. Then some mild crossover was used to add complexity and slightly emulate classic tape-based delay equipment.
I kept the output low with the intention of using this effect on the main vocal channel, but you could also set it to 100% if you wanted to use this preset as a send or parallel track.