Making a Clean Vocal Chain Published in Mastering

  • Gate
  • EQ
  • Soothe
  • De-ess
  • Compress
  • Excite
  • Gullfoss

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1. Gate

With this gate I’ll subtly attenuate the vocal whenever it falls below the threshold - with a softer knee, only a little lookahead, and a range of only about 3dB, I increase the dynamic range and reduce background noise.

The effect is subtle but will help the vocal sound a little cleaner.

A free alternative is this Nembrini Analog Gate

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

2. EQ

With an EQ I’ll balance the vocal by attenuating unwanted noise and some of the fundamental with a 6dB slope highpass filter. I’ll rescue nasally tones with a bell at 1200Hz, increase clarity at 2600Hz, and subtly reduce sibilance in the highs.

A free alternative is Melda Audio’s MEqualizer.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

3. Soothe 2

I’ll reduce resonances to the full frequency range with thisSoothe 2 plugin - I’ve emphasized the low mids, removed the low-pass filter to attenuate highs, and increased the quality to high while blending the effect in with the mix.

A great free alternative is Vastaus by Wavegrove.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

4. De-essing

To control the vocal’s highs I’ll use this Weiss de-esser and with its high shelf band, compress the sibilance by a few dB. In the settings, I’ll quicken the attack and release, as well as add makeup gain to the frequency range.

Try a stock plugin or this T-De-esser by Techivation if you need a free version.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

5. Compression

With a softer knee, 2ms of lookahead, a 4:1 ratio, quick attack and release, and auto-make-up gain we can bring the vocal right to the front and increase details. Try to get between 3 to 6dB of attenuation for the best effect.

A good free alternative is this MCompressor by Zelda Audio.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

6. Exciting

The best way to add some clarity to a vocal is with a subtle exciter - this free fresh air plugin adds harmonics to the high-frequency ranges, as well as boosts the frequencies with a bell and high shelf filter. I’ll keep the settings low to avoid overusing the effect.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

7. Intelligent EQ

To reduce making in the mid frequencies I’ll use this Gullfoss EQ and isolate the processing between 250Hz and 4kHz. I’ll use solely the recover function to dynamically amplify and attenuate, depending on the incoming signal.

Currently, I don’t know of a free alternative so if you do, please let others know in the comments section.

Listen to an Example ➜ YouTube Link

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