In a recent article Dan Cooper Shared his plugin chain for mixing lead vocals. We all have a different philosophy for mixing vocals, for me capturing the vocal right in the first place is essential, this mean choosing the right microphone, preamp and compressor. On most of my vocals I use the Sontronics Aria, Universal Audio 1176 and Apogee Ensemble, the 1176 will gently catch some of the peaks and add some character. Then we take a little time to choose singer position and technique, some of which will deal with EQ issues and vocal character.
In this article I'm going to share my vocal plug-in chain once I get to mix. Much of what you'll read here you can find written in other articles on this blog.
You'll see that I put both the EQ and Compressor in either insert A or B, this means I can listen to which way around sounds best.
Insert A or B - Waves Renaissance Vox
The jokes goes that "the trouble with making things idiots proof is that bigger idiots keep appearing." Setting the joke aside the Waves Renaissance Vox is perhaps the simplest most effective compressor for getting vocals levelled in a mix that I've come across.
It makes no claims about character, it's a simple 'meat and potatoes' compressor and expander gate for cleaning up and levelling vocals, there's not a lot more to say than that.
I'm sure there's someone out there who could fill several pages of a forum with reasons not to use this plug-in - I'll let them continue with their writing aspirations and continue to use this baby.
Insert A or B - Maag EQ4
The Maag EQ4 is for me the closest thing I've found to using a real analogue console, using it is a dream with the EQ responding to even the smallest nudge and so musical! Sweet, creamy, airy, gutsy are all words that I could use to describe it and why you'll find this EQ all over my mixes. I mainly use the Maag EQ4 to add some bite and air to to the vocal.
Insert C - Fabfilter Pro DS
The Fabfilter Pro DS is for me the most effective DeEsser around, it is incredibly powerful and yet if you wish can simply be strapped across the channel, hit and preset and it works. Some DeEssers tend to do weird things to the sound and can make some vocalist sound like they have speech issues, not so with the Fabfilter Pro DS, it is extremely transparent.
Insert D - Exponential Audio R2
What the hell you ask - you use a reverb as an insert? Yes I do, partly because the only thing my vocal reverb will sit on is the lead vocal so why bother with a send? Even better Exponential Audio plugins are so efficient there's little need to put it on a send to save CPU. Best of all the the Exponential Audio R2 is for me the best sounding reverb around, except for perhaps the PhoenixVerb, it's counterpart real rooms reverb. The only time I would use the reverb on the send is if I want to put a filter across the inputs then I'll throw a McDSP F202 filter in front of it and roll off the bottom and top before I hit the reverb.
You'll see no autotune across my vocal inserts, that's because the only time I'll use autotune is the to do minor forensic changes to the vocal rather than strap it across an entire performance. As I said at the start of this article my philosophy is to get the vocal right at the tracking stage and then use plugins for minor adjustments and creative mix ideas.
So that is my vocal plug-in chain but you may not agree. Please do share your thoughts and your vocal plug-in chains.