When it’s time to mix a singer, you should be armed with some of the best vocal plugins you can get your hands on! We’ll be looking at some staples—dynamics processing and EQ—that really shine on vocal tracks.
Of course, this is only a fraction of the many incredible plugins out there, but the samples we’ve chosen are right at home in any vocal chain. Feel free to add your own go-to vocal plugins in the comments section, too!
A dynamics processor designed specifically for vocals. Its simple and streamlined controls make it an excellent vocal compressor, gate/expander, or limiter. For quick and easy results, give the RVox a go!
An absolute must-have and one of the best vocal plugins for saving yourself time and frustration.
The Vocal Rider was designed to be a time-saver by adjusting a vocal’s levels automatically. By setting a target vocal level for your mix, the plugin compensates intelligently by raising or lowering the signal’s gain. It also won’t color your track at all, so you don’t have to worry about any unwanted tonal changes when applying it.
Combined with traditional compression, the Vocal Rider is an extremely powerful and convenient tool.
Every vocal can be enhanced with a bit of de-essing. This specialized sibilance attenuator allows you to reduce undesirable high frequencies surgically, while preserving the sparkle and musicality of the source.
Oeksound calls their plugin a “Dynamic Resonance Suppressor.” It takes any frequency that seems like it’s peaking just a little bit too much and dominating the sound.
How many times have you heard a vocal and thought to yourself, “It’s all nasal, or it’s super piercing 3K, or there’s a lot of low-mid building up!” Soothe can intelligently tame these unpleasant frequencies without compromising the overall vocal tonality. It’s certainly one of the best vocal plugins we’ve come across in recent years!
One of the most famous and widely used FET limiting amplifiers of all time. It’s tremendous on vocals, whether you’re using the real thing or one of many plugin emulations. The UAD version is especially great.
When it’s time to reach for one of the best vocal plugins, go for an 1176. It’s super fast, capable of taming the sharpest transients in the source material. The 1176 also has a desirable sonic character, making it a go-to for many of the best mixers in the world.
It’s definitely not transparent, but its character adds a ton of mojo to your vocals. The all-buttons-in mode can be really cool for some parallel compression too!
For a cool tube-y sound, you can’t go wrong with an LA-2A. I keep both an 1176 and a 2A (plugins) on my vocal buss, with the latter applying just a bit of glue and tube character at the end of the chain. And that’s what it tends to do best.
Its controls are simple: a Peak Reduction knob to control gain reduction and a Gain Control knob to add make-up gain. At the risk of sounding cliche, the LA-2A does add an analogue warmth to vocals that sounds incredible.
Hands down, Pro Q is one of the best EQ plugins around. The real-time frequenter analyzer is such a time-saver you’ll wonder how you could have ever used an EQ without it! Pro Q 3 is a dynamic EQ as well, meaning you can use it like a multiband compressor to duck specific frequencies when they get a little too out of control without cutting them altogether.
Pro Q is an industry-standard equalizer and certainly worth picking up for your collection.
UAD’s Pultec EQP-1A is absolutely incredible on vocals. I keep it on my main vocal bus, mainly to carve out the 100, 200, and 300 Hz areas and also add a bit of air at 10 kHz. It’s one of the few plugins that takes a vocal from sounding totally unmixed to practically finished with just a few tweaks.
A channel strip is always fun to incorporate into your vocal chain. If you decide to use the dynamics section on the SSL with EQ, you can have a sort of “all-in-one” solution to mixing vocals.
The SSL E-Channel delivers the sound of the Solid State Logic 4000-series console’s all-discrete design and its Class A, VCA chip. The EQ section of the SSL E-Channel is based on the renowned Black Knob equalizer, developed in 1983 with legendary producer George Martin. It features a High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter, and a four-band parametric equalizer!
Even if you weren’t aware of it, you’ve heard the Maag Audio EQ4 on the vocals of artists ranging from Madonna to Celine Dion, and from the Black Eyed Peas to Snoop Dogg.
The AIR BAND interacts with the 5 band-pass EQs to tonally sculpt your tracks from top to bottom with transparency and top-end presence. The Maag Audio EQ4 is a musical EQ, not a surgical EQ, making it ideal for sweetening tracks.