There are fewer sounds more satisfying to a producer or engineer than that of a well recorded vocal take. Lots of styles and genres of music rely heavily on vocals as their focal point, and a good take can turn a good song into a great song. Today we’ve compiled a list of some of the best VST plugins for recording vocals in your home studio setup. You can use each of the devices below to create a stellar effect rack for quick access, or utilize each independently for more precise audio treatment.
Fab-Filter is incredibly popular for releasing simple, sleek and very powerful VSTs. The Pro-Q 3 is the latest installment of their EQ series and boasts some very effective sound shaping properties.
Quite possibly the most stunning function on the Pro-Q 3 is it’s dynamic EQ. Dynamic EQ allows you to place notches along your signal response that aren’t fixed in place. Sometimes too much EQ can lead to a vocal take sounding a bit static or restricted, especially during reductive EQ. However the Pro-Q 3’s dynamic eq gives your added bands some extra breathing room, which makes vocal takes sound a lot more life-like and less robotic.
Pro -Q 3 comes with a handful of unique added features like the Spectrum Grab and EQ match functions. The device also has a solo mode, mid/side processing and comes with a healthy selection of presets to help kickstart your mixing process. Like other EQ’s you can use Fab-Filter on just about any element in your mix, but it’s ultra precise feedback and dynamic capabilities make it a dream for recording vocals at home.
Soothe has become synonymous in the bedroom producer world for being the go-to for cleaning up harsh or noisy vocal takes. Soothe is punted as a harmonic resonance suppressor, which essentially makes it a very powerful eq and multiband compressor that works across the entire frequency spectrum. The plugin is perfect for getting rid of sibilance, but it can also do so much more.
The spectral analyzer on Soothe’s interface provides real-time feedback on your signal’s frequency response. Using the visualiser allows you to zone in on problem areas that may cause your signal to sound boxy, boomy or overly sharp. Soothe is also great for eliminating the muddiness caused by vocalists singing too close to the mic (known as the proximity effect). The recently updated version now features a soft mode for less obvious reductions, as well as an optional sidechain mode for added dynamic. All in all, Soothe is a simple but highly effective tool for ensuring that all your vocal takes maintain a consistent clarity.
Home recorded vocals can often lack sufficient body or depth, especially if they are captured in an environment with minimal sound treatment. Thankfully, Orchid by WA Production provides the perfect tool for strengthening and coloring any dull or lacklustre vocal takes. Users should also take very little time learning to navigate the alluring GUI.
Orchid is an expansive chorus module and sounds great whether you use it minimally or with all the dials turned up. The overall feel of the processing can be likened to a lot of the vibrant 80’s pop vocal textures. Regular chorus units usually only create a double of your audio signal, where Orchid quadruples it. This results in some seriously full and punchy vocal mixes that still blend quite cohesively with other mix elements. The Orchid designers were even generous enough to add in some extra spatial effects for extra modulation, namely a delay, reverb, shimmer and filter controls. Orchid makes weak vocal sound strong, and makes strong vocals sound godly. Highly recommended for singers across the board.
Abbey Road is one the most revered and respected recording studios in all of music history. Many engineers and designers have tried to replicate the magic that comes out of the rooms and processing units. The Reel ADT by Waves is one of the finer examples of these emulations. Designed alongside legendary engineer Butch Vig (the man behind producing Nirvana), the plugin focuses on creating the same textures generated by reel-to-reel tape machines.
ADT stands for Artificial Double Tracking, a technique that was pioneered at Abbey Road in the 1960’s for use on The Beatles’ albums. The Waves Reel ADT does a great job of recreating the signature saturation that made the Abbey Roads unit so popular. The plugin gives vocals a rich analogue texture that can sometimes be lost when using simple home recording setups. Users can teak specific parameters to introduce lush wow and flutters into their vocal chain. These kinds of modulations sound fantastic on airy vocals or when subtly used on backing vocals and doubles.
Melodyne is a pitch correction tool that superbly pulls vocal takes into key without making them sound overly processed. The device allows you to see the transients of your vocal takes on a pitch-grid. Using basic mouse controls, users can pull or stretch specific areas of their vocal takes into their correct pitch position. The click and drag mechanism used in Melodyne is a lot more intuitive than other auto-tune devices, and also provides users with a much higher degree of pitch-correction control.
Melodyne’s greatest asset is it’s crisp and clear processing. The device works well to maintain the natural expressions generated by singers even after drastic pitch corrections. Users can set the relative key and mode of the track they;re working on manually, and there is an on-board tuning display for easy reference. Melodyne is straightforward, and exceptionally easy to learn, which makes it a great option for producers at any experience level.
It’s very rare that a producer has quick access to a top quality studio for every spark of inspiration that finds them. The plugins above work wonderfully for these moments and give both composers and producers generous leverage for generating clean, character filled vocal recordings. Every VST listed above should provide a strong foundation to record and treat a diverse range of vocals, from rap and singing to group vocals and adlibs. You can also use these devices on a ton of other mix elements to create some interesting soundscapes of your own.