Vocals are some of the trickiest sounds to record, and some of the most difficult to work with in post-production. Our ears are so attuned to the nuances of the human voice that a sub-standard vocal recording stands out like a sore thumb, even to the most untrained ears.
There are countless plugins on the market today that claim to work wonders on vocals, and many of those really can add a noticeable polish and presence to vocal recordings, while cleaning up the rogue frequencies and transients that are the mark of an imperfect take.
Today we’re focusing on two powerful plugins from Oeksound that excel at doing just that: soothe2 and spiff. These two versatile tools are useful for a broad range of applications in music production and mix engineering, but in the video above, we’re going to explore how they can be utilised in vocal production.
soothe2 is a dynamic EQ that’s capable of identifying problematic resonances through spectral processing techniques, automatically attenuating these intrusive frequencies to produce a clean, clear and balanced sound.
Spiff operates in a similar fashion, but it’s aimed at controlling transients - after analysing the incoming signal, it automatically applies precise processing to transients that require it, taming these without producing any side effects or unwanted artefacts. Together, these two can be used to subtly but effectively polish and improve a vocal recording, aiding in the overall mixing process.
Let’s take a look at how it’s done. In the video above, we’re working with a vocal line that’s been recorded at close proximity. Immediately after applying soothe2, even with factory settings enabled, we can hear a difference - the vocal sounds smoother and less harsh. By applying soothe2’s delta setting, we’re able to hear the difference between the wet and dry signal, getting a sense of the frequencies that are being altered by the plugin.
Moving up into soothe2’s preset menu, we’re able to explore a range of presets designed specifically for vocal production. Experimenting with these, in conjunction with the depth control, is a great way to find a setting that works for the particular recording you’re working with.
Next, we apply spiff to the same vocal take. This plugin’s great at dealing with problematic transients, which often plague vocal recordings, taking the form of pops, clicks and stray noises that can become a real problem if they’re not approached with care. Once again, we’re taking a look at spiff’s preset menu, which contains presets designed specifically for this application, such as the one we try out for removing mouth clicks.
This immediately results in a cleaner, smoother sound. By hitting the delta button within spiff, we can hear exactly what the transients that it’s identified sound like by themselves - this is a hugely useful feature, enabling producers to not only see on an equalizer, but also hear directly what’s causing issues with their source sounds.
After polishing our vocal take with spiff and soothe2, we applied a few other effects to the sound to give you a sense of how a vocal treated with these plugins might sound in the context of your productions. This resulted in a warm, pro-sounding vocal take that was full of character, making it clear that these two powerful tools are capable of vastly improving the sound of vocal recordings by tackling problematic resonances and rogue transients with ease.