[linux-audio-user] How to get good vocal sound

Mark Knecht markknecht at gmail.com
Tue Dec 6 10:50:35 EST 2005

On 12/6/05, Bill Allen <bwanab+lau at juraview.com> wrote:
> I've been struggling with a technique problem. How do you get your
> vocals to sound good? I know that you can't make a silk purse from a
> sow's ear, but you can make the best of what you've got. What
> combination of plugins and settings do you use to get the best sound
> from vocals particularly in Ardour? I know that this is one of those
> subjective questions for which the best answer is try it out yourself
> and find what sounds best, but there are so many plugins (an
> embarassment of riches), each of which has many settings, that a brute
> force search of all the combinations would take forever - not to mention
> that after a while, my poor ears become exhausted with the effort and
> refuse to hear differences anymore. So what I'm really looking for is
> good starting points to work from.
> One combination that I like is GVerb to get depth and L/C/R Delay to get
> width. Even with those two getting the settings right takes time. For
> comunication, I've included a jack rack with some settings I've found
> that work OK. I would love your critiques and suggestions for other setups.
> Regards,
> Bill

Hi Bill,
   You've gotten some great answers already. I'll give mine which
probably approaches things quite a bit differently than the other
answers so far.

1) The #1 factor to a good vocal track is a good take. Everything we
do should be oriented toward that end.

2) Like Dave discussed about himself, many/most vocalists do not like
their voices in the dry, pristine studio environment. If you don't
like the way you are sounding then they don't perform well and we
break rule #1.

3) There is absolutely no need to use the same signal chain when
recording as when mixing. Many vocalists like far too much reverb on
their voice, but they give a better performance when using it.

4) Consider the following:

a) A good quality large diaphram condenser mic + pop screen. Make sure
it's mounted on a good stand with isolation.
b) As good preamp as you can afford
c) An external compressor such as the wonderful FMR Audio RNC1773 on a
fairly light setting. (For $170 everyone should have one or more of
these around. You'd be surprised how many times you'll use it if it's

At this point you go into your A/D for recording, but you also tee the
direct audio into an external reverb (if you have one) and take the
output of that reverb into your vocal monitoring signal chain. The
purpose of all of this is zero latency. Vocalists seem to be very
latentcy sensitive so reducing that is, in general, pretty important
for a good performance, and since you're not recording this reverb so
any setting that allows you to sing better works well. Sometimes way
too much external reverb is better as it takes the edge off the vocals
and lets the singer do their job better. If you use this direct audio
path when recording then remember NOT to monitor the recorded path or
you'll be hearing two copies.

If all this sounds like overkill then don't get me going about
external submix bus mixers! ;-)

Hope this helps,

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