Vocal FX plugins can really elevate the quality of your songs. However, we’re not sure if it’s just us, but there are times when we’re pretty overwhelmed at how many vocal “tricks” and “tips” there are out there (especially when you look for video tutorials or even recommendations like you did for how got here to this article). Not only when it comes to mixing vocals but applying some FX to your vox tracks, such as EQ, compression and more. Since we needed to cure our anxiety with how many “effects” VST plugins were flooded out there, we collected our favorites today for you all.
Finding the right vocal effects for you
Here are some of our favorite types of vocal FX plugins that are available today. You may need a particular FX type, or perhaps just want to browse around and see what you didn’t know you needed.
- EQ plugins: The equalizer (EQ) is an essential plug-in as it widens, narrows, or adjusts the frequency curve in a track. It also allows some frequencies to be boosted or cut to refine the music and vocals. We recommend always cutting lower frequencies from vocals, or just experimenting on your own when it comes to getting that track sounding right for you. These are powerful and help you carve out little resonances you don’t want or perhaps boost in your vox regardless of where they are in the frequency spectrum.
- Vocal correction: Just like the name refers, there are plenty of FX plugins for vocals out there that allow you to adjust and correct the pitch of your words. It doesn’t necessarily have to be super blatant like the radio — with many of these you can use small adjustments to help make it that much better.
- Compression FX: The compressor reduces dynamic range. The dynamics in a piece of music or vocal recording is the range between the loudest and softest parts. To manage the dynamics in a recording, you need to bring about the desired balance between vocals and instruments. They typically help fatten up your vox, or help get rid of peaks and valleys for a more even sound.
- Sibilance correction: Sibilance refers to “s”, “p” and “t” noises that sometimes become magnified with microphones. You can use plug-ins to reduce those so they’re not as blatant.
- Reverb effects: Reverb plug-ins are used to ensure that the recording sounds more natural and like it was recorded somewhere other than a studio. The reverb types a sound engineer can choose from include room, hall, chamber, and ambiance reverb.
The best vocal FX plugins
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3
Even the most demanding of sound engineers will heap high praise on the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 plug-in for its extensive EQ capabilities. With a raft of endorsements and awards, Pro-Q 3 has been recognized as one of the best vocal effects plug-ins currently on the market, in particular in the EQ realm. We use this thing on every single track, no doubt about it. This vox plug-in offers full surround sound support, featuring an intelligent speaker selection option. It has up to 24 EQ bands, making it capable of providing impressive sound quality without many limits. The Pro-Q 3 has an interactive EQ display that is easy to interpret and operate, one of our favorites being that it can show us the frequencies of a track real-time as it plays.
We have multiple band selection and editing ably assist with the mixing and mastering process. An additional feature the Pro-Q 3 plug-in offers is optimized CPU usage. It uses minimal CPU and memory, freeing up space for multiple applications (there are times we’ve used this on 30+ tracks at once). The equalizer is a standard tool of the sound engineering trade, and it is essential that the user has access to the type of quality the Pro-Q 3 provides. By far the best vocal effects VST if you need an amazing EQ plugin.
It’s a bit trivial for many when it comes to ‘correcting’ vocals. Some say they can’t live without and that ‘everyone does it!’, while many scoff at the fact that people even think about adjusting their vocals and say it’s “cheating”. This will depend on your opinion of course, but today this is our first recommendation because of how effective it can be (yes we’ve used it). We don’t necessarily mean that you need to completely T-Pain your vocal tracks, but Melodyne really does help just give some of your vocals a little boost (even if it’s just a few words). Our quesiton is this — why not?
With that being said, here is some more information on the vocal FX software. Melodyne has a unique ability to analyze and understand the nature of your music (both instrumental and vocal). Representing notes as blobs instead of waves, this plugin allows the user to drill down to specific portions of the track that need correction. The editor enhances musical quality, including pitch, vibrato, and timing. They can make alternations that improve the end product but do so without affecting the natural tone of the music — it’s not going to sound unnatural if you gently nudge some of the blobs. Catering to its users’ diverse needs, Celemony Melodyne can be used via ARA or as a plug-in in a DAW but can also be operated as a stand-alone program. It’s definitely ranked in as one of the best vocal VST plugins in the world right now to many musicians, both bedroom and pro.
Acon Digital Multiply Chorus
Acon Digital Multiply provides a chorus effect to your music without compromising its integrity. By adding simulated voices to the music, you can both widen and deepen the spatial image you aim to create. Multiply allows you to add up to six simulated voices to your track, adding a powerful chorus effect to it. The voices can be modulated individually to adjust the pitch and dynamics, allowing it to blend in authentically with your track. The integrated equalizer provides additional value as its filters enhance music quality, leading users to regard it as one of the most powerful and best vocal VST FX products available today.
Multiply is compatible with Windows (PC) in a 32 and 64 version, while the macOS version is 64 bit. It is super user-friendly and provides the user with a versatile set of options to explore. The interface allows for easy yet impact interaction with the original track on top of it all.
Let’s talk about actually warping those vocal tracks. Think of Dr. Dre’s “California Love”, or a myriad of other times you’ve heard those synthy vox in a hit song. On the product’s auto mode, you can make real-time pitch alterations and include additional voices and harmonies onto the track. The MIDI mode helps the user control the track’s pitch and develop unique vocal harmonies, while the side chain mode gives the user the opportunity to come up with new innovative sounds to use as part of the artist’s signature sound. VocalSynth gives the user a myriad of options for editing their music to enhance its quality, including adding body to a vocal track with realistic doubles and synthesis developed around the human voice. You can either make it super obvious for a nice effect like something robotic, or perhaps just a touch on a few layer to give it some layers.
As part of iZotope’s software suite, VocalSynth has inter-plug-in interaction capabilities, allowing it to function alongside and together with elements of their other plug-ins if you have them. This feature helps to automate mixing and mastering as the plug-ins work in concert, giving VocalSynth its reputation as one of the best vocal effects plug-ins on the market. A great vocal plugin to add to your repertoire.
Boz Digital Hoser XT
If you are looking to enhance sound quality without sacrificing analog sound, the Boz Digital Hoser XT will allow you to have your cake and eat it, too. Balancing a foray into the world of digital enhancement while staying true to original analog sound might sound like an impossible task but this is a great EQ plug that also processes your sound quite uniquely.
It is a fine line that the Hoser XT manages to walk without compromising either side. The additional advantage of the Hozer XT is that it uses minimal processing power, thereby allowing you to use other plug-ins with it. Most users rate Boz products, including the Hoser XT, as their favorite plug-ins, saying that it delivers everything that it promises and more, especially when using it to process left and right channels separately, thereby allowing them to add stereo width to mono tracks. You also get three channel modes. One of our favorite EQ vocal FX plugins out there at the moment.
iZotope’s Nectar features something called ‘Vocal Assistant’, which analyzes the content of a vocal performance. The analysis is used to generate an effects preset that is tailored to the unique qualities of the voice and the instrumentals of your track. By unmasking the vocals and putting them at the forefront of the track, ‘Vocal Assistant’ moves competing components of the mix to the rear, giving you a chance to focus on the voice.
Adjustment properties you can expect from iZotope’s Nectar include an equalizer, pitch corrector, compression, reverb and modulator. You can also use its compressor feature to add new character to the vocals or de-ess. Using the harmony function, up to four additional voices can be included on the track, customized according to the vocal performance. As a package, Nectar and its Vocal Assistant packs a powerful punch.
The FabFilter Pro-DS is a vocal de-esser plug-in. A de-esser is a tool used by sound engineers for reducing sibilance and harsh high-frequency sounds that will detract from the finalized track. Sibilance is commonly caused when an ‘ess’ or ‘shh’ sound is made during a vocal recording, although a ‘t’ sound can also produce it. A plug-in like the Pro-DS goes a long way in limiting sibilance so that it does not ruin a vocal performance.
Famous sound engineers, including Grammy Award-winners, have endorsed Pro-DS as one of the best vocal FX plug-ins they have ever used. They have cited the intelligent detection algorithm for annoyances in vocal tracks the plug-in uses as one of its best features. Pro-DS also offers an ‘Allround’ mode, which facilitates the limiting of high-frequency sounds, including those produced by percussion instruments like drums. Despite the complex nature of the plug-in, its interface makes it user-friendly. We could write an entire article on FabFilter’s plug-ins.
Antares Auto-Tune Pro
When using Auto-Tune Pro, expect pitch correction that few other plug-ins can offer. We know there has always been debate about this concept when it comes to making music, so again we’ll just leave it up to our reader’s opinions. Like Melodyne however, it doesn’t need to be over the top like some radio songs protrude. Whether using it for making minor alterations to some missed notes or polishing a whole track, Auto-Tune Pro will meet your needs in our opinion. The reason that Auto-Tune Pro is widely regarded as one of the best voice FX plug-ins on the market is that it allows sound engineers to work more efficiently, thereby saving time.
Their newest ‘Auto-Key’ plug-in detects the key and scale of the song itself and applies it to the entire track if you instruct it to. You can also opt to apply pitch correction only where you feel it is necessary. An additional feature is the time correction features, which can either repair minor glitches or reset the timing of an entire track while not requiring you to record it again. For natural-sounding pitch adjustment, Auto-Tune Pro offers outstanding quality and value for money and it can definitely be something to keep in your pocket if you ever need it, albeit even for a little bit.
Synchro Arts Revoice Pro
When you’re working with pitch and timing issues in a recording, Revoice Pro 4 can become your go-to solution. This plug-in uses advanced technology to bring pitch and timing in line, enhancing both music and vocal recordings. This is because using Revoice Pro 4 is quick and easy, and it can save a lot of editing time. One of its best features is the APT (Audio Performance Transfer) that allows timing, pitch, and vibrato qualities from one recording be applied to another. While you can apply pitch and timing corrections to an entire track, you can also designate some parts of it as protected regions that should not be subject to alterations.
The Doubler helps you engineer authentic-sounding mono and stereo double tracks or delve deeper into modulating the style effects of the recording. A lot of well-known professional sound engineers have rated it as one of the best vocal effect plug-ins they have ever used.
Compression is used by audio engineers to reduce the range of dynamics in a piece of music, especially a vocal recording. Dynamics refers to the range between the loudest and softest sounds in the recording. Tweaking the dynamics can bring the musical elements together so that none dominate and drown the others out. Using only an input and output knob, the DC1A offers various compression features. And, best of all, it’s free, which gets it a lot of votes as the best vocal FX plug-in from many users.
While you will find more complex and expensive plug-ins, Klanghelm DC1A offers the user a lot of options. You can compress the left and right channel separately, adjust negative compression, and use a high pass filter which takes out a lot of the pumping on heavy bass. This plug-in is available for Windows and macOS and is a worthwhile addition to any sound engineer’s toolbox.
More information on vocal effects software
Using VST (Virtual Studio Technology), you can use audio effects and virtual instruments, including vocals, to enhance the quality of your music. By using plug-ins, you can improve or overhaul a recording. Sound engineers around the world use these plug-ins to perfect the tracks they have recorded.
When using vocal plug-ins, you can add voices to a recording, create and include different sounds, or make corrections to imperfections that reveal themselves during the recording process. The vocal elements of a track include pitch, dynamics, harmony, and tempo. When these elements do not align, a recording won’t sound quite right. Instead of getting everyone together to record the track, you can use plug-ins to bring the musical elements in line and working in synchronicity.
In regards to what these actually are, a plug-in is a piece of digital software that permits a sound engineer to use audio effects, edit musical elements, or include virtual instruments on a recorded piece of music. Here are some examples:
Vocal processing plug-ins can correct pitch, volume, and reverb. The autotune plug-in will correct the recording based on the song key, scale, vocal register, and vibrato. Virtual instrument plug-ins allow for the inclusion of different instruments into a recording, such as drums, synthesizers, and keyboards.
VST plug-ins are usually designed with compatibility in mind, meaning that they work with Windows or macOS. Most of them feature interactive screens that make using them easier. However, that doesn’t mean that the user will have success on the first attempt. The application of VST plug-ins can add a powerful element to the final product but mixing and mastering using these plug-ins requires a lot of learning and practice.
The type of plug-ins needed to enhance music quality will depend largely on the requirements of the music and vocals. There is a variety of products for amateur and professional sound engineers alike to choose from and experiment with. The limiting factor might be how much you’re prepared to spend, as the prices range from very affordable to top-level expensive products.
For beginners, it is best to start with some very basic, elementary and inexpensive plug-ins to get a feel for how they work before making a commitment to spend a lot of money. It is advisable to check for companies that offer a free trial on their products or allow the user to upgrade to more complex software as the need arises. We hope this guide helped!