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Using Track Assistant in Neutron Elements

Sometimes, a vocal could use a bit of an extra push from some effects or processing to really open it up and let it breath in the middle of a busy, crowded mix.

Take for instance, this vocal, which is beautifully recorded, but could perhaps benefit from some clarity, because right now it sounds a little boxy. I’m going to solo it.


Now drop it back into the mix.


So I think the solution here is to use Track Assistant to really bring this vocal to the next level.

First step, we have to go to Track Assistant here and go to the dropdown menu and choose a preset. I’m going to go with Warm and Open, and now when I’m ready, I’ll press track assistant, and what’s going to happen is it’s going to listen to the incoming signal and make some choices based on what it’s hearing, and apply some choices to the modules, EQ, compressor, and exciter. It’s all going to happen in the background.

And it’s done. Now, before we dig into the changes, I want you to notice Neutrino over here on the bottom right. So this has intelligently figured out that this is a sung vocal, so now we can apply some spectral shaping if we want to really sculpt this vocal.

Getting back to the modules, Track Assistant on an EQ level has made some adjustments. First, it decided to high pass this vocal, which makes sense, because a woman is singing, and there’s little to no important low frequency information worth highlighting in this case. If anything, high passing allows us to get rid of some low end information from the vocal that might interfere with a bass or something else in the mix.

It’s also made a sharp cut at around 1.5kHz, which might have helped get rid of some of that boxiness that I mentioned earlier. I’m going to make a little adjustment myself, and add a little bit of air to the vocal by engaging this node, which is going to be a shelf EQ. So watch what happens when I bring this up here. It’s going to add some air.

Basically, what a shelf EQ does is it boosts frequencies past a certain cutoff point, but the bottom line for us, the takeaway for us is that it’s going to add some sparkle and some air. Listen as I bypass this move that I made as the vocal plays.



So to my ears, with the preset on the equalizer the Track Assistant brought in, plus that high EQ shelf, it really opens up this track from an EQ perspective.

Next up is the compressor. Now, Track Assistant has done a fairly conservative job here compressing this vocal. We have -29dB on the threshold, 10 milliseconds on the attack, 1200 on the release, and to be honest, I’m going to leave the compressor settings where they are, because I’m happy with the job that track assistant did, and I know that this vocal already went through a lot of compression before I started working on it with Neutron Elements. But a little bit of compression doesn’t hurt to sort of even this vocal out even further.

So next up is the exciter. And exciter adds harmonic distortion to an audio signal. It accentuates and enhances audio already present, and it can provide a simple, perceptual boost in presence, or a completely overdriven sound, saturated with loud additional harmonics. So Track Assistant chose a defined setting here on the top, which delivers a gentle high frequency bump, and it chose a drive value of 10dBs.

Now, drive controls the amount of excitation we’re getting. Over here, it’s gone with the tape algorithm, which delivers a brighter sounding array of odd harmonics, typical of the saturation imparted by magnetic tape, but without crosstalk, wow, hiss, flutter, all that stuff that might ruin your mix.

It’s gone with a blend setting of 20%. Now, blend adjusts the balance between the dry unprocessed and the wet processed signal. So I’m going to push this up a little bit, just to really drive this tape algorithm home, because I like it a lot.

Now let’s do some before and afters. First soloed, then in the mix on this vocal.

[vocals, before and after exciter]

Now let’s drop it back into the mix, and we’ll do some before and afters there.

[music, before and after processing]

So with Track Assistant in Neutron Elements, we can give this vocal the push it needs to really stand out in the mix.




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