Warming a Vocal with Compression | iZotope Nectar

Welcome back. I’m going to be looking at using a compressor in a mix to get the vocal sitting nice in the track and give it some extra character.

That’s the first thing I want to say about compressors, they generally have two uses. One is an effect type use where you compress the vocal really hard, bringing out the breathiness and the warmth of the vocal. It’s very close and has a lot of presence in it. Some people really like that.

The other way is to use it to limit the vocal, which evens out different volume levels in the performance, making it easier to sit it in the mix. They’re both very useful things to be able to do with compressors.

Often, the second use is called a limiter.

I’m just going to put this in single compressor mode for a second. A cup of wisdom would suggest if you set it to 50 to one or 20 to one and above, it’s working as a brick wall limiter.

So I just put this vocal on now. Here, you can see on the amplitude of the waveform in Pro Tools that the volume of the piece changes as louder bits and softer bits. What compressors are often used for is to smooth them out, and there’s a perfect example there. Just grab that for a second.

[vocals]

But if we just compressed it, what would happen is we’d just end up squashing this.

[vocals]

If we turn the auto-gain on, it’s like makeup gain is what they call it.

[vocals]

So that helps with the leveling, so if you’ve done a lot of compression, really compressed it hard…

[vocals]

And turned it off…

[vocals]

You can hear that changing.

Turn the auto-gain on.

Starts to level it out.

Now the other effect is that you can pull the ratio back down. Something like four to one for now. You can even type that in if you want. Double-click there and put four in if you want.

[vocals]

I’ve set the threshold to quite a tough threshold. The threshold determines where the compressor is going to start. If it’s off, there’s no compression, but if you start pulling it down, we can see the compressor working there in red.

So if you put that on hard now, and we go to the beginning of the track again with a lower ratio.

[vocals]

Here are those breaths. Really sucking in now as she goes for it.

Turn that back off again for a second.

It just extenuates that.

[vocals]

So what I want to do is get some character in the voice first, which I’m going to do in this section.

[vocals]

I’ve got a balance control too, so that’s all compressor. That’s all original. Which is nice, but if you did an extreme one, which we talked about before with the fifty to one…

[vocals]

You can really hear that pumping. There’s the original.

But I want something not as extreme as that, so back to four to one.

Now, the release time is the time it takes for the compressor to return once it’s gone below the threshold of what’s triggering it.

[vocals]

We can hear some stuttering there, and you get all that suckiness through it. I want it quite smooth, so I’m going to put the release time up a bit.

And again, if you have the attack time too fast, it looses all the edge of the sound, which is called the transient front end.

[vocals]

I’m going to set that so it’s working, and you can see it triggering, but not too extreme, and not too long, then it doesn’t work at all. Too long and it’ll just miss stuff. It’ll take it right up there to…

[vocals]

Catching further on in the sound, but we want it…

[vocals]

Now what we can also do is add a second compressor in for parallel compression.

So what I’m going to do now is I’m going to set this up to get rid of some of the sibilant top end, some of the bright, harsh top end in her voice and make it warm. I’ve set it up already.

[vocals]

Now, the reason I can do that is because I’m working with the filter, and the filter works with the compressor, and the filter actually determines how the compressor is going to work.

[vocals]

So if you can increase it, it works like an expander. I don’t want to do that, you can see there’s clipping going on there. I just want to warm this vocal up.

[vocals]

I’m using the optical compressor so it has preset ratio. If you actually want to change the ratio and use it like a brick wall limiter…

[vocals]

You could do that. It sounds like a vintage…

[vocals]

We’ve got this other one here.

[vocals]

Lots of character. Now, the cool thing is we can use both of these and vary between them to get these two vocal sounds working together.

[vocals]

A bit warmer.

Yeah, it’s nice and creamy now. Lovely.

[vocals]

Change that a little bit more.

You can hear it there. Hear that again.

[vocals]

There’s the original.

Bit more of the other compressor.

[vocals]

It’s just a case of gently matching the threshold until we’ve got what we want.

I love these vintage and optical settings. They’re really nice.

[vocals]

[mix]

Let’s take those backing vocals down a bit.

[mix]

Now we can push the gain up here as well.

[mix]

We won’t be afraid to do that. As long as you’re not clipping.

[mix]

Now you can hear the vocals nice and present in the mix now. It’s not varying as much as it was.

[mix]

So back to the beginning of the track.

[mix]

Put the reverb on.

[mix]

We’ve got no EQ on that at the moment. We can add that in as well. You can see that just by using the compressors, you can do a lot. You can get a real good vocal with nice tone that sits well in the mix.

Of course, if it’s been recorded with a really nice microphone as this has, we can warm it up, we can clean it up, we can give it some real body and shape so it sits well in the mix.

So one more time.

[mix]

So you can hear there’s some real body and tone in that voice now that’s sitting in the mix.

Thanks for watching.

iZotope

iZotope

iZotope develops award-winning audio software and plug-ins for mixing, mastering, restoration, and more. Learn more at iZotope.com.
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