While the current generation of plugin effects make it easier than ever to work raw vocal tracks up into spectacular, up-front musical centrepieces, ensuring that those source recordings are truly up to scratch is as important as ever. Here are five pointers to help keep your productions in fine voice…
Use the best mic and preamp you can get your hands on. As the old saying goes, ‘rubbish in, rubbish out’, and in this case, it means that the quality of your vocal recording will only ever be as good as the signal path through which its source material (the vocal) passes. It makes sense, then, to invest in as high quality a microphone as your budget will allow, and for studio work, that generally means a large diaphragm condenser, as opposed to a dynamic model. Dynamics are great for live work and singers at the more shouty end of the scale (ie, metal), thanks to their more rugged design and ability to handle excessive volume levels, but you’ll generally get more nuance and detail, and a broader frequency response from a condenser.
Equally, the preamps in your audio interface will contribute greatly to the sound of the recordings you make. By and large, it’s hard to find an interface from any premium brand that doesn’t sound great these days, but some incorporate dedicated circuitry for enhancing your vocal recordings that can be very effective. Universal Audio’s Unison system, found on their Apollo interfaces, for example, emulates a variety of classic analogue preamps, while the high-shelving Air function on many Focusrite interfaces can really add to the presence of any vocal. Be certain that you like the sounds of such things before you activate them, though, as once they’re baked into the recording, there’s no going back.
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