Working with VO: Equalization!
When it comes to process VO, one of the most important effects is the equalizer. In this post I want to show you some basic tips which might help to get the sound you want.
The first question you have to ask yourself is: what do you want to do with an eq? In radio production, you generally want to use an eq to boost the voice for a sound that stands out from the rest of the mix and is clearly audible.
Or you want to use an eq to improve bad recordings. I found a short article on the german production magazine delamar, which brings it to the point. There are five basic tips for eq usage:
- If you want your VO to sound better, use the EQ to cut frequencies.
- If you want your VO to sound different, use the EQ to boost frequencies.
- You can’t boost frequencies, which are actually not present.
- Cut with high Q factor.
- Boost with small Q factor.
When we try to create a certain VO there is one important thing you should never forget: each voice is different and needs different equalization. Here at benztown we have tracks with individual processing for each VO talent we work with. Nevertheless over the years some guidelines came out, which help you to find the right tone. Delamar wrote a great article about this. Here’s a summary of their post:
Your VO sounds a bit too harsh and hard!
A narrow peak filter (high Q) between 2.5khz and 4khz might help in here. Try to sweep through your material and find the right region.
You want your VO to sound more airy and open?
Try to add a high shelf from 6khz and higher. But don’t overdo that. With some additional “radio eq” settings, it might get too much.
You want your VO to sound smoother or softer?
Use a narrow peak filter (high Q) and attenuate frequencies around 1-2kHz, for a few db.
• Bass or stage rumble!
Sometimes your VO talent creates some kind low frequency noise to the recording, called stage rumble. To get rid of this rumble add a decent filter around 60Hz, should work fine. It’s also important to know that cutting frequencies, that are redundant, creates space for other sounds. For the human voice this usually means below 100Hz, for male, female up to 200Hz, there’s not much going on. This helps to embed the VO into the full mix.
Your VO needs more warmth and body?
Use a slight push around 200 Hz up to the lower mids, helps to give your VO some extra warmth. But again, don’t overdo it.
The VO sounds too nasal
This is often a mic placement problem. But a high q attenuation around 800 Hz might help.
Your VO is hard to understand
I would say this problem is a combination of different things. But nevertheless it helps to push certain frequencies to improve intelligibility. Presence can be boosted around 3kHz and you might understand the VO better if you boost the range between 5-6kHz.
The VO sits on top of the mix and is not a part of it.
Sometimes it helps cut some db between 100Hz and 250Hz.
There is too much sibilance and sharpness
S-Sounds are in a frequency range around 6-8kHz, try to attenuate these frequencies.
In general, if your VO needs some “beauty corrections” I recommend using two eqs: One to correct the stuff, and another to add radio feeling and tweak the sound itself. But again: Each Voice is unique, so you need to experiment with the settings to get the right sound you want.