Do you want incredible vocals, but aren’t sure what tools you need for the job?
You’re in luck.
Over my many years of mixing, I’ve tried out hundreds of premium plugins. Today, I decided to cut through the crap and give you my recommendations.
These are the greatest vocal plugins in 2021.
I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make your mixes sound professional. Well, you don’t need expensive gear or software to do that – you just need the right knowledge. We put together a brief training that covers a totally new approach to music production. Until now, everyone has been teaching production totally backward. Just click below to watch.
Get industry-quality every time (steal this framework)
I’m guessing you’re here because you want to make your mixes sound professional. Well, you don’t need expensive gear or software to do that – you just need the right knowledge.
We put together a brief training that covers a totally new approach to music production. Until now, everyone has been teaching production totally backward.
Just click below to watch.
But if you just want to learn about plugins for vocals, keep reading.
Do You Need New Gear?
QUICK TIP: You don’t necessarily need new plugins! How you use the plugins you have is 10 times more important than having expensive gear. Master your stock plugins before you upgrade.
Learning to use the gear you have now will make you a way better mixer.
That said, if you are good with your stock plugins, then upgrade away.
I can help you zero in on the plugins that work best for you.
Check it out:
What kind of plugin are you looking for?
What’s your budget?
Boz Digital Hoser XT ($149)The Hoser XT is great for many things, but what I use it for most is warmth. With a lot of digital EQs, boosting the low mids really muddies up your vocal. But the Hoser XT shines here, adding some of that smooth analog low end character. If your vocal is thin or shrill, the Hoser XT can help. Original Recording: With Hoser XT: Check out the Boz Digital Hoser XT here.
Softube Trident A-Range ($199)Modeled after the legendary Trident console, this analog EQ has an extremely smooth sound on vocals. The best word to describe it: musical. You can really push your boosts and cuts farther before it begins to sound overdone. Where I might boost a certain frequency by two or three dB’s on another EQ, I can easily boost it four or five on the A-Range. Plus, the saturation knob adds extra body and color to your vocal. Original Vocals: Processed Vocals: Check out the Softube Trident A-Range here.
Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 ($179)The Fabfilter Pro-Q 3 has become the industry standard for digital EQ. And it’s a well-deserved honor - this equalizer is maybe the most versatile and clean on the market. There’s not a lot you can’t do with the Pro-Q 3. You can create up to 24 bands, use their different slopes to sculpt a seemly-impossible EQ curve, and retain amazing sound quality the entire time. If you’re looking for an EQ to not only use on vocals, but on EVERYTHING, this is the one. Original Vocals: Processed Vocals: Check out the FabFilter Pro-Q 3 here.
PSP Audioware NobleQ ($69)The NobleQ is modeled after my favorite analog EQ unit of all time - the Pultec EQP-1. It’s really, really hard to make something sound bad with this piece of hardware. Use it on bass for some extra low end warmth. Use it on your snare for a little extra upper mids snap. For vocals, I use it to add a little high end presence. You can’t really go wrong with this one. Original Recording: With NobleQ: Check out the PSP NobleQ here.
Slate Revival (Free)I’m still shocked they give this one away for free. Slate’s Revival plugin is a simple shelf EQ - but don’t let that fool you. There’s some secret sauce inside that Slate won’t tell anyone. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it sounds amazing. I’ve used this for years to brighten up particularly dark vocals, and it works wonders. If your vocal sounds like it’s living under a blanket, Revival is for you. Original Recording: With Revival: Check out the Slate Revival here.
Fabfilter Pro-C 2 ($179)If you’re looking for a compressor to replace your DAW’s stock one, check out the Pro-C 2. The designers at Fabfilter have made one of the cleanest and most versatile digital compressors on the market. It can handle just about anything you throw at it. Plus, it has several compression algorithms, including one focused entirely on keeping your vocals upfront in the mix. If you’re looking for control, the Pro-C 2 is your best bet. Original Recording: With Pro-C2: Check out the FabFilter Pro-C 2 here.
Waves CLA Classic Compressors ($59-559)The CLA Classic Compressors consists of three plugins - the LA-2A, the LA-3A, and the 1176. These three compressors are some of the most commonly used of all time. Name any pro record - they probably used one of these compressors. The LA-3A is more tailored to vocals (in my opinion), and offers a slow, smooth character. It’s awesome. If you’re wanting aggression and excitement, the 1176 has some of the fastest attack times in the world. Try using its “all buttons in” mode on rock singers. Your mixes will thank you. QUICK TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy anything from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit. Original Recording: With LA-2A: With LA-3A: With 1176: Check out the CLA Classic Compressors here.
Cytomic The Glue ($99)Cytomic’s The Glue is modelled after the now-famous SSL-4000 bus compressor. That console’s bus compressor (nicknamed “The Glue”) has become legendary for sonically “gluing” tracks together. It’s best used on instrument busses, like drums, electric guitars, or (my favorite) background vocals. It’s also commonly used on the entire mix to tighten the whole song up. If you’re trying to make several recordings sound like one big instrument, try out The Glue. Original Recording: With The Glue: Check out Cytomic's The Glue here.
Klanghelm DC1A (Free)If you’re looking for something simple, consistent, and free, try the DC1A. It does exactly what you’re looking for - levels out your vocals while giving a little extra character to-boot. And it’s only two knobs! Try out the “Relaxed” mode for some smooth RMS compression on your vocals. Original Recording: With DC1A: Check out the Klanghelm DC1A here.
Fabfilter Pro-DS ($179)I love this thing. I’ve only used it for a short amount of time, but it’s become my go-to de-esser. It compresses your sibilance so cleanly that I hardly know it’s on. Plus, it has a solo button so that you can listen to ONLY the things being compressed. It’s a fantastic tool to make sure that you’re grabbing only sibilance and not extra notes. Original Recording: With Pro-DS: Check out the FabFilter Pro-DS here.
Eiosis E² De-Esser ($149)If you’re wanting versatility, this is the de-esser for you. The applications for the Eiosis E² go far beyond just vocal sibilance. They have several different algorithms to target voiceovers, guitar string squeaks, cymbals, and even mastering. The most creative part of the E² is what it compresses. You can create your own EQ curve, so that if the de-esser is triggered, several different frequencies are brought down by different amounts. It’s extremely powerful if you’re looking for total control. Original Recording: With Eiosis E²: Check out the Eiosis E² De-Esser here.
Waves Renaissance De-Esser ($29-79)The Waves Renaissance De-Esser wonderfully simple. With only a few sliders and buttons, it does the job quickly. While it’s not the cleanest de-esser on this list, it’s perfect for any producer who wants to “set it and forget it.” QUICK TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy anything from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit. Original Recording: With Renaissance De-Esser: Check out the Renaissance DeEsser here.
FabFilter Saturn ($149)Two words to describe the Saturn: warmth and thickness. Saturn does a great job of making thin sounds thick again. The Saturn is also great for adding more presence to your vocals. It has a multiband feature that allows you to only saturate the upper mids of a sound, leaving the rest untouched. If your vocals need a little extra life and character, this is a great unit to try. Original Recording: With Saturn: Check out the FabFilter Saturn here.
Waves Kramer Master Tape ($29-249)Despite being the less popular tape emulation from Waves, the Kramer is more versatile and fun to use on individual channels. Plus, it’s extremely simple. Adding excitement, warmth and character is possible in just a few knob turns. Just don't expect it to be an incredibly versatile plugin. Sometimes it's the perfect tool for the job, but not in every mix. QUICK TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy anything from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit. Original Recording: With Kramer Master Tape: Check out the Kramer Master Tape here.
Sonnox Oxford Inflator ($150)The Oxford Inflator is a unique plugin on this list. The point of its saturation isn’t to be audible, but rather to increase the perceived loudness of an instrument without increasing the actual volume. There’s some magic in this plugin that I don’t fully understand. If I’m mixing a vocal that I can’t keep from hanging around in the background, the Oxford Inflator brings it forward nearly instantly. It’s a fantastic problem solver. Original Recording: With Oxford Inflator: Check out the Sonnox Oxford Inflator here.
Klanghelm IVGI (Free)The IVGI rises well beyond its station as a free plugin. Most free saturation plugins are pretty low quality. The IVGI, however, brings subtle warmth and definition to vocals. It can also be a beast of a distortion plugin if you’re wanting more aggression. Original Recording: With IVGI: Check out Klanghelm IVGI here.
LiquidSonics Seventh Heaven Pro ($299)Seventh Heaven has meticulously recreated the sound of the Bricasti M7, a beloved reverb unit in studios all over the world. It’s smooth, warm, and most importantly: FULL. It really helps to thicken up a sound without being too obvious. Plus, the controls are simple, meaning you don’t have to get stuck in your reverb creation. Tweak your desired preset a little, and you’re good to go. Original Recording: With Seventh Heaven Pro: Check out Liquidsonics Seventh Heaven here.
Soundtoys Little Plate ($99)Less functionality than the Seventh Heaven but MUCH easier to use. And it sounds incredible. I love plugins like this that are easy to use but still sound great. This has been my go-to plate reverb for a while now. Original Recording: With Little Plate: Check out Soundtoys Little Plate here.
Valhalla Room Reverb ($50)For a long time this was my go-to reverb for my whole mix (I now use FabFilter Pro-R more often). However, it still appears on the vocals all the time. When you want a lush reverb tucked underneath the vocal, this plugin does the job. The tone is fantastic and the plugin is a joy to use. Try any room around 1-2 seconds - this is my go-to setting. Original Recording: With Valhalla Room: Check out the Valhalla Room here.
Voxengo OldSkoolVerb (Free)The Voxengo is fantastic if you’re looking for a free, simple reverb. You can easily (and quickly) create the sound you’re looking for. It’s even got reverb damping to allow you to shape the type of room you’re in. Original Recording: WIth OldSkoolVerb: Check out the Voxengo OldSkoolVerb here.
Soundtoys Echoboy ($199)Soundtoys Echoboy is the industry standard for a reason. It's got it any delay you could possibly want - especially if you’re looking for something vintage. The Echoboy has over twenty different delay styles, from tape, tube, analog, digital, telephone, and even weird effects they made up themselves. This plugin sounds great, but more importantly, it’s as complicated as you want it to be. You can either set-it-and-forget-it, or you can take a deep dive into their “tweak” panels to find the exact sound you’re looking for. Original Recording: With Echoboy: Check out the Soundtoys Echoboy here.
Soundtoys PrimalTap ($149)In contrast to the Echoboy, the PrimalTap is very specific. It has the best lo-fi sound in the industry. Thanks to its creative usage of sample rates, the longer you make your delays, the more the quality of the delay degrades. Plus it has an “adjust” knob to create some weird movement effects. This one was MEANT to be automated - you can make some crazy sounds! Original Recording: With PrimalTap: Check out the Soundtoys PrimalTap here.
Waves Manny Marroquin Delay ($29-99)Wow, I just love this plugin. It makes dialing in a great delay fun and easy. It takes seconds to set up a timed echo delay or stereo slapback and dial in your filters. Then the fun begins. Within the plugin you can add distortion, reverb, phasing and doubling. This makes it really easy to make the delay sound 10x more interesting. Get creative with it! QUICK TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy anything from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit. Original Recording: With Manny Marroquin Delay: Check out the Manny Marroquin here.
Voxengo Tempo Delay (Free)If you’re looking for a simple delay, check out the Voxengo Tempo. It’s got everything you’d need out of a stereo delay, plus a few extra bells and whistles - namely the tremolo and saturation you can put on your delays. Original Recording: With Voxengo Tempo: Check out the Voxengo Tempo Delay here.
Polyverse Manipulator ($149)This thing is a beast. The Manipulator is a pitch plugin that allows you to change the pitch of your voice in the strangest of ways. Honestly, there are hundreds of sounds you can find in it - the few sounds in our example aren’t enough to show off its extensive capabilities. If you’re wanting to morph your voice into something never-before-heard-on-earth, give the Manipulator a shot. Original Recording: With Manipulator: Check out the Polyverse Manipulator here.
Izotope VocalSynth 2 ($199)If you're looking for a fast and easy way to achieve modern vocal production, this plugin is the answer. It's hard to describe exactly what's possible with this plugin. You have to hear it to believe it. You can get anything from wacky pitch shifting to convincing vocoder-style effects. Seconds after installing, I was getting incredible tones that would have taken me hours to design. It's super fun to use and extremely helpful. Original Recording: With VocalSynth: Check out the Izotope VocalSynth 2 here.
Waves Reel ADT ($29-249)You know The Beatles’ famous doubled vocal? John Lennon actually hated doubling his vocals. So their engineers got creative with a few tape machines, and ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) was born. I use this when I want a thicker, “vibey-er” tone. The nice part about it is that it can be used to create both subtle thickness and balls-to-the-wall weirdness. QUICK TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy anything from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit. Original Recording: With Reel ADT: Check out the Reel ADT here.
Acon Digital Multiply Chorus (Free)If you’re wanting a little more control in your chorus, try the Multiply. It gives you much more room for variation than the TAL. It’s great for creating a doubled sound and helping background vocals “sink” into the main melody. Original Recording: With Multiply: Check out the Acon Digital Multiply Chorus here.
TAL Chorus (Free)Based on the famous Juno-60 synth chorus, the TAL Chorus is maybe the most simple plugin on this entire list. It’s only a few buttons and a knob or two. But there’s lots of character hidden behind the simplicity. Try this if you’re wanting to thicken up your vocals. Original Recording: With TAL Chorus: Check out the TAL Chorus here.
Celemony Melodyne 4 ($499)Melodyne is in a tight battle with Autotune for control of the vocal editing industry. But between the two, I’d have to give them my recommendation. Melodyne allows you to fix the tuning of your vocals in a natural way, allowing you to focus on emotion and excitement in your recording sessions rather than pitch. Melodyne Editor is the most popular version, but if you’re okay with only being able to tune monophonic sources (that means no chords), then Melodyne Assistant is a great, cheaper option. Check out Celemony Melodyne 4 here.
Waves Vocal Rider ($29-249)One of the secrets to a professional-sounding vocal is gain automation - the practice of automating the gain of a sound BEFORE it's compressed. The compressor ends up feeling way more natural. While it’s a pain to do this line by line, the Vocal Rider takes the bulk of the workload off your shoulders. It “rides” the gain of the vocal based on the parameters you set, giving you that even-keel vocal sound in 10% of the time. I use this on 100% of my vocals. QUICK TIP: Waves is always running huge sales! Nearly everything goes on sale multiple times a year, sometimes up to 90% off. Make sure to buy anything from them when they’re cheapest, even if that means waiting a little bit. Check out the VocalRider here.
Melda MAutoPitch (Free)MAutoPitch is fairly simple for a tuning plugin, but it does the job well. It’s not as advanced as Melodyne or AutoTune (i.e. you can’t tune individual notes), but it’s a great set-it-and-forget-it tool. Just make sure to use it subtly, or it will start to sound like an autotune effect. Check out the Melda MAutoPitch here.
If you want to dig deeper into music production and learn what it actually takes to make mixes that sound pro… And you’re an intermediate or advanced producer… Be sure to check out the free masterclass: Enjoy!
If you want to dig deeper into music production and learn what it actually takes to make mixes that sound pro…
And you’re an intermediate or advanced producer…
Be sure to check out the free masterclass: