The Vocal Delay Trick: How to Mix Powerful Vocals

Are you still relying on reverb? You could be making a huge mistake.

In this video you’re going to learn a simple vocal delay trick that could improve your mixes in seconds.

This is the exact vocal delay technique I use in every mix, and learning this was a crucial turning point in my 12 year career as a mixer.

Don’t start another mix until you know exactly how to get a radio-ready sound with vocal delay effects, because you’re about to learn exactly how to use delay on vocals like a pro.

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Are you still relying on reverbs to create space in your mixes? You could be making a huge mistake.

Rob here from and in this video you’re going to learn a simple vocal delay trick that could improve your mixes in seconds. This is the exact vocal delay technique I use in pretty much every mix and learning this was a crucial turning point in my 12-year career as a mixer. So, stick around don’t start another mix until you know how to get a radio ready sound with vocal delay effect, because you’re about to learn how to use delay on vocals true pro. And if you’re ready to take a big step closer to professional mixers and you want to makes sure you get this right every single time be sure the grab the free cheat sheet that I put together for this video. There’s a link in the description.

Now, this may come as a surprise to you, but reverb isn’t always the best effect to use on vocals to create space and cohesion because there are a couple of downsides to using reverb. If you imagine being in a room with someone and that room had lots of reverb on it, it probably means they’re way over the other side of the room. You’re not hearing their direct voice instead you’re just hearing the reverb. Well, that’s what reverb does psycho-acoustically and if you add loads of reverb to a vocal in a mix it has that affect of putting the vocal further away from the listener and generally we want the vocals to be nice and upfront and we want them to be the core focus on the track.

Now, there’s another downside when you’re using reverb on vocals, and there’s a long decay time, and there’s a really long reverb tail that starts to overlap between the words we start to lose some of the energy of the vocal, we stat to lose some of the cohesion as well and there are just various downsides to using reverbs. It does have its place, but there is a better alternative in lot of situation because without any effects the vocals are going to sound really dry and out-of-place, it’s not going to sit right in the mix. So, we need effects that can create space around a vocal and make it sit better in the mix without putting the vocal further away from the listener, without removing the cohesion and the energy of the vocal. And while it does depend on the genre and the vibe of the track, delay is often a better effect to create space around the lead vocal and even in track where reverb sounds great you still probably going to want to combine reverb with delay on the lead vocal to create a vocal that sounds big and epic that sits well in the mix but it still stays at the forefront right in the face of the listener where we want the lead vocal to be.

So, there’s just one simple technique that I’m going to share with you in this video that’s going to help you to do exactly that with just one plug-in, stock plug-in in your door you can create space around the lead vocal so it sits better in the mix. It sounds epic and full without the downsides of using reverb. And that technique is called the stereo slapback delay.

A slapback vocal delay is just a vocal delay with little or no feedback. So, in any delay plug-in you can control the amount of feedback. High feedback means there’s going to be lots of repetitions, so it’s going to keep feeding back into the delay and you get that kind of echo, echo, echo, echo sound where it just kind of repeats. Whereas, the slapback delay is when you use really low feedback and there would just be one repetition like a slapback.

So, if you’ve ever been in a big venue and you’re listening to the band and maybe you’re at the front of the stage, and sometimes you can hear the snare kind of bouncing off the back wall, if you’ve ever heard that what you’re hearing is a really loud slapback delay like it’s slapping back off the wall. And we can replicate that effect on a vocal by using 0% feedback or up to sometimes 10% feedback just to kind of make it sound a bit more natural, so that really it’s just one repetition and that’s why it’s called a slapback.

And the reason it’s called a stereo slapback is because we can use a stereo delay plug-in, and then use a different time on the left and right. So, we’ve got a slapback on the left, a slapback on the right but this might be 100 milliseconds and this is a 150 and this creates this width and this 3D space. And this is the key because then you not only are adding space and depth to the vocal and making it sit there in the mix, but you’re also adding the width and you’re making the vocal sound larger-than-life. It’s going to sound like it’s jumping out of the speakers, and this is all while the vocal sits in the mix without sounding out-of-place or too dry.

So, I’m going to jump into Logic now to give you a demonstration of exactly how to do this, so you can start improving your mixes right away. So, here I’ve got a mix everything else is finished, but I just want to add a bit of space to the vocal. Now there are few ways I could do that; I could use a reverb directly on the vocal like this, I can engage this and I could just adjust the wetness.

But listen to what that does in the mix. So, as I increased the wetness you’ll notice that the vocal sounds like it’s going further and further away.

Can you hear that? So, this is with no reverb.

And this is with full reverb.

Nothing else has changed. So, that’s what reverb can do to a vocal and often it works. With this track I actually opted to have a tiny little bit of reverb just 15% just to subtly kind of make it sit a bit better in the mix but I stopped as soon as I could hear those pushing the vocal back, and if you’re going to do this make sure to use some pre-delay just to move the reverb out of the way of the vocal a bit.

But what we’re going to do now is add a stereo slapback and with that we’re going to create a space around the vocal. So, let’s just solo the vocal and I’m going to bypass this reverb for now. The first thing we want to do is create a new send channel. We don’t want to do this on the channel itself, because then if it’s not on the same channel we can add EQ, we can send other things to it, it’s way more flexible. So, we’re going to create a new channel buss 11, I’m just going to go grab this and pull it down to our vocal. Let’s call this stereo slap.

So, what we’re going to do now is just increase that send so it was 11, so that’s that one here. We’re just going to set this to zero for now and once this is set to zero we’re then sending an exact duplicate of this vocal to this additional channel. And the process for doing that is going to vary door-to-door. In Logic you create a new send and automatically creates a new channel. In other doors you have to create this channel first, but then what I can do is just load up a delay. So, I’m going to use the stock stereo delay in Logic and we’re going to change or make sure the mix is 100% wet, so if it isn’t already 100% wet you want to make it 100% wet on the left and right.

Now, what we are going to do – make sure these are un-linked, because something they’re linked together and you can’t adjust them individually so make they are un-linked and we’re going to start with around 100 milliseconds on the left and about 150 on the right. Let’s just listen to what this does as I bring it up. So, when the fader is down here you’re not hearing any delay I’m going to gradually bring this in.

So, it creates a space around the vocal. It kind of sounds like reverb, right? If you’re going to use a small room emulation on your reverb plug-in it’ll probably sound something like that, but we want to use the slapback delay. So, the next thing we’re going to do is just get rid of this feedback, because that stick is saying how many repetitions there are and we want none. So, now it’s a slapback.

Now, I want to get a bit more gain on this just so I can – I will get into the top of that channel fader, so I’m going to increase the gain a bit on here and drop this down.

So, now you can really hear what’s going on. So, the next thing I’d like to do is maybe just add some EQ so I can remove some of that bottom-end so that it’s not adding any mud or anything like that, and then also if you want you can add a tiny bit of reverb. So, I’m just going to grab this one I’m going to turn that on and just a tiny bit of reverb on the slapback helps to sweeten it up a little bit.

So, at this point we can start to play around with the timing and this is going to vary depending on the track. I generally recommend starting anywhere between 50 milliseconds, which here is right at the lowest, I will set about 200 milliseconds anywhere in that range tends to work. For faster tracks you’re going to want it faster near to 50 and for slower tracks you can get away with it here. But also it sounds more epic when you’re using slower time. So, let’s do that, so let’s go near 200.

Kind of sounds like you’re in a stadium almost, whereas when I’m using a really quick time.

It’s a lot more subtle. So, now let’s do this in the context of the mix. Now that you’ve heard that a few times, so what I’m going to do here is just adjust the timing until I find kind of a sweet spot where it’s sticking out of the mix as much as I like and it’s kind of like in tempo with the mix, it’s in the vibe of the mix and we’re going to just bring this fader up a little bit as well, so it’s loud in the mix we can hear what’s going on and we’ll drop that afterwards.

So, I’m happy with that. I normally find kind of around 100 works well, so we’ve got 89 on the right and 140 on the left. So, now let’s bring this down and we’re just going to bring fader up until we can kind of start to notice the delay and that’s when we know it’s at a nice point where it’s subtle and it’s kind of subconscious, and then from there onwards you can push it more if you want it to be more obvious or sometimes you just have to kind of leave it just tucks underneath and that’s enough to make the vocals sit there in the mix.

So, let’s compare so this is without.

And with.



So, it gives the vocal a space. It makes it sit better in the mix, and then what we can do is add a bit of reverb if you want. So, I’m going to bring this back in.

And it does push it back a little bit, but I think with this track it’s not a really kind of in-your-face pop track, so I kind of like that. And then, we’ve got a nice space around the vocal. Most of the work is coming from that stereo slapback. So, let’s listen again. This is without.

And this is with.

So, give this a go. I think this is one of the biggest things you can start to use that’s going to make your mixes sound professional because you’d be surprised that how many tracks you hear in the radio use this exact technique. Combining this technique with mono delays as well and time delays it’s that kind of stuff. But this is actually way more common for creating a space around a vocal and keeping the vocal upfront in your face than reverb is in pop and those kind of genres. In a lot of other genres you can still use reverb, but it usually works best to combine a small subtle amount of reverb with a stereo slapback like this.

So, if you want to actually go away and do this and implement it in your mixes, and start to make your mixes sound more professional and more radio ready. Then make sure you grab the free cheat sheet. It is completely free all you need to do is enter your details on the page, there’s a link in the description, and then you’re going to get instant access to the PDF that breaks this down into step-by-step process and has my recommended go-to setting. So, you can go away try this and start hearing improvements instantly. So, thanks again for watching. I’m Rob from and I’ll see you next time.


UPDATE: Our new video will show you 5 vocal effects for a more interesting mix:

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