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September 7, 2011 / Randy Coppinger

A Discussion About Voice Recording and Mixing

Rob Sommerfeldt (@RobSommerfeldt) suggested that a Twitter discussion Jason Miller (@JasonMiller0607) and I had Sept 7 about recording and mixing voice might be worth sharing. So I collected our conversation here.

Jason Miller: Do you use much parallel compression with voiceovers?
Randy Coppinger: Not tracking, no. I experimented with it. It seemed like a better idea than it turned out to be.
For pre-mastering and mixing dialog I use parallel compression all the time. Just yesterday as a matter of fact.
I seem to recall you’re a fan of parallel compression…
I use it on vocals when I mix almost 100% of the time. Never when tracking. Just wasn’t sure what protocol for DIA was…
I’m not sure if there is a protocol, but I know my colleague & I are both fans for mixing. I like serial compression too.
I find that if I de-ess the compressed channel a little too much, it allows the uncompressed “esses” to poke through
Which is one reason why I think it can make an awfully compressed vocal still sound natural.
Serial is inevitable in my chain, as I always compress on the way in. Then the parallel comp, and sometimes one more.
Not to mention my mix buss…

Interesting strategy. De-esser before or after compression? For sibilance I like to move and/or swap out the mic.
Sounds like we both like many layers of a little bit of compression.
I tend to parallel compress submixes rather than the main mix buss. It feels more controlled to me.
My typical dialog pre-mastering chain is: EQ cuts > parallel compression > EQ boosts > limiter. For mix, lose the limiter.
De-essing hasn’t been a huge problem for me lately. But when I do use it, it is always after the comp.
Sometimes it’s on the parallel compressor, sometimes it’s after the two are summed… depending on how much I need
Though, I find myself using de-essers more around 2-3k for harshness rather than “esses”

Cool. So it’s more like a multi-band compressor set to only knock down a narrow band of mid-range. I like it.
Whenever I have a voice that just tears through regardless which mic or where placed, my fav de-esser is the LilFreq.
They spun off the de-esser in to a half rack (pic).
I’m sure that de-esser rocks. I refuse to work with analog gear in a mix, so I enjoy the Waves De-esser.
I use it for tracking. The LilFreq is typically in my acquisition chain anyway so I can just pop in the de-esser if needed.
De-essing to tape scares me… but then again, if I was ONLY recording/listening to a voice it would be much less terrifying
It’s like compression: go easy because you can always add more later. Most de-essers scare me. This one works very well.
As I said, I prefer to swap and/or move the mic. I *rarely* use the de-esser. Nice to have in a pinch.
I think I find them to be less predictable than compressors. Also, I find them most effective at the end of the chain.
I was trained to use gates and de-essers as early as possible. To each his own.
In my experience, [large amounts of] compression tend to undo any de-essing you may do early on.
That hasn’t been my experience, but I know a really quick release can make a voice seem brighter, so not hard to imagine.

Thanks for reading. What thoughts / questions do you have? Leave a comment, please.


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  1. harmoko (@mokobigbro) / Sep 11 2011 2:33 am

    love the discussion.

    agree with most.

    my vocal chain is: deesser first (Massey plugins), digi eq3 or flux epure to treat the mud/honk/harshness/. Then a Sidechain compressor or multiband like C1 or C4 to treat the harshness of midrange (so that the vocal can be more upfront without being a pain in the ear). Then a hardware eq to tone/tailor/boost as needed. (usually a Chandler Germanium EQ)
    from there it goes to a parallel output. I compress lots with Purple MC77 parallel. The vocal master bus is then limited with Retro 176.

    • Randy Coppinger / Sep 12 2011 11:58 am

      Good thoughts Harmoko. LOVE the MC77. Are you typically mixing voice recorded by someone else, or is it recorded by you too?

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