By Matthew Sim
In recent decades, while everyone is chasing for the bright yet smooth pop vocal tone that competes on the radio, we tend to overlook the other side of the spectrum. Warm vocals are still sought after in soul/r&b, folk, ballads, country, and sometimes pop music also! Especially in Asia, where I worked with a lot of the chart-topping artists, a warm vocal tone is still in demand. It brings out certain emotions of the vocalist and makes the vocal sound larger than life!
I frequently get the request of a “warmer vocal tone” from the artists. However, I seldom receive recordings that go along with it. Most artists send me super bright vocals recorded with tube mics and ask for a warm vocal tone. Sometimes it gets tricky when you have to fix it in the mix. I have developed a handful of tricks throughout my career to “warm” up the vocal while maintaining the integrity of it.
Now I want to mention some of my tricks and concepts that I developed, using the hardware Neve 1073, 1081,1084 EQ. I applied the same ideas on the Sonimus’s Burnley 73 EQ to warm up the vocals. You can apply some of the concepts on other tone-shaping tools & gear as well!
After I used this EQ on a few mixes, I found out these favorites settings on the Burnley 73, especially for vocals. The settings below give a very pleasant and musical result to my ears.
1: I start by playing with the gain knob up to 40-60 to get an overdriven vocal tone in parallel, to blend it in with the dry vocal signal. It adds some analog thickness in the midrange without adding a lot of muddiness in the lower mid of the vocal.
2: For vocals, I usually add some 35 or 60hz low end and occasionally 110hz for female vocals when I want a thicker/warmer sound. 110hz or above usually adds a lot of mud that you don’t want in the vocals. Besides that, I ‘ll use the high pass filter in conjunction with the low EQ boost to filter out all the sub low “Junk” frequency that has no purpose to exist.
3: I personally quite like the 1k6hz EQ boost on vocals. It pushes the warmer vocal forward a tiny bit without being too bright. Usually, we tend to boost the highs to get the vocals cut through better, but sometimes boosting the mid-range can achieve the same results if you want a thicker vocal tone.