How to enhance voice recording with EQ
When it comes to processing voiceover, one of the most important tools to understand and use is equalisation. In this post I want to show you some basic tips which will help to get the sound you want.
The first question
The first question you have to ask yourself is: what do you want to do with the EQ?
In radio production, you may want to use an EQ to boost voice to achieve a sound that stands out from the rest of the mix and is clearly audible. Or you may want to use EQ to improve bad recordings.
I found a short article on the German production magazine Delamar, which suggests there are five basic tips for using eq:
If you want your VO to sound better use EQ to cut frequencies.
If you want your VO to sound different use EQ to boost frequencies.
You cannot boost frequencies which are actually not present.
Cut with a high Q factor.
Boost with a small Q factor.
Each voice is different and needs different equalization but some general guidelines can help you towards finding the right tone:
If your VO sounds a bit too harsh and hard a narrow peak filter (high Q) between 2.5khz and 4khz might help in here. Sweep through your material and find the right frequency region to cut.
So, 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 additional radio processing further down the transmission chain 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.
Suffering bass or stage rumble?
Sometimes your VO talent creates some kind of low frequency noise to the recording, called stage rumble.
To get rid of this rumble add a decent filter around 60Hz and it 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, and below 200Hz for female voices there’s not much going on.
Clear out the irrelevant frequency ranges and you’ll also help to embed the VO into the full mix.
Does your VO needs more warmth and body?
Use a slight push around 200 Hz up to the lower mids. This will help 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.
A better mix
Does your VO sit on top of the mix and not sound part of it?
Sometimes it helps to cut some dB between 100Hz and 250Hz.
Suffering 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.
This post first appeared as a blog post by Andreas Sannemann. Reproduced within Earshot with permission.
Steve Martin of Earshot says
This is a great introduction to the use of EQ on voice. As the article hints, it’s important to have good quality source material before you start manipulating it: the position of your microphone, the acoustics in which you record and the inherent quality of the voice you are using all play a part.
It’s always much more enjoyable to make enhancements to a good recording than to spend your time salvaging a bad one.