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Promotional ideas and technique. Always radio, always positive.

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:

Harshness

Harshness eq

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.

Airiness

So, you want your VO to sound more airy and open?

Airy eq

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.

Smoothness

Smoothness eq

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.

Trouble down-under

Suffering bass or stage rumble?

Lo cut eq

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.

Make space

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.

Warmth

Does your VO needs more warmth and body?

Warmth eq

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.

Nasal

The VO sounds too nasal?

Nasal eq

This is often a mic placement problem. But a high Q attenuation around 800 Hz might help.

Presence

Your VO is hard to understand?

Presence eq

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?

Better mix eq

Sometimes it helps to cut some dB between 100Hz and 250Hz.

Sibilance

Suffering sibilance and sharpness?

Sibilance eq

S-sounds are in a frequency range around 6-8kHz, try to attenuate these frequencies.

Andy says

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.