Best Vocal Processors of 2020 – Mix Vocals Like a Pro

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For most genres, vocals are the first thing the audience will notice.

Apart from learning advanced singing techniques and improving vocal capabilities, some effects can polish your voice and make it sound much better.

Those tools are called vocal processors and they are also available as VST plugins.

Our Top Picks for Vocal Processors

  • 11 vocal processing tools
  • 3 harmonizing plugins
  • Unique Aspire processor
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  • Extremely creative tool
  • 6 modules and 7 stompboxes
  • Clean and very visual UI
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  • Unique Vocal Assistant
  • Very useful Follow EQ mode
  • Presets for music & dialogue
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Comparison of the Best Vocal Processors 

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • 11 vocal processing plugins
  • 3 harmonizing plugins including Harmony Engine Evo
  • Unique Aspire breath noise processor
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  • Extremely creative vocal processor
  • 6 modules and 7 stompboxes
  • Clean and very visual user interface
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  • Interactive Vocal Assistant mode
  • Dual 24-band Dynamic EQs with real-time Follow EQ
  • Hundreds of presets for music and dialogue
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  • Best Live Vocal Effect Processor
  • 6 effect modules with dedicated XY pad
  • Creative Auto-Motion pattern generator
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  • Best Vocal Processor For Recording
  • 8-voice time-based diatonic harmonizer
  • Based on legendary Eventide H8000 hardware
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  • Best Vocal Processor For Live Performance
  • Real-time auto-tune effect plugin
  • Optimized for both studio and live settings
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What is a Vocal Processor?  

A vocal Processor is a unit made of several effects specially optimized for vocal performance such as reverb, delay, gate, or compressor. 

Compared to the similar VST FX chain, such software uses much less RAM and CPU resources and can be easily applied for live performance if needed. 

It has also been proven that people feel more organized if they have a single piece of equipment rather than dozens of individual units. Also, having a single user interface seems to be a much more convenient solution than memorizing different layouts for every single effect.

When Would I Use a Vocal Processor?

Here are some typical situations where a vocal processor is useful:

Real-Time Performance

Applying those effects in the studio environment is a wonderful experience. But, having them during your live performance is even better. Thanks to the modern computer processing power such possibilities became a reality and every laptop can be used as a vocal processor today.

Harmonization

Vocal processors can have a very intelligent module dedicated for building a complete harmony solution using your voice only - all you have to do is to pick the number of voices,  decide what interval you need and define a key of the song and all of sudden you will have a complete backing vocal squad supporting your vocal performance.

Auto-Tune

Whether it’s ethically correct or not is a question worth debating but, applying a subtle pitch correction may be very useful to save and improve those takes that are close to perfection but hard to repeat and match the vibe you nailed. 

On the other hand, applying hard tune effects is a different and creative approach of vocal editing if that’s the route you’re interested in. With vocal processors, everyone can get the sound of T-Pain and other modern hip-hop artists.

Are All Vocal Processors The Same?

Not at all. Vocal Processor plugins are probably the most diverse plugins of all as they cover different vocal effects. Some will focus on the auto-tune effect, others may treat harmonizing features, while most of them will try to provide you with some useful corrective tools for improving your overall vocal track sound quality. 

But, even if we focus on restorative vocal processors, we may notice that they also vary with the features they offer. And let’s not forget the A.I. algorithms used in flagship vocal processor plugins that can save you a lot of time doing edits manually.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Here are the best vocal processors:

  1. Antares Avox 4
  2. iZotope Vocal Synth 2
  3. iZotope Neutron 3

Review of the Best Vocal Processors

Vocal Processors are more distributed as hardware units, so finding a software counterpart wasn’t an easy task. Stay with us to see what is the best option out there in VST format:

Best Overall:
Antares Avox 4

PROS

  • Extremely artistic plugins
  • 11 vocal processing plugins
  • Unique Aspire breath noise processor
  • The most versatile Vocal Processor on the market
  • 3 harmonizing plugins including Harmony Engine Evo

CONS

  • Integrated user interface would be awesome
  • Interface could be a little bit more modern-looking, though

Features and Specifications

This plugin is actually a collection of 11 plugins covering various vocal effects so we have 3 different plugins addressing the harmonizing effect in form of choir, doubler and multi-voice plugin, triple pitch, and formant shifting, noise processor, tape saturator, de-esser, and compressor.

Some pitch-shifting plugins are designed to be creative such as Mutator or Articulator, while others are sounding as natural as possible. On the other hand, effects like Aspire, Doubler, or Warm will make your vocal remain natural sounding but it will have a nice professional impact on general performance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

When you speak about Antares you should be aware that this company actually invented the auto-tune effect and this fact will probably tell you what to expect from Avox 4 as well.

Avox is supposed to solve everything professionally regarding vocal editing. But, as Antares effects look more like a scientific than a musical plugin, their ideas feel the same.

Honestly, we don’t know how else you could treat the issue such as breathiness in your vocals, but the idea of removing or adding such features to your vocals sounds sci-fi enough for us.

PROS

  • 7 guitar-like pedal effects
  • 6 modules with dedicated presets
  • Extremely creative vocal processor
  • Clean and very visual user interface
  • 3 ways to play - Auto, MIDI and Sidechain mode

CONS

  • Reverb effect is missing
  • Slightly detailed pitch correction would be nice

Features and Specifications

This plugin has a very modern user interface with very clean visuals for every module. There are 6 modules and 7 guitar-like pedal effects available.

Modules are specific effects located on the top and every module has a set of patches to start from. Modules vary from harmonizing effects to vocal changers such as Vocoder or Compuvox bit-crush effect.

On the bottom, there are pedal effects such as Distort, Filter, Transform, Shred Chorus, Delay, and Ring Mod. Shred is especially interesting as it will provide you with some step-based options useful for modern music.

Why it Stands Out to Us

iZotope did an incredible job with this unit regarding music production. So many creative options are provided and you will have real fun using this VST. It won’t provide you with the restorative tools that will clean up your vocal tracks, but if you’re looking for something to boost your creativity, this plugin will blow your rooftop.

Combining this VST with the iZotope Nectar would be an incredible combo and luckily iZotope plugins have developed an internal communication so they may work together from the same user interface and reduce any need from you to jump between effect panels.

Best for the Money:
iZotope Neutron 3

PROS

  • 12 vocal-focused modules
  • Interactive Vocal Assistant mode
  • Auto Level Mode keep the output at the input level
  • Dual 24-band Dynamic EQs with real-time Follow EQ mode
  • Hundreds of professionally-designed preset for music and dialogue

CONS

  • May lack a certain pack of creative effects
  • More reverb and saturation options would be nice

Features and Specifications

Nectar 3 is made from twelve vocal-focused modules including dual 24-band EQ, two Compressors, up to 8 voice Harmony, Pitch, De-Esser, two Saturation models, Reverb, two Delay types, Gate, and Dimension which handles Chorus and Phaser effects.

Dynamic EQ comes with the Follow EQ mode that shapes tracks in real-time and it will save you from hours of corrective manual work.

Vocal Assistant is another time-saving option. It makes your vocal sit right in the mix intelligently by analyzing dynamics, removing sibilants, and creating space or ambiance.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Unmask is something we haven’t seen so far in vocal processors - it will automatically place vocals at the front and by moving other elements that collide in the spectrum.

There are not so many effects that come with the preset specially designed for dialogues and, besides the very affordable price, this makes Nectar 3 very special.

On top of that, it comes bundled with iZotope RX Breath Control so any breaths from dialogue or vocal recordings can be automatically suppressed.

And although it has a quite decent pitch and time correction, it provided you with a basic version of the industry-standard software - Melodyne 5 Essential.

Best Vocal Processor for Live Performance:
Antares Auto-Tune EFX+

PROS

  • Can be used in real-time situations
  • Artistic multi-effect vocal processor
  • 6 effect modules with dedicated XY pad
  • Creative Auto-Motion pattern generator
  • Browse through the presets stacking up to 4 modules

CONS

  • Patches can’t be edited
  • You can’t generate your own rhythmic patterns

Features and Specifications

Auto-Tune EFX+ is a multi-effect processor made from 6 effect modules with the dedicated parameters available on the XY Pad - Pitch and Throat, Duet, Vocode, Tube Amp, Mutate and Filter. Most of those modules modify the input signal into something completely new. You can pick from various presets that are made using up to 4 of these modules.

Besides those modules, the auto-tune effect is always present and can be adjusted by using two knobs: Retune Speed and Humanize. It is possible to create a subtle pitch correction or full Auto-Tune effect.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is one of our favorite creative tools we’ve found for the vocals. It has a very intuitive interface to work with and both newbies and seasoned professionals will have fun with it.

Auto-Motion will inspire you in a way you probably wouldn’t even think of thanks to the patterns provided and the patches given within this software will probably take you to the ideas you didn’t even know you had in mind.

You can hard tune your vocals, double them to improve that pseudo-stereo effect, and go creatively even further and apply various special effects such as vocode or ring modulation.

Best Vocal Processor For Recording:
 Eventide Octavox

PROS

  • 70 factory presets
  • 8-voice time-based diatonic harmonizer
  • Based on legendary Eventide H8000 hardware
  • Randomize function for humanizing the output
  • MIDI functionality allows you to change harmony intervals on the fly

CONS

  • Lack of reverb and modulation effects
  • Slightly overpriced compared to the features it gives

Features and Specifications

Eventide Octavox is a time-based diatonic harmonizer that can transfer any input note into up to eight voices based on the provided key and timing interval.

The interface is quite simple and intuitive. There are 8 tracks dedicated for harmonic intervals and you have sliders and input fields for level, pan, delay, interval, and pitch fine-tuning displayed in cents.

Right below there is a Notation Grid, a visual display of what’s going on with the dedicated tab for key and scale used and options to sync to the session tempo or use time-based values.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Eventide H8000 is considered as a Holy Grail of hardware multi-effect processors and this unit relies on the same harmonization algorithm.

Randomize features will humanize your output by applying a micro-pitch shifting just like all real vocals aren’t on the grid all the time.

It will work great on vocals, but nothing can stop you from applying it on the mono synths or guitar leads as well. We strongly advise you to put your track on the loop and then browse the provided presets - you will have so much fun and maybe even come up with the new ideas.

Best Vocal Processor For Auto-Tune:
Waves Tune Real-Time

PROS

  • Non-Western scales supported
  • Real-time auto-tune effect plugin
  • Ultra-low latency for instant response
  • Optimized for both studio and live settings
  • Corrects vibrato while preserving its natural movement

CONS

  • Graphical display could be improved
  • Comes with the auto-tune effect only

Features and Specifications

WavesTune Real-Time corrects vocal pitch in real-time based on the key and scale you have selected. It simply detects the input note and corrects it to the closest note found on a certain scale. That detection is controlled by two knobs - speed and note transitions. Bear in mind that faster corrections may sound more synthetic.

The interface is organized in a way that provides an intuitive and efficient workflow. It works with the zero-latency but lower notes may create a small up to 4ms latency due to their physical nature.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Having an affordable but great auto-tune effect available in real-time is no longer a utopia. Waves can deliver you a tight natural-sounding pitch correction and that famous hard tune effect that most modern hip hop artists are looking for.

A range panel is a handy tool that allows you to specify the type of input voice while the correction rules allow you to define not just legal and illegal notes, but also whether the illegal notes should be pitched up or down or bypassed.

We especially liked the fact that you can assign specific notes in advance that will either trigger or deactivate the effect.

Characteristics of Our Favorite Vocal Processor Plugins

While these VST plugins cover different areas of vocal processing, they have several traits in common:

Professional Tools

The sound quality you will generate by using this software is top-notch. Some may give you a completely transparent, almost inaudible processing while others will saturate your track with the beautiful tape emulations you were looking for. But, in general, they will improve your sound a lot.

Creative Suite

These vocal processors are not just your everyday vocal VST effect. They come with several creative tools that will enhance your mindset and create solutions you weren’t even thinking about. You may even create something completely new that has nothing to do with the original tracks.

In general, these effects are all about having fun and experimenting.

In-Depth Editing

The features they deliver may vary, but they all come with the advanced features so that you can go all the way into detail with your vocal editing. Instead of just choosing, you are allowed to tune-up many parameters to your personal taste.

Intuitive User Interface

The user interface is a very important part of good software and this goes especially for vocal editing. Having clear, straightforward, and inspiring graphical solutions may inspire you for another round of processing.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying

Now that you know a lot more about Vocal Processor Plugins, let us remind you on several aspects that you need to pay close attention first:

Not a Magic Wand

A vocal processor is not a miracle tool. It can't improve flaws from a bad recording take. Sure, it may apply some pitch correction, but eventually, you will have to be reasonable and either make another take or satisfy with a less-professional track. 

That’s why you have to remember that working on your singing is the number one priority. However, vocal processors can make a good vocal track sound great.

Proper Equipment

If you have a low-budget microphone or you have recorded without using a vocal booth, there will be a limitation on how far vocal processors can fix your tracks. It’s incredible what kind of editing you can make out of it, so think about investing just a little bit more so you can utilize the vocal processor power into creative work rather than restorative.

Key Features

Some vocal processors may be genre-oriented so depending on the vocal style your genre prefers investing in some premium vocal processors that excel with auto-tune effect won’t mean a lot to you.

Conclusion

We’re so glad to see that those days of singers singing dry during acoustic nights are long gone. So many singers have decided to find out more about vocal effects and finally have realized that buying just a good microphone isn’t the end of the road for their music investment. 

People Also Ask

This section is intended to be similar to an FAQ section. Please provide a concise reply to the question(s) below and begin the discussion with a short intro.

Should You Record Vocals With Effects?

We wouldn’t advise you to do this as it’s an irreversible process - if you want to change it later it may be impossible. However, we are aware that recording vocals dry may be uncomfortable for you. That’s why you can route your vocal chain to the monitoring so that you can record with much more ease.

What Vocal Effects Do Singers Use?

Singers can use various vocal effects depending on what genre they are performing at. Hip-hop singers mastered auto-tune effects, acoustic performers know how to utilize loops and harmonize effects while rock singers are closely related to long delay and lush reverb effects and applying some serious dynamics effects.

How to Remove Pops in Vocal Audio Plugin

There are some handy restorative plugins like iZotope RX 7 with special de-click modules which basically can detect clicks and pops and approach them by adjusting three simple sliders for sensitivity, algorithm type, and click type. It can save you a lot of time from manual editing.

Where to Put a Vocal Effects Processor With Guitar Pedal Chain?

Overall, they feed your guitar signal with beautiful effects, especially your acoustic and electric clean or lead guitar sounds.

Vocal effects are usually reverberation and modulation effects and should be put at the end of the guitar pedal chain. The same goes if you want to harmonize your guitar parts.