4 indispensable plugins for radio production

Vocals and backgrounds may be tricky to mix together. You don’t want to lose your vocals in the background because your audience won’t hear them, but you don’t want to lower your background to much because you would lose power and energy.
You may be able to solve the dilemma by using side-chain compressor, equalizer, reverb and delay.

Using side-chain compression to create space in your mix

Side-chain compression is a powerful tool. Although most compressor plugins support side-chaining, some native compression don’t. Furthermore, the set up process may be more or less complicated depending on your audio software.
Side-chain compression works like a regular compressor by controlling the dynamics of a sound. But there is a key difference: with regular compression, the plugin will monitor the level of the channel and control the volume of the same channel.
When you engage the side-chain, you can control the compression with another track. When the other track gets louder, the compressor clamps down on the track that it is applied to.
In other words, if you insert a compressor to your background track and set the side-chain input to your vocal track, the presence of your background will automatically lower as the vocal kicks in.

Compressor native Ableton Live in side-chain mode

Using equalizer to make room for your vocals

If you are dealing with busy backgrounds, you may want to consider taming midrange frequencies in order to clear the space for your vocals. You should use a parametric equalizer and lower frequencies between 1000 hertz and 3000 hertz. You may want to use automation to clear your background during the vocals only.

Equalizer Pro-Q2 by Fabfilter

Using reverb and delay to emphasize your vocals

Reverb and delay help your vocals to blend with your backgrounds. Reverb and delay also help to make your vocals thicker and fuller.The balance dry/wet must be adjusted so you don’t really hear the effect but you feel it is missing if you bypass it.

Delay Echoboy by Soundtoys

It is always a good idea to save a master session with the required plugins and use it every time you need to work on liners and promos.


F.B. has been working in the radio industry for 10 years. He produces radio imaging elements for sonsduproducteur.com​

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