In this article, we hope to show you how to make vocals sound professional in Adobe Audition.
To achieve professional results, start with checking if you are properly equipped in terms of mics and gear to produce vocals and make sure that your vocalist is at their best. Consider editing and cleaning up your vocal tracks before mixing and normalize your tracks if needed.
Apply Parametric EQ and Single-band Compressor to enhance timber and dynamic range of your vocal track and add Studio Reverb with a subtle Analog Delay. Or use Vocal Enhancer plug-in if you prefer a fast-paced workflow that still leads to professional results of high quality.
Now let’s dig a little deeper.
What makes vocals sound professional
To be completely honest, the choice of DAW has very little input on the quality and consistency of your recordings. Every DAW, including, of course, Adobe Audition, was made by professional software developers and the quality of sound is as good as it gets across all of them. Mixing technique, on the other hand, matters considerably more, but the most impact lies in the quality of your vocals and how you actually record them.
Proper recording technique
Every successful vocal recording should most definitely start with proper room treatment or at least sufficient preparations. If you have the opportunity to build or purchase a vocal booth, you should use this opportunity for sure, but the bare minimum you could get by is to make sure that a vocalist is properly isolated and no unwanted noise cut through the mic. And don’t forget to use pop filters on your microphones because those sounds are very hard to get rid of after recording.
There are some very successful music producers who manage to record very popular bangers using only their phones, but chances are you are not one of them, or at least not yet. So it is crucial for you to invest in a pair of decent professional microphones, even if audio production is not something you’re making a living out of. Fortunately enough, these days, there are a lot of very capable and budget-friendly options available.
Other equipment matters too
Alongside microphones, the equipment that you connect them to matters a lot. If you plan to record rather frequently, investing in a decent audio interface or a mixer might be a very good idea. That being said, a good USB-mic and an ASIO driver will suffice if you record vocals only on occasion and don’t intend to do it very often. It all really depends on your budget and your initial use case scenarios.
After you’ve set up your equipment and are ready to press the record button, it’s time to make sure that your vocalist is in the right mood and the conditions are right for delivering and capturing the perfect performance. And if something does not go as intended, don’t be afraid to make a few extra takes or even take a long and meaningful break if you feel like everyone is tired. The same applies even if you record your own vocals.
Take time to edit your vocals
After you are done with the recording session, don’t rush straight to EQing and compression, there are a few things you may consider doing first. Proper EQing and compression is a second step on the road to professional-sounding vocals, but the first would be making sure that the recording doesn’t contain noise, the volume is decent and the timing is perfect. Even if everything sounds perfect at first glance, find time to let it sit for a while and get back to it later.
Cut and move
The best place to start editing your vocal recording would be to make sure that there are no musically irrelevant parts by thoroughly examining the whole recording, especially if it consists of multiple takes layered and connected together. You may also cut every silent part, but make sure that you don’t cut any transients or tales. Likely, Adobe Audition has a very intuitive and coherent interface that can make this job significantly easier.
On the other hand, you can leave a few silent seconds in the end or the beginning of a vocal track if there is some static noise in the background. If this is the case, select this part and in the Effects menu find Noise Reduction / Restoration, then Capture Noise Print. After that, select the whole track and in the same effects menu find Noise Reduction and apply it. You should be able to have good results straight away but feel free to adjust the plug-in if you feel this is necessary.
It could be that the vocal track is recorded quieter than the others, or on the contrary, much louder. To fix it in the Effects menu, find Amplitude and Compression and then Normalize. In the box that says “Normalize To” set the number that would be consistent with the rest of your tracks. For example, if you want the loudest part of your vocal track to hit no more than -3 dB, simply put the according value into the box.
Mixing and post-processing
When you are completely happy with the state of your vocal track, we can begin to change the actual tone and timbre of it. Likely not much manipulation would be needed if you took your time to record everything properly. Generally speaking, it is not a very efficient idea to try to fix recording mistakes with EQing and compression unless they are extremely minor, so we’re going to use those effects rather to improve what is already good enough.
In Adobe Audition, the best and the most efficient way to balance the frequency response of any track is the Parametric Equalizer which you can find under Filter and EQ in the Effects menu. You can start with included presets to push yourself in the right direction and then tweak things to your liking. But if you want a more precise result feel free to explore our more comprehensive guide to EQing vocals.
After you’re happy with the timbre or your vocal track, you can pay some attention to its dynamics. With that, a Single-Band Compressor can help, which you can find under Amplitude and Compression in the now already familiar Effects menu. Use a high threshold, fast attack, and release to tame some popping transients or try lower threshold, fast attack, and slower release to even things out. In both cases, use smaller ratios to make compression more subtle and less obvious.
To remove or tone down aggressive and unpleasant sibilance, you can use the De-Esser in Adobe Audition, which also has a multiband option and means that you can affect the frequencies across the whole spectrum. You can start with an included preset or try to tweak things by yourself. If the latter is what you choose, the option of isolating sibilance by ticking the box near “Output Sibilance Only” should be of great help to you.
Chances are you’ve recorded your vocals as dry as possible, which means that it will highly benefit from additional volume and space. To help with that, Adobe Audition has a lot of options to choose from, starting with a very capable Convolution Reverb to a very complex Surround Reverb. But if you want something simple, you can always choose a Studio Reverb, which will be sufficient enough for most projects.
If you feel that your vocal track would benefit even further from more depth and volume, you may consider adding some subtle delay on top of the reverb. Adobe Audition offers you an Analog Delay, which will do this job perfectly. Blend it so it would be barely audible and adjust the delay length so that it would flow with the tempo of the track. Then choose the mode of analog emulation that would fit the atmosphere and feel of the composition the most.
Adobe Audition also gives you the option of bypassing all of the steps mentioned above all together. And the best part is that almost all of that processing could be done with just one plug-in. Vocal Enhancer is operated by just a single button and has an automated de-esser and compressor, and has specially tailored options both for male and female vocals. So if you prefer quicker and more effortless results, you may consider checking this option out.
Just as every guitar player in the world has their own favorite model and guitar brand, each audio engineer tends to choose a DAW that they are the most comfortable working with. Although Adobe Audition is very rarely on lists of the most frequently chosen DAWs, it is still a very capable tool if you know how to use it properly.