Best preamp plugin for vocals

Have you ever heard a guitar part and wondered how the guitar player got so much character out of their rig? Or perhaps you’ve heard a vocal line and was curious to know what kind of preamp the singer was using. Well, it could be that they are using a plugin called The Best Preamp Plugin For Vocals.

I’ve spent a lot of time testing out different plugins while trying to get my vocals to sound good, whether I’m recording acoustic indie songs or mixing aggressive death metal. Plugins can make all the difference when it comes to mixing, and can drastically change the quality of your recordings. I asked some of my musician friends and some other online acquaintances which preamp plugins they recommend for vocals and got a bunch of feedback. This list is based on their recommendations and my own personal experience.

Most people, including myself, like to have their vocals sound the best it could possibly be. One of the things that can make your vocals sound better is by using a plugin to help boost them (preamp). I’ve tried out quite a few and figured I would share a list of what I think are the best ones you can download and use on your voice tracks.

Best preamp plugin for vocals

A preamp plugin is a VST effect that models the character of a hardware microphone preamp. They’re used in mixing to add subtle flavor to recorded tracks that need a little something extra.

A mic preamp is the first stage in your recording chain after your microphone. It amplifies the weak signal created by the microphone’s element and plays a significant role in the overall sound.

Many entry-level audio interfaces feature built-in preamps made to sound clean and transparent for all sources. That makes them versatile, but sometimes a bit bland.

Preamp plugins let you add the richness and color of classic analog preamps after you’ve already recorded your tracks.

  1. UAD 1176
    The Best Vocal Plugins_2

One of the most famous and widely used FET limiting amplifiers of all time. It’s tremendous on vocals, whether you’re using the real thing or one of many plugin emulations. The UAD version is especially awesome.

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When it’s time to reach for one of the best vocal plugins, go for an 1176. It’s super fast, capable of taming the sharpest transients in the source material. The 1176 also has a desirable sonic character, making it a go-to for many of the best mixers in the world.

It’s definitely not transparent, but its character adds a ton of mojo to your vocals. The all-buttons-in mode can be really cool for some parallel compression too!

  1. UAD LA-2A
    The Best Vocal Plugins_3

For a cool opt sound, you can’t go wrong with an LA-2A. I keep both an 1176 and a 2A (plugins) on my vocal bus, with the latter applying just a bit of glue and tube character at the end of the chain. And that’s what it tends to do best.

Its controls are simple: a Peak Reduction knob to control gain reduction and a Gain Control knob to add make-up gain. At the risk of sounding cliche, the LA-2A does add an analog warmth to vocals that sounds incredible.

  1. UAD Pultec
    The Best Vocal Plugins_4

UAD’s Pultec EQP-1A is absolutely incredible on vocals. I keep it on my main vocal bus, mainly to carve out the 100, 200, and 300 Hz areas and also add a bit of air at 10 kHz. It’s one of the few plugins that takes a vocal from sounding totally unmixed to practically finished with just a few tweaks.

  1. Waves Vocal Rider

An absolute must-have and one of the best vocal plugins for saving yourself time and frustration.

The Vocal Rider was designed to be a time-saver by adjusting a vocal’s levels automatically. By setting a target vocal level for your mix, the plugin compensates intelligently by raising or lowering the signal’s gain. It also won’t color your track at all, so you don’t have to worry about any unwanted tonal changes when applying it.

Combined with traditional compression, the Vocal Rider is an extremely powerful and convenient tool.

  1. Renaissance Vox

A dynamics processor designed specifically for vocals. Its simple and streamlined controls make it an excellent vocal compressor, gate/expander, or limiter.

For quick and easy results, give the RVox a go!

  1. Waves Doubler
    Waves Doubler

If time or other issues prevent engineers from capturing multiple takes of a performance, the Waves Doubler steps in. Doubler utilizes delay and pitch modulation (chorusing) to automatically add texture and richness to a single track. It also just add a cool effect that can spice up your vocals. Maybe to make a hook sound wider and fuller, for instance.

You can also try it on other instruments if your heart so desires! Waves suggests trying it on drums to achieve a flam-like effect, or on anything else to add shimmer and presence.

  1. Antares Auto-Tune Pro
    Antares Auto-Tune Pro

Auto-Tune is a must-have. Even if you’re working with an incredible singer, modest Auto-Tune settings will help keep pitch as tight as possible. Overall, it does a fantastic job with minimal effort. You’ll also be able to use the “0 retune speed” effect for modern hip hop/pop too!

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  1. FabFilter Pro-Q 3
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Hands down, Pro Q is one of the best EQ plugins around. The real-time frequenter analyzer is such a time-saver you’ll wonder how you could have ever used an EQ without it! Pro Q 3 is a dynamic EQ as well, meaning you can use it like a multiband compressor to duck specific frequencies when they get a little too out of control without cutting them altogether.

  1. Waves Greg Wells VoiceCentric
    Waves Greg Wells VoiceCentric

This is a unique plugin designed to get quick access to the signature vocal sound of Greg Wells, who’s a producer, songwriter, and mixing engineer for Adele, Katy Perry, and OneRepublic, amongst others.

It has one central knob for the overall “intensity” of the processing, along with delay, doubler, and reverb controls. Again, this can serve as another time-saver by applying three types of processing in one, or purely as an experimental tool to get some unique vocal sounds!

Plugins like these aren’t always go-tos, but they can help you think more creatively about vocal processing in case you’re ever in a rut.

  1. Waves Renaissance De-Esser
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Every vocal can be enhanced with a bit of de-essing. This specialized sibilance attenuator allows you to reduce undesirable high frequencies surgically, while preserving the sparkle and musicality of the source.

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