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Vocal Effects

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Hi could you give me some advice please with the effects engine on the m20d. We have a female fronting our Rock Covers Band and I'm looking for a good effect to put on her vocals. Also I'm stumped as to how the returns and sends should be set up for example should it been 100% on send or 100% on returns or both at mixed levels. Any advice would be greatly appreciated guys.


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I';m no mixing expert so won't try to suggest distinct FX to apply to your girl's channel, but a good place to start is normally the Female w/Reverb preset.


It (IIRC) defaults to a -25dB level onto the master FX A bus.


M20d works in a different way to a traditional analog mixer... the FX busses (4 of them) do not have returns to the individual channel strips. Instead, FX A, B C and D are essentially submix busses with their outputs routed directly to the main output bus. Each FX bus has its own output level.


AFAIK, the amount of a channel you send to FX A (or any of the others) does not affect its own channel level. In other words, even if you sent a 0dB level of channel 1 to the FX A bus, but had the FX A bus level set to -infinity, the unprocessed channel output would still be present on the main output bus.


So, here's what we do for vocal channels:

Each of the lead and backing vox channels are set to between -28dB and -26db (slightly more on the backing vox than on lead)

We use the standard unmodified preset for Reverb A which is Hall Reverb

Return level is set typically at about -5dB

Send level set to 0dB


If the reverb level gets too hot, I tend to find it creates more feedback issues than the increased FX is worth! Certainly, a couple of dB too hot on either the main FX channel level or on individual channels sends and we create whistles that are hard to kill.


One note... ensure the FX to mons is OFF!!! you'll suffer with feedback if you don't.


I'll be honest and say I am yet to use FX B, C or D! Haven't ever felt the need in 3 years of using it with our band and using it for other bands I've done sound for.


There is a temptation to believe that FX is the answer to everything, yet in my experience it just creates problems.


Use the presets. EQ to get her vocal to project. Get the rest of the band to turn down on-stage so nobody is struggling to hear themselves and then with a good mix, you should be able to crank the levels up without too much bother.


I did a festival a few weeks ago, indoors over 2 days. 8 acoustics ranging from solo (guitar and vox), duo's and up to a 5 piece acoustic band on the first day, then 3 acoustics, 2 4-pice bands and a 5-piece band on the second day. All done with presets with only minor tweaking. No sound checks. Had just 30 minutes between performances. Trimmed all inputs initially using auto-trim. Acoustic guitars DI'd. Vox channels set to 0dB. All others set to -5dB. "Do you trust me?" to the performers and a few puzzled looks when they realised they weren't going to get a soundcheck and straight in.

Afterwards, friends and family who had been to watch their respective loved ones commented on how it was the best they'd ever heard them sound.

Moral. Trust the presets. Don't tweak for the sake of it, only when there is need.

Of all the performances, only one gave me issues and that was solely the result of a drummer who was busy building a shed at the back, him being being so loud that guitar and bass were both up way too loud as well and I simply couldn't get the singer enough monitoring without it whistling to high heaven. Partly the fault of the space in the venue being tight and amplifying his drums, but also partially the drummers own fault for not being able to reign it in.


From personal experience with our band, our best sound is always achieved when we are (relatively) quiet on-stage and we let the dreamstage do it's thing. Everyone is happier on stage because no-one struggles to hear themselves and, as a direct result plays better/tighter.

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I'm with SiWatts69. I too work with a wide variety of bands and I always trust the presets with maybe a little tweaking here and there. Agree totally with keeping the FX out of the will squeal like the proverbial!! I have used the other effects, slap back delay for some rockabilly bands and vocal doubling and chorusing to thicken a weak vocal. All are good quality but just don't over do it. 


I will say now I am a guitar player, but I get the most trouble from guitarists who insist on having their backline so loud I can't get enough level in everything else without feedback issues. "We" are a nightmare. When the whole thing is miked up the backline is just a monitor guys!!!!!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

Great advice above.


I must be getting further on in years than I realize. I keep having these old sayings come to mind. In this case it goes, "Less is more." In other words, just because there are "toys" available like audio effects, it doesn't mean we have to play with them. Another old adage along the same lines went, "Cut before boost," in reference to how to properly EQ a signal going into a mix or out of speakers.


To me, the only processing needed on nearly all vocals is EQ and compression. Everything else seems like an attempt to cover up something that's lacking. The one effect that might be useful is some of the pitch correction stuff if your vocalist isn't as accurate as you'd like. As with all effects don't overdue that. Digital processing in that domain always introduces artifacts. The more processing that gets done, the greater the number of artifacts that show up and the more noticeable they become.


As quadcabby notes, thickening a thin sounding vocal can be effective. I spent a bunch of time last year auditioning pedals for a new analog pedal board to replace my rack mounted multi-effects. The one I came up with one that intrigues me most and doesn't get used is called the Luxe by DigiTech. It's essentially a chorus pedal that was designed without any modulation circuitry included. It simply detunes whatever passes through it by a few cents as per the parameter the User sets with the knob. I'm pretty sure it's this detuning that causes a chorus effect to work on vocals. If you set the modulation rate to zero on a standard chorus effect you wind up with the same thing.


Whatever you decide to do, take it easy. When I use modulation on my acoustics I usually set things us so that the effect sounds good to me. Then I back it off so that the modulation fades into the background. When I can float a phased chorus out through a room so that those listening have to concentrate to perceive what it is they're hearing, that's often when the effect becomes the most effective.

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As for your question about 100% wet or dry, it sounds like you are getting started, which isn't a bad thing. Type the words "Mackie 1604 manual" into your browser's search box. When I got started with all this stuff nearly three decades ago it seemed pretty confusing to me. That's the mixer I settled in with. It was a great piece of gear. And that manual Mackie wrote to go along with it is an even greater resource for anyone who wants to learn about mixers and how to use them. Another great resource are the archives created by Rane, another audio/electronics company that produced a lot of great gear. The archive is collected under the heading of "Rane Notes." Lots of good info there about equalization, and interconnects for sorting out ground loops between different pieces of audio gear, and such.

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