The perfect vocal chain is nothing short of magic. It’s the golden thread that binds a vocalist’s raw emotion with the technological finesse of a polished track. Typically, achieving that seamless sound has been the domain of expensive, top-tier plugins. But what if the producer’s secret could be unraveled without any toll on the wallet?

This week, we’re going to dive into the art of recreating an expensive vocal chain, not with expensive tools, but with entirely free plugins.

Join us with Fabio from Noize as we turn the dials and twist the knobs in pursuit of that perfect sound, all without spending a dime. And as a bonus, there’s also a free Soothe plugin alternative!

Let’s get right to it.

Track: “I Don’t Want A Piece Of Me” by Rich Power

We’ll be focusing on vocals for this because the artist left specific, time-stamped feedback on the vocals through Boombox. Using the chain we’ve created, we’re going to address all of the vocal issues that the artist has mentioned.

We’ll start with the SSL 4K B. We like the compression and EQ on this, as well as the high pass.

Channev – Pro Vocal Chain

The free alternative we’ve found is Channev by Analog Obsession. No, it’s not technically an SSL channel, but we wanted something with a Mic Pre that we can drive for Saturation, that’ll give us an EQ section, and a Compressor all-in-one.

So, we’re driving the Mic Pre for saturation. On the EQ, we’re doing a low cut up to the same point as we were on the SSL at 136 Hz. We’re doing a little bell dip at 330 Hz, and then a shelf boost at 3.3K Hz.

We’re also using the compressor with a very fast release and a medium ratio, and we’re also doing a little bit of tape drive on the output. We’re taking out a bit of the low end, adding some air, and pushing/sculpting the signal closer to where we wanna be. Just broad strokes for now, but they create a great starting point.

Next we’re using the Smooth Operator which is a paid plugin. It’s got a great, dynamic EQ that’s similar to Soothe in that it does a great job of compressing certain frequency areas.

TDR Nova – Pro Vocal Chain

The free version we’re using today is the TDR Nova. We’re specifically using this to compress a few of the lower frequencies around the 200 range.

Once we turn the band on, you’ll notice a slight dip of 0.7 dB. We have it set at 246 Hz and a Ratio of 2.0:1. If you toggle the Threshold button on and off, it can become a Compressor at this frequency.

It’s starting to sound a bit thin, so we’ve added another band on top with a static EQ. This isn’t really doing any compression or expanding. It’s just a normal bell EQ boosting that area. We’re trying to control the change in volume for the low frequencies while bringing the whole thing up together.

The low frequencies help give a “proximity effect” which makes the vocalist feel like they’re closer to the mic and closer to the audience, making it all feel more intimate. If you take out too many of the low frequencies, it all starts to sound thin and unnatural.

1176 Rev A – Pro Vocal Chain

Next we’re using the 1176 Rev A. This is a paid plugin, we know. But if you click on the link in the video it’ll direct you to another resource for some of our favorite free plugins that can effectively emulate the paid ones.

The 1176 has fast, aggressive compression. That’s why we love it. It clamps down on the transients, controlling the volume. We have a fast Attack, fast Release, and compressing about 5 dB. You should hear the slight tonal changes when it’s turned on and off.


Next we’re using the Neve 1073 Preamp by UAD, but the free version of this is the BritChannel by Analog Obsession. Here we’re doing a shelf boost at about 10-12K, plus another boost at 360 Hz, bringing back a little of that body and warmth. We’re also reducing the amount of low frequencies at 110.


Soothe2 is great for dealing with high, harsh frequencies and de-essing, but the free version we’ll be using is the Wavegrove by Vastaus. The main dials you’ll need to focus on are the Wet and the Tame.

We’ll start with the Wet and increase this to tame those high frequencies. Take a listen. Fabio is going to turn the Delta on and off so that you can hear which frequencies it’s affecting. You’ll notice that it still does a great job of preserving the volume while eliminating the higher frequencies.

The more we take out though, the more dull it can become. We don’t want it too dull of course, but we do want to control a little of that harshness.

The Tame will deal more with the transients. The more that we increase the Tame, the more we’ll add compression. You might notice that it flattens the sound, making it a bit more unnatural.

What we like about Wavegrove is that it works like a de-esser and a de-harsher for the high frequencies.

We also added OTT. The vocal is where we want it, but we wanna give it a bit of a lift with upwards and downwards compressions. This increases the parts of the frequencies that are low volume while bringing the loud parts down in the high, middle, and low frequencies. Basically, it’s a multi-band, upward and downward compressor.

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If you’re interested in having your own track mixed and mastered for free, check the link in the video description and get those files uploaded to Boombox. All the instructions you need are there!