The Vocal Rider GUI is toward the right,
while on the left, you can see the automation
(blue line) generated from Vocal Rider
riding the gain.
If every vocalist you work with hasperfect mic technique, you can skipthe rest of this review. But for everyoneelse, there’s the Vocal Rider plug-in(VST/AU/TDM/Audio Suite/RTAS).
The concept is simple: Plug VocalRider into a vocal track, set a targetlevel range for the vocal, and VocalRider analyzes the vocal level as youmix. If the vocal level goes down,Vocal Rider brings it up, and vice-versa.
In practice, though, you havequite a bit of latitude for optimizingthe target level and gainrange. For example, if you don’twant to bring soft sections uptoo much, you can restrict themaximum amount of gain. Or,you might want to do the equivalentof compression, but withoutthe artifacts—just use a widegain range. In any event, it’s easy to try out Vocal Rider settingsand if you need to tweak them, that’sequally easy.
I tested Vocal Rider with a “problemchild” vocal that had multiple levelvariations. I had already done levelautomation, and added substantialcompression to even out the dynamics—and thought I had done so relativelysuccessfully. But tossing out theautomation and starting over withVocal Rider was a true revelation:Notes that were substantially lower hitthe proper level, compression becameredundant, and the vocals had an overallconsistency that made them fitsuperbly with the mix.
Waves recommends putting VocalRider last in a chain of plug-ins; if youwant to add a compressed quality tothe voice, you can do so prior to VocalRider, and it will still know how to react.However, I also had good luck puttingan L2 Maximizer after Vocal Rider (withconservative gain reduction settings) toadd a bit more “punch.”
With a few programs (Pro Tools,Nuendo, Cubase, and Studio One), youcan even feed a mix of the music intoVocal Rider’s sidechain. This insures thatthe vocal is not only consistent with itself,but can change if the music changes—louder during loud parts, neutral (noboost) during softer passages.
Although Vocal Rider does itslevel-changing automatically, youcan write the automation data it createsto a track, then fine-tune thelevel manually, as needed. Also notethere are a few other ways to customizethe response, such as anAttack parameter that modifies howthe vocal is detected, and a VocalSensitivity parameter that determineshow much of the detected vocal istreated (i.e., how sensitive it is to thevocal envelope).
While Vocal Rider works extremelywell for sung vocals, it’s equally effectivewith narration. Prior to Vocal Rider, Iused to go through narration phrase-byphraseand normalize or change gain asneeded for consistency—no more.
There is one caution: Vocal Rider ispart of Waves V7 plug-ins. If you’rerunning V6, no problem; but if you’rerunning version 4 or 5, installing V7 willremove older installations (with aprompt, of course). To r...