Whether it’s for a podcast, recorded lecture or presentation, audio book, or any kind of voice acting, just like with singing vocals we want a clean and powerful track for voice over work. We can clean up a lot of the common problems associated with recorded speech and bring out clarity simply using EQ. With that in mind, here is my voice over EQ guide and cheat sheet.
How to EQ for Voice Over
Just like I do for my other EQ guides, let’s share the macro EQ for voice over cheat sheet then break down each frequency range to explain why I recommend making the moves I do. We’ll be addressing how to bring out clarity for your voice over as well as addressing issues like plosives, nasal voices, sibilance, and those annoying mouth sounds/clicks.
High Pass at 80Hz to Remove Noise
I like to start off my EQ for voice over by high passing at 80Hz. Note that you can go a bit higher when EQing a female voice over to 100Hz, but it will generally depend on the voice.
I recommend a slope of 24dB/oct as it’s sharp enough at 80Hz to remove all of the unwanted ambient noise without cutting into the frequencies of the body of the voice itself.
This cuts out ambient noise like computer fans, air conditioners, even most sounds of vehicles outside whose low frequencies permeate through walls as I mentioned in my comparison of low frequency vs high frequency.
Dynamic Cut at 150Hz for Plosives
Plosives are those surges in low frequencies as a result of bursts of air we create on certain syllables like “P” sounds. Pop screen filters are specifically made to reduce the effects of plosives on the microphone and recordings. Despite the use of a filter over the microphone, an animated speaker can sometimes still get a plosive or two through. This is again where EQ for voice over helps.
As I covered in my overview on how to remove plosives from vocals, these frequency surges occur around 150Hz.
We’re starting to get into the body of the voice in this area, so a uniform/normal EQ cut will thin out our voice over needlessly.
Instead, we can use my vote for the best EQ in FabFilter’s Pro-Q 3 to create a dynamic EQ cut at 150Hz. Setting a threshold to only pull 150Hz down when the EQ detects a surge which can only come from a plosive ensures that 99% of the time the 150Hz region of our voice over is untouched. When a plosive does happen, the EQ cut triggers and reacts accordingly, masking the effects of and removing the “pop” from the plosive.
Boost or Cut at 200-300Hz to Add Body or Clean Up Boomy Voice Over
200-300Hz on most speaking voices is where the body comes from. As such, we can cut or boost here to make any adjustments we feel our voice over might need.
If the voice feels too boomy (not to be confused with plosives), a cut (or dynamic cut) around 250Hz can thin out an abundance of thickness.
Conversely, if the voice feels too thin, we can add a bit of body with a small boost at 250Hz instead.
Cut Between 400-600Hz to Add Clarity
One of the most common causes of an amateur sounding voice over is a lack of clarity. You hear that muffled quality on so many first time podcasters or YouTube content creators.
Before you begin boosting in the higher frequencies, apply a cut around 500Hz to remove the boxy quality. This move better emphasizes the higher frequencies of your voice over, cutting mud and creating clarity.
Boost or Dynamic Cut Between 1-2k to Fix Hollow Sound or Correct Nasal Voice
The 1-2k range can be manipulated to correct a hollow sounding vocal (boost if that’s the case) or a nasally sounding voice (cut if that’s the case).
Be careful about boosting or cutting too much in this region to correct the aforementioned issues as you can end up going too far in the OPPOSITE direction, making your voice over sound nasally or hollow by boosting or cutting too aggressively, respectively, in the 1-2k range.
Boost or Dynamic Cut Around 5-8k to Add Clarity or Reduce Sibilance
Vocal sibilance is the harsh emphasis on certain syllables, particularly “S” and “T” sounds. It occurs in singing, but it can be a problem on a voice over, as well.
Similar to plosives, sibilance shows up as a concentration of energy but in the 5-8k region. We can reduce sibilance with a dynamic cut in this area so that it only gets attenuated on those flare ups and without taking away from this region otherwise where a lot of the clarity of our voice over exists.
Speaking of which, we can make a small boost in the 5k region to give our voice over more clarity. Don’t go too far, or you can create problems with sibilance which didn’t exist before or make your voice over tinny, harsh, and abrasive.
Deep Dynamic Cut at 11k to Attenuate Mouth Sounds/Clicks
Those infuriating mouth sounds or clicking sounds our lips inadvertently make when we speak. While these are pronounced in a conversation, when we’re up on a microphone, the parting of our lips makes a truly unpleasant clicking sound.
It’s subtle enough to not notice while we’re speaking, but the microphone doesn’t lie.
Professional voice over artists who regularly record their voice or have their voice recorded know to be mindful about it and even practice techniques of keeping their lips slightly parted while taking breaks between sentences.
These clicks generally occur around 11k, give or take, and a deep dynamic cut with setting a threshold accordingly attenuates this region rather transparently only when a click triggers it. This mitigates the effects of the mouth noises without sacrificing the clarity of your voice over which a uniform cut at 11k would do by sacrificing the air of your voice.
If this still isn’t getting it done, I can’t recommend enough a tool like Izotope’s RX which is a vocal production suite designed to address and correct a host of problems related to vocals/voice.
In particular, their De-click tool masterfully targets these clicking noises and transparently removes them while leaving the rest of your vocal or voice over intact. The suite comes with a number of tools for removing sibilance, background noise, and of course the dreaded mouth clicks.
Low Pass Around 18-20k to Remove Inaudible Noise
This is a habit which is more relevant to and important for vocal production and mixing, but you can low pass around 18-20k to remove inaudible high pitched frequencies.
Once again a 24dB/oct slope is sufficient for cutting out high pitched frequencies we can’t hear/don’t need without affecting the top end of your voice over.
EQ for Voice Over Tips
- High pass starting at 80Hz with a 24dB/oct slope to remove ambient and unwanted background noise without sacrificing vocal body.
- Create a dynamic cut at 150Hz to exclusively target and transparently remove plosives.
- Cut or boost at 200-300Hz to reduce boominess from an overly thick voice or add body to a thin voice, respectively.
- Cut at 500Hz to remove muffled quality and add clarity.
- Cut or boost at 1-2k to reduce a nasal quality in a voice over or correct a hollow sounding voice over, respectively.
- Boost or dynamic cut around 5k to add clarity or reduce sibilance or harsh, abrasive voice over.
- Create deep dynamic cut at 11k to attenuate mouth “click” noises.
- Low pass at 18-20k with 24dB/oct to roll off inaudible frequencies without sacrificing clarity from voice over.