EQ basics for Voiceovers & Podcasts
Nothing beats finding the sweet spot in a room, where your microphone sounds great and you can record the sound you want with very little processing. However for many of us we are setting up a home studio for the first time and experiencing a trail by fire in mic placement and technique, often in acoustically less than ideal rooms. If you find no matter what you try your recordings are not quite sounding the way you want them then a little EQ can often help clean up your track, below is a short tutorial to help get to grips with the most common features found on nearly all EQ plugins in most modern DAWs.
High Pass Filter (HPF)
This should be the first step when eq-ing a voiceover track. A high pass filter as the name suggests will trim off unwanted bass frequencies and only allow the high frequencies to pass. Most DAW’s will have an eq plugin of some kind and whilst the look of the plugins may vary depending on your DAW of choice. The high pass filter can usually be found as a knob labelled HPF or Low Cut which you will be able to ‘turn up’ in order to cut the desired amount of low frequencies, generally speaking a human voice does not extend much below 85hz so you will want to cut out all of the frequencies below this which are unusable and likely muddy up your sound.
Low Pass Filter (LPF)
The low pass filter will do the opposite of the HPF and cut high or treble frequencies. Typically you will not usually need this for voiceover as the high frequencies are where all the ‘airy’ sibilance sounds in your voice sit and adjusting this can result in a dull or muffled sound. However, it can be a useful tool for trimming off any high pitched room noise you may have around 18 – 20kHz but use sparingly to preserve the clarity of your recording.
Low mid will adjust the ‘boxy’ sound in your voice from around 250Hz – 500 Hz. On most DAW eq plugins you will likely see a Gain, Q (or Width) and frequency knob – You will use the frequency knob to select the frequency you wish to attenuate, the Q knob to choose how much of the neighbouring frequencies you want to include in your attenuation and finally the gain knob to boost/or cut the selected frequency.
A good tip to find any boxy frequencies is to set the Q to a medium width, turn the gain down by around -8db and sweep through the frequencies until you hear the boxy sound eliminated, then adjust the gain to up or down to taste. Remember with EQ less is often more so try not to make reduce frequencies by more than 3-4db unless it really needs it.
High mid is the ‘nasal’ sound of your voice around 500Hz – 2Khz. To attenuate any of these frequencies the procedure is the same as outlined in the Low mid section.
Sometimes labelled as High shelf this is the ‘airy’ sibilant sounds from your voice. Typical frequencies which often stand out in this part of the spectrum are 4kHz and 8kHz, if your recording sounds uncomfortably bright or sharp you may want to experiment with cutting some of those frequencies.
Check out our article on “How to get great-sounding voiceovers & podcasts”