How To EQ Vocals on the PreSonus StudioLive Series iii Console

EQing vocals is an essential skill that can make or break your worship service's sound quality; but plugging in a microphone and placing a great singer in front of it doesn't automatically result in stunning audio.

In this post, we'll delve into the intricacies of EQing vocals and give live examples using the PreSonus StudioLive Series 3 console.

The Key Elements of Vocal EQ

When approaching EQ for any vocal track, there are four critical aspects to consider. While you may not need to apply all of them every time, these are essential checks to keep in mind:

1. The High Pass Filter

First up is the High Pass Filter, which helps get rid of unwanted rumble and low frequencies. The HPF is invaluable for eliminating the pops from plosive sounds. For instance, if someone puffs into a microphone and you hear a booming sound, the high-pass filter will take care of it. It's a strong and versatile tool that is both practical and useful in a pinch. 

2. Low Shelf

Next, use a low shelf to mitigate the proximity effect—a low-frequency boost that occurs when a directional microphone is positioned close to a sound source. If your vocals sound muffled, the proximity effect is likely the culprit. Be careful not to cut too much while using this, though. Cutting too much can make your vocals sound thin, and nobody wants that.

3. Resonances in the Low and High Mids

Resonances often appear in the low mids and high mids. Being able to distinguish between these can enhance your mix, allowing you to turn your overall volume higher without hurting your congregation's ears. This involves targeting specific harsh frequencies.

This varies depending on the singer and the vocal range they are employing. The key is to focus on frequencies between 1kHz and 4kHz, cutting them narrowly to avoid losing the vocal's presence.

Finding these odd-sounding or "harsh" frequencies can take some practice, but it is definitely something you can learn. Most consoles have Real Time Analyzers (RTAs) that can help you locate these overpowering frequencies until your ear is trained to notice them naturally.

There are also online applications you can use to practice identifying different frequencies, like SoundGym. While there is a premium version, the free games are useful and worth using to get basic practice for listening to different frequencies.

Live Walkthrough

Let's put what we've discussed into action! Watch this clip from my How to EQ Vocals on PreSonus StudioLive YouTube Video:




Identifying resonances in the low mids usually reveals frequencies between 400Hz and 600Hz that need addressing. Even after using a low shelf, precise cuts are sometimes necessary to avoid a hollow sound.

Likewise, resonances in the high mids (1kHz to 4kHz range) must be meticulously adjusted. A cut that’s too wide makes the vocal sound distant, while too narrow a cut only affects certain notes, which impacts vocal consistency.

Advanced Tips

Here’s a pro tip: resonances often occur in octaves or doubles of the problematic frequency. Thus, if you have trouble at 1.6kHz, you may also want to check 3.2kHz. Applying two smaller notches can help tame resonances effectively while maintaining vocal clarity.

Top End Frequencies

Generally, I leave frequencies above 5kHz alone because this range encompasses critical elements like S’s, T’s, and the vocal “air.” If these sounds are excessive, consider using a de-esser. Otherwise, you might have to change the microphone or live with some compromises.

Final Thoughts

To illustrate the progress, try bypassing all EQ settings and the High Pass Filter to compare the original track with the EQ’d version.

You’ll notice a significant improvement.

Now you’re equipped with a game plan for EQing your church vocals on the PreSonus StudioLive Series 3 console. If you want to learn about setting volume levels, bass expectations, or assembling an effective church sound team, check out my free guide, “How to Lead Your Church Sound Team,” by clicking here.

You also should check out the Attaway Audio Academy. There's tons of content on Vocal EQ, Compression, Audio for Worship Leaders, best practices for EQing most sound sources you'll encounter in church, and more! Along with having live QnAs with me each week, and an awesome community, it really is a fun time. 

Attaway Audio Academy is only $19 a month. It's great for beginners and experienced techs alike.

Thanks for tuning in! Remember, it’s all about the low end, avoid the sound tech solo, and nobody leaves church humming the kick drum.

See you next time on Attaway Audio!


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