Processing a vocal track in your mix typically requires an EQ, compressor, reverb, and frequently a de-esser and pitch corrector as well. All of those are included in Nectar Elements, a multieffects vocal processing plugin from iZotope. It represents the third generation of the Nectar line.
Nectar Elements (Mac/Win) is a simplified plugin, with minimal parameter control. But what it has that no other Nectar plugin to date has offered is the Vocal Assistant feature. This feature uses AI to analyze the audio and then suggest appropriate settings for all the effects. The software was trained on a “variety of vocal samples to identify common vocal characteristics.”
This is not the first AI “assistant” for iZotope. The developer first included such a feature in the Neutron 2 channel strip plugin and then in its Ozone 8 mastering software.
THAT IS THE QUESTION
Opening Nectar Elements on a track, the first screen asks you: “What are you going for?” You then get three Vibe choices: Vintage, Modern and Dialogue; plus three Intensity choices: Light, Moderate and Aggressive. Then, hit Go, and it'll ask you to play the track so it can analyze it. You'll then see the Vocal Assistant’s progress as it examines your track, creates settings and applies them.
The tasks it completes include:
• Analyzing vocal signal for optimal settings
• Applying settings based on vocal content
• Detecting vocal register for pitch correction
• Learning subtractive EQ parameters for clarity
• Detecting vocal sibilance to set de-esser
• Applying dynamics for a controlled output level
• Adding subtle reverb to add a sense of space
Once it finishes, you'll reach Nectar’s main GUI. There you’ll find one slider each for Pitch (pitch correction amount and speed), Clarity (subtractive EQ), De-ess, Dynamics (compression threshold), Tone ('character' EQ), and Space (reverb). A spectrum analyzer at the top provides frequency-based metering.
Not happy with the results? Make adjustments with the sliders or go back to the beginning.
Nectar Elements’ intelligent processing generally provided professional sounding results. The Dynamics, De-ess and Clarity settings were all usually quite usable.
I did find myself wanting to change the EQ a lot, and often the single Tone slider was too general to achieve the changes I wanted. The reverb sounds good, but one knob doesn’t offer enough parameter control to make all the adjustments needed.
If you’re looking for pro-sounding vocal processing, and don’t have the desire, skill or time to use dedicated processors and create your own settings, you’ll like Nectar Elements. Its processing sounds good, and it contains all the—pardon the pun—“elements” you need for treating vocals.
But tweakers may want to wait for what I assume will be Nectar 3, a full version using the same Vocal Assistant technology—but with full parameter control for making adjustments to the results. Based on iZotope’s release history, it should be out soon (perhaps by the time you read this review).
Mike Levine is a composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist from the New York area, and is the Technical Editor—Studio for Mix
Quickly creates custom effects-chain settings for vocal tracks with professional-sounding results. Good-sounding effects. Clarity effect (subtractive EQ) particularly impressive
Only one adjustable parameter per effect