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How to Use the Mic’s Frequency Chart to Understand Vocal EQ

A reader writes in with a question about getting a warmer, smoother vocal sound.

“I am limited to an SM57 for a vocal mic. I’m a strong (somewhat edgy) tenor. I would like to know how to EQ my vocals to get a warmer, smoother sound.”

The Sm57 has a somewhat “harsh” frequency response because it has some big boosts in the high-mids around the 3 – 7 kHz area. You understand this as soon as you check out the mic’s spec sheet.

(As always, understanding the frequency spectrum is something I’ve spent 10 years teaching so I think it’s pretty important. Or I’ve just wasted a decade of my life. We’ll see…)

Of course, this added high-mid boost is great for live situations when you want something to cut through the mix, and possibly the reason why the Sm57 is such a popular mic. That 5 kHz present boost really comes in handy when cutting through a PA!

However, if you’re stuck using it as a vocal mic in a studio situation, it might not be ideal – especially if your voice has a natural edginess to it. In that case, those beneficial boosts in the mids could be overkill.

As engineers, we have a tendency to reach for the high-mid boost to get tracks to cut through, so it feels like a “bad” move to cut those frequencies. Especially when you’re EQ’ing something as important as the vocal. By knowing the frequency response of the mic, it will help you feel more confident when you’re cutting the high-mids.

You won’t feel like you’re making a mistake because you’re:

  1. Using your ears (the vocals sound harsh).
  2. Relying on the data (the mic has too big of a high-mids boost already for this voice).

So to get a warmer, smoother sound, you might just need to cut the high-mid harshness that’s obscuring it.

If that’s still not doing the job, another way to add some warmth to your vocals is through some subtle saturation. I talk about all the ways you can make your home studio vocals sound professional inside the Expert Home Vocals course, so if you’re trying to find more ways to make your vocals stand out, check out the Expert Home Vocals course here.

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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