We have tested the top 6 VST plugins for voiceover and dialogue cleaning available in 2021, and we will review them in this article.
Voiceover production has become very popular due to the increase of podcasts and audiobooks around the world. Hence, we will show you a handy list of the best plugins for voiceover. But before starting with the best plugins in the market of 2021, let’s talk about what voiceover recordings are.
What is A Voiceover?
A voiceover is a narration of information over a video but without the speaker appearing on screen. Even if you don’t know what it is, you have undoubtedly heard it in films, TV series, documentaries, sports, commercials, and breaking news.
From the old radio days to current podcasts, the voice has a particular feature not found in any other living being on Earth; it is human. But to make that voice enjoyable, clear, present, and alive, we need to record it with the right tool.
Over the years, vocal processing has evolved, and new techniques appear to improve the sound of the voices. Many recording and broadcasting engineers are listening carefully and continuously improving those recorded vocals, pursuing perfection.
So, let’s check out some of those tools and how we can use them.
Top 6 VST Plugins For Voice-Over & Dialogue Cleaning 2021
1. UnitedPlugins Voxessor Review
Voxessor is a plugin that instantly improves your vocal recording or broadcasting. It covers all the aspects needed to treat a voice: noise gate, compressor, de-esser, and EQ, all in a reduced set of commands.
It is beneficial for online activities while recording because it works with incredible speed. It provides an “automatic volume“ feature and two one-knob dynamics processors (compressor and gate). The plugin detects if the incoming signal has to be processed or not. Based on that, it can temporarily turn on the “sleep mode” and save processing resources.
The main selector lets you EQ the human voice appropriately, depending on the source. It accepts sources from low male voices to highest girl ones. You can also analyze the recorded voice – using the “Intelligent Matching” feature – and let the plugin EQ the source automatically.
It also comes with a “Tunable De-Esser” that allows you to remove excessive sibilance without losing brilliance.
Finally, it has a 64-bit audio quality engine, a “smart bypass,” and a 3D user interface.
- Perfect and Consistent Voice-over
This plugin contains all the four tools you need to get a consistent recording. Compression and noise gating to set the vocal in the center of the field. De-esser to avoid distractions in the listener with a voice analyzer and automatic EQ for an ideal voice. And simple metering to quickly monitor all the parameters mentioned before.
- “Smart Dynamics” and Intelligent Processing
This plugin comes with a unique processor of character voice (man, boy, woman, girl) that adapts the recording or broadcasting voice to correct any defect and enhance any goodness. It also has an auto-leveling feature that makes the audio signal consistently solid. To help this, its high resolution of 64 bits takes this plugin to a premium level.
- Fully Portable
Apart from its powerful internal engine, it is fully portable. Once you purchase the full license, you can install the plugin on any other computer. You only need to copy your “license file” along with the copy. This way, you can use it comfortably in your home studio and any place using your notebook.
- Compact and Easy-to-use Interface
Anyone could think that all the tools this plugin provides would make your life unpleasant. However, the automatic leveling, the intelligent character voice, and the audio processor are only one-knob tweaking. Change one thing here, modify this other thing there, and you are ready to record or broadcast. Very simple, very quick, very useful, very powerful.
United Plugins’ Voxessor is available for Windows 8 or higher 32-bit or 64-bit and macOS 10.7 or higher 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
United Plugins’ Voxessor has an exquisite design and provides all the features needed to obtain an outstanding vocal recording. All leveling capabilities (auto-level, compressor, noise gate) are present and include a fully tunable de-esser. It supports matching EQ with a vocal analyzer and a character voice modeling. All these make this plugin a handy tool for every voice. Simple, slight, and powerful.
2. Acon Digital Extract:Dialogue
Extract: Dialogue is another class of plugins for the handling of voices. Extract:Dialogue plugin separates dialogue from common types of noise – generally background noise – such as rustle, wind, hum, traffic, plosives, and mouth clicks and smacks.
The use of this plugin is to remove any noise from the voiceover surgically. The algorithm can work in real-time and uses deep learning technology. Despite its complex technology, “Extract: Dialogue” has a highly intuitive design. You simply add this plugin to your dialogue bus or track, and magic appears.
Noise reduction is fully automatic; however, the plugin interface offers three simple controls to adjust the “sensitivity of the noise detection,” the “amount of noise attenuation,” and the “frequency focus.” This way, you can adjust the sensitivity independently in up to three frequency bands.
The attenuation control is convenient when you don’t want to remove the background noise but reduce it. This control is helpful in cases where you need environmental noise, for example, news reports or sports transmission.
- Top-Notch Technology
Based on deep learning, thousands of high-quality voice recordings trained its extraction algorithm. It also incorporated an extensive database of familiar noises. The comprehensive training also enabled artificial intelligence processing to distinguish dialogue from noise without user interaction automatically.
- Easy to Use with Total Control
Although the detection and extraction of noises are automatic, the plugin gives you the tools to adjust the necessary reduction conveniently. And if you cannot perceive the noise or don’t know what is being extracted, a “solo noise” mode is available. You can listen to the noise and be secure that the voice is untouched.
- Warranty of Good Results
A large number of factory presets help to customize the work. And it supports internal sampling processing up to 96Khz.
Acon Digital’s Extract:Dialogue is available for Windows 7 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) (please note that macOS 10.15 and higher does not run 32-bit programs any longer). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Probably the user interface of Acon Digital’s Extract:Dialogue is not better looking; its internal processing can make the difference. The “solo noise” feature is helpful. And you cannot find the deep-learning technology included in this plugin anywhere near this price range.
3. WA Production Vocal Cleaner Review
Vocal Cleaner is a plugin that takes a dirty vocal recording and converts it to a shining finished production. You, as a producer, can forget the details of parameters to focus on what is necessary, the voice.
As you can imagine, this plugin was conceived with the mind put on a musical production. The idea behind this plugin is to prepare the initial recording to a posterior polish of compression, saturation, and reverb. But since the preparation tasks are the same, voiceover tasks take advantage of this plugin.
The main three stages are the faders for the de-noise, de-esser, and gate processing. Once you establish the thresholds, a set of intelligent algorithms optimize the output with different tones: bright, dark, or natural. Finally, you need to determine how much presence you need, and voila, your voice is ready to shine.
- 3 Processing Stages
This plugin reduces a complex process into a series of three clearly defined steps; easy to follow and monitor. The De-noise, the de-esser, and the gate appear in front of the screen with a simple fader you need to push down to get a better voice. Select the desired tone and adjust the presence. Three steps are all you need.
- Intelligent Algorithms
Although we can talk about tone, presence, brightness, or natural sound, we know that a set of intelligent processors adjust the EQ, the compression, and the harmonics behind the scenes. Two filters (low-pass and high-pass) are responsible for the reduction of mouth plosives and smacks.
- CPU and User Friendly
This plugin is not only elegant to the user but also not CPU intensive. The new version has a window fully resizable. Additionally, it comes with a set of factory presets ready to use for voice.
WA Production Vocal Cleaner is available for Windows 8 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) and macOS 10.13 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) (please note that macOS 10.15 and higher does not run 32-bit programs any longer). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
WA Production Vocal Cleaner is one of those plugins I feel comfortable working with because only the necessary controls and metrics are there. All the things you need are there. That, combined with intelligent processors and state-of-the-art algorithms, is a warranty of good results.
4. Accusonus ERA De-Esser Pro Review
Accusonus’ ERA De-Esser and ERA De-Esser Pro are two single-knob plugins that intuitively remove the sibilance from spoken audio.
They are part of a more extensive set of audio restoration solutions named ERA Bundle Pro. But with these plugins, Accusonus provides more control and customization to achieve a crystal clear voice. Furthermore, they allow handling either de-essing or harshing, even if the audio is not a vocal recording.
It comes with a big waveform display, a compensation gain fader, and a “Diff” operation mode to listen to the sibilance reduction.
ERA De-Esser Pro lets you tailor the intelligent de-essing response based on two additional controls: Focus and Shaping (ERA De-Esser Standard does not count with these).
- Improvement of Audio Production Workflow
This plugin gives you to right tools to fine-tune the sibilance reduction. Its intelligent processor with precision controls sculpts the signal quicker than other plugins.
- Surgical Reduction
It allows you to focus on the frequencies that produce sibilance and provides you the option to shape the reduction from broad to normal, from soft to sharp characteristics.
- Visual and Auditive Monitoring
Thanks to its huge waveform display, ERA De-Esser displays where the sibilance takes place. The “Diff” mode allows you to identify the sibilance and monitor its reduction. It acts as a “solo noise” enablement.
- Two Flavours of the Same Plugin
It comes in a standard and a professional version. It is good to have alternative versions based on the requirements of the user.
Accusonus ERA De-Esser Pro is available for Windows 8 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) and macOS 10.9 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) (please note that macOS 10.15 and higher does not run 32-bit programs any longer). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Accusonus ERA De-Esser makes easy the task of reducing sibilance. It is simple. Configuration is quick; the results are fast. You see and hear what you are doing. If you need a specific de-esser processor, the ERA De-Esser plugin is for you.
5. FabFilter Pro-G Review
If we are talking about “FabFilter Sofware Instruments,” we are playing in the major leagues. FabFilter is renowned because of its high-quality products, and FabFilter Pro-G is not an exception.
FabFilter Pro-G is one of the best gate/expander plugins in the market. Its algorithms are perfectly tuned, its interface design is professional, and its control over the sidechain is complete.
This plugin features not only expander/gate processors but also includes upward expansion and ducking. It has an expert mode with customizable sidechain options and linear-phase oversampling. Hence it will not add any undesired artifacts. The implementation of sidechaining and ducking are beneficial features for radio broadcasting.
Pro-G allows mono, stereo, and mid/side processing with a zero-latency operation mode. And of course, it provides switches for A/B comparison and “undo/redo” modifications.
Pro-G provides many more features, such as Smart Parameter Interpolation or MIDI Learn, but that is out of the scope of voiceover handling.
- Sidechain Routings and Ultra-flexible Operation
FabFilter Pro-G delivers an excellent improvement of the recorded voice. Further, it provides very flexible routing, either in standard or expert mode. You can switch from mono to stereo, introduce the sidechain signal and work with oversampling.
- Ducking Mode
Radio broadcasting (and other activities as well) uses “ducking” to increase and decrease music (or other audio signals) while the radio show host starts or stops talking. You can also use this feature in voiceover when you are narrating over videos. However, I must warn you that an extreme amount of ducking can be annoying to the audience.
- Precise and Clear Metrics
Because of its multiple parameters, a clear visualization is necessary. We need to check which knobs are active, which processor is working, and how the audio signal is affected. FabFilter outstands the metering and combines it all in a unique, precise, and clear visualization pane.
- Help on Screen
As with every FabFilter plugin, Pro-G lets you enable on-screen help when you hover your mouse pointer over any plugin’s parameter. This way, you precisely know what you are doing and how that action would affect the output. This on-screen help not only avoids mistakes but also helps you learn more quickly how the plugin works.
FabFilter Pro-Gis available for Windows Vista or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) and macOS 10.10 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit) (please note that macOS 10.15 and higher does not run 32-bit programs any longer). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
FabFilter Pro-G is one of the best plugins for processing audio dynamics. It provides all the tools you need to obtain the best audio signal. However, it is too much if you only need a plugin for voiceover. It exceeds all expectations, and your vocals will be great. Still, if you don’t work with other sources (musical instruments, effects, mixed sources), I suggest opting for cheaper plugins for better value.
6. Waves WNS Noise Suppression Review
WNS Noise Suppressor is another excellent product developed by Waves. Waves products are a synonym of good quality.
WNS Noise Suppressor is a plugin to reduce noise from any vocal recording. As with every plugin from the family, WNS performs nicely and smoothly. It works in real-time with zero latency. You can use it with any vocal source, but it is ideal for dialog, narration, voiceovers, and broadcasting.
Its design is very similar to its little brother, Waves NS1 Noise Suppressor, but the power of WNS is superior. NS1 comes with only one fader: the threshold, the minimum volume before noise reduction. WNS, though, includes a set of frequency filters.
Audio engineers can identify the noise frequencies and isolate the noise from those frequencies exclusively using said filters. Similarly, while NS1 employs an attenuation bar to visualize the reduced noise, WNS shows the reduction in a spectral display, emphasizing the frequencies affected by the plugin.
- Hardware Power in a Small Software
Every audio professional knows that hardware boxes are unbeatable at the time of processing audio. But Waves WNS Noise Suppressor performs equal to or even better than hardware processors. For sure, it is more affordable.
- Zero Artifacts
With this plugin, you don’t need to worry about glitches or audible artifacts. You will have zero latency, zero artifacts, and zero errors. So, you can focus on your work and let the plugin will do the rest.
- Exclusive “Suggest” Feature
Apart from its six adjustable bands, large graphic display, and dynamic range selection (broad or narrow bands), it features a cutting-edge algorithm called “Suggest.” WNS analyzes the signal noise and its relationship with the active signal and automatically adjusts all the plugin parameters. Later it suggests the engineer the most probable frequencies where the noise is present.
Waves WNS Noise Suppressor is available for Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only) and macOS 10.13 or higher (64-bit only). It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Waves WNS Noise Suppressor will not let you down. It is robust and well-designed. It has automatic processing and customizable parameters. It comes in broad (NS1) and multiple narrow bands (WNS). It is intuitive, and you can trust in it.
The 3 Best Free Voice Over Plugins 2021
1. Sleepy-Time DSP Lisp
Sleepy-Time DSP is a company that releases freeware VST plugins. Sadly, it has recently announced that it will not develop additional software or audio plugins.
Fortunately, you can still find their plugins on several archive sites of audio plugins. Sleepy-Time DSP plugins are beautifully designed and optimized for fast performance. Lisp, in particular, is a high-precision de-esser plugin. It uses an advanced transient detection algorithm to reduce sibilance.
- Transient Detection Algorithm
Not many de-esser plugins use this technology. So this is a good alternative when other plugins are not efficient in removing particular kinds of sibilance.
- Different stereo-field modes
It also presents a feature that makes it valuable. It works on all stereo modes: stereo, mono (left and right), and mid/side. This last mode is not available on some other plugins.
Sleepy-Time’s DSP Lisp is available for Windows 7 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit). It comes in VST2/3 formats.
Unfortunately, we will need to look around archived sites to find Sleepy-Time’s DSP Lisp, but if we can find it, it will be worth it.
2. Bertom Denoiser
Bertom Denoiser is a whole terrain noise reduction plugin. It removes noise from music, post-production, voiceover, and dialogue. Further, it features a simple user interface; user-friendly and optimized for a fast cleaning up. You can use it during a live broadcast because of its zero-latency processing.
Denoiser focuses on setting filters (high-pass and low-pass) and five different frequency bands. You count with five sliders to control every band. Once the noise frequencies are located, you can control the amount of reduction with another fader.
Despite its simple interface, this freeware plugin is an advanced noise production tool. It provides outstanding results while being easy to use and very light on CPU consumption.
- Automatic Noise Analysis
Denoiser’s noise reduction algorithm doesn’t need to learn a static noise profile. Instead, it tracks how the noise part of the audio signal is evolving in each band and removes it. It works similar to a dynamic equalizer: there will be no noise reduction if there is no apparent phase shift.
One thing to keep in mind when using Denoiser is that it works best for moderate noise reduction. You do not need to push it too hard. You’ll find a significant noise reduction with the threshold set about halfway down. If you try it more, it might introduce audible noise reduction artifacts. Use your ears for better results.
Bertom Denoiser is available for Windows 8 or higher, Linux, and macOS 10.9 or higher, both 32-bit or 64-bit. It comes in VST3, AU, and AAX formats.
Bertom Denoiser released this plugin recently. It uses state-of-the-art reduction techniques and is powerful and efficient. I will not surprise if this free plugin becomes a licensed product soon.
3. Cockos ReaGate
Cockos ReaGate is one of the most configurable noise gates in the market.
It not only comes with the standard parameters, like attack, hold-value, release, and reduction percentage, it also adds parameters for lookahead of the signal, hysteresis control, and the main detector input.
You can also control it remotely using MIDI CC messages if you use an external MIDI surface control in your podcast or broadcast studio.
Although it does not have intelligent algorithms that can make your life easier, it features every parameter you can use to customize this noise gate plugin. You will not find, for example, sidechain filters or hysteresis control on any free plugin.
- Updated audio engine
You can think that this is an old plugin, but it is not. Its interface indeed looks old-fashioned. But Reaper continuously updates its plugins to fix and improve every little detail.
Cockos ReaGate is available for Windows 98 or higher (32-bit or 64-bit). It comes in VST 2 format only.
Cockos ReaGate plugin is where you can customize the process of noise gating. You will control this gate. If you are familiar with noise gates and their parameters, this plugin will expand your capabilities.
iZotope RX Advanced Review
iZotope RX8 Advanced is the top-tier of iZotope post-production software. Although iZotope designed and developed RX for professional production activities, it also focused on vocal production.
If you need to move forward on voiceover production, you will find in RX8 an outstanding tool. It comes as a plugin and as a standalone application.
I will enumerate here the processing tools that are not present on any of the plugins described below: de-breath, de-reverb, ambiance-match, center-extract, de-bleed, de-clip, de-crackle, de-wind, de-rustle. These are only for vocal processing. The power that RX8 provides is a lot.
But you count with many other features like matching-EQ, music-rebalance (to extract vocals from music), mouth de-click, audio deconstruction, spectral repair, loudness level, and pattern interpolation.
All the functions that iZotope RX8 features are way out of the scope of voiceover. But in vocal recording, the software is used for forensic tasks, where the audio engineer needs to restore poor-quality recordings. RX8 also comes with several statistics like spectrum stats and waveform measurements. It also provides automation tools and scripting to process multiple audio clips at once.
- As big as you need
iZotope RX8 comes in three different packages: Elements, Standard and Advanced. If you don’t need certain features, you can opt for a reduced software. The website page is clear and lists every module on every package.
- Plugin and standalone in one package
You can use RX8 either as a plugin in your host application (DAW) or as standalone software. If used as a plugin, it will work in real-time along the audio recording is being played. If used as a standalone application, you can preview the effect of every module. This way, you can adjust the different parameters until getting the desired output.
- Big screen, meaningful details
RX8 shows either the waveform view, the spectral view, or an overlapped view on the main screen. You can zoom in and out, both in frequency spectrum and time, and switch rapidly from one representation to another. All the tools are handy and edited actions can be undone with one keyboard action.
- Automation and customization
Every action can be automated and set in a list of ordered tasks. You can that list as a preset and use it every time is needed. Additionally, you can create a bundle of actions. Those actions can be automated and apply them together to a set of files. It is beneficial when converting audio files from one format to another.
iZotope RX Advanced is available for Windows 8 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST2/3, AU, and AAX formats.
Developed as audio post-production software, iZotope RX8 Advanced is a complete set of editing modules usable either as plugins or standalone applications. So, it might be over-featured for simple voiceovers. For expert users, RX8 is fantastic. However, the learning curve is significant for beginners, and it’s expensive to boot.
We have tested six plugins for different processing of voiceovers. Some are purpose-specific, and some are more general.
The specific ones are oriented to reduce or remove complicated issues naturally present in the human voice, like sibilance, plosives, and smacks. WA Production’s Vocal Cleaner, Accusonus’ ERA De-Esser Pro and Waves WNS Noise Suppressor belong to this class. These plugins are focused on the cleaning of a dirty voiceover.
Another class of purpose-specific tasks is FabFilter Pro-G, which focuses on the audio signal’s consistency and dynamics.
And finally, Acon Digital Extract: Dialogue or United Plugins’ Voxessor mixes both classes, de-noising plus dynamics. These plugins help current voiceover activities, like podcasting, audiobooks narration, and other social network audio activities.
You can also purchase iZotope RX for professional tasks. You can do anything you need, and if you do not need a host, iZotope provides a standalone application.
Summing up, for voiceovers, I recommend United Plugins’ Voxessor. I like the tools it provides; it is fast and convenient for recording and broadcasting. I also like WA Production Vocal Cleaner because it mixes dynamics and noise reduction in real-time.
For specific de-noising tasks, WNS Suppressor is a must. And if you will work on vocal post-production or in forensic audio restoration, iZotope RX is unbeatable.
Marcelo is a musician, producer, mixing and mastering engineer. Since the 1990s, he has been working on digital audio and musical productions.