My Personal Anti-Stack Movement
I get asked several times a week if I’ll make a “stack” for someone. Earlier in the pandemic, when I first started consulting regularly with voice actors, this came up a lot- and something about it really bothered me. As time has gone by, and I’ve seen what people have been doing with “stacks”, I realize my instincts were right. For those that don’t know the term, a stack is a chain of plugins to process your voice. As a mixer, I’ll use varying degrees compression, EQ, noise removal, etc. to get your voice where I need it to be for the job I’m working on. So what’s the exact right setting for your voice?
There isn’t one.
If I were to take five different audio engineers, give them a recording of your voice and ask them to process it, you’d get back five different opinions on what sounds best. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for my issue with doing stacks for people. How I handle your voice is going to be dramatically different based on the spot I’m mixing… the music behind you, the sound effects, the tone of the commercial, etc. By definition, it’s never going to be a one size fits all situation. This is why every single commercial mixer or studio you work with- either via Source Connect or by sending files- will ask for the same thing: send your voice flat with no EQ or compression. Part of the reason for this is consistency. Engineers in the post-production world don’t generally process audio going into their DAW. By leaving the EQ off and the compression mild or off completely, matching that voice down the road becomes seamless. If you start applying processing and need to match things for pickups later- the slightest change to those settings will open up a can of worms. Studios almost always record flat, and will almost always ask you to do the same.
But that’s STILL not the reason I don’t do stacks!
“But Frank, all I do is pay-to-play website sessions where they want me to deliver finished audio”. Sure. I get it. And you want to sound your best. But if I make you a processing chain, an