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Cubase 13: Stock Vocal Compressors Compared

Steinberg Cubase 13: Tips & Techniques By John Walden
Published July 2024

What’s your pick for routine vocal compression duties? Vox Comp, Black Valve or Compressor?What’s your pick for routine vocal compression duties? Vox Comp, Black Valve or Compressor?

Cubase now boasts a number of decent stock compressor plug‑ins: Vox Comp, Black Valve and Compressor. Which should you choose for vocals?

When it comes to modern vocal production, compression is pretty much a ubiquitous part of the processing chain. In most cases, the primary aim will be to manipulate the dynamic range so that, when placed within the final mix, every part/phrase/word of the vocal comes across clearly. Having achieved this, a secondary consideration might be to impart some character or attitude to further enhance the vocal, either tonally, or in terms of finessing the attack or sustain elements of the individual words.

Cubase now offers a number of stock compressors, including two new choices added in v13: Vox Comp (for Pro and Artist users) and Black Valve (Pro only). So how do you decide which of these compressors to use on your vocals? To help you choose, I grabbed a suitable vocal track and put the two ‘new for v13’ offerings up against the long‑standing standard Compressor plug‑in, to see if I could identify the role that each might play in achieving these typical compression aims. You’ll also find, on the SOS website, some audio examples that demonstrate what I’m talking about:

One Knob Wonder

As can be seen in the main screenshot, Steinberg have taken the keep‑it‑simple approach to Vox Comp’s control set. The documentation suggests that it features a ‘highly adaptive’ algorithm that’s designed for processing vocals. Given that there is a specific option to engage a low‑latency ‘live’ mode, I assume that there’s usually a ‘look‑ahead’ stage of a few milliseconds that lets the plug‑in see what’s coming and adjust the processing to suit.

Once inserted, you simply dial in Vox Comp’s Threshold knob to achieve the required amount of compression (there is no user control over the attack/release or ratio settings; presumably, these are built into that adaptive algorithm). If you need to level‑match the processed signal to the original, you can adjust the Output knob. I’ve not used it here, but you can also use Vox Comp for parallel compression without setting up any routing in Cubase, thanks to the Dry/Wet knob.

As is easily demonstrated by the audio examples that accompany this workshop, the results can be very good indeed. My example vocal features noticeable level differences between the verse and chorus sections, and several words within the verse section that are quieter than some others. Using the settings shown within the first screenshot, Vox Comp’s one‑knob magic does a very good job of levelling out these quite marked differences (the loudness range across the example goes from 13.1 LUFS unprocessed to 7.8 LUFS after processing) while still maintaining a fairly natural sound.

These changes are reflected in the vocal’s waveform, as shown in the second screenshot....

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