October 1, 2020 by iZotope

How to Unmask Vocals with Nectar 3 Plus

Give your vocals some breathing room against a beat with Nectar 3 Plus's Vocal Assistant: Unmask feature. Learn how to mix vocals to backing tracks in no time.

What is masking (and unmasking) in the first place?

When multiple mix elements occupy the same area of the frequency spectrum (e.g. a vocal and a lead synth), they compete for the listener's attention in those frequencies. This can cause a lack of clarity, preventing the listener from fully hearing each competing mix element. This is called "masking."

Since modern listeners are used to the vocal being the focal point in much of popular contemporary music, masking is especially problematic when dealing with vocals. If the vocal is masked by another mix element, the listener may be unable to clearly hear the performance, and may even have a tough time following the lyrics. As mix engineers, it's our job to make space for the vocal in the mix, moving competing mix elements out of the vocal's way. This is sometimes referred to as "unmasking."

What is Unmask in Nectar 3 Plus?

product-popover-icons-nectar.png Nectar 3 Plus  adds the ability to address masking of any vocal with Vocal Assistant: Unmask. Unmask directly communicates with the rest of your mix to place your vocal at the forefront by moving other mix elements out of the way.

To learn all about Nectar 3 Plus, check out the following video:

Through Inter-plugin Communication, Unmask will communicate with any instance of Nectar 3 Plus,  product-popover-icons-neutron.png Neutron , or  product-popover-icons-relay.png Relay  to create the perfect EQ pocket in another mix element for your vocal to cut through.

In Nectar 3 Plus, you can now adjust EQ amount on your masking track, ensuring your vocal is loud and clear without causing artifacts or loss of energy. Plus, the new Dynamic setting tracks the vocal and ensures the unmasking only occurs when the voice is present, keeping other instruments from receiving unwanted EQ cuts.

Watch the video below for helpful examples on how to use Unmask on your next project.

How to use Unmask

To use Unmask, make sure you’ve got an instance of Nectar 3 Plus on your vocal track. Next, place an instance of  product-popover-icons-nectar.png Nectar 3 Plus product-popover-icons-neutron.png Neutron , or  product-popover-icons-relay.png Relay  on a track or group of tracks that you think might be interfering with the intelligibility of the vocal.

In the instance of Nectar on the vocal track, click the Vocal Assistant button at the top of the plug-in window, select the Unmask option, and click "Next."

You'll now see a drop-down menu containing all the compatible instances of iZotope plug-ins in your session. Select a compatible plug-in on the mix element that's masking the vocal, and click "Next" again.

Unmask will listen to the source of the masking and introduce an EQ to suppress frequencies are that interfering with the vocal on the masking track. You can even use Dynamic Unmasking to cause the EQ curve to respond to the vocal track, performing even more transparent and reactive unmasking.

Mix vocals and a beat

You can easily use Unmask to create room for a vocal against a stereo beat. This is a common scenario in which a performer acquires a backing track, but faces difficulty carving out a place for their vocals against the busy instrumental. With Unmask, intelligent DSP will create a pocket for the vocals in order for them to be heard. 

Even though we chose a stereo beat for this example, you can imagine using Unmask to clear away guitars, synths, pianos, anything really that’s interfering with your vocal.

The complete suite

Don't forget,  product-popover-icons-nectar.png Nectar 3 Plus  is part of  product-popover-icons-music-production-suite.png Music Production Suite , a suite that gives you access to over thirty industry-standard plug-ins that interact across your session and provide time-saving assistive features, innovative new workflows, and cutting-edge visual analysis tools.