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These kind of vocal effect have always peeked my interest. Where the vocals sound dreamy and it sounded like it's a bit radio-ish, but it's not muffled up (just like when you're adding a Telephone eq where it really is very muffled). The vocals although in somewhat "lofi" quality, they are very clean, crystal clear and compact. I tried recreating this with my EQ and although I kinda got the radio/telephone-ish effect, the vocals sound very thin and artificial compared to the given example below.

Early Owl City was the most popular one who used this kind of effect, there were lots who followed then.

Radio Ish Vocal Effect

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  • Hi TheNM and welcome. I get "This video is private" - I think you need to make it "unlisted" if it's yours. Thanks.
    – n00dles
    Commented Jul 14 at 15:37
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    Hi! I have updated the link
    – TheNM
    Commented Jul 15 at 16:03

2 Answers 2

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Let's break it down:

  • Source vocal tone matters. If you have an almost nasal voice that can pierce, it will cut through a mix.
  • The instrumental arrangement must also complement the voice so it sounds well-balanced. That's general mixing. But more specifically...
  • There is some bandpass filter, which makes for the "radio-ish" simulation. Another thing that frequently overlaps here is a good Impulse Response (IR) to shape the voice, so that some frequencies are BOOSTED or otherwise SCULPTED to give emphasis.
  • An easy solution for MOST of this is XLN Audio's RC-20, which is designed exactly for this use case, since it can compensate for the thin-ness by adding saturation/distortion.
  • For extra "dreamy", pair with a delightful delay/reverb like Baby Audio's Spaced Out.
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  • What a fantastic breakdown! Commented Jul 9 at 16:49
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Just going off what I can hear in that track, and adding to TORLEY's answer, there is a modulation effect that's quite prominent on the vocal which gives it that feel.

It sounds like a light vocoder effect using quite low, simple synth notes as the carrier. You can hear it more in the lower sung notes, there's a noticeable sawtooth-style modulation hanging on the fundamental - a classic sign of a vocoder at work. It gives the lower-end a deep, "raspy" feel. It follows the singer's pitch very well, though, so I'm guessing the vocoder has a pitch-follower on the modulator side, and I'd say it also has pitch correction which is quite apparent too, and probably a harmonic key restraint for chord effects. There's a moment, I think in the chorus, where you can hear a strange higher-pitched voice. Well, I'd bet some parameter on the vocoder was tweaked for the chorus (e.g. "octave doubler" or "formant shifter" or something), or it was layered with another preset.

On top of that, there is some bright noisy/fuzzy distortion and - I think - some bit-crushing going on, helping to create that lo-fi feel (It's possible that's where the whit-ish noise is coming from). It's most likely all part of the same vocoder, which tend to be multi-effects units these days.

That's what my ears and intuition tell me. But these type of vox effects are not used in radio, I just hear it in the track you linked. I took a guess at the type of vocoder and parameters, and I just took a peak at my Vocalsynth 2 from iZotope (I never use it), and it does indeed have the parameters I mentioned ("Auto mode" = pitch follower) and some of the presets sound similar, but would need a bit of tweaking.

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  • Thanks a lot! Do you have any recommendations for a vocoder that might have this kind of effect?
    – TheNM
    Commented yesterday
  • Just updated ;)
    – n00dles
    Commented yesterday

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