Top 9 Plugins For Mixing Rap Vocals

Top 9 Plugins For Mixing Rap Vocals

Nowadays, the quantity of quality plugins available on the market is impressive. In this huge jungle, which plugins should you choose for mixing rap vocals? In this article, I’ll give you the top 9 plugins I use every day to deliver the best quality music mix to my clients.

Best Plugins For Mixing Rap Vocals

Do plugins improve the quality of your mixes?

No, plugins can’t improve mixing quality overnight. You have to understand that plugins, even the best ones, are not robots that work by themselves. They absolutely have to be handled in the right way. Always keep in mind that it is the mixing skills that give a great final mix quality. Not the tools.

However, once you have enough mixing skills, getting new plugins can completely change the game. Because you will know how to use them in the right way. That’s why I decided to give you this list of the top 9 plugins for mixing rap vocals. Because these plugins each have a special and professional touch that they can bring to your vocals.

Don’t forget to read the description to make sure the plugin fits your needs.

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Selection criteria

Before you start reading this article, it is important that you know the selection criteria for each plugin. These criteria are mostly objective. But the choice of plugin also depends slightly on my experience as a mixing engineer.

Here are the criteria that will be taken into account:

Audio quality

The audio quality is obviously the first criterion to be taken into account. And while each of these plugins offer flawless, professional audio quality, it’s important to remember that this is what should always take priority over everything else.

Ease of use / Intuitiveness

Using intuitive and easy to use plugins is a big plus for mixing vocals like a pro. Because this is something that will inevitably increase your efficiency and productivity.

It is also a big plus for your workflow. Since intuitive plugins will facilitate a faster advancement in your mixing process.


This criterion represents everything the plugin has to offer you more possibilities in your mix choices. Plugins with a lot of features often open the mind to creativity.

But plugins with a lot of features also usually allow you to work with more precision. And therefore more quality. Finding the right balance between ease of use and features is a real challenge for manufacturers.


If you know me as a mixing engineer, you know that I pay a lot of attention to the interface of the plugins I use. And the reason is simple.

In my opinion, aesthetically pleasing interfaces promote productivity and creativity. And with the advancement of technology, I’m more and more convinced!

Value For Money

It’s always more satisfying to spend your money on mixing tools that are really worth it. And on the other hand, it can demotivate some people to learn more about music mixing. We’ll go through this criterion too!

The top 9 plugins for mixing rap vocals are:

  1. FabFilter Pro-Q3
  2. Waves CLA-76
  3. Antares Auto-Tune Pro X
  4. Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack
  5. Soundtoys Decapitator
  6. Waves RCompressor
  7. Oeksound soothe2
  8. UAD Pure Plate
  9. Waves Vitamin

Are these the only plugins you’ll be using for the rest of your life? Certainly not. But this top 9 is a very good base to make your mixes sound pro. If you use them well, of course. Let’s look at why all these plugins are at the top of this ranking and how to use them for the best results.

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1. FabFilter Pro-Q3

FabFilter Pro-Q3

General Overview

In the field of music mixing, Pro-Q3 has gained considerable momentum in recent years. In rap mixing, it is certainly one of the most used plugins. And if FabFilter’s plugin is very popular, it is for very specific reasons.

This EQ has first of all the enormous advantage of having parameters 100% modulable by the user. Unlike most full-parametric EQ’s that only offer “classic” filters (bell, high/low-cut filter, shelf,…), Pro-Q3 allows the user to “build” the shape of its EQ and to play with the dynamics with an uncommon precision.

Another reason why the music world loves this plugin is that a frequency spectrum is visible in the interface. And although, in music mixing, the visual aspect should never take precedence over the auditory aspect, being able to see the frequency spectrum of a source is extremely useful.

In addition to this ease of “sculpting” the EQ, you can also find tons of options, easy to manipulate, such as stereo placement, filter type (linear phase or not), or even the possibility of triggering it with a MIDI signal.

Amateur or professional audio engineer, this plugin is made to please everyone. Because even if you don’t know the many features FabFilter offers, you can still use Pro-Q3 in a very simple and basic way, while enjoying the impressive sound quality.

But be careful not to use this EQ in the wrong way! Pro-Q3 remains a very transparent EQ. It is therefore to be used to clean the vocals with precision, not to boost certain frequency zones. Unless the motivation is purely technical.

Use in rap vocal mixing

The most suitable use of the Pro-Q3 is as a “surgical” EQ, i.e. for precision cleaning. It is therefore ideal at the beginning of the vocal chain, just after a light compressor that would slightly reduce the dynamics. It is therefore to be used as a subtractive EQ (reduction only).

Alternatives :

2. Waves CLA-76

Waves CLA-76

General Overview

FET compressors are ideal for giving more character, power and color to the processed source. The components of this kind of compressors (hardware) do indeed produce a slight distortion when pushed a bit.

This slight distortion will then give a certain color and character to the source. That’s why this type of compressor is very popular. For rap voices, it is often very suitable.

This type of compressor has also the particularity of having an ultra short attack time and is therefore ideal for capturing powerful transients in the voice.

There are many emulations of Universal Audio’s 1176, the most famous FET compressor. But the one from Waves is the one that most respects the main goal of this type of compressor: to give character.

With this plugin, you can easily switch from “Blacky” to “Bluey” mode, the second of which is known to be more aggressive than the first.

Waves also allows you to activate the “ALL” ratio which will then act as a limiter. In the history of music, this mode has been used a lot.

Use in rap vocal mixing

Knowing the two particularities of this type of compressor (its slight distortion and its ultra fast attack time), the CLA-76 can be used in two different ways.

Either at the beginning of the chain, with a very high ratio, to capture all the aggressive transients and enjoy a full voice for the rest of the vocal processing.

Or, on the contrary, at the end of the chain, to add more character and make it cut through the mix.

In both cases, the CLA-76 is ideal and, if used correctly, the result can only sound professional!

Alternatives :

3. Antares Auto-Tune Pro

Antares Auto-Tune Pro

General Overview

Who says rap or hip-hop mixing says, in 90% of the current cases, auto-tune. But if you mix rap vocals on a daily basis, it is very important to choose the right plugin.

As a reminder, the purpose of an auto-tune is to correct the pitch of a source according to a given key. The main parameter of an auto-tune is its retune speed.

Many auto-tune plugins have a great audio quality: Waves Tune, MetaTune, iZotope Nectar, UAD emulations,… But for several years, Antares has been dominating this market. And their technology is constantly growing to meet the needs of the music industry.

Auto-Tune pro remains, for the moment, in my opinion, the best autotune plugin, especially for rap music. It’s instinctive, easy to use, has an impressive number of extra options and, above all, the sound quality is unbeatable.

No matter what settings you choose, Auto-Tune Pro will correct (more or less loudly) the voice, without artifacts or alteration of the frequency spectrum. Whether your goal is to get a robotic voice or a slightly corrected voice, the Antares plugin got you covered!

Of course, it’s not the most affordable plugin (it starts at $399), but if you want to get into the pro world, you’ll have to have it in your hands!

Use in rap vocal mixing

In rap music, mixing engineers have tended, for several years, to use auto-tune in a rather extreme way. Indeed, the robotic effect is very often appreciated in this musical genre.

Of course, some songs might need a lighter correction. It’s up to you to listen, try, and then adjust the retune speed and the humanizer to get the most suitable results.

In any case, it is important to always place the auto-tune first in the vocal chain. Pushed to the extremes, auto-tune plugins will tend to color the voice a bit and modify the frequency spectrum very slightly.

Alternatives :

4. Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack

Slate Digital Virtual Mix Rack

General Overview

When it comes to music mixing, Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack has become a must. All the emulations of the most legendary hardware units are there: SSL, Neve, API, Universal Audio, Empirical Labs,… In short, everything is there!

The first great thing about the Virtual Mix Rack is that it has powerful and high quality plugins in a single insert slot. The way each internal slot is placed is also very practical because it allows to have a global vision of all the modules used.

Besides the convenience, the quality of these plugins is awesome.

The FG-S, for example, is in my opinion the best emulation of the legendary SSL EQ, which works very well with vocals to give more character in the upper midrange and more warmth in the lower end.

The FG-Stress, an emulation of the great Distressor, will also be an impressively versatile tool for keeping control over rap vocals.

And finally, the “Hollywood” distortion module is, I must admit, my favorite part of this Virtual Mix Rack. By adjusting the mix knob correctly, this module will add fat and warmth to your voice. It’s on almost all my rap mixes!

With this plugin, you can also use the presets provided by Slate Digital to learn how to use the Virtual Mix Rack. Sometimes you can discover very interesting things!

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Use in rap vocal mixing

I advise you to use the Virtual Mix Rack at the beginning of your vocal mix chain, just after a clean EQ and a light compressor.

I could also give you my internal chain of modules (which is the one in the picture), but this plugin is so customizable that my only advice would be to build yourself a Virtual Mix Rack “template”, with all the modules you like to use with rap vocals.

Keep in mind though that the best results will come from keeping things simple. So don’t go too far with the number of internal modules used.

Alternatives :

  • None. This suite of modules is unbeatable.

5. Soundtoys Decapitator

Soundtoys Decapitator

General Overview

For a few years, the Decapitator has been the number one harmonic enhancement plugin. Whatever the musical genre, it can be found literally in every studio in the world.

Its strength is its ability to emulate the preamps of the most legendary hardware units in an ultra-precise way. Not forgetting the emulation of the Culture Vulture (T), which is already worth a visit.

The principle is simple, with the left knob you can determine how saturated the source will be. With a few knobs in the middle, you can adjust the general color of the distortion. Then adjust the balance with the mix knob.

But the coolest thing about this plugin is that you can play with the letters (which each define a legend manufacturer) and choose the most suitable distortion. I can swear that depending on what you choose, the color of the processing will be completely different.

A real technological gem.

Use in rap vocal mixing

Rap voices that are too “nice” are not necessarily appreciated in rap music.

By adding a little distortion at the end of your vocal chain, you will bring the lead voice to the forefront. With the final Decapitator touch, you’ll make your vocals cut through the mix while giving it more warmth and charisma in the low end.

Be careful not to go too extreme though. The goal is not to hear the distortion, but to mix it very lightly with the direct voice to add that little extra that you only get with Decapitator.

Alternatives :

6. Waves RCompressor

Waves RCompressor

General Overview

The RCompressor plugin is announced by Waves as a multipurpose compressor. To be honest, that’s pretty true. If it’s one of the most used plugins from Waves, it’s for a very specific reason: its versatility.

The really cool thing about the RCompressor, which comes in handy for vocal mixing, is that it is able to mimic different types of compressors.

The difference is slight, but having the ability to quickly switch between each mode is very handy, especially in a learning process, to train your ear.

This plugin is not meant to completely transform the color and character of voices, but it will do simple things in a very qualitative way.

Use in rap vocal mixing

In the case of a vocal mix, the RCompressor is ideal as the first compressor in the chain. It is not intended to add any character, but just to control the dynamics of the vocal.

Alternatives :

7. Oeksound soothe2

oeksound soothe2

General Overview

Released only a few years ago, soothe is the perfect image of what digital technology can bring us. It’s the perfect plugin to get rid of all the little defects of an audio source.

soothe is announced by its manufacturer, oeksound, as a harshness remover, the frequencies being between 4 kHz and 8kHz. Although it is indeed very effective in this frequency zone, it can also be used on the rest of the frequency range

But how does this plugin work? The principle is simple. Through this interface, which looks like a basic EQ, you will just have to target the frequency zones in which you hear resonances or aggressive harmonics.

The higher you push the cursor, the more soothe will filter these unwanted frequencies. Soothe does not really act as an EQ, but rather as a tool that cleans unpleasant frequencies more or less strongly depending on the intensity of the cursor.

You will have understood, this tool of a formidable technology is ideal for the voices. But be careful not to abuse it. This tool can be very satisfying for the ears, but can sometimes become a trap in the case of “over-cleaning”.

Use in rap vocal mixing

In vocal mixing, the upper-midrange frequency range is always very tricky to handle. You have to be able to get rid of aggressive harmonics while keeping all the power of this frequency zone. Good news, because this is exactly what soothe2 will do for you.

By targeting this area, between 4 kHz and 8 kHz, the plugin will take care of removing all the frequencies that could harm the listening comfort. I advise you in this case to push the sharpness knob a little, to let soothe2 work in precision.

The second way to use soothe2 to mix rap vocals is to use it in parallel on the instrumental. The voice would be used as a trigger for soothe2 to prevent any frequency conflict between some elements of the instrumental and the voice. Don’t forget that the voice must always remain the main element of a musical mix. Especially in rap music.

Alternatives :

  • None

8. UAD Pure Plate

UAD Pure Plate

General Overview

This is the only reverb plugin on this list, and not the least! If you are part of the community that thinks that all reverbs sound more or less the same, Pure Plate will quickly prove you wrong!

This UAD reverb, which emulates the warm and deep color of a hardware plate reverb, is completely different from what you can hear in general.

It brings a very natural and organic depth to any audio source that is associated with it, without taking up too much space in the mix. Its texture is unbeatable.

What is really cool about Pure Plate are the 2 knobs “bass” and “treble” allowing to adjust the color of the reverb with much subtlety.

The “low cut” fader will allow you to get rid of a probable rumble that Pure Plate can sometimes produce. Rumble that is typical of a plate reverb.

Use in rap vocal mixing

Used in the right way and with the right adjustments, Pure Plate will place the voice in a full and very deep space. The settings should still be subtle. Remember, a reverb in a vocal mix shouldn’t really be heard, it should be felt!

This reverb is also very suitable for vocal recordings. You don’t necessarily have to record it, but adding it to the monitoring can put the artist in a very inspiring and productive atmosphere.

Alternatives :

9. Waves Vitamin

Waves Vitamin

General Overview

Vitamin is that kind of plugin that seems to be a magic trick when you use it the right way. With this plugin in your hands, it is possible to completely transform the color of a voice. But what exactly is Vitamin ?

Vitamin is a kind of harmonic enhancer, EQ and multiband compressor that, thanks to 5 easy to use faders, allows you to boost certain frequency zones. Waves announces it as a sonic enhancer.

This is a bit of an EQ that would be only addictive, right? Well, not really. In addition to boosting the targeted frequency zone, the plugin also increases the harmonics, adding a “Vitamin” color that is hard to imitate.

The plugin also creates a kind of transparent compression that allows the processed audio source to be instantly pushed to the foreground.

This plugin, seems rather banal, but I can assure you that it is not. The power and character it can add is truly impressive.

Use in rap vocal mixing

In vocal mixing, whatever the genre, Vitamin is very effective. And it is especially the high fader that brings something very different. By pushing this fader a bit more, the processed voice will become very bright but also more powerful and open.

I personally also use the midrange fader a lot to give the vocals more presence when they are a bit masked by some elements of the instrumental.

In my opinion, despite its 9th position, this is a plugin to have in your library at all costs. Especially for its price more than affordable.

Alternatives :

Need a professional sound engineer specializing in pop and hip-hop mixing ? Great! Take a look at our services and let’s blow up your career together!
Let’s start now!


The quality of the audio plugins found on the market is constantly increasing over the years. But you should always be aware that the purpose of each plugin is different. Some are very versatile and can be used in many different situations, while others have very specific purposes and are very effective in their field.

But what is important when choosing a plugin is to try to analyze how it sounds in each use. That’s how you will be able, depending on the situation, to choose the most suitable plugins, being sure of your shot.

These 9 plugins are for me the plugins to have to mix rap voices in a professional way, but it remains a subjective choice. You might not like some plugins, it’s totally normal. Moreover, in vocal mixing, it is important to vary your choice of plugins, that will allow your sound to evolve!

Related articles:

Top 9 Plugins For Mixing Rap Vocals

My favorite tools for mixing pop and hip-hop music:


In the field of auto-tune, I’m convinced that nothing’s better and more efficient than Antares Auto-Tune Pro. As for the EQ’s, FabFilter Pro-Q3 and Slate Digital Infinity EQ are, in my opinion, the best tools. For compression, I have 2 favorites plugins: Waves RComp and UAD EL8 Distressor.

As for reverb, I’m a big fan of the Soundtoys Little Plate, but generally, I go for the Valhalla VintageVerb for its versatility. I also love the Arturia Rev PLATE-140 and the UAD Pure Plate for its organic side.


The closed headphones I love and will always love using for mixing pop and hip-hop music are the Beyerdynamic DT-770. As for the best open-back headphones, I use the Sennheiser HD600 headphones, and I’m really happy of them!


Having a pair of Yamaha HS7 in its studio or home studio is always cool for more excitement while listening to your mixes. The Adam Audio T7V monitors are also super accurate. In my studio, I also have a pair of Genelec 8030 for their reliability.

Hardware gear

For anyone who wants to start using hardware in their mixes, I always recommend these 2 units from Klark Teknik: the EQP-KT and the 76-KT. Don’t forget to use good converters, such as the Apollo interfaces. This is essential for a good rendering.


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About IDeez

IDeez is the head sound engineer of IDeez Studio. He studied BA and MA in sound engineering at IAD (Belgium) and has been a specialist in vocal mixing for several years, especially in pop and hip-hop music. His goal is to help artists, rappers and singers in their mixing process through online mixing services, tutorials, blog articles and e-books. Contact him for any information!

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