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Izotope Nectar 3 Review - The Best Vocal Plugin for Mixing Vocals

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Izotope Nectar 3 review

Do you struggle to get your vocals to sound like professional recordings? Well I think I've found a silver bullet to quickly make your vocal mixes sound amazing. In this Izotope Nectar 3 review, I'll show you how this handy all-in-one plugin can enable your vocal production workflow.

Note: some of the links below may be affiliate links, meaning that I receive a commission if you purchase through them. 

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What Is Nectar 3?

Izotope Nectar 3 is easily one of the most powerful vocal plugins for mixing, producing and polishing. You’ll save a ton of time and effort on: adjusting EQ, de-essing and tweaking dynamics with quick and easy precision – all of which are typically tedious and time consuming with most plugins.

One of the coolest things in Nectar 3 is the new Vocal Assistant, which relies on machine-learning technology to adjust the plugin automatically based on its analysis of audio inputs. Nectar 3 is six years in the making with the first Izotope Nectar released in 2010 while Nectar 2 was released three years later in 2013.

One of the main things I want to emphasize in this review of Nectar 3 is the sleek new design which enhances the UI. In addition, all the modules have been reconfigured and are now located at the top ‘rack’ as opposed to the side bar. This plugin is so easy to use, and provides tons of intuitive visual feedback at a glance, which makes it super easy to quickly setup - and edit - complex vocal chains.

We will talk about some of the exciting new modules later in the article, but just know that no matter what vocal style you’re trying to capture in your mix, the Izotope Nectar 3 will make it sound like a million bucks!

Nectar 3 Review & Features 

The Izotope Nectar 3 is six years in the making and jam packed with new and exciting features. First and foremost, the cornerstone feature of this plugin is the Vocal Assistant which uses Izotope’s infamous AI machine learning technology to interpret your inputs and not only correct hard to detect vocal ‘problems’, but also give you suggestions on how to take your track to the next level.

For example, if your track has any harsh frequencies, level inconsistencies or timbre variations, the Vocal Assistant will use machine learning to analyze the dynamics and remove unwanted sound fragments. It will also suggest EQ settings, modulations and more. I use this Vocal Assistant as a starting point 90% of the time. It saves so much time by automatically: 

  • removing harsh, resonant frequencies
  • automatically setting good starting points for compressors
  • setting noise gate attack and release
  • setting de-esser thresholds

Furthermore, the Nectar 3 Plus comes with Vocal Assistant Unmask which allows you to dig up your vocal track (which may be buried with other instruments in a mix) and put it front and center – separate from all of the other elements which are competing for the attention of your ears. This allows you to isolate the vocal track and control its EQ and Dynamics without impacting the other instruments. You will also have access to Nectar’s RX Breath Control which will automatically remove breath fragments in your vocal recordings – giving you the cleanest vocal recordings you’ve ever produced. It’s as if you have a second pair of professional eyes and ears looking over your track! 

The Nectar 3 is a one-stop-shop for any module you can ask for including EQ, de-esser, saturation, harmony, compressor, dimension, gate, reverb, pitch correction and more. I would bet the two 24-band EQs will be the last EQ you’ll ever need because it includes a Follow mode, Dynamic Mode and enhanced fluid-style metering for ultimate tone crafting.

The pleasant sounding harmony module gives you instant access to four additional vocal accompaniments while the de-esser module’s inviting interface allows you to easily remove unwanted sibilance.

The Gate will clean up your vocals and prepare them for the reverb module which will add smooth natural space or a massive layer of ambience depending on what you fancy. It's the easiest, most transparent noise gate I've ever worked with, and actually find myself using it on non-vocal tracks all the time because it's so simple to dial in the perfect settings!

On top of that, the dimension module gives you access to flanger, chorus and phaser effects before finishing off your track with the saturation module, which can add dirty distortion, subtle warmth and everything in between. Lastly, the Nectar comes with a free MGMT artist preset straight from Ben Goldwater which encapsulates the robustness of this plugin and will inspire your next groovy adventure. 

The Nectar 3 Plus has a neat pitch correction feature called Key Detection. It’s brain-dead simple to use as well. Simply click the ‘Learn’ button, and Nectar will automatically detect the vocals in your track and offer you three different keys for pitch to choose from. You can also manually set the key or transpose a vocal run to match your song’s tone. You can even adjust the timing of notes by nudging them as needed while tweaking the pitch to scratch the itch of any perfectionist engineer. This pitch correction isn't as good as the top-of-the-line plugins out there, but it sounds nice enough for vocals that just need a bit of a touch up.

And if that's not enough, Nectar has 2 other hugely important features! An auto level mode that will automatically adjust the volume of the vocal to a desired volume for consistent volume levels without the need to squash things with a compressor (this can also be really helpful to use on bass). And a limiter which can be really useful for containing super dynamic performances!

All in all, the Izotope Nectar 3 is a perfect solution for any level of engineer because it offers robust features which you have the flexibility to manually use to your liking or sit back and automatically deploy on any and all of your vocal tracks. Either way, one thing is for sure – you will not be disappointed with the end result and the user experience it takes to get there!

Which Nectar Bundle to Buy

Izotope has two amazing bundle deals that include the Nectar 3 – Izotope Vocal Bundle and the Music Production Suite 4. There is Nectar 3 (check price) as a standalone, and the Vocal Bundle and the Suite 4.

The Izotope Vocal Bundle (check price) comes with both Nectar 3 and the incredible VocalSynth 2 in which gives you a one-two punch of incredible vocal plugins. The VocalSynth 2 accents the Nectar 3 by giving you powerful stompbox-style studio effects including Vocoder, Polyvox, Biovox, Talkbox and Compuvox which can be polished with the Nectar 3.

The Music Production Suite 4 (check price) may cost a bit more, but it's for good reason! it comes with VocalSynth 2 as well as 30+ other audio plugins including Ozone 9, RX 8, Neutron 3 and Neoverb. Essentially everything you'd ever need to create incredible music.

Other Options for Vocal Plugins

Fat Channel XT

If you’re looking for something even cheaper to nail your next mix, check out the Fat Channel XT channel strip plugin by PreSonus. This tool features three compressor plugins for you to choose from – Standard, Tube, FET – and three EQ plugins – Standard, Passive and Vintage. This plugin’s processors are built on PreSonus’ world-renown State Space Modeling which give incredible life-like simulations. Lastly, the Fat Channel XT is compatible with any third-party DAW which uses AAX, AU or VST formats making it an efficient and flexible tool to use for any engineer. 

Waves Vocal Rider

If you’re not completely sold on the Nectar 3 or are looking for a cheaper alternative, look no further than the Waves Vocal Rider plugin. This nifty plugin has one sole purpose and that is to match your vocal track to the rest of the mix, especially in terms of volume levels.

It’s simple to use. All you need to do is throw your vocal track on it, bus an instrumental mix on the side-chain and let it go to work! The plugin will intelligently adjust the volume and dynamics of your track without compressing them too much.

Chances are, you will be happy with the end result but of course you have the option to fine tune the mix once all is said and done. This awesome plugin will save you a ton of time and give you the results you’re looking for quickly. 

 

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