iZotope’s vocal channel strip Nectar has reached version 2 and my plugin folder. Here are my thoughts about it.
Nectar 2 is a powerhouse channel strip meant for vocals and vocals only. It might seem odd to develop something so specific but in many styles of music the vocal will make or break the track and if it’s not mixed right it will not get that ”star quality” that we’re often looking for. Nectar 2 includes all the tools you could possibly need for making this happen. Or how about this: pitch correction, saturation, distortion, modulation effects, de-esser, limiter, as well as the usual suspects such as EQ and compression, and I’m only scratching the surface here! If you choose to use Nectar 2 you’ll likely not need any other inserts or sends on your vocals.
I will not dig deep into all the modules in Nectar 2, if I were to do that we’d probably have to change the name of this website to NectarToolerBlog. Just understand that they are all filled with options. Take the saturation module for instance, it includes five different algorithms on top of the mix and amount sliders. The limiter will actually track the input signal visually, and the harmony module let’s you set the key of the song and if you don’t know what key it is in there’s a key detection. As I said, feature-packed plugin!
I will however give you a quick rundown of what I think about the various modules in Nectar 2.
Pitch – I use this a lot for heavily effecting vocals (see below). It won’t turn a male vocal into a female as convincingly as Flux / Ircam Trax but it’s still useful.
Gate – Me and gates never really got along.
Harmony – Very useful for backing vocals (see below).
Saturation – I like pushing this. As I said, it includes no less than five different algorithms, and yes, they really do sound different.
De-esser – Not a big fan of de-essers and only ever use them subtly but a vocal channel strip of course needs one.
EQ – Very generic EQ but incredibly flexible. Aside from all the usual options (high pass, low pass, bell, etc.) you can set different curves (analog, vintage, resonant) and there’s even a Baxandall option in there.
Compressor – There are two of them and you can choose different character. I typically use it gently.
FX – A sweet section of the plugin! Plenty of options here, from distortion to phaser and flanger to echo. This is part of what makes Nectar 2 so powerful.
Delay – Any delay that has a ’trash’ slider is OK in my book!
Reverb – Definitely useable.
Limiter – What can I say? It’s a limiter.
There also two extra plugins: Pitch Editor and Breath Control. Pitch Editor is your typical Melodyne/Auto-Tune-thingie. I have not used any such products so I can’t comment on if it’s good or not.
How I like to use Nectar 2
If you find all the above controls daunting I understand you but it’s not so bad actually. First there’s an overview page where you can grab the most important controls which means you only have to dig deeper if you want to. With the push of a button you’re deeper and have access to the finer parameters of each module inside Nectar 2.
Allow me to explain the Nectar 2 workflow, or at least my workflow. Nectar 2 is filled with about a billion presets organized into various styles (country, dance, pop, voice over, etc., etc.). They are not simply changes in the EQ, they can radically change the vocal and they are in fact good! So what you do is browse through the presets until you find one that fits your song.
Now, no matter how good a preset, there’s simply no way that iZotope could’ve known how your recording was going to sound when they designed the presets. Mic’s and preamps are darker and brighter, maybe you record closer than others, maybe your room sounds like a shitty cat box… There are so many variables. Do what I do, consider the presets starting points and tweak from there. For me, the tweaking is typically fairly minimal. The EQ will almost always change and I might tweak the reverb or whatever, but this is still a considerable shortcut to a finished sound.
Here are two typical scenarios where I use Nectar 2.
When recording a folk song with just vocals and an acoustic guitar I might not reach for Nectar 2. In that case I’ll maybe grab an EQ and a maybe a compressor. Maybe something else but everything is minimal and I’ll typically go with ”as little as possible”. When doing an electronic production where sounds twist back and forth into the abyss of obscurity it’s a completely different matter. Nectar 2 is typically my first choice in this case.
If you’re doing backing vocals on your own, or with a small group but want to make it appear larger, then Nectar 2 will be very useful to you. You can add voices, pitch them up or down, delay them, pan them, make them fit a certain scale. Definitely my go-to plugin for stuff like this.
So what’s the bad stuff?
I always like to point out the negative side to any product I review because the gods know that music production media doesn’t need another corrupt yes-man trying to sell you whatever is the latest thing. The thing is, there are no real downsides to Nectar 2. That is if it fits your workflow – that’s what it all comes down to. If you enjoy having everything in one plugin then Nectar 2 is brilliant (and I’m sure you’ll enjoy Alloy and Ozone as well) but some don’t like to work like that – I don’t always like to work like that but sometimes I do. That’s why Nectar 2 is not in every session but it’s a keeper in the plugin folder.
Nectar 2 is so feature packed it’s crazy to even think about it. It’s likely to be the only thing you’ll put on your vocals. Personally I enjoy it most for more heavily processed vocals (whether they be lead or not) and backing vocals. But keep in mind that while Nectar 2 is incredibly powerful, the workflow might not be for everyone.
- + All you could possibly need for vocal duties.
+ Many great presets, and these are key.
- – The workflow might not fit everyone.
- * Nothing, it’s a very good looking plugin.
Price: Production Suite $299, Standard Edition $229. Compare the two.