Finding the Right Plugins
For anything that contains spoken words or dialogue, you only ever need three plug-ins. You’ll need a parametric EQ like Logic’s channel EQ, an optical compressor like the Native Instruments VC-2A, and Waves Vocal Rider. The most controversial of the bunch is probably the Waves Vocal Rider since it doesn’t have decades of use in the audio profession the way compressors and parametric EQs have.
To be perfectly honest, you could get by without the compressor or vocal rider and make manual adjustments with clip gain or volume automation. If time has any importance to you, then the compressor/vocal rider combo is the way to control any vocals in a snap. I use this chain all of the time, and it can get smooth level balancing done, unlike anything else I’ve seen. Assuming you have a clean recording, to begin with, you almost can’t go wrong.
Why not a more expensive plugin or a specific piece of audiophile grade outboard gear? Pro audio is not only about getting great sound but doing so repeatedly and with fast turnaround.
The days of getting audio work simply from creating a great sound are largely over. Getting a great sound is now easier and more accessible than ever, thanks to broad access to inexpensive, quality recording technology. A vocal recording from a home studio is identical to high-end studio recording for 99% of listeners. Your audience likely doesn’t care about the subtle differences between this plug-in or that hardware compressor. The game is now about turning over great audio quickly and consistently.
Maybe you disagree with my three plug-in methods and have your own chain in mind. If so, great! As long as you know how to use it to create consistent, quality results quickly. I wish I didn’t have to recommend Waves Vocal Rider since there aren’t cheaper alternatives, but I haven’t found anything else that emulates it even closely. As for the EQ and Compressor, simply using any DAW’s built-in offerings should suffice.
Do yourself a favor and stop losing the battle over quality, and start winning the war on efficiency. Save your time and money for the things that really matter.