Vocal Removal Plug-ins

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Peter 02Jul15: ToDo-1 After 2.1.1 release update the reference to the Audacity effect to go to the new Vocal Reduction and Isolation effect.
This page describes techniques which on some stereo tracks may allow you to remove or isolate vocals (or other parts of a recording) from the rest.
Audacity has a built-in effect for vocal removal: Effect > Vocal Remover (for center-panned vocals).... It includes a Help screen and an extra option to retain a specified range of frequencies (so removing everything outside that range); see this page in the Manual.
There is no universal, reliable way of doing this without having the original multi-track recordings. Different tracks will require different techniques to achieve maximum possible attenuation or isolation. This will depend on where the vocals are positioned in the stereo field, and on their frequency content compared to the rest of the audio.

As well as the above method supported in Audacity itself there are various third-party plug-ins that can be used to try and remove or isolate vocals.


Windows VST Plug-ins

There are several Windows VST plug-ins that can be used in Audacity for vocal removal and isolation. For installation of VST plug-ins, see below.

  • kn0ck0ut (free, no longer under development) can sometimes remove vocals where they are not center-panned but rather different in frequency make-up compared to the non-vocal parts of the track. It works on two mono tracks (split from a stereo track and made mono as above) by extracting the right channel frequencies from the left hand frequencies, leaving the "result" in the former left channel. Alternatively, if your vocals are center-panned, this plug-in can often make a good job of isolating them from everything else.
  • Voicetrap is a commercial plug-in featuring center channel removal by frequency-based and cepstral methods (that is, not a simple subtraction of one channel from the other). It has an advantage over kn0ck0ut of providing stereo output for the "vocals removed" track, as well as offering isolation of center-panned content. There is a demo version with a "mild" vocal removal setting (but no isolation ability) that works in Audacity.
  • Brainworx have a free (registration-required) VST plug-in bx_solo (download link here) that lets you solo mid and side channels so provides opportunity for vocal isolation or removal in the right circumstances.
  • There is a commercial VST plug-in called ExtraBoy which offers useful functionality for those interested in vocal removal or modification of the different components of an audio track. There are two versions of this plug-in, but unfortunately neither work properly with the currently limited VST support that Audacity can offer. It seems that the processed audio is always completely silenced irresepective of the plug-in settings used. Both versions of ExtraBoy do function with other audio editors which offer full VST support, so you could always export a track from your Audacity Project as a WAV or AIFF file and process it in Extraboy in another editor.

    The "lite" version of ExtraBoy is quite similar to VoiceTrap but offers some vocal removal ability on all tracks (not just on center-panned vocals). It has two "vocal removal" algorithms (1) on the basis of the vocals' frequency characteristics, and (2) on the basis of their spread in the stereo spectrum. The two algorithms can be combined to obtain the best possible removal in a particular case, and full stereo information is preserved in the processed track. A "vocal isolation" algorithm is also provided.

    The 14 day full-featured "demo" version claims to be capable of isolating, removing, suppressing or enhancing any component of a stereo track, based on its identified frequency and spatial "signature". Naturally the author points out that the exact results are subject to the particular characteristics of each track. Multiple components of a track can be processed simultaneously (for example, to isolate piano and vocal, or enhance piano and bass).

OS X Plug-ins

  • There is an voxReducer PPC Audio Unit plug-in (14 day free evaluation) you can try in current Audacity. It requires Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.6 (using Rosetta on an Intel Mac). It will not work on OS X 10.7 or later as there is no PPC support.

    VoxReducer is similar to the Nyquist Center Pan Remover in that it aims to reduce the strength of center-panned vocals, but differs in having a phase offset adjustment and a slider for adjusting the intensity of the vocal reduction. Place the voxReducer.component in either /Library/Audio/Plug-ins/Components or ~/Library/Audio/Plug-ins/Components.

  • Brainworx have a free (registration-required) VST or Audio Unit plug-in bx_solo (download link here) that lets you solo mid and side channels so provides opportunity for vocal isolation or removal in the right circumstances. See voxReducer above for Audio Unit installation or below for VST installation.

Linux Plug-ins

VST Plug-in Installation

Peter 11Jun15: ToDo-1 After 2.1.1 is released this will need updating for the new Manage Effects/Generators/Analyzers method of installing plug-ins.

To add VST plug-ins to Audacity, place the plug-ins unzipped .dll or .dylib file in Audacity's "Plug-Ins" folder or in a system location where Audacity looks for VST plug-ins. Then go to the Audacity Preferences, choose Effects on the left, put a checkmark in "Rescan VST effects... ", click OK and restart Audacity. The new plug-ins will appear underneath the divider in the Effect Menu. See detailed instructions here. Audacity will display the full interface for VST plug-ins that have a graphical interface.

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