Izotope VEA Review, Part 2: How Does It Perform As A Voice Enhancement Tool For Content Creators And Podcasters

Hey everybody.  A couple of weeks ago, I demoed the new Izotope VEA plugin and compared it to the Supertone Clear, Accentize dxRevive, and Cedar Audio VoicEx.  This is an Izotope plugin aimed at content creators, so it has to be a restoration tool, right?  In that video, I showed that VEA is definitely not a restoration tool.  It is not a tool for professional podcast editors, so what is VEA, and who is it for?   Izotope shared some information about their thinking with this plugin in a Q&A.  

Here’s what they said:

Designing for creators
Over the years there have been vast improvements in the overall quality of content (from podcasts to video essays to short form Tik Toks/Reels). Creators today are often responsible for meeting those high-level quality benchmarks for audio & video entirely on their own by utilizing tools that span a wide array of disciplines. Most of the time when a creator is starting out, they are doing everything, and when it comes to professional sounding audio in content creation this usually means setting up complex chains of plugins for each voice. Most modern audio software comes with tools to enhance a voice, but often requires prior knowledge to determine which of these tools are the right ones to use, what order to arrange them in, and how to set each one up correctly. We’re starting to see more tools help make this side of audio production easier, but often these tools for creators only handle noise or other specific types of processing, and if that is not the case, you have to fully buy into an all-in-one service. VEA was created to make the audio side of creating easier by delivering great results that are catered to the audio you are working with. VEA has everything you’ll need all within one plugin which can be used in any DAW, NLE or app of your choice (as long as it supports VST3, AU, or AAX plugins).

There was a question about the difference between VEA and RX’s Repair Assistant, and this was their response

For the Clean control we used a slightly different technique for De-noiseing between Repair Assistant and VEA. VEA features 2 stages of low latency Static and Adaptive de-noising while Repair Assistant currently uses 1 or the other. So while they could sound similar in low amounts VEA can go a bit further than RX 10's Repair Assistant.

I asked about the lack of reverb reduction, and this is what they said:

Removing reverb is something we hope to handle better in VEA in the future. Being able to gain match is also something we've heard from others and we'll look at ways we might incorporate this in VEA for the future…I'll share this with the RX team. They are aware of the need for better reverb reduction in RX as well as VEA and are looking at ways to make this better for iZotope products in the future.

I also asked how they envisioned pros using VEA, and that question went unanswered, but at least we know that Izotope’s RX development team is aware that their reverb reduction needs to be improved and no longer leads the pack..

With all that in mind, I’ll test VEA out in the context of shaping and improving good recordings to give it that finished touch.  I’ll use some audio from a recent call Tara, and I had.  I recorded with an Ethos Earthworks in my acoustically treated room.  Tara was using her MV7 connected via USB in a minimally treated office with vinyl flooring.

As you can hear, VEA performs better in that context. Is VEA a replacement for learning how to EQ and compress audio?  Probably not.  Will anyone listening or watching care if VEA was used instead of a dedicated EQ and compressor?  No.  Provided the audio is recorded well with low to moderate noise and doesn’t have a lot of reverb, VEA is more than capable for the average content creator and their audience.  It’s not going to turn bad recordings into studio quality, and luckily, Izotope hasn’t marketed it as that.  

This plugin still misses in a number of ways.  The most glaring is the bizarre lack of reverb reduction.  Reverb and noise are the two biggest issues content creators face with audio quality.  Another thing that would make this plugin more useable, especially for beginners, is a loudness meter.  VEA has a Boost knob, but no way of knowing how loud the audio is.  In these days of loudness standards, it’s critical that we know how loud our audio is.  

Overall, I feel like this was a big swing and miss for Izotope.  It feels like they held back because they were worried that a more powerful, useable plugin would eat into sales of RX.  Izotope, here’s a wakeup call.  I don’t see a reason to keep updating RX when more and more plugins are hitting the market that speed up the process and do the job better.  For those of us working on low budget, quick turnaround work like podcast editing, we need tools that save us time.  This means plugins.  Using the RX editor and rendering out audio just takes too much time.