DeEssing is commonly used to eliminate excess sibilant consonants in speech and vocals recordings.
Often when recording and when editing vocals recordings sibilants tend to be overly present in the foreground and create a hissing sound. This can be caused by being too close to the microphone when recording or by using a low-quality microphone. Applying compression to the vocals in the mix can make sibilants especially prominent.
There are several ways of eliminating sibilants.
Reducing sibilants when recording
The microphone itself and the distance you stand from it are influential factors, but the actual intensity of sibilants is also major reason for high frequency s-sounds reaching the microphone with more clarity than deeper sounds, which tend to diffuse into the room more.
An effective method of reducing their impact is to slightly aim away from the microphone when making sibilant consonants.
In addition you should always use a pop filter when recording vocals.
Edit recordings manually and reduce the volume
Step 1: Select “Cut mode” from the toolbar and disable the grid so you can make precise cuts.
Step 2: Now we’re going to locate and separate loud sibilant sections in the vocal track. Sibilants are easy to recognize in the waveform display because they are particularly compact.
It’s helpful to turn auto crossfade mode on at this stage.
Step 3: Duplicate the cut section in question by selecting all cut objects with “Ctrl + A” and dragging them into the track below while holding “Ctrl + Shift”. Pressing the shift key allows you to move objects vertically, so they are exactly on top of one another.
Step 4: Now we’re going to cut all the sections with sibilants out of the original track, while keeping them in the duplicated track.
Step 5: Reduce the volume of the sibilants collectively using the volume control in track 2.
Of course you can also adjust the volume of each individual sound separately at object level.
A big advantage with this method is that the main vocals can now be eq’d and compressed without affecting the sibilants. Equally, the sibilants on track 2 can be eq’d in order to soften the loud consonants and to reduce any lisping.
DeEssing using fader automation
Step 1: Enable the volume curve by activating the “Vol” button in the track header.
Step 2: Now we want to enable the “Trim” automation mode for the vocal track by right clicking on the automation button.
Step 4: Highlight the offending sibilants by creating an area surrounding the section in question in the waveform.
Step 5: By moving the fader in the track header or track editor you are able to regulate the volume of each sibilant.
DeEssing using the multiband compressor
Step 1: Load multiband dynamics to the vocal track’s plugin slot.
Now loop the vocal part you want to edit.
Step 2: We only want to compressor the uppermost frequency band for DeEssing purposes. To do so we are going to set the number of bands to “4”. We also want the band separation set to “High” and turn off the “”Link bands” option.
Step 3: We also have to set the separation frequency for the frequencies we want to compress and trim the sibilants in the uppermost frequency band. Set Band 4 to “Solo” and select “Compressor”.
Step 4: Now click on the dotted line in the graphic display, which shows the separation frequency and using the mouse drag until you predominantly hear the sibilant frequencies you want to reduce.
Step 5: Now we need to adjust the other parameters. The ratio can be keep quite high – we’re going to use 5.7: 1. Set the application threshold to -19 dB. Keep the attack and release times quite low because sibilant consonants are most often very short percussive sounds. The gate can stay set at -100.
Step 6: Finally deactivate solo mode and listen to the result sibilant compression had on our vocal track. Now if necessary we make any final changes to the compressor settings.
Final tip: Switch to bypass mode to compare the original signal and the processed signal. Your ear will naturally get used to the edited vocals very quickly and might not perceive any big differences.
Next time we’re going to look at how to make other fine DeEssing adjustments using the gate and compressor sidechain as well as with the inbuilt DeEsser plugin.
Until next time – enjoy the wonders of DeEssing!
The Samplitude Team