De-esser – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Microphones and Audio Hardware Glossary

What is a de-esser?

A de-esser is a type of audio processor used in recording, mixing, and mastering to reduce or eliminate sibilance in vocal recordings. Sibilance refers to the harsh, high-frequency sounds produced by certain consonants like “s,” “sh,” and “ch.” These sounds can be distracting and unpleasant to listen to, especially in vocal recordings, so a de-esser is used to tame them.

How does a de-esser work?

A de-esser works by detecting the high-frequency sibilant sounds in a vocal recording and reducing their level. This is typically done using a specialized filter that targets the specific frequency range where sibilance occurs. When the de-esser detects a sibilant sound above a certain threshold, it applies gain reduction to that frequency range, effectively smoothing out the harshness in the vocal track.

When should a de-esser be used?

A de-esser should be used whenever sibilance is present in a vocal recording and is causing distraction or discomfort to the listener. Sibilance can vary depending on the vocalist, microphone used, recording environment, and other factors, so it’s important to listen carefully to the recording and determine if a de-esser is needed. De-essers are commonly used in music production, podcasting, voice-over work, and any other audio recording where vocal clarity is important.

What are the benefits of using a de-esser?

The main benefit of using a de-esser is that it helps to improve the overall quality of vocal recordings by reducing harsh sibilant sounds. By taming these high-frequency noises, the vocals sound smoother, more natural, and easier to listen to. De-essers can also help to make vocals sit better in a mix by reducing the amount of processing needed on other tracks to compensate for sibilance.

How to set up a de-esser?

Setting up a de-esser involves adjusting a few key parameters to achieve the desired level of sibilance reduction without affecting the natural sound of the vocals. The main controls on a de-esser typically include threshold, frequency range, and ratio. The threshold determines the level at which the de-esser starts reducing sibilance, the frequency range specifies the range of frequencies to target, and the ratio controls the amount of gain reduction applied.

To set up a de-esser, start by playing back the vocal track and adjusting the threshold control until you start to hear the sibilant sounds being reduced. Then, adjust the frequency range to target the specific frequencies where sibilance occurs most prominently. Finally, adjust the ratio control to fine-tune the amount of gain reduction applied to the sibilant sounds. It’s important to listen carefully while making these adjustments to ensure that the vocals sound natural and not overly processed.

What are some popular de-esser models on the market?

There are many de-esser plugins and hardware units available on the market, each offering different features and capabilities. Some popular de-esser models include:

– Waves Renaissance DeEsser: A versatile de-esser plugin with intuitive controls and a transparent sound.
– FabFilter Pro-DS: A powerful de-esser plugin with advanced features like lookahead processing and side-chain input.
– SPL De-Esser: A hardware de-esser unit known for its smooth and natural sound.
– Sonnox Oxford SuprEsser: A high-end de-esser plugin with dynamic EQ and frequency-dependent compression.
– dbx 520 De-Esser: A hardware de-esser unit with flexible controls and a reputation for reliability.

These are just a few examples of the many de-esser models available on the market, each offering unique features to help you achieve the best possible vocal recordings.