Advanced DeEssing Techniques

Randy Coppinger wrote to me a few days ago because he was working on a DeEssing Technique article. I have a few alternate techniques to share.

I have a pretty good ear for sibilance but I don’t tend to use DeEssing much in my mixes. Maybe I’ve just been lucky lately and my clients know how to pick a good mic for vocals. I DeEss reverbs more often than lead vocals actually. There are a ton of ways to tackle this problem, so here are my top 4 ways to DeEss without using a DeEsser.

Source Audio

For all the examples I’ve used the same source. My friend Jordan’s demo of the MXL V67G with RK47 capsule upgrade. The capsule upgrade was a remarkable improvement but still quite sibilant on his voice.

[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/DeEss/DeEss%20Source.mp3|titles=source audio]

1 – Manual volume adjustment

Zooming in, it’s usually easy to see an Ess in the waveform. By using the “clip gain” function (or a pre-FX volume control) you can trim the Esses down by 2-6dB. If you have compressed the voice heavily you may be surprised at how aggressive you need to be with these volume changes. In this example I’ve done no processing, just trimmed the level of the item down around at the Esses. Breaths have also been reduced.

manually editing item gain
manually editing item gain
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/DeEss/DeEss%20manual.mp3|titles=manual adjustment]

2 – Compressor Internal Sidechain

A lot of compressor plugins have the option of filtering the audio used to trigger the compression, a sidechain filter. In REAPER’s ReaComp I used the “preview filter” option to listen to the sidechain and isolate the sibilance. I then adjusted the compressor to react quickly to get about 4dB of GR.

Using the internal detector filter of ReaComp
Using the internal detector filter of ReaComp
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/DeEss/DeEss%20compressor%20internal%20sidechain.mp3|titles=Internal Sidechain]

3 – Compressor External Sidechain

Another way of doing this is using the compressor with an external sidechain source, from another track. In this case it’s a duplicate of the voice that has been EQ’d to accentuate the problem area. This filtered voice is sent to channels 3-4 of the main voice and it’s main output is disabled. In ReaComp the detector input is changed to auxiliary. This is a little more complicated to set up but is more flexible with the filtering options.

routing for external sidechain DeEssing in Reaper with ReaComp
routing for external sidechain DeEssing in Reaper with ReaComp

DeEssed voice

[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/DeEss/DeEss%20compressor%20external%20sidechain.mp3|titles=external sidechain]

Sidechain signal

[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/DeEss/DeEss%20compressor%20external%20sidechain%20trigger.mp3|sidechain signal]

4 – Multiband Compressor

A multiband compressor can also be used to reduce sibilance. With this method only the high-mid/high frequencies are reduced, rather than the entire frequency range. I’ve used REAPER’s ReaXcomp with a few dB of gain reduction in band 3 and 4 only.

ReaXcomp as a deEsser
ReaXcomp as a deEsser
[audio:http://audiogeekzine.com/wp-content/uploads/DeEss/DeEss%20multiband%20compressor.mp3|titles=Multiband Compressor]

With all the techniques above, and with a dedicated de-esser, care must be taken to keep the sound natural. Too much gain reduction will make ith thound like a lithp and you really don’t want that.

Also: Joe Gilder’s tip on making a de-esser in Studio One.

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