De-esser – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Sound Engineering Glossary

What is a de-esser?

A de-esser is a type of audio processor used in sound engineering to reduce or eliminate excessive sibilance in vocal recordings. Sibilance refers to the harsh, high-frequency sounds produced by consonants such as “s,” “sh,” and “ch.” These sounds can be distracting or unpleasant to listen to, especially in vocal recordings, so a de-esser is used to tame them and create a smoother, more balanced sound.

How does a de-esser work?

A de-esser works by detecting and reducing the level of sibilant frequencies in a signal. It does this by using a sidechain filter to isolate the sibilant sounds, then applying gain reduction to those frequencies specifically. This process is typically controlled by a threshold setting, which determines when the de-esser kicks in to reduce the sibilance.

When should a de-esser be used?

A de-esser should be used whenever there is excessive sibilance in a vocal recording that is distracting or unpleasant to listen to. This is common in recordings with vocalists who have a strong emphasis on sibilant sounds, or when using certain microphones that accentuate high frequencies. De-essers are also commonly used in broadcasting and podcasting to ensure clear and intelligible speech.

What are the different types of de-essers?

There are two main types of de-essers: hardware de-essers and software de-essers. Hardware de-essers are standalone units that are connected to a mixing console or audio interface, while software de-essers are plugins that can be used within a digital audio workstation (DAW). Both types of de-essers work in a similar way, but software de-essers offer more flexibility and control over the processing parameters.

How to set up a de-esser in a sound engineering setup?

To set up a de-esser in a sound engineering setup, first identify the source of the sibilance in the signal. This can be done by listening to the recording and identifying the specific frequencies that are causing the issue. Once the sibilant frequencies are identified, insert the de-esser into the signal chain either as a hardware unit or a software plugin. Adjust the threshold and frequency settings of the de-esser to target the sibilant frequencies and apply the appropriate amount of gain reduction. Finally, listen to the processed signal and make any necessary adjustments to achieve a natural and balanced sound.

What are some popular de-esser plugins in the market?

There are several popular de-esser plugins available in the market, each offering unique features and capabilities. Some of the most widely used de-esser plugins include Waves DeEsser, FabFilter Pro-DS, iZotope RX De-ess, and Sonnox Oxford SuprEsser. These plugins offer advanced controls for precise sibilance reduction, as well as additional features such as lookahead processing, sidechain filtering, and multiband processing. Users can choose the de-esser plugin that best suits their needs based on their specific requirements and workflow preferences.