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De-essing is a technique used in audio processing to reduce or remove harsh hissing or sibilant sounds that may occur in vocal recordings.
These sounds are usually caused by over-emphasis on certain consonants, such as “s” and “sh”.
De-essing is a vital tool in the music production process as it helps create a more polished and professional sound in your mixes.
De-essing typically involves using a de-esser plugin or dynamic equalizer to determine specific frequency ranges where sibilance sounds are most likely to occur.
By compressing or reducing these frequencies, you can effectively eliminate harshness and make your vocal tracks sound smoother and more pleasing to the ears.
De-essing is critical to producing high-quality vocals to combat harshness and sibilance that can be distracting or even painful to listen to.
If left untreated, hiss can create an unpleasant listening experience and degrade the overall quality of your mix.
Moreover, hiss can also interfere with other elements of your mix, making it difficult to achieve a balanced and harmonious sound.
By properly reducing the volume of vocal tracks, you can create a more professional and polished sound that will captivate your listeners and enhance your music production skills.

How to use De Esser

A de-esser acts as a specialized compressor that focuses on a specific frequency range where sibilant sounds typically occur.
When the input signal level in this range exceeds the set threshold, the de-esser applies gain reduction to reduce harshness.
This way, you can maintain the overall integrity of your vocal track while minimizing distracting hiss.
De-essers typically provide several important controls to help you fine-tune the process, such as threshold, frequency range, and gain reduction settings.

Types of De Essers

There are two main types of de-essers:

  • Broadband;
  • Separate.

Wideband mode is simple and straightforward. When sibilants are detected at a given frequency, the de-esser attenuates and equalizes the entire incoming signal. The same effect can be achieved with automation: just set the track level to change when high-frequency peaks appear.
The split mode is a little more complicated. A de-esser divides a given frequency into two or three micro-ranges and equalizes only them. In separate mode, the principle of operation of the de-esser is similar to the operation of a dynamic compressor, compressing only a certain frequency range in the signal.
When working in separate mode, you need to remember that the de-esser affects the timbre of the sound for a split second. When sibilants are detected, the plugin equalizes the level of the specified range, which can lead to small frequency differences. For example, the area around 5 kHz will become more powerful or weaker than necessary for a split second, thereby disrupting the previously established frequency balance.
Given its common nature with a compressor, the main rule for working with a de-esser is similar: to find suitable settings, listen to how the dynamics of the sibilants change, not the timbre of the voice.

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