Carlo Libertini is a Melodyne audio editing specialist with Music Marketing Inc. of North America. He’s also an audio production engineer with twenty years’ experience, and performs trainings, demonstrations, and services for top studios and institutions across the country.
In between production responsibilities he conducts online training seminars, collaborative production meetings, software demonstrations, and video tutorials.
Carlo is Pro Mix Academy’s resident Studio One expert, too! In this clip, he shows us how to use a de-esser to manage sibilance in vocals.
Sibilance is the harsh, hissing noise “s” sounds make. On a mixed vocal with lots of compression and other effects, sibilance can get much louder and more piercing than it is on a dry recording.
Using a de-esser is one of the easiest ways to control sibilance. A quality de-essing plugin will retain presence/clarity without totally flattening out the performance. Every voice is different, but you can usually find the sweet spot for your de-esser somewhere between 4 and 7 kHz where the harshest frequencies live.
Waves DeEsser is a super simple plugin to get the hang of. The main parameters you’ll adjust are frequency and threshold—even with the default frequency (5506 Hz), you’ll notice sibilance reduction as soon as you bring the threshold down.
Another way to remove sibilance is to sweep around with an EQ for the most offensive frequencies and notch them out. This works, but you’ll notice the overall tonality of the vocal change because you’re removing a certain frequency altogether.
How a de-esser differs from this method is that it applies gain reduction to a frequency only when it gets loud enough to pass the threshold. The frequency isn’t removed entirely, just attenuated when it’s too loud. In this way, it’s a bit more transparent than notching with EQ.